Sapper John Costello

The grave of Sapper John Costello

John Costello was working as a carpenter when he enlisted on 20 May 1918 in New York; he then travelled north to Canada and joined the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Allocated the number 2010335, Sapper Costello began his training but in June was diagnosed as suffering from a heart complaint. He was posted to No. 6 Engineer Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia in September and he remained there in the Works Section until he was discharged as unfit for military service due to his heart condition on 15 April 1919. Continue reading

Private James Brennan

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.

The grave of James Brennan

As is always the case in attempting to research someone with a common name, the early life of James Brennan has been difficult to put together. It is known that he was born in Blackburn, Lancashire on 30 March 1883, the only son and second child of John and Lucy Brennan. His father died when he was very young and his mother remarried. Sometime in 1893 James Brennan, his mother, sister and step-sister emigrated to the United States and settled in Fall River, Massachusetts, where his step-father, James Green, had been living since his arrival a few years earlier. There James and Lucy Green had four more children. When they were old enough, most of the family went to work in the local cotton mills.[1] James Brennan’s Canadian service record indicates that he served in the United States Army for seven years, which has not been verified. He later worked as electrician. In 1909, he married Mary Garside in Fall River; the couple had two children—a son, James, and a daughter, Dorothy.[2]

Brennan enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Montreal on 16 January 1918 and joined 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment; he was allocated the number 3081563. After his initial training, he sailed for England on 12 February and on his arrival joined 23rd Reserve Battalion. On 21 June, he was posted to France to the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) in 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. Continue reading

Private Michael John Dugan

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Pennsylvania.

The grave of Private Michael Dugan

Michael Dugan was born on 16 November 1884 in Corry, Pennsyvania, one of the nine surviving children of William and Ellen Dugan; his father died soon after he was born.[1] There are few details known about his early life except that he found work as a cigar maker before becoming a mechanic and that he married around 1905. He and his wife Mary had two children, a daughter, Helen, and a son, Kenneth.[2] By the time of his enlistment the family were living in Niagara Falls, New York.

Michael Dugan enlisted at St. Catharines, Ontario on 24 April 1916. He joined the 176th (Niagara Rangers) Battalion and was allocated the number 850542. The Battalion been raised in St Catharines in January 1916 and was encamped on Spring Street. His family followed him to St Catharines in May 1916. On Victoria Day, 24 May, the Battalion paraded through the town and Dugan was most likely in the contingent and watched by his family. Continue reading

Private James William Burke

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.

The grave of James William Burke

James William Burke is one of the earliest casualties commemorated by the project and one of the youngest. He was born at Southborough, Massachusetts on 13 February 1897, the fourth of the five children of James and Mary Burke.[1] His father was a naturalised citizen from Ireland who had settled in Massachusetts after immigrating in 1882; he worked as a gardener and his son became an ostler.

James Burke enlisted early in the war, on 22 November 1914 at Halifax, Nova Scotia, aged only 17. He lied about his age, giving his year of birth as 1893. He joined the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) and was allocated the number 575. Recruiting had begun for the Battalion in early November with the Battalion destined to be part of the Second Division of Canadians sent to Europe. As an American he was not alone in joining the 25th Battalion—a number of small groups of men had made their way north from New England to enlist in Halifax.[2] Continue reading

Private Laughlin Black

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.

The grave of Private Laughlin Black

Laughlin Black was born on 20 September 1876 at Darlington, a hamlet near Hunter River, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, the son of Albert and Annie Black.[1] His parents were both immigrants to the United States—his father from Scotland and his mother from Prince Edward Island; his parents had married in Maine some years before. After his birth, they moved to Sommerville, Massachusetts. Laughlin Black either remained with his mother’s family or returned to Prince Edward Island sometime in his youth, before rejoining his family in Sommerville in 1889. Like his father he became a house painter. Continue reading

Private William Francis Bent

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.

The Bent family plot

William Bent was a tragic figure, whose war was not how he later made it out to be, and who took his own life some years after he returned home.

William Francis Bent was born on 27 July 1872 in West Hartford, Vermont, the youngest of the three children of Charles and Mary Bent.[1] His father, a Civil War veteran, was a shoemaker but William Bent and his brother George were mechanically minded and both went to work in the early automobile industry. In 1892 his mother died of pneumonia and ten years later his father shot himself with his pistol. Continue reading

Private Grant Edward Freye

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Pennsylvania.

The grave of Grant Edward Freye

Private Freye posed something of a conundrum given the variations of his age and name that appear in his service and other records and on his grave stone. He did not serve for long, only 2½ months, before he succumbed to the severe effects of appendicitis, aged only 17.

The name under which he served was a variation of the spelling of his family name. Early records show the name as ‘Fry’, later his mother and father used the name ‘Frey’. He also gave false details upon enlistment for his date of birth—common for those underage. Continue reading