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

Private Lawrence Eugene Manning

This essay is about the single First World War casualty commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Utah.

72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), May 1918

Lawrence Manning served in France with 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), taking part in its final actions in late 1918. Greatly affected by his experiences, he took his own life after he returned to Utah after the war. Continue reading

Private Chester Covell Buck

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

The Buck family plot

Chester Buck provides another example of a man enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force who probably should have been turned away. Diagnosed as insane after arriving in England, he returned to Canada but died in Alberta soon after his arrival. Continue reading

Lance Corporal Laurent Gilbert Narcisse Stuart

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in New Hampshire. This account is incomplete, however, due to the process to digitise Canadian service records; it will be updated when his service record becomes available.

The grave of Lance Corporal Laurent Stuart
The grave of Lance Corporal Laurent Stuart

Laurent Stuart, and his twin brother Leonel, were born on 22 March 1895[1] at L’Ange-Gardien, Rouville, in southern Quebec, the son of Théode and Odile Stuart.[2] The family emigrated to the United States in 1906 and settled in Manchester, New Hampshire. His father owned a grocery store and most of the children worked for one of Manchester’s shoe manufacturers.

Laurent Stuart travelled to Canada and enlisted on 29 September 1914. He joined the 12th Battalion (22793, Private) and sailed for England two days later, on the SS Scotian, arriving on 14 October.[3] The Battalion was broken up to provide reinforcement drafts. The path to France taken by Private Stuart is not yet known in detail but at some time he was attached to 1st Divisional Cyclist Company, which later became part of the Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion. Continue reading