Fireman Low On

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

Editors update, March 2016: For many years the CWGC recorded this seaman’s name as ‘Ou Loo’, believed to be the consequence of a series of transcription errors. That error has now been adjusted and he is correctly commemorated as ‘ Low On’. His gravestone will be replaced.[1]

The grave of Fireman Low On
The grave of Fireman Low On

Fireman Low On is one of the few casualties buried in the United States who died as a result of enemy action.

He was born in the mid-1880s in Guangdong province in southern China. There is no record of his early life or when he became a mariner but he signed on for service with SS Diomed in Hong Kong on 14 March 1918. Continue reading

A Stranger in a Strange Land ‘

That old phrase describes the seaman who dies in New York, who lies alone in the hospital, or sometimes in the Institute. He turns to us when the end is near, confident that to us he is not a stranger, that what is left when he no longer can worry or arrange, will be reverently cared for.’[1]

Seamen's Church Institute Plot, The Evergreens Cemetery, BrooklynThe Seamen’s Church Institute plot in the Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn, has the second largest number of First World War CWGC graves in a single plot in the United States—the largest, with 10 men of the Royal Flying Corps and one from the Royal Air Force, being in Greenwood Memorial Park, Fort Worth, Texas.[2]

There are nine CWGC burials in the plot:

Trimmer Walter John Joseph Bowles, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Able Seaman Thomas Drinkwater, Royal Navy
Private William Richard Eveleigh, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves, Royal Naval Reserve
Trimmer Percy Samuel Tomas Hyett, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh, Royal Naval Reserve
Stoker 1st Class Henry John Gardner Miller, Royal Navy
Scullion William Bertram Parr, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden, Royal Navy

The history of ministries serving the needs of merchant sailors on the eastern seaboard of the United States began in Boston in the period after the war of 1812 with the founding of the Boston Society for the Religious and Moral Improvement of Seamen. Similar ministries were founded in New York—the Marine Bible Society in 1817, and the New York Port Society in 1818. Continue reading

SS Kerry Range

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

Acting Leading Seaman Eustace Alfred Bromley, Royal Navy
(and Cadet Reginald Cyril Johnson, Mercantile Marine)
(and Seaman Algot Buske, Mercantile Marine)

SS Kerry Range scuttled in shallow water in Baltimore harbour
SS Kerry Range scuttled in shallow water in Baltimore harbour

Late on 30 October 1917 a fire broke out on Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Pier 9 at Locust Point in Baltimore, Maryland. The fire destroyed the pier, the old immigration building on it, and set fire to the SS Kerry Range, a British, armed, merchant ship that was moored alongside. Four men died and the damage caused was considerable—freight worth over $5,000,000 was destroyed and the Kerry Range was wrecked. The fire occurred at the height of anti-German hysteria and speculation about incendiaries placed by German agents led to the arrest of a number of ‘alien enemies’. An investigation concluded, however, that the blaze was caused by an electrical fire in one of the buildings on Pier 9, which ignited piles of oakum.[1] Continue reading