Fireman John Murray

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

Little is known of the early life of John Murray other than he was born about 1888 and his sister, Helen, lived in James Street, Kingston-upon-Hull.[1]

A merchant seaman by profession, Murray was embodied into the Mercantile Marine Reserve (numbered 948055) when the commercial liner SS City of London belonging to to the Ellerman City Line was taken up by the Admiralty as an armed merchant cruiser in January 1916. During the war HMS City of London operated primarily on patrol and convoy protection on the East Indies Station but began to escort convoys in the North Atlantic in the summer of 1918. On 10 October 1918 she sailed from Victoria Docks, London and that evening anchored off Brighton. The following day she sailed to Plymouth and on 12 October sailed with a convoy to New York and just after noon on 23 October came alongside at the 55th Street wharf on the Hudson River.

Murray had fallen ill on the trans-Atlantic crossing and died of pneumonia on 23 October 1918.[2] He was buried with full honours, accompanied by a burial party from the ship, on 26 October in Union Grounds, Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn which lies farther north than the National Cemetery, between Cypress Hills Street and Jackie Robinson Parkway.[3] His grave—in Section 1F, Grave 51—is marked with a United States National Cemetery Marker inscribed ‘John Murry, British Navy’.

1. (Back) The online war memorial for Kingston-upon-Hull conflates three different men in the record for Murray, including details for (a) John McLaughlin Murray, Mercantile Marine, who died in 1917 and (b) a reference to the memorial in St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church to Private John Prendergast Murray, 1/6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry who died in France in 1918.
2. (Back) According to the index to New York municipal death records, his death was registered in New York as ‘John Murry’, which is reflected in the cemetery records and on his gravestone.
3. (Back) The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records his burial as being at Cypress Hills National Cemetery.

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.

The grave of Fireman Low On

Fireman Low On[1] 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