The RAF Airman Who Wasn’t

The grave marker for John Henry Dorman

Several years ago, an airman called John Henry Dorman was accepted for commemoration by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Dorman had been killed in an accident on 21 June 1918 while training at No. 14 Training Depot Station, at RAF Lake Down near Amesbury. The conclusion was that he was Royal Air Force, one of the many Americans who had earlier joined the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force. When I first added his name to the project, I carried out some cursory research and was left with some doubts about this conclusion. Prompted recently to dig further, I am now left with the verdict that he was not Royal Air Force but was, indeed always had been, a member of the Aviation Section of the United States Army Signal Corps serving with 155th Aero Squadron. 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

Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett

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

Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett
Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett

Not all of the casualties buried in the United States were repatriated in the period immediately after the First World War. Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett was killed in an air crash in Lincolnshire on 27 January 1918. Over 40 years later, on 16 September 1959, his sister Caroline called at the United States Embassy in London in order to arrange for the disinterment of his ashes and their return from Lincolnshire to Rhode Island. She believed, incorrectly, that the remains of the other airman killed in the crash had been repatriated previously and stated that it was the family’s intention to bring Evanda Garnett home too. His ashes were duly exhumed and sent to the United States where they were reinterred in the family plot in Island Cemetery, Newport.[1] Continue reading

Sapper William Bustin

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

Sapper William Bustin
Sapper William Bustin

William Bustin was one of three sons from this family who died during the war; his brother Robert was killed in action at Gallipoli in 1915, and Ernest was killed in action in France in 1918.

He was born on 25 November 1886, in Adlington, Lancashire, into the large family of Joseph and Elizabeth Bustin; he was one of nine surviving children; two others died as infants.[1] Continue reading

Lieutenant Louis Bennett

This essay is about the only First World War casualty commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in West Virginia.

Few know more about the life and exploits of Lieutenant Bennett than Dr. Charles D. Dusch, Jr., the Deputy Command Historian of the United States Air Force Academy, whose comprehensive and extremely well-researched thesis Great War Aviation and Commemoration: Louis Bennett, Jr., Commander of the West Virginia Flying Corps led us to his door.

This shorter piece by Dr. Dusch was written for this project. It describes Bennett’s involvement with aviation in the United States, his service with the Royal Flying Corps in France, his untimely death and his mother’s efforts to commemorate her only son. More information about Dr. Dusch may be found at the end of the essay. Footnotes are by the project editor.

The memorial to Louis Bennett Jr. in Machpelah Cemetery, Weston
The memorial to Louis Bennett Jr. in Machpelah Cemetery, Weston

West Virginia’s only Great War ace, Louis Bennett, Jr. was born in Weston, West Virginia, on 22 September 1894.[1] Unlike many of his peers who were merely enticed by the thrill of flying and became good pilots in the war, Bennett was much more. He clearly thought about aviation keenly and its impact on the war in larger terms, and he also took action on his ideas to bring them to fruition. Continue reading

Private George Melvin Atkinson

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 Private George Atkinson
The grave of Private George Atkinson

Private George Atkinson was a Canadian-born farmer from Clinton County, New York. He is the oldest casualty researched thus far—he was born in 1858, adjusted his age by 14 years when he enlisted, and died just before his 59th birthday. Three of his sons, all born in the United States, served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France. Continue reading