Private Samuel Barnett

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 Samuel Barnett
The grave of Private Samuel Barnett

Samuel Barnett was born on 18 February 1879 in Belfast, Ireland, the eldest of the two sons of Matthew and Matilda Barnett.[1] He was a shipping clerk in Belfast before he emigrated to the United States in 1901 with his mother and his younger brother, Matthew. They lived on Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, a block from the Empire State Building; Samuel worked in New York as an underwriter.

On 11 February 1918 in New York he was examined and found fit for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and on 18 March he travelled by train via Niagara Falls to Toronto where he was attested and joined the 2nd Depot Battalion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment at Exhibition Camp; he was allocated the regimental number 3233160.

Although seemingly fit when he underwent his initial medical examination, from the time of his arrival in Toronto he felt under the weather and on 20 March he was sick in the cookhouse. He was taken to the hospital at Exhibition Camp in the early evening. There he was diagnosed as suffering from influenza and he soon developed pneumonia; he died of heart failure at 11.30pm on 23 March 1918. His body was returned home and he was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, on the northern side of the cemetery near the junction of 7th Avenue and 22nd Street, in Section J, Lot 33488. His mother and his brother are buried with him; their grave is unmarked. He is one of two First World War CWGC burials in that cemetery—the other is Cadet L H Thompson, Royal Air Force, who died on 30 October 1918.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Samuel Barnett
The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Samuel Barnett

Private Samuel Barnett is commemorated on page 364 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 10 August. His father received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll. Continue reading

Sapper Lee Arvel Moss

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

The grave of Private Lee Moss
The grave of Private Lee Moss

Lee Arvel Moss was born at Vigor, a community near Athens, in McMinn County, Tennessee on 4 March 1887, the second of the five children and eldest son of Hugh and Cammie Moss.[1]

At the time of his enlistment he was living in Montreal and, although a blacksmith by trade, he was working as a steam fitter. He was a member of the Militia, serving with 4th Field Company, Canadian Engineers. He enlisted on 10 August 1916 for service with the 5th Pioneer Battalion, giving his year of birth as 1883, and was allocated the regimental number 1078503. Continue reading

Private John Benjamin French

This is one of two essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Kentucky.

The grave of Private John Benjamin French - note the second, original gravestone behind
The grave of Private John Benjamin French – note the second, original gravestone behind

John Benjamin French was an African-American born on 22 July 1896 in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Ash and Lula French of 325 Race Street.[1] Little is known of his family but John French was working as a ‘shoe shiner and jockey ’ when he enlisted in 1918. Continue reading

Private Harry Fooksman

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

Editors note: Private Fooksman is commemorated as  by the CWGC as ‘Private Harry Ross’, the name under which he served.

97th Battalion (American Legion) Cap Badge
97th Battalion (American Legion) Cap Badge

Harry Ross is something of an enigma—the name under which he served, and by which he is commemorated by the CWGC, is an alias.  He was born Harry Fooksman, the only son of a Russian Jewish family, both sides of which had emigrated to the United States in the late-1880s. Continue reading

Private Sylvester Williams

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

The grave of Private Sylvester Williams
The grave of Private Sylvester Williams

Private Sylvester Williams was one of about 165 African-Americans—one of seven from Ohio—who served with No.2 Construction Company (Coloured) in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Continue reading

Private James Doval Stewart

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

This is not for you fellows, this is a white man’s war.” [1]

The grave of Private James Doval Stewart
The grave of Private James Doval Stewart

The recruitment of Black Canadians for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force caused much debate in Canada. Many Black Canadians, swept along by patriotic fervour at the beginning of the war wanted to volunteer but prejudice prevented widespread recruitment. By November 1915 orders had been issued to allow recruitment of Black soldiers; it was largely ignored. Although small numbers of Black Canadians had managed to enlist from early in the war, it was not until after the introduction of conscription that Black soldiers served in any numbers; even then few made it to front-line battalions. The largest group of Black Canadians to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force did so in No.2 Construction Battalion.[2]

Continue reading