Cadet William Becker Hagan

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

William Becker Hagan

I had to put my hand on the Bible and swear in the King’s name, but this did not bother me when I thought that after all it was for the one big cause.’[1]

After graduating high school, William Becker Hagan decided that he would serve as soon as he was able with the American Field Service in France. On his return to United States, he went to Canada and joined the Royal Air Force.

He was born on 12 February 1898 at Brookline, Massachusetts, the second child and eldest son of Oliver and Josephine Hagan—his father was from Alabama and worked as a leather salesman.[2] Bill Hagan was educated at the Huntington School and the Stone’s School before attending Phillips Academy, the prestigious  private boarding school for boys.

Immediately following his graduation, Hagan joined the American Field Service. 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

Private William Bradley

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

The grave of Private William Bradley
The grave of Private William Bradley

William Bradley was born on 30 August 1891 in Bingley, Yorkshire, where his mother worked in a mill. He and his mother emigrated to the United States on 28 July 1904; they landed in Boston and settled initially in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In October 1904 his mother married Henry Morville Holmes, who had also emigrated from Bingley, and sometime in the next few years the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island.[1] Willie Bradley became a chauffeur and on 27 March 1915 he married Margaret Anne Farrell; the couple had two children—a son, William, and a daughter, Margaret; their daughter died as an infant.[2]

Bradley enlisted on 19 July 1918 in Providence and soon afterwards joined the Canadian Army Service Corps Depot at Ottawa, Ontario, where he was allocated the regimental number 2688553. On 2 September 1918 he was posted for service with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force. Continue reading

Leading Seaman Sydney Stephen Milliner

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 Leading Seaman Sydney Milliner
The grave of Leading Seaman Sydney Milliner

Sydney Stephen Milliner was born on 8 December 1873 at Sittingbourne in Kent, the son of Richard and Louisa Milliner. The couple had two daughters and three sons before Louisa died on 8 December 1879.[1] By then the family had moved to Sandwich. The younger children were brought up by their aunt Rosa, a widow who brought three children of her own into the family, and later had two more children with Richard.[2]

Milliner, who worked as a labourer, enrolled in Royal Naval Reserve on 1 June 1895; he was allocated the number 1708A.[3] Early in 1897, he married Matilda Foster Dray in Ramsgate and later that year their daughter, Jessie Florence, was born.[4] By the turn of the century the marriage had ended—his wife and daughter were living with his wife’s future husband, and Sydney Milliner was working for the North Eastern Railway on a dredger at Tyne Dock; he lived in South Shields. Continue reading

HMS Alsatian

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

Trimmer Walter John Joseph Bowles, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Trimmer Percy Samuel Tomas Hyett, Mercantile Marine Reserve
(and Trimmer Leslie James Thornton, Mercantile Marine Reserve)

HMS Alsatian
HMS Alsatian

Two teenage sailors of the Mercantile Marine Reserve—Trimmers Bowles and Hyett—died while HMS Alsatian was alongside in New York during the influenza epidemic in October 1918. A third teenage sailor, Trimmer Thornton, had died as the ship was approaching the United States; he was buried at sea and, for completeness, his story is included here. This story is linked with that of the men of HMS Andes. Continue reading

Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves

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 Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves
The grave of Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves

Leading Seaman Geeves survived 3½ years as a gunner on defensively armed merchant ships, including the sinking of the cargo streamer SS Betty by U-61, only to succumb to influenza in New York.

William Charles John Geeves was born in London on 3 December 1889 the second son and second of the seven children of Charles and Eliza Geeves.[1] The family lived at New Beckton, Woolwich, where his father, who was born in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in Ireland, worked as a dock labourer. William Geeves became a merchant seaman.

On 15 April 1915, William Geeves enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve and was allocated the number 8052A. After a period of training at HMS Pembroke in Chatham he joined SS Tuskar, a small, defensively armed cargo ship, on 19 May. Continue reading