Private Holgar Robert Johnson

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

2nd University Company, McGill, 1915

Holgar Robert Johnson was born on 11 October 1893 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the second eldest and second of the four sons of Peter John Johnson. His parents were Danish and had emigrated from Bønsvig in Denmark in 1892.[1] The family later lived in Woburn.

When war broke out Holgar Johnson was a student. Travelling to Montreal, he enlisted on 3 June 1915 and joined the 2nd University Company at McGill University and was allocated the number McG153. The university contributed hugely to the war effort raising no fewer than six reinforcement companies and the core of two general hospitals.[2] The 2nd University Company sailed from Montreal aboard the SS Northland on 29 June 1915 and arrived in England in July 1915 and was absorbed by the 11th Reserve Battalion. Johnson was posted to Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in August 1915 and joined the battalion in the field at the end of the month. The first Canadian infantry battalion to serve in France, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was part of 8th Infantry Brigade in 27th Division until late in the year when it joined the newly arrived 3rd Canadian Division.

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Private Charles Porter Johnson

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

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Charles Porter Johnson

Charles Porter Johnson was born on 28 November 1882 at Danville, Quebec and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1901. In 1907 he married Minnie B. Fraser (also a Canadian) who died in 1917.[1] Prior to his enlistment he worked as a bookkeeper in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Seaman William Hughson

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

Seaman William Hughson

William Hughson was born on 5 March 1882 on West Isle (Housay), Skerries in the Shetland Islands. Like his father he became a fisherman. He married Catherine Edwardson on Unst in 1904 and the couple had five children.[1]

He enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve (A/1581 Seaman) in January 1908 and re-enrolled in January 1913 (B/4848). In late 1913 he joined the crew of the North Carr Lightship. At this time the family lived in Granton, Edinburgh. He was mobilised for war service at Portsmouth in October 1914 and joined HMS Kent, a Monmouth-class armoured cruiser, at the end of the month, taking part in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914 and the Battle of Más a Tierra in March 1915. After a period on escort duties off the west African coast, Kent arrived back in the United Kingdom in January 1917 and Hughson was transferred ashore for a period of training before being administered by the shore station HMS President III when he became a gunner on a defensively armed merchant ship. In the late spring he joined the SS Valverda, a newly built cargo steamer.

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Lance Corporal John R. Gientner

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

The grave of John R. Gientner

Notwithstanding the dates on his gravestone and enlistment record, John R. Gientner was born at Ashland, Massachusetts on 2 May 1868, the fifth of the eight children of Rudolf and Mary Gientner (many records show the family name spelled as ‘Gentner’). His father had emigrated from Germany and worked as a shoemaker. John Gientner worked as a blacksmith and metal fabricator.

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Private Ezra Charles Fitch Jr.

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

Private Ezra Charles Fitch Jr.

Ezra Charles Fitch Jr. was born on 2 May 1881 in New York, NY. His father was the president of the renowned Waltham Watch Company. Charlie Fitch was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard (Class of 1905). On 14 November 1906 he married Ethel Tucker.[1] When war broke out he was managing the Montreal office of the Waltham Watch Company, although his home was in Manchester, Massachusetts.

He enlisted on 20 August 1917 and joined the 2nd Reinforcing Company, 5th Regiment (Royal Highlanders of Canada) where he was allocated the number 2075594.[2] While travelling in New England on a recruiting tour, he fell ill and was admitted to Hartford Hospital, Hartford Connecticut on 8 October 1917 and died 13 October. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Mattapan in the family plot (Lot 1054, Grave 19) on Central Avenue just before the junction with Union Avenue.

His memorial plaque and scroll and Memorial Cross were sent to his wife. Private Ezra Charles Fitch  is commemorated on page 237 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 27 May. He is also commemorated on the wall of the Memorial Room in Harvard’s Memorial Church.


1. (Back) Ethel Tucker (11 February 1878-31 May 1942). Former wife of Archibald Lionel Bethune, later the 13th Earl of Lindsay (divorced March 1906). Their son, William Tucker Lindesay-Bethune, became the 14th Earl of Lindsay. On 17 May 1921 she remarried Bethune.

2. (Back) The training of recruits was later undertaken by the depot battalions formed in late 1917 and early 1918. In this region that was by 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment which was formed in August 1917, at about the time of Fitch’s recruitment, hence the terminology on some of his documents and on his CWGC commemoration.

Private William Feeley

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

The grave of Private William Feeley

William Feeley was born on 20 May 1889 at Bandon in County Cork, Ireland. The use of different dates of birth and the commonality of his name and its variant spellings make it difficult to identify other family members but his enlistment papers indicate that his father lived in Timoleague, County Cork and that his sister, Catherine, lived and worked in Massachusetts.

He enlisted in Quebec on 28 January 1918 giving his date of birth as 20 May 1882 and indicating that he lived and worked in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He joined the 249th Battalion and was allocated the number 1070090. The battalion sailed for England aboard RMS Saxonia, arriving on 4 March, and on its arrival was absorbed into the 15th Reserve Battalion. Feeley served there until posted to France in early June with a reinforcement draft. After a period at the Canadian Base Depot, on 20 July he joined the details of 5th Battalion (Western Cavalry), an infantry battalion in 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. The battalion came out of the line in the early hours of 21 July and the following day it was joined in its billets in Arras by the draft of reinforcements, which numbered 100 other ranks.

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Private Albert Moore Downs

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

The grave of Albert Moore Downs

Albert Moore Downs (several records show his name as Albion) was born on 20 July 1873 in Maine (although he declared on his enlistment that he was born in Head Millstream, Kings County, New Brunswick). He was married with two daughters and prior to his enlistment he worked as a carpenter.[1]

He enlisted in New Brunswick on 2 March 1917 and joined No. 16 Canadian Field Ambulance (536452 Private), which was being raised in Saint John. The unit sailed from Halifax on 28 March 1917 aboard the RMS Saxonia and arrived in England on 7 April 1917. It served in England with 5th Canadian Division until the division was broken up in early 1918 and the medical personnel were despatched to the Canadian Army Medical Corps Depot at Shorncliffe. Downs was then posted to France to No. 1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, where he arrived in April 1918.

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Private Alfred Desmarais

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

The grave of Alfred Desmarais

Alfred Desmarais was born in Massachusetts on 13 March 1882 into a French Canadian family; his father had emigrated to the United States as a young child. Prior to his enlistment he worked as a shoemaker.[1]

Desmarais enlisted on 23 April 1918 at Montreal and joined 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment and was allocated the number 3083903. Although transferred to the 8th Overseas Draft in mid-May, while at Halifax prior to embarkation Desmarais had a ‘fit’ and was sent for examination at the Station Hospital. Diagnosed with epilepsy, his medical category was reduced firstly to ‘C-1’, fit for garrison service, and then to ‘E’, unfit for further service. He was readmitted to hospital on 9 August having had another ‘fit’ but the doctor examining him stated that he did not see a reason to admit him to hospital every time he had an episode because he was awaiting discharge. Desmarais was sent to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu to await final processing an accommodated at the National Hotel. He died there in his sleep on the night of 18/19 August 1918. His remains were returned to his family and he was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Marlborough. His grave (L-517) is in a family plot.

Private Alfred Desmarais is commemorated on page 397 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 27 August.


1. (Back) Joseph Desmarais (1846-1913) married Melvina Lacouture (1850-1915) on 24 June 1866 in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Three of their eight children survived childhood: Emma (27 August 1870-NK); Philias (12 October 1973-1938).

Private Eugene C. Daly

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

The grave of Private Eugene C. Daly

Eugene Daly was born in Massachusetts on 14 June 1879, the eldest of the six children of an Irish immigrant father and a Canadian mother.[1] After leaving school he worked as a painter before he enlisted on 4 May 1898 for service in the Spanish American War. He joined Company ‘A’, 9th Massachusetts Infantry, and served in Cuba. The Regiment returned to the United States in August 1898 and Daly was discharged on 26 November. He then found work as a filing clerk before enlisting into the United States Army. He served two periods of enlistment from 12 October 1907 to 11 October 1910 and from October 1910 to 6 June 1912, when he was discharged ‘without honor’. The records indicate that his first period of service was with the Hospital Corps at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and that the second was with Company ‘C’, 7th Cavalry at Fort William McKinley in the Philippines. In March 1917 Daly was admitted to the recently opened National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Togus, Maine suffering from a range of ailments including chronic gastritis and chronic rheumatoid arthritis; he was discharged three months later.

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Private William Johnson

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

Private William Johnson died on 24 October 1918 and is buried in Dooley Cemetery, Dooley. Biography to follow.