Private James Brennan

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 James Brennan

As is always the case in attempting to research someone with a common name, the early life of James Brennan has been difficult to put together. It is known that he was born in Blackburn, Lancashire on 30 March 1883, the only son and second child of John and Lucy Brennan. His father died when he was very young and his mother remarried. Sometime in 1893 James Brennan, his mother, sister and step-sister emigrated to the United States and settled in Fall River, Massachusetts, where his step-father, James Green, had been living since his arrival a few years earlier. There James and Lucy Green had four more children. When they were old enough, most of the family went to work in the local cotton mills.[1] James Brennan’s Canadian service record indicates that he served in the United States Army for seven years, which has not been verified. He later worked as electrician. In 1909, he married Mary Garside in Fall River; the couple had two children—a son, James, and a daughter, Dorothy.[2]

Brennan enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Montreal on 16 January 1918 and joined 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment; he was allocated the number 3081563. After his initial training, he sailed for England on 12 February and on his arrival joined 23rd Reserve Battalion. On 21 June, he was posted to France to the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) in 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. 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

Cadet William Joseph King

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 Wiliam Joseph King

William Joseph King was born in late 1892/early 1893 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Little is known about his family or his early life. On 4 January 1916, he married Josephine Freeman at the Borough Hall in Brooklyn, New York. His wife was a professional singer, who performed under the name ‘Dolly Grey’.[1] King worked as a car salesman in New York, while his wife pursued her stage career in the United States and in South America.

Josephine King aka ‘Dolly Grey’, 1917

King enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps as a cadet in Toronto on 24 September 1917. After his ground training at No.4 School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Toronto, he travelled to Texas where he learned to fly. Continue reading

Second Lieutenant Arnold Whittier Hill

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

Arnold Whittier Hill

Arnold Whittier Hill was born in Malden, Massachusetts on 13 June 1897, the only son and eldest child of Arthur and Josephine Hill.[1] He attended school in Malden, where he demonstrated an early interest in flying.

He volunteered in Boston for service with the Royal Flying Corps and enlisted in Toronto on 4 January 1918. After attendance at No. 4 School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Toronto, he travelled to Texas where he learned to fly. Transferred to the Royal Air Force upon its formation on 1 April 1918, he was commissioned on 27 June. Hill was selected for training as an instructor and posted to the School of Special Flying at Armour Heights in Toronto. On 13 July 1918, he was flying Curtis JN4, registration C374, at Leaside Aerodrome, in southern Toronto, when he stalled in a turn and his aircraft fell from 800 feet. He was killed on impact and the aircraft was engulfed in flames. Continue reading

Cadet Frederick William Henderson

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 Frederick William Henderson

Fred Henderson was another young flying cadet who fell ill and died at the early stages of his training in Toronto. He was born at Kendal Green, Massachusetts on 31 July 1898, the third child and second son of George and Maggie Henderson.[1] His father was a farm manager and both of his parents had immigrated to the United States from New Brunswick in Canada. Continue reading

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 December 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

Private James William Burke

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 James William Burke

James William Burke is one of the earliest casualties commemorated by the project and one of the youngest. He was born at Southborough, Massachusetts on 13 February 1897, the fourth of the five children of James and Mary Burke.[1] His father was a naturalised citizen from Ireland who had settled in Massachusetts after immigrating in 1882; he worked as a gardener and his son became an ostler.

James Burke enlisted early in the war, on 22 November 1914 at Halifax, Nova Scotia, aged only 17. He lied about his age, giving his year of birth as 1893. He joined the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) and was allocated the number 575. Recruiting had begun for the Battalion in early November with the Battalion destined to be part of the Second Division of Canadians sent to Europe. As an American he was not alone in joining the 25th Battalion—a number of small groups of men had made their way north from New England to enlist in Halifax.[2] Continue reading