AMERICANS WHO FOUGHT AND DIED IN THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
AN AMERICAN CITIZEN
WHO FOUGHT WITH
THE ENGLISH ARMY
Harry Aaron came from Newport, Rhode Island and volunteered to join the British Army in time to be in France on 15 September 1915. There's no indication as to why he volunteered, it could have been the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915 in which so many American citizens died, or perhaps the fact that there's a Star of David on his headstone. This sign of his Jewish faith might have been a significant factor. Anti-semitism was rife in certain parts of Germany and within certain sections of German society. His family could have been refugees.
Aaron was a driver in the Military Transport Section of the Army Service Corps, attached to the 94th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps. The 94th's war diary reports his death in an entry on 25 February 1918:
"Court of Inquiry held respecting death of Dvr M2/077183 P. Aaron who died at 30 CCS as the result of an accident while driving Ford Ambulance on duty on the 20.2.18. Death resulted on 22.2.18 from extensive rupture of liver."
ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN
TO DO HIS DUTY
I think a lot of people will recognise this inscription; it's the message Admiral Lord Nelson ordered to be sent from his flagship HMS Victory on the morning of 21 October 1805 just before the British fleet engaged with the French at Trafalgar. Nelson knew this was to be a momentous battle, Britain's freedom of the seas depended on it; he wanted to say something that would stiffen his sailors' hearts. He can't have realised just how successful a message it would be - and he never did realise it as he died that day.
Apparently Nelson selected the word 'confides', in other words, England is confident that every man will do his duty. However, the signals officer said that he would have to spell out the word 'confides' whereas there was already a signal for 'expects' so could he use that instead, it would be much faster. Nelson agreed and the saying, 'England expects that every man will do his duty' has sunk deep into the nation's cultural memory.
So what is it doing on the grave of an American serving in the Canadian army? The answer isn't difficult to find. Albert Harrop was an Englishman, born in Birmingham in 1898 to English parents. In 1891 the family were living in Birmingham, Aston, where father James was a chandelier caster. But they must have moved to the United States before the 1901 census where there is no sign of them. Certainly by the time Albert joined up on 15 December 1917 they were living in Rhode Island. By this time the United States had entered the war. It's interesting that Albert Harrop should have enlisted in the Canadian army, was this a sign of the family's continuing feeling of loyalty to the old country where recruiting posters were exhorting young men to join the army by using the phrase - 'England expects every man to do his duty'.
Harrop served with the 13th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed at Upton Wood eight months later, just after the Canadians had captured Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt.
IF I DO NOT COME BACK
I AM NOT AFRAID TO DIE
Oh my goodness - read this!
On June 27, while bombing Thionville, he was engaged in combat by a German plane at a height of thirteen thousand feet; an incendiary bullet pierced his petrol tank, and his machine fell in flames. His friend, Lieutenant Walker, of the same squadron (the 99th), who was only fifty feet away from Lieutenant Chapin when he fell, wrote:-
"When he saw death staring him in the face, I saw him turn round to his observer, reach out his hand, and shake hands with him. He died a hero's death, unafraid, and was a son for any parents to be proud of. ..."
[Quoted from Phillips Academy Andover in the Great War]
"When he saw death staring him in the face, I saw him turn round to his observer, reach out his hand, and shake hands with him." RAF pilots and their observers did not carry parachutes until September 1918. It was known that if a plane was hit the wood and doped canvas would burn like a torch. It was a horrible way to die and some pilots apparently carried guns in order to shoot themselves rather than burn to death. In the face of certain death, Chapin turned round and shook his observer's hand ... it doesn't bear thinking about. But as his inscription says, 'I am not afraid to die'.
Elliot Adams Chapin was an American citizen, born in Massachussetts to American-born parents. Whilst still at Harvard, he enlisted in the British Royal Flying Corps in September 1917. After training in Canada and Texas, he sailed for England early in 1918. In France he joined 99 Squadron flying DH 9 bombers and was shot down returning from a bombing mission on the railway at Thionville.
HE GAVE HIS ALL FOR FREEDOM
THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD TO SAVE
Adon Smith was an American citizen, the son of Adon and Emilie T Smith of 233 West 48th Street, New York. According to the 87th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force Nominal Roll, Adon Smith had previously served in the US Army. He was taken on the Canadian strength on 21 January 1916 and was killed in action sometime between the 21st and the 22nd October 1916 during the Canadian assault on Regina Ridge. The Battalion War Diary in recording what had happened throws light on the reason for Smith's date of death being so imprecise:
"D" Company reinforced the Battalion during the night of Oct. 21-22. During the attack and the following two days there were 281 casualties, of all ranks, including all but one of the officers who participated in the attack."
His mother confirmed his inscription, passionately stating the cause for which she believed her son had given his life.
I WILL BE EQUAL
TO ANY DUTY REQUIRED OF ME
NO MATTER WHAT IT COSTS
Robert M Doyle was an American citizen who on 7 March 1917 enlisted in the Canadian Machine Gun Corps, the same day that he separated from his wife Georgia "by mutual agreement". They had been married for seven months.
His father, living in Louisville, Kentucky, chose his inscription and one has to assume that he was quoting his son's own words: "I will be equal to any duty required of me no matter what it costs".
OF PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.
Dillwyn Starr's inscription simply records that he came from Philadelphia, USA. His father, who confirmed it, was not only flagging up the fact that Dillwyn was an American citizen serving in the British Army but probably wanted to ensure that Dillwyn was a member of the Philadelphian Starrs, a socially prominent Philadelphian family.
Dillwyn seems to have been a charmingly charismatic figure who never really settled to anything before the war broke out when his sense of adventure immediately drew him to the action. Arriving in England on 24 September 1914, he joined the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps and served with them in France until that December. However, according to his father, "He disliked the idea of being protected by a red cross on his sleeve, while so many about him were enlisted to do soldiers' work".
He therefore joined the Armoured Motor Car Division, which was attached to the Royal Naval Air Service. US citizens who joined foreign armies risked losing their citizenship. Dillwyn got round this by claiming he was a Canadian and simply didn't provide a birth certificate to prove it. Many Americans were furious and ashamed by President Wilson's attitude to the war and openly did what they could to aid the Allied war effort. Many British people were furious too and Dillwyn wrote how he was "constantly in hot-water about home, as all here know I am an American".
In March 1915 he went with his unit to France and was immediately involved in the battle of Neuve Chapelle. In May they were transferred to Gallipoli. Dillwyn served there until November when the unit was disbanded and he came home. By now he was determined to join the infantry and get back to France. In January 1916 he was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards where he adopted with relish all the pursuits and habits of an English officer and gentleman.
The regiment embarked for France on 11 July 1916, ten days after the launch of the Somme offensive. Writing home on 19 August after his first experience of the front line Dillwyn told his parents:
"Have just been relieved from the front line and moved to the reserve trenches and only wish that I may never get it any worse than I have this time. There was one casualty this morning when a Sergeant got hit in the leg by shrapnel. It is the kind of wound that I am looking for."
On 15 September the Guards attacked at Lesboeufs. In Dillwyn's words, "They hope here that we shall break through the German lines, but I have my doubts". Eight days later the Guards did capture Lesboeufs but Dillwyn had been killed on the 15th. He had led his platoon across No-Man's-Land against "a perfect storm of shells and a hail of machine gun bullets". They reached the German trenches where "Dillwyn fell, just as he was springing upon its parapet, with his face to the enemy, shot through the heart and killed instantly".
Dillwyn's parents received numerous letters of condolence, many of them expressing their gratitude for what Dillwyn, an American had done.
"You must be proud to have a son who died so nobly fighting not for his country but what must be accounted far higher, for the cause of Humanity and on the side of God. If we regard our own countrymen as heroes he is far more. America may be proud to rear such men."
Rev. Geo. F. Carr, D.D. Amberley Vicarage, Sussex
For, as the Rev. Doctor Carr went on to express in his parish magazine:
"He, as an American citizen, could have stood out of this war. His country and people were in no danger, but he saw this country and her Allies fighting, as he believed, for the cause of right, and he was willing to give his life for his high principles and lofty ideals."
After the war, Dillyn's father, Louis Starr published a memoir of his son, The War Story of Dillwyn Parrish Starr.
THINE IS A LIVING WAY
IN DEATH IT HATH NO PART
Leland Kelly Willson Barrett, the son of a Canadian father and an American mother, served in the Royal Air Force.
Barrett was born in Texas, attended Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. America entered the war on the side of the Allies on 4 April 1917. Three months later, Barrett enlisted in the British Royal Air Force in Canada. Why he didn't join the American forces isn't clear. He served with 82nd Squadron in France on artillery spotting and photo reconnaissance duties and was killed when his plane crashed flying into fog just after take off. He and his observer died in the subsequent explosion and fire.
It isn't immediately obvious what his inscription means: "Thine is a living way in death it hath no part". It's based on Hebrews 10:19/20:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
There is no death because Christ's death has bought man eternal life.
AN AMERICAN CITIZEN
American born, of English, Scottish, Irish and French ancestry, Harry Butters decided the moment war broke out that the Allied cause was just and that he was going to fight for it, regardless of America's strict policy of neutrality. He arrived in Britain early in 1915 and enlisted in the British army. By September 1915 he was in France taking part in the battle of Loos, after which he wrote home:
"I find myself a soldier among millions of others in the great Allied Armies, fighting for all I believe to be right and civilized and humane against a power which is evil and which threatens the existence of all the rights we prize and the freedom we enjoy, although some of you in California as yet fail to realise it. ...but I tell you that not only am I willing to give my life to this enterprise ... but I firmly believe ... that never will I have an opportunity to gain so much honorable advancement for my own soul, or to do so much for the world's progress ...".
After nine months at the front, at the end of May 1916, his observation post received a direct hit and there were many casualties among his men. Suffering from shell shock he was posted to the ammunition column operating behind the lines. Ten days before his death he wrote to the Army Chaplain asking him "if I should happen to get wiped out" to write to his sister as she was "mother, sister and everything else that is dear in the world to me", his parents both being dead. He also asked to be buried by the Roman Catholic padre if possible as that "will give her greater consolation than anything - and please put after my name on the wooden cross - the bare fact that I was an American. I want this particularly, and I want her to know that it has been done so."
Two days later he was recalled to one of the batteries to replace a casualty and eight days after this he was dead. Whatever it said on his wooden cross, his headstone inscription reads, "An American citizen"; he would be pleased. However, there could be a question as to whether he was still an American citizen. The United States had not yet come into the war and so to protect their neutrality soldiers who fought in foreign armies were technically no longer citizens. Despite the fact that he was a member of the British army, Butters always maintained that he had not taken an oath of allegiance to the King, and, although he's buried under a British headstone, his inscription insures that his allegiance to America remains unquestioned.