Much has been written about the Canadian connection with Folkestone during the Great War. the connection is still commemorated every year on the 1st of July in a touching ceremony at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. The Shorncliffe Trust is also doing sterling work promoting the links between Shorncliffe and Canada.
The links with Canada’s southern neighbour are rarely mentioned. Indeed it is difficult to find any acknowledgement that there was an American connection.
John, “Black Jack” Pershing the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, (A.E.F.) traveled through Folkestone on his way to France. Also remembered for not saying “Lafayette we are here”. With him was Charles Stanton, chiefly not remembered for his famous remark, “Nous voila, Lafayette“.
Americans also stayed at No.3 Rest Camp on the Leas before marching down Slope Road to the harbour and the ships waiting to take them to France. Two soldiers from the United states 11th Engineering Regiment (Railways) who were to become the first casualties from the A.E.F. were at the rest camp on the Leas. There is also another almost forgotten connection with the United States.
The United States is well known for the respect Americans pay to their war dead. American Great War Cemeteries are impressive places. They are very proud of the role their soldiers played. Yet there is a lost almost forgotten army of American dead. Those that fought in other nations uniforms. They are buried in cemeteries all over the world and ignored by Americans. For some the connection to the United States begs the question of, how do we define nationality, and does it matter? Others there is no doubt of their nationality. These are the Folkestone/Shorncliffe dead with an American connection. All are buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery, all are listed in The Foreign Burial of American War Dead by Chris Dickon.
James Desmond McNulty Born in Valley City, North Dakota. killed in the Air Raid 25th May 1917
John Lucius Rumsdell The husband of Letitia M Ramsdell, Brooklyn New York.
Son of Norman and Sally Bates of Arkansas. Served in Mexico, presumably with the US Army. Married and lived with his wife in Vancouver. After his enlistment his wife moved to North Wales.
David Gordon, died of wounds received in France.
Born in Belfast, he was the son of James Gordon of 1 Bunker Hill Court, Charleston, West Virginia.
Born in Canada, and lived in Chicago. Died of Meningitis.
Born in Norway, lived in Saskatchewan, married to Caroline Hanson of Fairchild Wisconsin, USA. Dad to six children. Charley had arrived in England on the SS Scandinavian. on the 5th February 1917. He died from illness.
Married to Annie Gray of Detroit, Michigan. Wounded on the Somme, he died at Manor Court Hospital, Folkestone.
Born in Indiana. Injured in the air raid on the 25th May 1917, he died of wounds the next day.
George Wheeler Armstrong.An American Eagle of the First World War. lots of references to the Americans who flew in the Lafayette Escadrille, few for those who flew with the RAF during the war. Born in the US Virgin Islands. Died in an accident while flying a Bristol F2b.
All nine were fighting for Britain, and it is only important to remember that, and them. When push comes to shove, and you need a helping hand, where people are from doesn’t matter one iota.