American Soldiers Deaths at Oldway - 3 October 1918

Abridged from the Paignton Western Guardian 3 October 1918

American Soldiers’ Deaths at Paignton.

There arrived at Paignton on Thursday night and early on Saturday morning, for the American Red Cross Hospital at Oldway and its Redcliffe Annexe, between five and six hundred American soldiers suffering from illness, the bed capacity at these places being severely taxed to accommodate the new comers. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that there were a great many serious cases among the sufferers, and many deaths occurred at oldway and Redcliffe during Friday night, these being considerably augmented during Saturday and Sunday, and subsequently. The cause of the deaths is officially given as pneumonia. The intensely sad losses naturally caused deep regret in Paignton and neighbourhood, and every sympathy is felt for our brave Allies in this severe blow.

Fourteen of the victims were buried with military honours in Paignton cemetery on Sunday afternoon amid most impressive scenes, there being a large crowd to witness the last solemn rites. The names of those interred on Sunday were: Ptes. R. Gruetzmacher, Wm. B. Boyle, S.J. Bennett, A.F. Bedermann, Chas. T. Eggen, E.W. Gray, S.W. Jacobson, C.W. Lambske, P.I. Sewert, L. Pollnon, H. Williams, J. Dvorak and T. Getting.

The polished elm coffins containing the bodies – nearly all the men were of magnificent physique – were interred in a long trench grave, which was considerably enlarged for subsequent interments. The fourteen coffins were conveyed from Oldway and Redcliffe in motor ambulances, and a gun carriage was also utilised. The bearers included soldiers from the New Zealand Discharge Depot, Paignton Fire Brigade, members of the Torquay St. John Ambulance Corps, stretcher bearers at Oldway and local undertakers’ staffs. The remains were reverently carried from the gates to the grave, situated at the top end of the cemetery, a firing party of New Zealanders following the last coffin and afterwards firing three volleys, following which the “last Post” was sounded by a bugler. The burial service was taken by Rev. A. Aiken Headquarter Chaplain of the American Forces in London and the Vicar of Paignton (Rev. A.R. Fuller). The large concourse of the public witnessed the simple yet deeply impressive ceremony with every reverence, and many were visibly affected. Some flowers were placed on the graves, and all that could be done to show sympathy and regret was done. Each coffin was covered with the Stars and Stripes.

In another trench grave adjoining that in which the fourteen were buried on Sunday, ten more poor fellows were laid to rest on Monday afternoon. These were G.W. Johnson, W.S. Fitzgerald, E.H. Sabrowsky, A. Gunderson, W.F. Boulton, D.A. Uitten, R.B. Neumann, N.O. Grill, W. Sassable and W.P Brown. The coffins were carried from the cemetery gates to the grave by New Zealand soldiers and Fire brigade members, while the New Zealand Depot again supplied a firing party and a bugler sounded the “Last Post,” after the American Chaplain had performed the impressive ceremony. The public, who were not admitted until after the burial rites, witnessed the internment from an adjoining hedge. The New Zealanders afterwards marched back to Torquay.

Om Tuesday afternoon when the public were admitted to the Cemetery grounds 17 soldiers were buried. Of these the following nine were Roman Catholics and were placed in separate graves, the Rev. Father Gunning performing the rites of the Roman Church: - Ptes. J. Katarsky, H.B. Callahan, A. Martell, R.J. Ritter, L. Zanello, A. Broda, D.T. Karser, P.L. Carlton and N.J. Goetzinger.

In addition the following eight were buried by Headquarters Chaplain: Ptes. E. Swanson, H. Klatt, G.N. Guffin, B. Schreiber, W. Addington, O.W. Struck, V.R. McKinney and R.G. Sams.

Wednesday’s list of those interred were: Ptes. B. Rodewald, L. Webb, D. Rooks, T Lawver, O. Thomas, H. Johnson, F.W. Folkers, L.J. Christendon, C.C. Cupples, F.L. Hopkins, A.S Sherall, A.C. Westrum, O. Christoferson, M.T. Goodwin, G.D. Outlaw, H.J. Newton, S.L. Crow, B. J. Keys, O.J. Langjahr, D. Uitten, W.R. Armstrong and L.F. Abbott.

Both on Tuesday and Wednesday the bearers were New Zealand soldiers and members of the Fire Brigade, while the three volleys and “Last Post” were on each occasion fired and sounded.

Needless to say the medical and nursing staffs at Oldway and Redcliffe have been coping with a gigantic task in these strenuous days. The death roll up to Wednesday was over 60, but we are glad to be able to record that nearly all the surviving patients will, it is hoped, now pull through.