Question of the Week: Do you have ancestors who died fighting for their country?

+17 votes

imageDo you have ancestors who died fighting for their country? Tell us about them with an answer below! You can also use the question image to share your answer with friends and family on social media.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
My cousin, Ronald Sedgeley Smith died when his Lancaster bomber, in which he was a gunner, was brought down over Germany in the last days of WWII. He was age 19 and is buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery,

32 Answers

+15 votes

Two of my great-grandparents died fighting in the British Army, Samuel Buck, who I've mentioned many times before, died in a German POW camp after being captured at Calais (his brother William also died in Calais) and Cyril Trahearn, who served in Britain's famous Coldstream Guards was Killed in Action in Salerno.

Something else of note would be that Cyril's father Henry Trahearn died in aged 29 in 1927 (when Cyril was just six years old), likely as a result of the fact that he developed Vascular Disease of the Heart (V.D.H.) when serving in the R.A.F.

by David Smith G2G6 Mach 7 (72.8k points)
edited by David Smith
+13 votes
August Steurenthaler, the man who was supposed to become my great grandfather went missing in a battle during World War I in France. He was declared death in the 1920s. His girlfriend then married a cousin of him, because she didn't like his other brothers.

At the war memorial in his hometown they put the name of his brother Albert by accident. Albert lost five of his six sons during World War II.
by Florian Straub G2G6 Mach 8 (87.6k points)
+13 votes

This is a photo of my father MSgt. Clare Alexander "Chick" Lovelace, who was killed in WWII on 29 May 1945. He was stationed in Guan when the B-29 that he was the flight engineer on was shot down off the coast of Japan. My mother Clarice gave birth to me when he was considered missing for 6 months, and his body was never recovered.

My great uncle Pvt. Kyle McCleery was killed in WWI in France and is buried in the Muse-Argonne Cemetery, and I am his closest living descendent. I also have two second great uncles Ralph and Newton Morris and other ancestors killed in the Civil War.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (655k points)
Alexis what a sad story about your father, it most have been terrible for your mother.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful photo

Sorry about your other family member, so sad
Thank you Susan for your lovely comment. Because of the internet, I was found and received a letter my mother wrote 8 days before I was born, and it made me so happy to know that she still had hope that my father was still alive. I feel that it would have been good for her to remarry, but she just could not get beyond losing him.

My paternal grandfather was devastated over losing his only child, and he had a massive stroke and died three years later.

My paternal grandmother told me how much she grieved over losing her little brother in WWI, and she remained strong and helped others through the Gold Star Mothers.

Yes Susan, as we remember those who lost their lives—we need to also realize how many families have grieved for them.
+12 votes

My great-grandfather Lucien Fonteyne was killed at Dinant on 23 August 1914, in the first weeks of World War I. He left a widow and 2-month-old son.

by Isabelle Martin G2G6 Pilot (488k points)
+13 votes
Surprisingly few, at least in the more recent-generations. My family has significantly more stories about men who came very close to dying in military service, but who managed to survive with a bit of luck. & then on one side of my family there were multiple ancestors who ended up emigrating specifically to avoid military service.

I personally can't think of any direct ancestors who died in the military, but I think my great-great-granduncle, a Jacob Koehnline, died while serving in the Civil War, but then again it may have just been from injuries or illness he contracted during the war but after he left the military- will have to check, as there were also quite a few people who had that happen to them in the family as well.
by Thomas Koehnline G2G6 Mach 7 (71.9k points)
+10 votes

No ancestors that I know of going as far back as the Revolutionary War, but my great uncle Bill Jett died in the Pacific in World War II.  I'm working on his biography today but just realized that his profile is set to private with public tree so no one can see it.  Just asked my mom (profile manager) to change the privacy level.

by Lisa Hazard G2G6 Pilot (228k points)
+10 votes

My great great grandfather Martin Scranton had 3 sons who did not survive the US Civil War. Son Thomas Marvin Scranton died from sickness in Jan 1863. Son Dayton R Scranton died of disease in Dec 1863. Son James H Scranton died of disease in Jan 1865 at Salisbury Confederate Prison. Both Dayton and James names are engraved on the Soldiers' Monument on the North Branford, Connecticut village green, the first monument in the United States erected to the defenders of the Union.

by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (486k points)
+9 votes

Josef Wilhelm Beumer (, my mother's stepfather, was a Oberfeldwebel and a member of the Panzertruppe of the German Wehrmacht in WW2. He was killed in action near Nederweert in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden as tank commander of a Panzerkampfwagen V "Panther" on 20 Sep 1944.
He is now buried at Ysselsteyn military cemetery in the city of Venray in the Netherlands. 

by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.5m points)
+8 votes
Unfortunately yes.

Elmer Riar, 1st Cousin x1. Died in North Africa during WWII. (Riar-2)

Joseph C. Burkhalter, 1st Cousin x 3. Killed at Gettysburg in the US Civil War. He was a Confederate soldier. (Burkhalter-579)

John Alva Oates, 1 Cousin x 4. Confederate soldier killed at Gettysburg during the American Civil War. (Oates-1659)

Ernest Schlenk, 3rd great uncle. Union soldier killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg, VA. (Schlenk-21)

Those are ones I know about right.
by Susan Ellen Smith G2G6 Mach 4 (47.8k points)
+8 votes
My Motherʻs only brother Jack  [[Henry-3787]] was killed January 16, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge. Something that brought tears to her eyes until she died in 2004.

Mom said after they got the news they just all carried on - went to work and normal routine - because that was how everyone did it. Must have repressed those tears for quite a while.

Uncle Jack and his father published a local paper and went fishing together all the time.  Grampa really never recovered from the loss.

Jack had one daughter and left a widow, Maxine, who was devoted to his parents. Maxine married one of Jackʻs best friends, Dan (with the blessing of my grandparents).  Dan became my Uncle and did his very best to fill in for Jack with my grandparents. Dan was nearby when Grampa died and he was the one who helped with everything.

Momʻs memories of Jack are mine now.
by Kristina Adams G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
+8 votes
I have a few, some I am still researching though.

My great-uncle Petrus Johannes Fransen ( died at 19 in a forced labour camp in Renkum, Gelderland, when the truck he was driving went off the road, tipped, and fell onto a landmine.

My 2x-great-uncle Johannes de Vries (, a Dutch Resistance member, died in 1942 in the Neuengamme concentration camps in Hamburg. He is listed in the Rolls of Honour for the Fallen (Netherlands) 1940-1945.

I mean, I have grandparents and great-grandparents and a whole load of ancestors who served, but they did not die or I would not be here!
by Alex Fransen G2G6 Mach 3 (36.1k points)
edited by Alex Fransen
+7 votes

Yes, sadly, my uncle, MSgt. Benjamin Burton Baldwin, was KIA during the May Massacre (the Soyang River Battle) during the Korean Conflict on 18 May 1951. He wasn't quite 21 years old. He led a patrol that was captured and all were killed. I was all of 5-years-old when he left for Korea and I still remember him playing with my siblings and me. I was a favorite nice and when my grandmother died, I was given his purple heart (hanging in my home office) and my brother, a favorite nephew, received the flag that draped his coffin. He is foremost on my mind every Memorial Day. 

Msgt. Benjamin Burton Baldwin

Benjamin Burton Baldwin grave marker

by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (726k points)
+8 votes

So far I've identified 44 relatives (within 4 degrees) that have served in the military during war years.  

About 20 died during their service mostly during WW1, but also Boer War, WW2, Korea and a test pilot that died in 1967.  Most were in the Canadian Army but some served in the US or Great Britain and some were Navy or Air Force.

I seem to uncover new ones frequently.

I've created a personal category that lists them all here:  Category: Ward-21154 Military Cousins (

by Stu Ward G2G6 Mach 8 (88.8k points)
+6 votes

My cousin, Chester Galloway, was killed in action at Chateauneuf, France, on 5 August 1944. After his body was recovered and buried in France, he was later reinterred at Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina, in a shared grave with others who died in the same battle. The memorial dedicated on the 50th anniversary of that battle has this inscription:

Liberation du Chateauneuf du Faou cinqantenaire 1944-1994
a la memoire des combattants americains tombe sur notre sol le 5 aout 1944
Martin J. Clark
Dwight L. Neff
Edward J. Powers
Harold R. Yoder
Ruby A. McKinney
Anthony J. Pilipaic
Donald D. Roehm
Paul D. Shaver
Stanley A. Turar
Chester Galloway
John N. Hall
Hoyt A. Cannon
Dal'h soñj
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.5m points)
+5 votes
Yes - Revolutionary War, Civil War, WW2
by Lesa Little G2G3 (3.2k points)
+5 votes

My 4th-great-grandfather, John Peacock, served a tour of duty for the Union in the Civil War as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was discharged but then reenlisted as a Private. He ultimately died from wounds that he received in the Battle of Olustee on 22 March 1864.

by Stephen Sanders G2G6 Mach 1 (12.8k points)
+5 votes
My great uncle, Seaman First Class Robert Neil Barr, perished along with 317 of his crewmates, aboard the USS Spence.  There were 23 survivors from his ship.  He was not one of them.  Over 800 men died that day, only 93 survived from the 3 ships that went down in Typhoon Cobra on December 18, 1944.  

The Caine Mutiny was written by one of the survivors from a different ship in that fleet, and is based on the events that took place that day.
by Laura Martin G2G Crew (350 points)
+6 votes

My grandfather François Marie Vatant was wounded twice during WW1, somehow survived the slaughters of Verdun's battle, but two of his brothers, Jean Marie and François Louis, were killed, as well as his brother-in-law Joseph Marie Mahé, and several cousins from his village.

The military administration was at lost with first names of so many killed soldiers from Bretagne, barely speaking French. Of the three brothers, the war memorial and archives of "Morts pour la France" have only recorded the name of my grandfather, the survivor, mistaken for François Louis. My grandfather eventually died in 1959, in the room next to mine, I was six years old and remember my grandmother crying. He had his name engraved once again, this one was the right one.

Since I learnt that story, I've always been dubious about truths "cast in stone".

by Bernard Vatant G2G6 Pilot (112k points)
+5 votes

I know of no DIRECT ancestors who died fighting for their country.

My grandfather, Alf Pilcher, Pilcher-359 , was gassed at Ypres (1914), and wounded by shrapnel, but survived and lived another 40 years.

But in my Watchlist I have 16 relatives killed in WW II (most in Europe but a couple in Asia) and 43 killed in WW I (most in "France and Flanders", quite a few lost at sea (in the Navy) and a couple lost at Gallipoli)

The one who is probably my closest relative is my first cousin twice remove, Reginald Meacham (1895 - 1918) ( Meacham-1083 ).

Reginald was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England, emmigrated to Australia (with his parents and siblings) in 1913.  He joined the 9Th Infantry Battalion in 1917.  He was killed  8 Aug 1918, and is buried at Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, France.  Based on the date of death and burial location, he was probably killed on the first day of the Battle of Amiens (1918), the first battle of the Hundred Days Offensive which led to the defeat of the Germans and the end of World War I.

Another first cousin twice removed Cyril Gilbert (1895 - 1917) ( Gilbert-13609 )  (first cousin of Reginald Meacham) (also born in Lichfield) was a  gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery And Royal Field Artillery. He suffered fatal wounds (apparently to his head) on 7 December,1917,while exchanging artillery fire with the Germans, in the First Battle of Cambrai, and died on 10 December.

Cyril's short life is described in a small book - The Road to Rocquigny by R. A. Gilbert (his nephew)

"This true story begins in 1895 and tells of the life and times of Cyril Gilbert. A hard hitting account of a son of Lichfield who paid the ultimate price during the Great War of 1914 -1918."
by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (124k points)
+7 votes

My great-grandfather on my Father's side: Major William Viney Longthorp is buried in Munster Heath War Cemetery.

My great-grandfather on my Mother's side: Owen Meredith Clement-Jones is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery. He was a flight officer in 153 squadron, his Lancaster crashed en-route to their target in 1945.

by Katherine Longthorp G2G Crew (410 points)

Related questions

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright