Above: World War I Memorial monument dedication ceremony in East Greenwich at what is now Town Hall. A wreath is laid at the memorial every Memorial Day. Photo: Varnum Armory Museum
Editor’s note: East Greenwich’s Memorial Day Parade is Monday. Here are the details.
The observance of Memorial Day brings to mind all the local boys who fought and died in past wars. I found these three news clippings about World War I amongst the papers of the late Charles T. Algren, which were donated to the East Greenwich Historic Preservation Society as part of its permanent collection.
It is fitting to remember that World War I also affected everyone locally and many local people contributed to the war effort, some making the ultimate sacrifice. In republishing these clips from 1917-18, we honor these lads and add a bit of their story to the statistics that often overlook that their promising lives were cut short by this dumbest of all human endeavors.
Local Boy Killed in France
First from East Greenwich to lose his Life in Action
The seriousness of the war was brought home to East Greenwich people Friday by the news of the death of Corporal Richard S. Conover, the son of Rev. James P. Conover, Rector of St. Luke’s Church.
Corporal Conover was one of the first to volunteer for service. Mrs. Conover, mother of the boy, received the sad news at their summer home in Middletown. The father has reached England in the Red Cross Service as chaplain on his way to the battlefield, where he will do first line service.
Prayers were offered Sunday in several of the local churches for the bereaved family and for the success of the cause for which our boys are giving their lives.
An Other Boy Killed in Action
Victor Lorenson dies for his Country
Private Victor J. Lorenson of East Greenwich was killed in active service June 16th, 1918. His death occurred two days before his 20th birthday, He was one of the first to volunteer from this town. He joined Troop M., R. I. Cavalry while they were at Quonset Point, July 1917. From there he went to Boxford as part of the 103rd Regiment. He left for France in October 1917 and has been in active service since March 1918.
He was a member of the Kentish Guards and previous to that of the Boy Scouts. He was well liked by his comrades. He leaves two sisters, Mrs. James Wilding and Mrs. Leslie Carpenter of this town, and two brothers, Charles and Fred Lorenson, the latter in service at the Submarine Base of New London, Conn.
Word has reached us that there were two things which Victor Lorenson, the brave young hero who recently gave his life in stopping the Huns, especially was on the lookout for: nothing looked so good to him as a letter from home and the Rhode Island Pendulum. The joy with which he read the home paper was only surpassed by his letters from home. The Pendulum did not charge extra for sending the paper to France.
Sergt. Cyril B. Mosher Dies in Action on French Front
East Greenwich Officer Fatally Wounded June 19.
Sergt. Cyril B. Mosher, Battery D. Twelfth Field Artillery, U.S.A., is dead in France of wounds received June 19 in action. His death, reported yesterday in the casualty list, is confirmed in a message received yesterday from Adjt. Gen. McCain at Washington by his father, Rev. Gibson C. Mosher, at East Greenwich.
Sergt. Mosher had been on the firing line for the past four months, and during the past six weeks had moved frequently with the American forces from one sector to another. In a recent letter to his mother, Mrs. Gibson C. Mosher, dated June 10, he told of the long and frequent “hikes” that his battery was taking.
He enlisted last summer while a student at Yale and trained in a Southern camp. He sailed from New York the first week in January of this year, arriving in France Jan. 22. His regiment was recently decorated for bravery in one of the sectors in which the American forces played an important part. Recently, because of his knowledge of chemistry, he was placed in charge of the gas masks of his regiment.
Sergt. Mosher was a son of Rev, and Mrs. Gibson C. Mosher, who with one sister, Miss Beryl E. Mosher, survive him. He was born in Kentucky and was 20 years old. He was a member of the Adelphian Society of the East Greenwich Academy and the Varnum Continentals of that town. Yesterday morning the flag at the armory was flown at half-mast following the news of his death.
There were two references to Sgt. Mosher in the book America in the Great War*. He is quoted in the following paragraphs on the pages mentioned:
Page 154: The French countryside – the parts undamaged by war – delighted Ogden and Haselton and other members of the AEF. “The country is green and covered with flowers,” one soldier wrote in mid-April 1918.
“We found France a veritable garden land,” wrote another. Even at the edge of the fighting zone were thrilling and beautiful sights: aircraft diving and turning in dogfights, and fighters attacking huge observation balloons. The battleground had its own stark beauty, seen from the proper perspective and at the right time, like the night when Sergeant Cyril B. Mosher watched under a black sky as artillery lit the horizon with flashes that changed from pink to flaring red. “Even the trenches can be beautiful,” wrote Lieutenant Quincy Sharpe Mills in June from Lorraine, “when they are trimmed with flowers and the barbed wire forms a trellis for rambling vines, and shelter for innumerable thrushes and other songsters…”
Page 193: For a number of the soldiers in the American Expeditionary Force, the strongest motivations to fight, even more powerful than comradeship, were ties to kin, especially to parents, and above all, to mothers. These men felt they were fighting for their homes and for the reputations of their families and because their families implicitly or explicitly required them to enter the battleground. Ernie Hilton of the Eighty-ninth Division wrote that his folks at home were “really the reason I am over here.”
Sergeant Cyril B. Mosher, a deeply sentimental young man from Kentucky, who referred to himself in letters to his mother as her “little boy,” told her that he thanked God he had such loved ones at home and said, “it is for your safety and happiness that I am here.” To his sister, he described how he had slept in a French house with “all those little things which make it a home; and I thought how great a blessing it is that this war is being fought outside the houses of our dear ones. It is such sights as these that show the American soldier what he is fighting for.”
There were four other East Greenwich men listed as killed in World War I: Russell K. Bourne, Richard F. Grant, Walter Allen, and George Cleveland.
*America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State, by Ronald Shaeffer, ©1991 Oxford University Press, Inc.
Read more about local WWI and the WWI Memorial at the Varnum Continentals website HERE.
Thank you for an interesting and thoughtful article that personalizes the impact of war on the home front. Not only was young Corp. Conover among the first to enlist when the call went out, he was also the first soldier from East Greenwich to perish in battle. His name, along with the others mentioned here, are among the many more listed on the back of the World War I monument on the Town House lawn, dedicated in October of 1919. Sadly, the Great War, dubbed as the war to end all wars, has been followed by too many other conflicts and their sacrifices. While those names, worn down by time and the elements, are difficult to read, may we note and acknowledge them as we gather for Memorial Day ceremonies this Monday, along with the many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Well done, Alan!
Anyone know where these boys are buried?
Excellent question … I will ask Alan Clarke, our resident cemetery expert!
Pvt. Victor J. Lorenson is interred at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial, Lorraine, France. Cpl. Richard Steven Conover is interred in Somme American Cemetery and Memorial Bony, Picardie, France. Sgt. Cyril Barlow Mosher is interred at Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery, Section 9, North Kingstown, R.I. This burial information from Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries (https://rihistoriccemeteries.org/) and Find-A-Grave (https://www.findagrave.com/).