Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lost at Sea II

Sometimes you come across an obscure fact or story by accident that consumes your genealogy research time for a while.

I have been looking for information on my Wilson family relatives for many years with limited success. My great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wilson was one of 25 children born to Moses Wilson so you would think there is a lot of information about them, but so far they have been elusive.

The Florida Archives put WWI service cards online about 5 years ago and I started looking for cards for family members. After searching for the closer relatives I started searching for surnames and found one for John T. Wilson and a reference to his father being Jasper Wilson. I knew Benjamin had a brother named Jasper so I checked the 1900 and 1910 census records, located Jasper and sure enough he had a son who matched the card.

The card showed John T. Wilson died during the sinking of the Otranto on October 6, 1918. He left US soil on September 25, 1918 heading for action in Europe after spending three months training in Georgia.

The Otranto was a troop carrier going to England when it collided with an English navy ship, the HMS Kashmir in rough seas just off the coast of Scotland. The Otranto was badly damaged and went down near Machir Bay. There were over 1,000 soldiers onboard the Otranto and 431 lost their life that day.

75 of the dead American soldiers were buried overlooking the Scottish coast in what is now a small US military cemetery. 43 of them were never identified.

John Wilson was buried in the Brookwood American Cemetery in Brookwood, England. This small US Military cemetery contains 468 graves arranged around a marble chapel.

Recently I was given a WWI era photo of my great grandfather, William T. Fulford, taken when he traveled from Cortez, Florida to the Fort Benning Army base in Georgia to visit his son Clayton who was in basic training.

As it turned out, Jasper Wilson went with him to visit his three sons who were also in the Army and stationed at Fort Benning. Harry and Arthur Mann from Cortez, Florida had a brother, Roy there also so all four men drove up together. Harry Mann was married to Jasper Wilson's daughter.

I've identified Jasper Wilson in the picture, the shorter of the older men with white hair, but don't know which of the men is John T. Wilson. I suspect it was the last photo taken of him.

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