Photos of fallen soldiers from the Georgia State Memorial Book, 1921, provide better images of the sons of Berrien County, GA who served and died during the Great War – WWI. Gordon Williams, image scanned for this post, was one of three men from Ray City, GA who gave their lives in the conflict, the others being Ralph Knight and Shellie Webb.
Gordon Williams registered for the draft in Ray City, GA on June 5, 1917. The registrar was C.O. Terry.
Gordon Williams was selected for service and inducted into the Army on June 25, 1918. He was entrained for Camp Gordon along with 22 other Berrien County men, where he completed his training. Gordon Williams’ fellow Berrien County inductees and camp mates at Camp Gordon included Owen Spivey, J. Falson Brown,Hugh Hardy, Bill Sapp, Silas Isbon Thomas, William Jesse Moore,Isom Thornton, Vaden Hughes, Flem Mitchell Gray, Melton Jackson Hinton, William E. Griffin, Archie Dunn, Luther Tyson, James Fletcher Hutto, Charlie Lawson Sirmans, Thomas Alvin Baker, Brooker Hodges, Robert C. Royals, Zollie Brown Thomas, Billie Lindsey, John Richmond Griner and Milburn Mathis.
In June, July and August, 1918, the troop ships transported 870,988 American soldiers to Europe to fight in WWI. A large portion of these arriving troops, including Private Gordon, were routed through England. Even before leaving America, these troops were fighting a war of attrition – a war against disease. On some arriving transports, disease ravaged the troops. Thousands of soldiers reached England already stricken with Influenza.
Private Gordon Williams was sent to Base Hospital 33 with pneumonia, a frequent complication of Influenza during WWI. He died at the hospital on September 20, 1918.
United States Army Base Hospital No. 33, established at Portsmouth Borough Asylum, Portsmouth, England, was one of many hospitals where the American casualties of WWI were treated. This institution had been built and maintained by the Board of Asylum Control of London. It consisted of one main building of modern brick and stone construction and of several detached villas surrounded by eight acres of farmland. War wounded requiring surgery were returned from France to Southampton, England on hospital ships then sent on to the base hospitals via motor ambulances and hospital trains; casualties from the front might reach Base Hospital 33 within thirty-six hours from the time they had been wounded.
It is difficult to appreciate the extent to which Influenza and other diseases depleted the roles of the arriving American troops. Just two days after the death of Gordon Williams, Base Hospital 33 received word that another troop ship, “the S.S. Olympic, with six thousand troops on board, the greater number of them suffering from influenza, had come to port in Southampton. [The S.S. Olympic was the sister ship of the ill-fated Titanic.] Sixty-six tents were immediately secured from the British to set up in the court yard of Base Hospital No. 33. Convalescent patients and members of the detachment were immediately transferred to these tents and the wards were cleared for the reception of influenza patients. Within one week seven hundred and ninety-seven cases had come to us, one hundred and forty-four of whom were nurses and female members of the Signal Corps. Both pneumonia and meningitis developed.
For three years, the remains of Gordon Williams were interred in England. The Atlanta Constitution reported the return of his body to U.S. soil, Jan 13, 1922.
Atlanta Constitution, Jan 13, 1922
SERVICES ARE HELD FOR SLAIN SOLDIERS
Services were held yesterday over the bodies of eight southern soldiers, including one Atlantan, colored, who lost their lives overseas during the world war. The bodies arrived at 11:30 o’clock at the Terminal station.
The soldiers and their destinations were: Private Victor LeBlanc, Convington, La.; Private Mayberry Smith, Lucien, Miss.,; Private Gordon Williams, Ray City, Ga.; Private Alfred Lindsey, Ward, Ala.; Private Aquilla Calhoun, Aiken, S.C.; Private Ike Thomas, Prichard, Ala.; Jesse Ellor, Trion, Ga., and Private Thomas Reese, colored, Atlanta
Gordon Williams was re-interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.
- Gordon Williams (1894 – 1918)
- Armistice Day Memorial to Soldiers from Berrien County, GA Killed During WWI