Armistice Day Memorial to Soldiers from Berrien County, GA Killed During WWI

Berrien County, GA soldiers who died in WWI including many who died in the sinking of the HMS Otranto off the coast of Islay, Scotland on October 6, 1918.   To view larger images, scroll down and click icons below.

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The U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

Armistice Day  is on November 11 and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Death and Repatriation of Private Gordon Williams

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.

PVT. GORDON WILLIAMS. Ray City, Ga. Private Williams entered service June 25th, 1918. Was attached to the 35th Company, 9th Training Battalion, 157th Depot Brigade at Camp Gordon, Atlanta, Ga. Embarked for over-seas in August, 1918, where he contracted pneumonia which resulted in his death at Base Hospital 33, September 20th, 1918.

Gordon Williams registered for the draft in Ray City, GA on June 5, 1917. The registrar was C.O. Terry.

WWI Draft Registration of Gordon Williams, Ray City, GA

WWI Draft Registration of Gordon Williams, Ray City, GA

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.

Camp Gordon, Atlanta, GA

Camp Gordon, Atlanta, GA

Panoramic View of Camp Gordon, Atlanta GA, 1918.<br> Gordon Williams and other men Berrien County, GA trained at Camp Gordon.

Panoramic View of Camp Gordon, Atlanta GA, 1918.
Gordon Williams and other men Berrien County, GA trained at Camp Gordon. Library of Congress.

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.

Base Hospital 33, Portsmouth, England.  Private Gordon Williams, of Ray City, GA died at the hospital on September 20, 1918.

Base Hospital 33, Portsmouth, England.  Private Gordon Williams, of Ray City, GA died at the hospital on September 20, 1918.

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 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.

Grave of Gordon Williams. Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

Grave of Gordon Williams. Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

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Gordon Williams (1894 – 1918)

Gordon Williams was a casualty of WWI. The caption in this memorial photo incorrectly gave his home as Bay City instead of Ray City.

Ray City History
Gordon Williams (1894 – 1918)

Gordon Williams was among the Ray City residents who served in World War I.

On November 17, 1918  the New York Times listed Gordon Williams among the Georgia dead under the headline “Reported casualties in American Expeditionary Forces now total 80,252.”

The article read,


1.532 Named in New Army Lists Include 733 Dead and 416 Wounded.
Special to the New York Times.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16.–The War Department gave out two army casualty lists today, which contained 1,532 names, bringing the total for the arm up to 76,226. No Marine Corps list was issued, but the total previously reported for that branch was 4, 026, bring the total for both arms of he service up to 80,252.  The army lists issued today contained the names of 386 killed in action, 231 died of wounds, 15 died of accident, 210 wounded to a degree undetermined, 108 slightly wounded, and 383 missing.

WILLIAMS, GORDON was listed as (DD) – Died of Disease. His next of kin was listed as J.C. Williams, Ray City. It would be more than three years before his body was returned home.

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