Daily Archives: 10 June, 2011

A Great War American in Portsmouth

I’ve been out and about the local cemeteries taking some last minute pictures for my book.

In Kingston Cemetery, in between hunting for distinctive CWGC headstones, I came across this chap.

 


Private First Class Bertrand Kinsell, from Illinois. He was serving with the 343rd Infantry Regiment, in the 26th Division. He died on 29 September 1918. Notice also that he has a CWGC style headstone. Frustratingly, the American equivalent of the CWGC – the American Battle Monuments Commission – doesn’t contain Kinsell on its online register. Searching the internet yields no information either.

Wikipedia tells us that the 26th Infantry Division was formed in July 1917. It originally consisted of two Brigades, the 51st and 52nd Infantry. Intriguingly, apparently its men came from Massachusetts, Conneticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. But not Illinois, where Kinsell came from. Neither was the 343rd Infantry Regiment listed as part of the Division.

The Division was one of the first of the American Expeditionary Force to land in France, at St Nazaire on 21 September 1917. It was eventually in action on the Western Front for 210 days, suffering 1,587 men killed and 12,077 wounded. The Division was demobilised after the war, in May 1919.

Initially I struggled to find information about the 343rd Infantry Regiment. However, it seems that it was part of the 86th Infantry Division. This Division remained in the United States, training and providing over 100,000 replacements for the AEF. The Division eventually arrived in France on 8 September 1918, but did not reach the front line before the Armistice. Between arriving in France and the end of the war its manpower was completely stripped to make up Divisions already on the front line.

My guess is that Kinsell was originally a member of the 343rd Regiment, but was transferred to the 26th Infantry Division as a replacement, hence the confusion over his Regiment and Division. Why might he be buried in Portsmouth? I’m not sure, but the AEF may have had a hospital nearby, or he might have been treated in a local hospital. Or, its possible that he may have been taken ill or died in an accident.

I wonder if we might be able to find out more about this young American, so far from home?

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