Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Valiant Death

William James McComb (1895-1918)

Half-brother of my great grandmother June Buchanan

me --> Bruce Albert Buchanan --> Robert Amos Buchanan --> June Miller Eckstein Buchanan

I just found a sad story about my great grandmother's half brother, William James McComb.  He died in France during World War I of an accidental drowning.  Here's a copy of the letter that describes what happened.

October 15, 1918
Mrs. House:
My dear Mrs. House (I believe this is Viola McComb, William's sister, b. 1892 who married John Edward House), I wrote to your mother the day after your brother was drowned but evidently the letter miscarried. I regret very much to have had to write to the relatives of many of my men a death notice and especially the death notice of a man who never gave me any cause for complaint.
He was in all ways a model soldier, prompt in obedience and cheerful as well. He never missed a roll call nor was he ever late to a formation. He always worked hard when given a task to do. In fact, I considered him one of the most capable of the young soldiers and would shortly have recommended him for his first promotion.
We were hurrying the construction of our camp and he had been on the detail, that was, getting sand out of the River Loire. The Loire is not so very deep but is very swift with a shifting sand bottom. The River at this point is about 1/4 a mile wide. Your brother worked a double shift in order to get off this afternoon. Before he went to camp he decided to take a swim. On the far side of the river there is a whirlpool and he had the misfortune to swim into this. He shouted for help and the other men immediately went to his assistance. He had been sucked under and was in the water only 15 minutes. The doctors were waiting on the bank when the men brought his body ashore but they could not resusicate him. His knees were drawn up under his chin when he was taken from the water seeming to indicate he had had a cramp. The body is buried in the cemetery at the town of Saumur and will be shipped home to you at the Government's expense as soon as possible.
I have had a picture taken of the grave and as soon as they are developed and printed, I will mail you one.
A soldier expects to lose his life in action and when so lost it is accepted as war's fortune but I regret very much to lose a man accidently.
His personal effects were shipped a short time ago. If you do not receive them let me know and if there is anything I can do I will be pleased and more to do it for you. It is the least that can be done to reward service; honest and faithful, character; excellent and O.K.
John Roberts
Casu. Co. F. 31st Engineers R. Tc
A.P. O 718 A.E.F.
Note: He was buried two years later in the Spanish Fork Cemetery

I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to lose a son to a simple accident so far away.  I think I would say to myself, "He went all that way just to drown in a creek because of a cramp?"  I would imagine you'd almost want your son to die valiantly facing the enemy that threatens our freedom.  Yet the reality is that he left to fight in a war, and just because he didn't die in battle doesn't mean he wasn't willing to.

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