Fighting for freedom: Members of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, pictured during World War I. They, along with the Bermuda Military Artillery, made up the majority of the Bermudian servicemen. *Photo supplied
Fighting for freedom: Members of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, pictured during World War I. They, along with the Bermuda Military Artillery, made up the majority of the Bermudian servicemen. *Photo supplied

While most Bermudians who died in World War I met their end on foreign fields a handful of servicemen died at home during the conflict.

And even though they may have passed away in Bermuda they were all given full military burials.

Four such men were Bermuda Militia Artillery soldiers William Fowler, Joseph Butterfield, Richard Alick and Charles Dill.

The quartet all died in an explosion at Daniel’s Head on February 17, 1915 as they tried to erect a wireless aerial pylon.

Butterfield, 33, Alick, 23, and Dill were buried at Somerset Military Burial Ground, while Fowler was laid to rest at St George’s Military Cemetery.

All four were buried with full military honours, with Union flags covering their coffins and the band of the Bermuda Militia Artillery preceding them. 

At least twenty carriages followed, containing relatives and friends of the deceased.

Another serviceman who died ‘at home’ was Frederick George Kyme.

Kyme guarded the German prisoners at Port’s Island and was accidentally shot during the war.

He was buried with full honours at St John’s Cemetery in Pembroke.

Historian Andrew Bermingham said: “The incident at Daniel’s Head was probably one of the most serious military accidents in Bermuda during World War I.

“But the important thing to remember is that although they died here they were given a full military burial according to the regulations of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“The CWGC made it clear that there was no distinction between those who died on the front line and those like Sergeant Fowler and his friends who died here in Bermuda.

“They died in the service of their country during war time.

“How one died did not affect the fact that you were accorded military rights for serving your country.” 


Victoria Cross recipient was buried here

There is only one Victoria Cross recipient buried in Bermuda.

The grave of seaman George MacKenzie Samson lies in a corner of the Methodist Cemetery in St George’s. And it stands as a enduring memorial to Bermudians of the bravery and sacrifice that epitomized the Great War.

Samson was not Bermudian, he was Scottish. He was one of five men awarded Britain’s highest award for gallantry for their actions on April 25, 1915, at Gallipoli in Turkey.

But he was buried on the island just eight years after his heroic exploits when he fell ill on a voyage to the Gulf of Mexico.

He was transferred to the S.S. Strombus, bound for Bermuda, but died from double pneumonia in 1923.

Samson was buried with full military honours and his coffin was drawn through the streets of St George’s.

As for his actions that won him the VC — Samson was on board the River Clyde, a tramp steamer that was attempting to land 2,000 troops onto V Beach, when lighters forming the bridge between the steamer and the shore began to drift apart. Under fierce machine gun fire, he ‘busied himself’ among the wounded and offered assistance to those repairing the bridge.

He was hit over and over again, and when he returned to England, his body still contained a dozen pieces of shrapnel.

George Samson was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on October 5, 1915. n