First World War stories from across continents

John Charles McCoy

John Charles McCoy US Army Medical Officer. Source: family photograph.

During our Q ANZAC 100 regional workshops we have met people whose connection to the First World War is through relatives who fought for another country and not for Australia. Since the First World War, recent generations of families have relocated to Queensland and bring heritage items with them in order to maintain those links.

We met Gwyneth in Atherton whose ancestor was Welsh. His precious diary is in the custody of the family in North Queensland.

Keen to preserve one of their few connections to its UK heritage, a family member brought this document (below) to a First World War Conservation Clinic in Bundaberg for advice on how to keep it.

Roll of Honour of Washington Works, Burslem, UK

Roll of Honour of Washington Works, Burslem, UK. Source: SLQ.

This Roll of Honour lists the employees of the Washington Works in Burslem who served in the war and links the Bundaberg branch of the family to its First World War heritage in England. Washington Works manufactured pottery and was located in Burslem which is now part of  Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.

McCoy collection

McCoy collection. Source: SLQ.

An extensive family collection presented at another Conservation Clinic in Ipswich is from the McCoy family who were also keen to ensure that this personal archive will survive for the future generations of the family. The collection includes a large number of letters written by John Charles McCoy to his wife. J.C. McCoy was a medical officer in the US Army.

John Charles McCoy

John Charles McCoy US Army Medical Officer. Source: family photograph.

John Charles McCoy, born 19 March 1867, received his M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, 1891. He joined the US Army Medical Corp on 21 August, 1917 as a Major and in February 1918, he became surgical Director of Base Hospital #1. He was the commanding officer of the Hospital Des Allies, Pont St. Maxence until he was assigned from June to August at the The American Red Cross Evacuation Hospital at Jouy-sur-Morin and The Evacuation Hospital at Toul, France. He was then made Head of Hospital at Fleury which received many of the wounded soldiers from Argonne.[1]

Dr. J.C. McCoy was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the US War Department.[2] His citation noted that

Though he was hampered by insufficient personnel and equipment, he nevertheless succeeded in caring for a large number of wounded from the Marne Offensive, rending invaluable services to the American Expeditionary Forces.

It is worth noting that the British Expeditionary Forces (B.E.F) including Australian Forces also engaged in the Marne Offensive. He returned to the US in February 1919 and served as Surgical Director of the U.S. General Hospital #22 until he was mustered out on 5 March 1919.[3]

Dr. McCoy, who died in April of 1941, is the great-grandfather of Moggill resident, Mark McCoy Vollmer. The family knew Dr. McCoy as ‘Goggy’ and he was married to Elsie Wilson Johnson McCoy. The letters in this folder and the photograph of Dr. McCoy in uniform were collected by Elsie McCoy, ‘Nanny’ to her family. Nanny McCoy, born on 6th of April 1882 and died 31st August 1985, lived long enough to meet her great-great granddaughter Margret Elizabeth Vollmer.

The McCoy family names lives on in Mark McCoy Vollmer’s second daughter, Jordan McCoy Vollmer and her son, Skyler McCoy Miles.  Skyler was born in Brisbane and they all reside in Moggill Queensland.

These letters were written in France, mailed to New Jersey and then carried around the world to be with the family in Queensland. We can be thankful to Nanny who kept the letters and we inherited them after she passed in 1985.  No one in the family wanted to keep “old letters”.

[1] New York Times, 18 April, 1941

[2] Thron, L. E., & Clark, G. A. (1971). To raise the fallen and cheer the faint: A history of Greater Paterson General

[3] New York Times, 18 April, 1941

Thank you to the Queensland family of Dr McCoy for providing his information.

Niles Elvery, Regional Coordinator, Q ANZAC 100, State Library of Queensland