Windsor’s Roll of Honor, in front of Town Hall, which listed the names of all those in the service at that point during WWI. Windsor Historical Society collections 19188.8.131.52, photo attributed to William S. Leek.
The four short sketches below are examples of how World War I touched Windsor and its residents. For more stories, visit the Society’s exhibition The Changing Face of War: Windsor in WWI on view in the our Hands-On Learning Center through September, 2017.
Harold Loomer’s Reveille
Bugler Harold Loomer loved music for many years before being drafted into the Army. Loomer was born in 1893, grew up in Windsor center, and attended Windsor public schools. He played cornet in the local bands including Windsor’s E.B. Green Young American Band. After graduating from Morse Business College, Loomer worked for a branch of the Phoenix of Hartford Insurance Companies (later part of the Travelers Insurance Company) until he was drafted into the Army in 1917.
Loomer’s musical talent proved useful in his military career. From 1917 to 1918 he served as a bugler at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, where he saw thousands of young New England men arrive for training and leave for the battlefront. As bugler, he was responsible for the daily order of military life. He woke soldiers with Reveille, called them to meals, communicated marching instructions, and signaled lights out with taps. He was the most beloved and hated man in his unit, depending on the time of day.
Along with bugling, Loomer likely delighted in the less-regimented music that filled the camp. Most barracks had a piano where off duty soldiers gathered to sing songs. The camp’s Y.M.C.A. service huts also held a piano and Victrola phonograph that entertained and uplifted the troops.
In 1918, Loomer left Camp Devens for France with the 303rd Machine Gun Battalion. He was later transferred to the 28th Division during the Army’s occupation in France following the war. He was discharged from the Army in late 1919 and returned to the Phoenix of Hartford Insurance Companies where he worked until his retirement in 1958. A charter member of the Gray-Dickinson Post 59, American Legion of Windsor, Loomer played taps at local veterans’ funerals. He died in 1975 at age 81.
Jane Blood’s Map
After the United States joined World War I, Jane Blood, a teacher at the Loomis Institute, made a daily pilgrimage to Windsor’s Town Hall where the Windsor Business Men’s Association had erected a large map of the western front. She opened the glass case, consulted her newspaper, and marked the movement of the Allied troops on the map. In the scope of the war, Miss Blood’s contribution was minor. Still, her daily updates kept Windsor informed about the war’s progress, reminded the town of those serving in the war, and boosted local morale as the Allied counteroffensive pushed the German army out of France.
Like Miss Blood, many Windsorsites on the home front gave what they could for the war effort. Hundreds of people volunteered with the Red Cross, supported war bond rallies, and organized sewing, canning, and bandage-making projects. These home-front drives were especially significant for women, many of whom were not allowed to serve overseas.
After the war, suffragettes argued that women’s contributions to the war effort proved their equal citizenship under the law. This argument was partly responsible for the passage of the 19th Amendment that secured women’s right to vote. Jane Blood and hundreds of other Windsor women had helped win World War I and a major battle in the struggle for women’s rights.
Michael Bincoski: Immigrant, Soldier, American
Michael Bincoski was one of over 2 million men drafted into the U.S. Army during World War I and among several dozen of Windsor’s foreign-born population to serve in the conflict. Bincoski was born in Russian-occupied Poland and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. He became a U.S. citizen and began working at Windsor’s General Electric plant in 1916, where he assembled, repaired, and tested electrical motors. During this time, he tracked the progress of World War I, especially anxious for news from the eastern front where Russian, German, and Austrian troops fought for control of western Germany and Poland.
Bincoski was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1918 and served as a private in the 102nd Infantry. Like most American soldiers, he served with the American Expeditionary Force in France, far from the Russian lines near his childhood home. Bincoski fought in the Allied counteroffensive that ended the war and never forgot the brutality of battle. Years later he told his grandson stories of life in the trenches and of the death of friends on the battlefield.
After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army, Bincoski returned to his job at General Electric. In 1927 he was transferred to the company’s plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, and later worked for the post office in Hartford. When Bincoski died in 1972, his journey from young immigrant to an American soldier and finally to an American civil servant had earned him much respect in his adopted nation.
Invisible Enemy: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic
In 1918 a virulent strain of influenza erupted around the world. The airborne virus spread quickly through the tight quarters of World War I’s many trenches and military camps. Chills, high fever, backache and limb pain, and facial discoloration came on suddenly and often developed into pneumonia. Many of those infected died within a week.
The influenza epidemic entered the U.S. through its ports and naval bases, hitting the hardest in autumn 1918. The epidemic overwhelmed Camp Devens, Massachusetts, the military camp where most Windsor soldiers were trained. In September, Reverend William Cornish, pastor of Windsor’s Methodist Episcopal Church (now Trinity United Methodist) and a chaplain at Camp Devens, was one of the first at the camp to die from what became known as the Spanish flu. By October, the camp had run out of hospital beds for infected soldiers.
The influenza epidemic quickly spread from military bases to cities and towns. By October, new outbreaks were reported daily in Windsor. Organizations canceled meetings, attendance at the Sage Park racetrack dropped dramatically, and factories hung posters warning their employees not to spit, sneeze, or breathe on their coworkers. Public service announcements encouraged people to get enough sleep, avoid strenuous work, and keep dry; but the virus continued to spread. Over 40 Windsorites died during the outbreak and an unknown number were stricken but survived. Yet, the flu’s toll on Windsor was light compared to the rest of the world. By its end, the influenza pandemic killed as many as 100 million people, a devastating blow to a world already ravaged by war.
By Eric Stevic, Curator, 2007.