Pennsylvanians in Allied Country Units During World War I

Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

World War I began in Europe in July 1914, shortly after Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, on June 28. Initially the United States remained neutral as the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey and Bulgaria) fought against the Allied Powers (France, Great Britain, Russia and Italy). It was not until April 1917 that the U.S. declared war on Germany and actively entered the conflict.

During the preceding years, 1914-16, numerous Americans volunteered to fight for the Allied Powers. Many men from Pennsylvania enlisted in the service of the British government through the British Consulate in Philadelphia. The consulate, however, could not accept American citizens because of U.S. neutrality; therefore, some men entered the names of British Dominions for their birthplaces on enlistment records in order to serve. In addition to the “British Empire,” “British Empire, Canadian Army” and “British Empire, English Army,” Pennsylvanians joined the French, Belgian, Czech-Slovak, Italian, Polish and Russian armies. The majority, however, served in the British Empire’s armies.

A collection of service records in the Pennsylvania State Archives (Record Group 19, Series 237) documents Pennsylvanians who entered Allied country units during World War I. The record reproduced here is a list of American men residing in Pennsylvania who enlisted in the English Army via the British Consulate in Philadelphia. One of the soldiers on the list, Howard McClure Nedeau, was born on February 6, 1887, in Harmonsburg, Crawford County. He was living there and working as a veterinary surgeon before he enlisted in the English Army, Army Veterinary Corps, 101 Brigade Royal Field Artillery, in February 1916. This was more than a year before the U.S. entered the war.

After arriving in England, the tall, slender and blue-eyed Nedeau was given the rank of lieutenant and performed veterinary services for his brigade, which included caring for the unit’s horses that were used to pull field artillery pieces deployed close to the front line. Nedeau was advanced to the rank of captain during his time in service. He was discharged from the English Army in February 1918 and then returned home to Crawford County.

Another record in the collection for Arthur Scarlett of Philadelphia differs in that he was a citizen of Ireland who had been living in Pennsylvania for almost a decade at the time of his enlistment. Scarlett was born on June 29, 1885, in Belfast and immigrated to the U.S. on June 4, 1907. He enlisted at age 33 in the British Expeditionary Forces, Mechanical Engineers, at the British Consulate on August 3, 1918. His occupation at that time was as a machinist for William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Co. of Philadelphia.

The tall, medium-built Scarlett served as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers during the war. He returned to Philadelphia after he was discharged from the British Expeditionary Forces at the end of the war and later became an American citizen on March 13, 1935, at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.



Richard C. Saylor is an archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives and author of the national award-winning book Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders.