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William Bateman Cairns

Submitted by: Thomas Stolarczyk {Post Commander}


cairns mugWilliam Bateman Cairns was born around 1894. William Cairns served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The enlistment was in 1916 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service


William Bateman Cairns
03 June 1894 – 29 July 1918

First Madison Soldier killed in World War I

William Bateman Cairns was born in Madison, Wisconsin, His father was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and his maternal grandfather Samuel G. Bateman was a veteran of the Civil War. His friends knew William as “BILLY”.

After attending the University of Wisconsin for two years, he was called into military service. In 1916, he was a private in Company G., 1st Wisconsin Infantry, and known as the old Madison Company of the National Guard. He then was sent and served on the Mexican Border from June 19, 1916 to January 10, 1917; at this time the unit was deactivated.

Cairns, then on July 15, 1917 joined Company G, which was then renamed “Company G, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division, U.S. Army. The unit was then sent to Europe for World War I duty in the area of France near the Gardelle sector along the Rhine-Rhone Canal near Hagenbach. The company and the 32nd Division were transferred to the Aines-Marne Offense on 29 July 1918 near Roncherres. While Cairns was getting the troops settled in a farmhouse, a German airplane passed overhead. Later a German artillery barrage came and struck the encampment resulting in the death of Cairns.

Williams B. Cairns promotions: Private May 1916, Private 1st Class May 7, 1917, Corporal Aug 5, 1917, Duty Sergeant December 15, 1917, Supply Sergeant December 18, 1917 and Platoon Sergeant April 24, 1918. He also served as Acting Platoon Leader before his death.

William B. Cairns was the First Madison, Wisconsin Area soldier that was killed in World War I. Later, The American Legion “Victory” Post 57 in Madison was named for him in his Honor. This Post was made up of World War I Veterans primarily and was well respected. The Post was later merged with The American Legion Post 501 and renamed “Severson – Cairns American Legion Post 501”, 18 September 2008.

William B. Cairns is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Madison, Wisconsin. This photo of Cairns was taken at Camp McArthur, Waco, TX, and is the only military photo of Cairns known to exist.

Source: WI State Journal, Aug. 1918

   5cf84d859c765 Cairns Photo 6.5.19

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