The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

John Michael Rafferty

RAFFERTY, John Michael

John Michael Rafferty was born in New Haven, Connecticut on the 29th of November 1894 to John and Bridget Rafferty. They had arrived in New York in August 1893 from Ireland via Liverpool. John Rafferty apparently died within the next few years, possibly in 1899, as Bridget was a widow in the 1900 census and no other children had been born. In July 1905 she married William Henry Caulfield who was a Carpenter and later John Rafferty took up that same trade.

In his draft registration card in 1917, and also on the Connecticut 1917 Military Census, John declared that he was married with a wife and child though no record of a marriage or birth of a child has yet been found. His stepfather also had a draft card where he referred to his wife as Delia Caulfield, a pet name for Bridget. John Rafferty enlisted on the 10th of December 1917.

It is not known when John Rafferty travelled to Europe but in October 1918 he was stationed at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, Cork where a U.S. Naval Air Station had been established. His role was that of Carpenter’s Mate. A colleague, Frank A Martin, spoke to the press after the sinking and described how he and several other Americans had tried to get some lifeboats launched but failed before the final torpedo hit. John Rafferty was one of the group mentioned. Martin went on to say that he found himself in the water without a life belt, “hardly any of my party had life belts, it was our own fault and risk, we did not put them on”. The group of Americans were eventually rescued and taken to the Sailors War Hostel in Dublin. A photo was subsequently taken of Rafferty, Martin and D.J. Murphy with three British sailors. John Rafferty was also mentioned by the American Consul in his telegram report to Washington of the sinking on the 10th when he named some of the Americans who were on board.

John Rafferty returned to New Haven having been discharged on the 30th of December 1921, continuing in the Carpenter trade. In the three censuses 1920, 1930 and 1940 he was listed with William and Bridget Caulfield as a single man. He died on the 15th of December 1950 and an application for a Military Veteran’s headstone was made in March 1951. He was buried in St Lawrence Cemetery in New Haven.

John Michael Rafferty



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