Private William Burberry – Killed in Action 3rd September 1916

William James Burberry was born on 1st September 1888 at Bankside, Ewell, (where the cinema on the bypass used to stand) and was baptised at St Mary’s, Ewell, a month later. He was the fourth of Jesse and Mary Ann Burberry’s eight children.

The family moved to Banstead when William was 2 years old and lived in a cottage in Salisbury Court, a cul-de-sac which became what is now the southern end of Salisbury Road. In the late 1890s, they moved to a cottage in Diceland Road and lived there until William was 22. Jesse was a Noble Grand (leader) of the Star of Banstead lodge of the Oddfellows (the largest friendly society of the day) and William also joined the Banstead lodge, which used to meet at the Woolpack Inn.

The family moved to St Wilfrid’s (number 38), Belmont Road, Belmont, in 1910-11 and William worked as a labourer for the London & Brighton Railway Company. He was soon back in Banstead though, working as a gardener at Castleton, a large house that used to stand approximately where the mini roundabout in Castleton Close is now. The grounds corresponded to the area delineated by Bolters Lane, Castleton Drive, Greenhayes Avenue and Kingsley Avenue.

William (5ft 5in tall, light brown hair, grey eyes with a scar on his face) joined the Army on his 26th birthday, 1st September 1914. He seems to have considered joining the Dorsetshires on a permanent basis but signed on for the duration of the war with the Devonshire Regiment instead.

William joined the 1st Battalion in France in February 1915. They were stationed in the Ypres salient and fought on Hill 60 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres. In July, they moved south to the quiet country of Picardy and almost a exactly a year later they marched onto the Somme battlefield, three weeks after the battle had begun.

After fighting in the ruined village of Longueval in late July, they were withdrawn to rest before being thrown back into action again. William’s battalion supported an attack on three trenches north of Wedge Wood in the afternoon of 3rd September 1916 as part of 5th Division’s successful advance near Guillemont on the first day of the phase of the Battle of the Somme which became known as the Battle of Guillemont. The trenches were captured but William was killed in action. He was 28 years old. 266 other men of the 1st Devons were killed or wounded that week.

His body was either never found or was not identifiable and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme. William is commemorated on the Sutton, Belmont and Banstead War Memorials, on the Garton Memorial in All Saints’ churchyard and on the wooden panels in the Lady Chapel at All Saints’.

He was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-15 Star.

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2 Responses to “Private William Burberry – Killed in Action 3rd September 1916”

  1. Martin Smith

    Stephen Burbery was born in Godstone on 10 September 1890 and baptised 12 October 1890 in Godstone he was the second son Albert Burbery (bap 29 March 1863, Bletchingley St. Mary, Surrey, died 1895 Godstone) and Kate (Katherine) Glosby (1866-1911).
    The family moved to Godstone following their marriage in 1888 in Limpstead, and Herbert their first son was born in Godstone in 1889, and Stephen John Burbery was born in September 1890, they were living in the village twenty houses away from the Horse & Hounds according to the Census of 1891 and three houses from William Burbery. Stephen’s father Albert was employed as a Hearth Stone, miner in the local quarries. In the first quarter of 1893, Herbert died, then in 1895 her husband Albert died leaving her a widow with a young child Stephen. Following the death of William Burbery’s wife in 1899, Kate married William (who was the uncle of her dead husband) on 9 June 1900, in Saint John, Caterham. On the Census of 1901 the family was living at Tylers Green, Godstone and William was employed as a Stone Digger and Stephen was a scholar. On the Census for 1911 Stephen Burbery was employed as a Game Keeper and his step father William Burbery as a Bailiff and the family was living at 4 Rustic Villas, Tylers Green Godstone, Surrey.
    Stephen (5ft 4½in tall, complexion flesh, brown hair, brown eyes, chest fully expanded 34½inches, weight 120 lbs, no other marks) joined the Army aged 25 years 2 months, 8 December 1915. He was assigned to the 3 Queens signed on for the duration of the war with the Queen’s West Surrey Regiment and placed with the 10th Service (Battersea) Battalion. Embarked overseas 5 May 1916 at Southampton for Le Havre, moves to Ploegsteert sector (Flanders). On 8 June 1916 awarded 7 days Field Punishment No. 2 for making an improper reply to an NCO, and again on 21 August 1916 forfeited 1 days pay for making an improper remark to an NCO. Battle of the Somme, in September moves to Pommier redoubt, 15 September 1916 Attack on Flers, casualties 18 officers, 303 men killed, wounded and missing, Stephen Burbery is listed wounded/killed in action 15/17 September. He was 26 years old. He officially posted killed in action on 17 September. He had only been in France for 134 days.
    His body was either never found or was not identifiable and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme. Stephen is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Nicholls Churchyard, Godstone, Surrey.
    He was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and his family received the Death Plaque inscribed with his name (otherwise known as the “Dead Man’s Penny”).
    Stephen was not married and his natural father was dead and his mother had died in 1911. His other relatives his Step Father William Robert Burbery, half brothers Jesse and Henry; uncles and aunts John Burbery, Nellie Packham, Edwin Glosby and George Glosby. A letter was sent to William Burbery asking where the Plaque and scroll be sent.

    • Imogen Middleton, Surrey Heritage

      Hello Martin,
      Thank you for your comment and for sharing such an interesting story for Stephen Burbery. Perhaps you would like to post it as an official story on our website, by registering as a contributor on our website? If you get stuck, please contact us at [email protected]

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