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After fighting in the ruined village of Longueval in late July, they were withdrawn to rest before being thrown back into action again.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.