A Poppy
A Poppy

Memorials & Monuments
on the Isle of Wight
- Biography -
- Fred Burton -

Unknown person Name : Fred Burton

Parents unknown

Born 1885 Doncaster, Yorkshire

Married 1913, Emily Margaret Drudge, at All Saints Church, Freshwater. One daughter, Diana Emma Eugenia, born 1915.
  Census information :

1891 : not found

1901 : not found

1911 : Gunner Fred Burton aged 26 is included on the Royal Garrison Artillery return for Golden Hill Fort, Freshwater as a member of 11 Company.
  Service Details :

Acting Bombardier 20602 Fred Burton 122nd Heavy Bty., Royal Garrison Artillery.

  Casualty Details :

Died : 24 April 1915 aged 30

Commemorated at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

CWGC Record
  Commemorated on these Memorials :

Freshwater War Memorial
Isle of Wight Constabulary War Memorial
County War Memorial, Carisbrooke Castle
  Documents and Newspaper cuttings :

Isle of Wight County Press

3 October 1914

The following Constables from the I.W. County Constabulary are now serving in His Majesty's Forces, those marked by an asterisk being shown to be at the Front :
* Bombr. Ed. B. Jackman, Freshwater, R.F.A.
A.B. Jobe Woodford, Shanklin, H.M.S. Grafton
Gnr. George Priddle, Cowes, R.H.A.
Gnr. Fred Burton, Yarmouth, R.G.A.
Bombr. Harold Luckett, E. Cowes, R.G.A.
* Pte. Albert F. Turner, Ventnor, Grenadier Guards.
* Pte. Thomas Hartnell, Oakfield, 9th Lancers.
* Pte. George Homewood, Sandown, Coldstream Guards
* Gnr. Alfred Martin, Newport, R.F.A.
* Sergt. Jesse Mills, Ventnor, Coldstream Guards
Lce-Corpl. Arthur Batley, Newport, Rifle Brigade
* Pte. George Dobson, Newport, Grenadier Guards
* Farrier Henry Matthews, Cowes, R.H.A.
Farrier Stanley Sampson, Cowes, 6th Lancers
Corpl. Herbert Page, Headquarters, Newport, 10th Hants Regt.

Isle of Wight County Press

8 May 1915

News has reached the Island that Bombdr. Fred Burton, of a heavy Battery, R.G.A., who was serving as a constable in the County Constabulary at Yarmouth on the outbreak of war, was killed in action during the serious fighting following the German attacks around Ypres on the 24th ult. The deceased soldier, who was 30 years of age, was a native of Doncaster, and served in the R.G.A. from 1904 until 1912. He joined the I.W. Constabulary on March 1st of the latter year, and after being stationed at Newport for over two years had been transferred to Yarmouth for several months when war broke out. He rejoined the colours on the general mobilisation. He was well known in the Island as a good cricketer, for while still in the R.G.A. he was stationed for several years at the Western Forts, and since joining the Police Force he had won general esteem. After joining the Police Force he married Miss Drudge [1], a Freshwater lady, and the deepest sympathy is felt for the young widow, who is left with a baby, [2] born last Christmas whilst the late Bomdr. Burton was home on leave from the Front. One of his comrades, writing to relatives in the Island on the 28th ult., says: "I am sorry for not writing to you lately, but you must think yourself lucky to get this. We have been on the go for three days without a break. We should have still been on the go, but for our ammunition giving out. The road the ammunition had to come up was being swept away by shell fire, so we had to get out of our position and go through it ourselves. The guns went first and we had to walk five miles down a road where a German shell was dropping every 10 yards. How we got through the Lord only knows. I had a charmed life that day; it was last Saturday. My gun went off before it ought to have done, the wheel hit me in the face, I turned two somersaults, and landing on my ankle sprained it. I often thought I was lucky, as any ordinary man would have had his skull 'bashed' in (I have always been told I am thick in the head). I have a lovely black eye. The next thing that happened was when we had to dash out of action. I went out into a field to bring in a lamp I use for laying on at nights, and as I was coming back three shells pitched around me in a ring and the force threw me in a heap on the ground. I said to myself 'Good-bye, Flo.' A couple of chaps were coming to bring poor old Jim in, when I startled them by getting up. If any one had told me a tale like that I should have said they were 'chancing their arm.' How I got down that road I do not know. I could hardly put my foot on the ground, and we had to go across 200 yards of open ground in full view of the Germans, and hang me if I did not stand fascinated at the sight. There were men and horses dropping everywhere. Poor Burton, the Yarmouth policeman, was killed not more than 10 yards from where I was standing. It was only in the morning he was showing me a photo of his 'kiddie' that had just been born. We kept the Germans at bay for two hours at a range of 3000 yards, and not a British soldier in front of us. I expect we shall be made a fuss of in the papers. Our major was only 400 yards from the Germans observing, and not another person except the telephonist near him. We had a shell burst five yards from our gun, which made a hole 37 ft across and 11 ft deep. We knew we were in for it, as a German aeroplane dropped two smoke balls over us and told the Germans where we were."

[1] Emily Margaret Drudge, married 2 Oct 1913 at All Saints Church, Freshwater.
[2] Diana Emma Eugenia Burton, born 1914.


Friday, May 17, 1915 Page 2

Intelligence reached the Isle of Wight on Wednesday of the death of a member of the Isle of Wight Constabulary, P.C. Burton, who had been stationed at Sandown and also at Newport, and went to the front after the outbreak of the war. The sad news was conveyed to his widow, who is living at Freshwater, I.W., and in addition to a widow he leaves one young child, born after the departure of the father for the front.
  Further information :

20602 Fred Burton was born in Doncaster and enlisted at Rotherham, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). After his period of service he left the Army and joined the Isle of Wight Constabulary. At the outbreak of war, together with other reservists, he was recalled to the colours.

In September 1914 he joined a large group of other artillerymen from the Southern Coastal Division RGA who were being assembled for a brief holding period at the Portsdown Forts. In early October the whole group was sent by train to Woolwich to join one of the many new heavy artillery units being formed; Fred Burton was one of those assigned to 122nd Heavy Battery (HB) and he was quickly made an Acting Bombardier.

There was a desperate need for heavy artillery on the Continent and the Battery was equipped with obsolete weapons of Boer War vintage, the 4.7 inch gun. Most of the men were coastal gunners and a lengthy period of training took place to learn new skills of handling their guns in the field and especially the art of managing the huge cart horses, which pulled the guns and wagon - few men would have known the basic skills of riding, let alone how to care for these essential beasts.

The Battery went to France in early March 1915 and were soon in action at Armentieres. But, by mid-April, they had moved just to the East of Ypres, in Flanders, and were deployed in a forward position. This was just to the South of the section of the front where, on the 22nd April, the Germans launched the first gas attack of the War. The men of 122nd HB soon found themselves in the thick of the action and, over the following two days played a vital part in halting the onrushing attack - at a critical phase there were no friendly infantry between the guns and the enemy. Fred Burton was a member of the Observation Party section with the important, and dangerous, role of maintaining communications between the guns, observation post and Brigade Headquarters.

On the 24th April the situation had become so grave that, by early evening, it was decided to withdraw the Battery to fresh positions on the other side of the City of Ypres; the horses were harnessed to the guns and, covered by the guns of their sister battery, the 122nd galloped out of immediate danger. However, the road back via the village of St Jean and the North of Ypres itself, was under steady, accurate and extremely heavy shellfire. Houses on both sides of the route were blazing and, with darkness falling, great care was needed to guide terrified horses through acrid fumes, around piles of debris and avoid the difficult to spot holes in the road. At Salvation Corner, in Ypres itself, the road was almost entirely blocked by a huge still-smoking crater made by a 17 inch shell.

It was perhaps a miracle that casualties were not greater but, towards the rear of the long winding column of horses, guns, limbers and wagons, Fred Burton was killed in the shell fire. Two other gunners were wounded, three horses were killed and another, the Major's, wounded.

The location of his actual grave has been lost, presumably destroyed during later shelling, but the name of Acting Bombardier Fred Burton is amongst those commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres. His is on Panel 9, situated in the central arch of the gate.

Information provided by : Alan Jones, who also writes :

Burton was the first man of the Battery to have been killed in action (another had been killed in a bizarre accident as they left the barracks at Woolwich for France). At the time of his death the Brigade's Aid Post was at Potijze and he may have been buried there in one of the three little cemeteries but I actually suspect he was buried at Ypres Town Cemetery Extension - this is just a hunch based on the fact that other known graves of that period for both the 122nd and the sister battery (123rd) were all buried there. Four other members of the 122nd killed a little later on the 8th May are also listed on the Menin Gate but I also suspect they are in the Extension.
  Acknowledgements :

Janet Griffin for newspaper research

Alan Jones for details of the action in which Burton was killed
  Page status :
Page last updated : 1 January 2014 (added further newspaper reports)


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