Sergeant Henry BURGON
  ('Private' on Memorial)

Regiment/Service:
Northumberland Fusiliers
Unit:
1st/7th Battalion
Service Number:
290232
Date of Death:
31 December 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
30
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 19 to 23 and 162.



Personal History:


Henry was born in the December quarter 1887 at 67 Low Greens, Berwick-on-Tweed, the oldest son of Henry (Fisherman) and Ann (née Cowe) Burgon. He had two younger brothers, John and Ralph Dixon (1891 Census RG 12/4267) The family were at the same address in 1901 (Census RG 13/4844) and two younger sisters had been born, Elizabeth and Ellen May.

Almost all of the neighbours were also Burgons and employed as Fisherman. One of those neighbours, also Henry Burgon, of 51 Low Greens, served with the Royal Engineers. Four other sons of Burgon families in the Eyemouth area gave their lives.
In 1911 (Census RG 14/31116) Henry was still living at home, but had not followed his father into the fishing industry and was employed as a "Plumber". In the December quarter 1915 Henry married Grace Sidney Temple in Berwick and must have been on leave at the time. They had one son, John T., born in Berwick after Henry's death, in the June quarter 1918. Unfortunately, Grace did not survive Henry very long, she died in Berwick in the December quarter 1918.

The link between this soldier and the town of Buxton has not been established and there were no 'Burgons' registered in the area in 1911. Henry's younger brother, Pt. S/6442 John Burgon of the 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action on 27th September 1915 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. [See Footnote below.]

Military History:
Henry's Service papers have not survived but his Medal Index Card indicates that he was posted to France with his Battalion on the 21st April 1915. It is possible that Henry was already serving as part of the Territorial Force, and if so had just left for the annual summer camp when emergency orders recalled them to the home base. All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5th August 1914 and moved to their allotted positions on the Tyne defences by mid August 1914.

The 1/7th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, was formed in August 1914 in Alnwick as part of the Northumberland Brigade, Northumbrian Division. Along with the 1/4th, 1/5th and 1/6th they landed in France in April 1915 and the following month the four Battalions became the 149th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

By the 23rd April the Division had concentrated in the area of Steenvoorde. It had arrived just as the German army had attacked at nearby Ypres, using poison gas for the first time, and was rushed into the battle and took part in the engagements at The Battle of St Julien, The Battle of Frezenburg Ridge and The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge - all part of The Second Battle of Ypres.

On the 10th August 1916 Henry's 1/7th Battalion left Bailleul by train for Doullens and after a series of marches reached Quadrangle Trench, west of Mametz Wood, by the 10th September to prepare for The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, (15th - 22nd September), a phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916. [The Battalion historian, Capt. F. Buckley, recalled that while in the area there was to be given a demonstration at Albert of 'the new tanks', which was thought to be something to do with the water supply - hence: "we did not go"!]

On the 14th September the Battalion assembled in Clark's Trench, to the west of High Wood, and when the attack began the next day the Battalion moved forward at 6.20 a.m. and reached its first objective of Hook Trench, and advanced towards Starfish Trench, its second objective. On reaching a sunken road south of Bow Trench they surprised many enemy soldiers and took many prisoners. During the attack the Battalion suffered 344 casualties, including 93 killed in action, before withdrawing to positions near Mametz Wood on the 16th. 75 of the 93 killed have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

The Battalion were next in the line on the 20th September, before again withdrawing to the same location, and returning to the Flers Line on the 11th November. The Battalion attacked Gird Lines and Hook Sap on the 14th November, an advance that was recorded in 'The Official History' as being a success. However, "… fire from Butte Trench made communications impossible and nothing more was heard of the leading companies". The Battalion was relieved at 10.00 p.m. on the 15th and withdrew to Albert on the 18th. Casualties during this engagement numbered 229 - 107 of which were killed in action. 53 of these men have no know grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Of the remainder 41 are buried in the Warlencourt British Cemetery.

Between the 26th October - 10th November 1917 Henry fought in The Second Battle of Passchendaele, a phase of the Third Battles of the Ypres. His Battalion was heavily engaged on the 26th October, having 99 men killed in action, with another 12 in the next two days. 78 of these men are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Over Christmas, 24th to 26th December 1917, Henry's 1/7th Battalion were in billets at Ypres, but the following day they moved up in relief of 4th E. Yorkshire Regiment as a 'counter attack' Battalion. The same day they moved into dugouts at Hamburg, with Battalion H.Q. at Irksom.
     
On the 28th December, they relieved 4th Yorkshire Regiment in line the at Passchendaele and took over a line of posts from D.12.b.80.98 to D.12.c.75.50. An enemy patrol attempted to surround their left post, but was engaged by the garrison. One German was killed and the N.C.O. in charge of the enemy patrol was wounded and taken prisoner. He died of wounds the following day.  
     
Between the 28th and 31st December, the Battalion remained in the lines as above. "Casualties during period: 2/Lieut A.R.BURR. wounded. 11 O.R. Killed, 24 O.R wounded, 1 O.R Died. Reinforcements: 2/Lts. BRUCE, EDMUNDS, DODDS J. and 4 O.R."

On the 31st December 1917 Henry and five other members of his Battalion were killed in action. All are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The Battalion history has this to say:

"31st December 1917 (Passchendaele Front, BHQ)
We are still in the same old pill-box, but expect to go back tomorrow for a long rest. It was a bit hot here this morning. A shell hit the pill-box fair and square about 6am. All the light went out and everything was upset. Nobody was hurt, however, although the others have been suffering from a bad headache all day" (Six deaths would seem to warrant rather more of a mention!)


Footnotes:
· Henry's younger brother, Pt. S/6442 John Burgon of the 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in
  action on 27th September 1915 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. John is also commemorated on the

Sources:
· I am grateful to Judy Rieck for the photo of Henry's name on the Tyne Cot Memorial
· I am also grateful to Martin McNeela for the information from the History
· "The Fifth in the Great War: A History of the 1st and 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, 1914 - 1918: A History of the 1st &
   2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, 1914-1918" by H. R. Sandilands [ISBN-13: 978-184342221]
· "British Battalions on the Somme" - Ray Westlake [ISBN-10: 0850523745] p. 26

Commemorated on:

Link to CWGC Record
The Tyne Cot Memorial
Pt Burgon's name on the Memorial
poppy