Trooper Herbert Moss BURTON


Regiment/Service:
Household Cavalry
(Formerly: Royal Horse Guards)
Unit:
1st (Household) Battalion
Service Number:
1108
(Formerly: 1972 Royal Horse Guards)
Date of Death:
4 June 1917 - Died of wounds
Age:
21
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
XXV. G. 16A.

Personal History:
Herbert was born in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire on the 7th March 1896, the son of Sarah Moss (Laundress), single at the time. He then appears to have been the "adopted" ['milk child'] by John (Farmer and Milk Dealer) and Eliza (née Naden) Burton of Turner Lodge, Fairfield, Buxton. He grew up in a large family which had 13 children, John Walter, Sarah Jane, Frank, Lydia, Mary Ellen, Eliza Ann, George William, Richard, Louis, Ada, Septimus, Walter and Emmaline.
He was shown in 1901, listed with the family as 'Nursing child' (Census RG 13/3269) Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/21235), Herbert relationship to the family is shown as "Servant" and is working as a "Labourer on Farm" still named as "Herbert Moss". He does not seem to have used the 'Burton' surname until he enlisted. 

Military History:
Whatever his relationship with the family Herbert enlisted in the Royal Horse Guards under their surname at London. Also, his CWGC record shows him as "Son of Mrs. E. Burton, of Turner Lodge, Fairfield, Buxton, Derbyshire." His Medal Index Card shows that he entered France on the 13th August 1915, but unfortunately his Service Papers have not survived. His low Service Number, 1972, suggests he enlisted early in the War. Equally his new number of 1108 in the Household Cavalry would suggest he transferred quite soon after enlistment.

At the outbreak of War the Royal Horse Guards were at Windsor. On the 1st September 1914 they moved to Ludgershall and came under orders of 7th Cavalry Brigade in 3rd Cavalry Division, and on 7th October 1914 landed at Zeebrugge. On the 21st November 1914 they transferred to 8th Cavalry Brigade in same Division.

The Household Battalion of the Household Cavalry was formed as an infantry battalion at Knightsbridge Barracks in London on 1st September 1916, drawn from the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards. As might be imagined much retraining and re-equipping was necessary to convert the cavalry troops into foot soldiers. This Battalion entered the War in France on the 9th November 1916 and was posted to join the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division.

Clearly, therefore, Herbert went to France in August 1915 as a Trooper in the Royal Horse Guards, moving to the Household Division probably in September 1916 (see 'Footnote' below). This Division was heavily engaged for the first time in the Battle of Arras in April 1917.

Earlier, his 3rd Cavalry Division, under Major-General C. Briggs, was one of the divisions of the General Reserve and were to be held north and south of Lillers, at the start of The Battle of Loos (25th September 1915). They formed part of General Sir Douglas Haig's First Army. On the 25th September:

"By 10.30am First Army had received optimistic reports, and ordered the reserve 3rd Cavalry Division forward to Corons de Rutoire in readiness to move forward as soon as Cite St Auguste fell.

At 12.40pm First Army ordered the reserve 3rd Cavalry Division to advance through the infantry; the Divisional CO, Major-General Briggs had by now ascertained that the actual situation was not as favourable as Army believed, and he informed Haig that he would wait until it was. 2.35pm sees Haig ordering the two reserve infantry Divisions of XI Corps to push forward at once between Hulluch and Cite St Auguste, to secure the passages of the Haute Deule Canal. The Corps and Divisional HQ's were given no indication that the enemy was anything but defeated and breaking. It was not until 5.00pm that these orders were given to the attacking Brigades. An hour later, not all battalions were in position. At least one experienced such delay that the men went without a meal of any kind before going into battle. By now it was getting dark. First Army ordered the Brigades not to advance beyond the Lens-La Bassee road that night, but these amended orders did not reach the forward units until 2.00am - by which time many of their men were dead. 7th Division had halted in and around Gun Trench and the Quarries after its initial advance, unable to penetrate uncut wire in front of Hulluch under fire from Cite St Elie. Divisional artillery was ordered to shell the latter and its defences until 4.00pm. Unfortunately observers reported that the damage done was not sufficient to justify continuing the attack. At 7.05pm orders to consolidate were received from I Corps."

                                

In 1916 neither of Herbert's Battalions were engaged in serious engagements, but in April 1917 both took part in The Third Battles of the Scarpe (9th - 14th April) and the attack on Monchy le Preux (10th -11th April) which were phases of the Arras Offensive. Herbert's Household Battalion was to advance on the village of Fampoux, which was reached at 4.00 p.m. on the 9th April. In the process CWGC Records show that the Battalion lost 9 Officers and 166 other ranks killed in action.

One mile ahead of Fampoux lay the more heavily defended town of Roeux, planned to be taken the next day, the 10th. However, the Household Division did not attack until the 3rd May, but it was forced back by the enemy in entrenched positions in Roeux Cemetery. Herbert's Battalion attacked again on the 12th May and early the following morning it forced the Germans out of the town at bayonet point. In all total casualties numbered about 500, including Herbert.

In 1917 Etaples, where he is buried, was the site for eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot that could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick. It was in one of these that Herbert died of his wounds on the 4th June, aged 21. Bearing in mind his humble beginnings, I am sure that his 'family' would have been very proud of him and his sacrifice.

Footnote:
· William Frank Smith of Reigate had a similar move from Royal Horse Guards to the Household Battalion and was killed on 6 May 1917 (possibly
   in the same action as Herbert). His Records have survived and show he moved Battalions on 1 September 1916. (Authority: 20/Cav. 886. AGl.
   28.8.16) However, Herbert's Regimental Number suggests he moved slightly later, perhaps after they landed in France in November.
Sources:
· The Long, Long Trail - The British Army in the Great War
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 16 June 1917
· I am grateful to Steve Godfrey for the photo of Herbert's grave

Link to CWGC Record
Trooper Herbert Moss' grave
poppy
... about the Battle of Loos
Trooper Herbert Burton