Lance Corporal Harry BURGESS
(Listed as 'Private' on the Memorial)

Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
2nd Battalion ("B" Company)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
9 August 1915 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 39 - 41

Personal History:
Harry was born on the 29th August 1884 in Hough, Cheshire, the son of Joseph (Carter) and Sarah Marie (née Worthington) Burgess. He had two older brothers, James and George, three younger brothers, Arthur [see Footnote below], Walter and Charles [see Footnote below], and a younger sister, Harriett. (1891 Census RG 12/2779)

Sometime before the birth of another son, Sidney, the family moved to Marlow Farm, Fairfield, Buxton, e.g. Harry attended North Road School from 1893 to 1896, but mother, Sarah died in the March quarter 1897. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) Harry was working as a "Grocer's Errand Boy".
By 1911 (Census RG 14/34979) Harry had already attested (19 January 1904) in the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), on a 3 + 9 year enlistment and accordingly was transferred to the Reserves three years later. At the time of his enlistment Harry gave his occupation as "Engine Cleaner". At that time he stood 5 ft. 6 ins. [1.67 m.] tall and had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. After 2 years service he weighed 9 st. 4 lbs. [58.9 kgs.]

In 1911 (Census RG 14/) Harry was living and working at the County Asylum, Prestwich, employed as "Day Attendant in Asylum". He married Hannah Ashmore at Burbage Parish Church on the 19th February 1912. They lived at 103 Green Lane, Burbage. There were no children of the marriage.

[N.B. In the December quarter 1901 Arthur's father, Joseph, re-married Elizabeth Wibberley (a widow) and by 1911 (Census RG 14/21235) Arthur and his siblings had six more half-brothers and sisters - Herbert, Annie, William, Joseph, Redge and Martha. The family were still living at 12 Marlow Street, Fairfield, with Elizabeth's children from her first marriage - Samuel, Fred, Alfred, Leonard and George. Arthur's brothers, Walter and George, were also still at home.]

Military History:
As stated above, Harry enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) at Sheffield on the 19th January 1904 on a 3 + 9 year Short Service Attestation. On the 20th May 1904 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion and after a period stationed at Aldershot, Harry served in Singapore between the 4th November 1905 and the 29th January 1907. This was the end of his active service period and the following day was transferred to the Reserves. During his period of active service Harry qualified as "Mounted Infantry".

His Service Records show that Harry, still a Reservist, was mobilised, at Derby, in September 1914, initially to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion. His Medal Index Card shows that he entered the War in France on the 10th October 1914, having been posted back to his 2nd Battalion. The Battalion was based in Sheffield in August 1914, part of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division. The Battalion moved on mobilisation to Cambridge and on the 11th September 1914 it landed at St Nazaire.

Although the Buxton Memorial lists Harry's rank as 'Private', his Service Papers show that on the 7th April 1915 he was promoted to 'Unpaid L/Cpl' in the field which became 'Paid' on the 20th May. After just 304 days with the British Expeditionary Force Harry was reported "missing believed killed" in action on the 9th August 1915 when his Battalion launched an attack from Sanctuary Wood against Hooge.

The village of Hooge had proved to be a stalemate since the German offensive at the Second Battle of Ypres (22nd April - 25th May 1915) and had become a vital position at the apex of the Ypres Salient. It was the scene of bitter fighting as the British strived to form a defensive line whilst the Germans aimed for a position to dominate British lines in this sector. The German possession of the village had given them a tremendous advantage for observing the British Lines. The British attack of the 9th August achieved a line that remained fairly static until June 1916.

The action at Hooge had a limited objective, to retake the village and stop the Germans overlooking the British positions. On the 9th August a short, heavy artillery bombardment was laid down on the German positions which stopped after 30 minutes and the British troops who had been crawling into no-mans land attacked the German defences.

The 2nd Battalion War Diary records the events of the day as follows:

    “9 August 1915 - At 1.45am the battalion was clear of Maple Copse and by 2.30am was in position in Sanctuary Wood. Our orders were to closely support the D.L.I. in the frontal assault especially providing for the protection of their right flank by occupying and holding G1, G2, G3 up to and including the Menin Road.

     At 2.45 our guns commenced their bombardment and 5 minutes afterwards the German guns commenced to retaliate, shells dropping in and around D.L.I.’s original front trench.

     At 3.10am the battalion started to advance. “B” and “C” Companies proceeded up G1 and G2 headed by a strong bombing party under Lt. Gleane. The first opposition was met about 50 yards east of the junction of G1 and G2 which was quickly overcome by our bombers. At the same time 2 platoons of “A” Company pushed up S2 and S1 but the latter was found to be practically useless as a communication trench, it affording very little cover and being half full of crates and dead men. By this time the Germans were shelling the trenches very heavily and their fire was wonderfully accurate.

     At 3.45am a report came in that the D.L.I. had captured the trenches they were to take.

     By 5am the German guns had fully opened out and the trenches our men were in especially G3 and G2 were getting blown in everywhere cutting communications between “B” and “C” Companies. Officer casualties in G3 were heavy at this time.

     The whole day the Germans a hail of shells into G6, G3-2-1 and S2 and the way all ranks went through this trying ordeal is worthy of greatest admiration.

     By 12 noon the trenches were only held in isolated groups where they had not been blown in.

     By 3pm it was found impossible to send reinforcements up by way of G2 and as the D.L.I. had already reported S2 impossible it was decided not to send any more men forward and to only hold G1 lightly.

     The Germans made no attempt to counter attack us and after dark about 30 men and Captain Crosby rejoined the battalion from G6 and G3. These were the only survivors of the original garrison.

     The battalion was relieved at 9.30pm by the Queens Westminsters and we proceeded to dugouts in the Ypres Ramparts.

     Casualties 10 officers killed, 7 officers wounded. 15 other ranks killed, 203 wounded, 120 missing believed killed.”  

CWGC Records show that 107 Officers and men of the 2nd Battalion were killed in action on the same day as Harry, 9th August 1915. All but one have no known grave and are commemorated with him on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial. 

On the day before the Battle the Battalion comprised 24 Officers and 965 Other Ranks. After the Battle the History tells us it had 9 Officers killed, 5 wounded and 105 Other Ranks killed and 222 Other Ranks wounded.

· Harry's brother, Sgt. 7137 Arthur BURGESS, 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on 9 May 1915.

· On the same day 109 Officers and men of the 9th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, were killed fighting in Gallipoli. All but three of these have
   no known grave and are commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

· Another brother, Pt. 1946 Charles BURGESS, enlisted in the 6th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters Regiment on 28 May 1913, becoming part of
  'D' Coy., 2/6th. He was posted to France on 24 February 1917, but wounded on 18 March and returned to England two months later.
  Charles was discharged on 28 September 1918

· I am grateful to Graeme Clarke for the extracts from the War Diary
· I am also grateful to Martin G for the History notes
·  .... and to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photo of Harry's name on the Memorial
· "Sanctuary Wood and Hooge (Battleground Europe)" by Nigel Cave [ISBN-10: 0850523559] p. 59

Link to CWGC Record
The Menin Gate Memorial