Private John Ernest BURGESS

Durham Light Infantry
1st/6th Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
5 September 1918 - Died
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
I. M. 5.

Personal History:
According to his Service Papers John was born on 13th March 1899 the son of Ernest (Bookshop Manager) and Matilda (née Greenwood) Burgess of 54 Spring Gardens, Buxton (1901 Census RG 13/3270). He had a younger brother, Harry.
In 1911 (Census RG 14/21235) Matilda and the two sons were living with her sister, Betsy Greenwood, at 48 Fairfield Road, Buxton. (John's father, Ernest, was in London in 1911 and was still - or back - there in 1920, living at 8 Talford Road, Peckham, London.) At the time of his enlistment John gave his occupations as "Joiner's Apprentice" and was 5 ft. 1½ ins (1.56 m.) tall.

Military History:
John enlisted at Bakewell, Derbyshire on 24th March 1917, giving his preferred regiment as 'Army Service Corps MT'. He was posted to Rugeley Camp, Staffordshire on the 1st April 1917 as part of the 8th Training Reserve Battalion. On 18th August 1917 he was transferred to the 1st T.R. Battalion, mobilized on 14th March 1918 and posted to France on the 1st March in the 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

After seeing action in May 1918 during the German Spring Offensive, or 'Kaiserschlacht' (Kaiser's Battle), John's Battalion retired to the Champagne region where they were overwhelmed by the German Offensive launched on the 27th May. The National Archives has records of a few men captured on the Aisne, some from the 50th Division. The Battle of the Aisne, 27th May - 6th June 1918, when the 4th Territorial Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers were decimated with the majority of the men killed or captured, saw the Durham and Northumberland Battalions standing fim after German forces crossed the River. Unfortunately, the French forces on their left retired, leaving them outflanked.

John's 6th Battalion retired to a line along the Ridge of Guyencourt and to Gemicourt Wood where it fought a notable rearguard action, alongside some French Territorials, many aged over 50. Many of the Durham men were much younger than John, only 18 and 19 years. At some time during this day John was severely wounded and captured.

His Service Papers contain a letter to his aunt, Mrs Greenwood, dated 14th February 1919, when she was informed that John was recorded as a Prisoner of War, but was asking her if she had any news of his whereabouts! She replied enclosing ".. the only card she had received .. since he was taken prisoner of war". However, on the 16th May notification was received that John had died on the 5th September 1918 whilst a p.o.w. at Trelon and had been buried at Glageon Cemetery. In total he had served just 1 year 166 days with the Colours. Having been originally posted as 'Missing', and the Armistice having come and gone, John's family might have been hoping for better news after such a long time.

The village of Glageon, where John is buried, is about 3 kilometres west of Trelon, where was the Hospital where he died, and 11 kilometres south-east of Avesnes. Another Buxton casualty, Pt. William James Gent, serving with the Sherwood Foresters, died in the same Hospital nine days after John and was buried in the next row of Glageon Cemetery.

The CWGC says "Glageon village was in German occupation during practically the whole of the War. The Communal Cemetery was used for the burial of German soldiers and Allied prisoners from September, 1914, to August, 1918; the Extension was then begun, and was used until the following October."

· I am grateful to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photo of John's grave in Glageon Cemetery

Link to CWGC Record
Pt John Burgess' grave