Monday, October 29, 2007

The Story of Roy James Gladstone Burr

Some of the soldiers who appear on the Quorn memorial were not exactly natives of Quorn. Roy Burr was born in Glanville in Adelaide. He also enlisted there as well. At the time of his enlistment in August 1915 Roy was working as a labourer and was aged 23. The link with Quorn came later as his parents, who were living in Eudunda at the time of Roy’s enlistment, moved to Quorn before the end of the war. After initial training in Adelaide Roy embarked as a Private on the "Malwa" for the Middle East on 2nd of December.

No record exists of when Roy got to Egypt, but he was admitted in to the Abbassia Dermatological Hospital in Cairo. Now, most of the soldiers who left for overseas behaved quite well but a few got themselves into various forms of trouble. Roy might have been one of those, but far from the worst (as we shall see). “Dermatological” hospitals of the First World War were actually VD clinics! This was in mid January of 1917 and he stayed at the hospital for about 2 months, finally being released on 16 March to rejoin the 12th reinforcements for the 12th Battalion. In May he was promoted from Private to Driver.

In June Roy embarked on the Cunard liner the SS Ivernia to travel to France. He disembarked in Marseille a week later.

The SS Ivernia had been built in 1899 as a liner and spent the next 14 years plying passengers between the United Kingdom and United States. At the start of the war it was converted to a troop ship. A year after delivering Roy to France the Ivernia was torpedoed with the loss of 121 lives near Cape Matapan in the Mediterranean. By that time Roy was dead too.

Shortly after arrival in France, Roy found himself back in hospital. This time from an apparent fight he had got into. On the 30 July he was released from hospital and joined the 52nd Battalion.

The next and last record we have of Roy is a note that he was wounded on 3-4 of September 1916. However as time goes past he can’t be found. On the 20 October he was posted as “wounded and missing” as there must be no records received from the Germans of prisoners with his name listed. A month after that his name is put on the “supernumary” list as he had been absent for three months.

Finally a military inquest on 24 April 1917 returned the verdict “killed in action” on the original date he went missing.

Roy was never found and his name is now on the Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. The Australian memorial was built to commemorate the 10000 Australian first war soldiers who have no other known graves. While his own personal records are sparse it is possible to infer where Roy fell. 52nd Battalion was part of the 13th Brigade of the Fourth Division of the AIF. During 1916 the Fourth Division was involved in fighting on the Somme, chiefly at Pozieres, Mouquet Farm and Flers. The Australian army took 23,000 casualties (both killed and wounded) in the area around Pozieres between July and September of 1916. It is highly likely that Roy was one of these casualties.
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