This month we remembered Bourne and 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment man James Burt, who was killed in action on 16th June 1915 at the Battle of Bellewaarde.
James was born in the spring of 1892 to James Burt and his wife Elizabeth Ann Reeve. James Snr was born at Deeping St Nicholas in 1860 and Elizabeth in Weston near Spalding in 1863. The couple were married in 1891 and that marriage was registered in Spalding.
The couple settled in Fulney where they lived and where all their children were born between 1892 and 1900.
The children of James and Elizabeth were:-
• James Burt, 1892, Fulney
• William Burt, 1894, Fulney
• Elizabeth Ann Burt, 1895, Fulney
• George Burt, 1898, Fulney
• Arthur Burt, 1900, Fulney
In 1901 James was living with his parents in Nyles Bank, Fulney, Spalding. Father James was working on the farm as a farm foreman and the children, who’s ages were between 8 and 1, were all at home with Mother Elizabeth the eldest three classed as scholars. Ten years later and James Snr is still working as a farm labourer although by now James has left the home in Swindlers Drove and 2nd son William is working as a farm labourer.
James has moved out of the family home and moved to Waplode Marsh where he is working as a Horseman on a farm. He is now living with John Thrower, a farm labourer, his wife Anne and brother Bestie, also a Horseman. The family had both James Burt and a 15 year old Charles Staff, another horseman, lodging with them.
James enlisted into the Army at Bourne and Joined the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, his regimental number of 15273 would indicate that he joined around January 1915.
After a three months of training he embarked to join his Battalion in the Field landing in France on the 4th May 1915. Unfortunately he would only serve with the Battalion for one month.
As with 60% of all service records, James’ did not survive intact after the London warehouse fire in the Blitz in 1940. The following information is pieced together from other remaining records and mainly with the reference of the Battalion Diary.
After landing in France on the 4th May 1915, James would have likely arrived in the base camp and then after a few days being posted to the Battalion. The Battalion Diary for the 4th May reports that Captain H. M. C. Orr arrived at Dickebusch with 50 other ranks reinforcements. At the time the Battalion were in the middle of a tour of the trenches, their sector being near Lankof Chateau and in the vicinity of Hill 60. It is very unlikely that this batch included James.
The next day, the morning of the 5th, rifle shots were heard from the direction of Hill 60 and this continued until 9.30am. Enemy’s artillery shelled roads and buildings near Lankof Chateau and two shells burst inside the Battalion’s dressing station. During the afternoon and evening asphyxiating gases were detected floating from the German trenches towards our lines. Our artillery kept up a steady fire throughout the day in the direction of Hill 60. At about 9pm heavy artillery and rifle fire was heard and this continued for about an hour and a half when the artillery fire died down. Later the artillery was again active and opened a very heavy fire on the German trenches, continuing until dawn.
Sprays containing Carbonali of Soda were issued to the Battalion for use in the fire trenches to combat the effects of the gases used by the Germans.
Casualties, Other Ranks, 2 wounded.
The next batch of reinforcements arrived on the 9th May. “Reinforcements of 118 other ranks Joined at Dickebusch”. It is more likely that James arrived with these reinforcements as the previous batch arrived on the same day as he arrived in France and therefore it is unlikely that he would have moved up in that timeframe.
On the 10th May one of the notes in the diary states that “Reinforcements of 118 Other Ranks moved up and were billeted at Bedford House.
The diary for the next day, 11th May, reported that at about 2am we opened burst of rapid fire to which the enemy replied. The firing lasted for about an hour. Enemy’s artillery shelled wood near Bedford House without causing any damage. Later that day the Battalion’s part of the trench was subject to grenade fire and afterwards some shelling of the fire trench but this caused little damage but our artillery response fell accurately on the enemy’s trench causing much damage and effectively silenced them for the rest of the day. 2nd Lieut Jeudwine, 3rd Lincolns, slightly wounded along with 3 other ranks.
On the 14th May another reinforcement of 50 other ranks joined the Battalion at Dickebusch.
By now we must have established that James was with the Battalion as now it had been 10 days since his arrival in France and during that time the Battalion had received 218 reinforcements.
The Battalion Diary reports the following for what would have been James’ first days with the Battalion,
15th May 1915.
Heavy firing was heard from our left and continued until about 9am when all became very quiet especially on our front. At about 11am our heavy batteries shelled the German trenches in front of our position, this firing continued for about half an hour. Enemy’s artillery shelled the approaches to the firing line at irregular intervals during the night. After dusk a party of men of the Battalion went out in front of our fire trenches to remove some growing crops which we were obstructing our field of fire. This party successfully carried out their task and returned without casualty. A perty of miners of the battalion completed the construction of a tunnel under the bank of the Yser Canal. Work was continued on fire trenches and progress was also made in linking up two fire trenches held by the Battalion.
Casualties Other Ranks 1 died of wounds and 1 wounded.
16th May 1915
All quiet on our front. During the day heavy firing was heard from the direction Ypres Salient.
At about 2pm our batteries shelled the German trenches in front of our position, causing considerable damage to the enemy’s parapets. Late in the afternoon the enemy’s snipers became active + Lieut Cave-Orme was severely wounded. During the evening rifle grenades were usd by the enemy and some casualties were caused.
D Company relieved C Company in the fire trenches during the night. D Company occupied dug-outs on canal bank, A company moved back to Bedford House in support.
Casualties, Lieut R W Cave-Orme 1st Lincoln Regt Severely wounded
5 Other ranks wounded.
17th May 1915
A quiet day. During the night a rapid fire was opened on our trenches at 11.15pm, but soon died down
Casualties 1 died of wounds, 8 wounded.
The Battalion would remain in the trenches for another 10 days, eventually being relieved by the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers and that night heading for Outerdom and billets. Here they stayed a couple of days before being moved back to huts at Vlamertinghe where they rested and also provided fatigue parties working on the support trenches.
On the 31st May they marched back to Outerdom and were destined to start June at Hooge in support at Zouave and Hooge Woods for their next tour. This tour only lasted until the 5th June and afterwards the Battalion was returned to the rest camps at Vlamertinghe.
As well as resting, this time the battalion were lectured in the use of smoke helmet respirators, Rifle exercises, bombing practice plus the more usual physical drill and route marches which continued until mid June.
15th June 1915
The battalion. Remained in bivouacs during the day.
The Battalion paraded at 4.15pm ready to march to the assembly trenches, Cambridge Road South End I.11d. The order of the march was D. C. HQ. A + B Companies. The machine gun detachment accompanied the left column of the Brigade:- (5th Fus, R Scots Fus + Liverpool Scottish). The Battalion and 4th Royal Fusiliers formed the right column. The right column marched off from road junction H13 central at 5.0pm, and proceeded by the road through H13. H14. H15. H23 to Krruisstraat crossed the canal at bridge 13 + thence through Ypres to the Lille Gate at 8.30pm continuing via railway hack to I.10.d.0.2 thence by Menin Road.
Casualties 4 other ranks wounded.
Fine summer weather.
16th June 1915.
The Battalion occupied the assembly trenches I.11.d at 1.15am. The 9th Brigade were to attack the Bellewarde Spur at early morning. The objective was to seize and hold the line I12.d.3.2 – Y18 – Y7. The 1st phase of the attack was begun by our artillery severely bombarding the hostile trenches and wire entanglements with high explosive shells. Short spaces were made in the bombardment at 3-10am, 3-40am and 4am.
Our front line was occupied by Royal Fusiliers, Roy Scots Fusiliers and 5th Fusiliers. The Lincolns and Liverpool Scottish in support. The Liverpool Scottish were on our left, the 1st Wilts (7th Brigade) on our right. When in the assembly trenches the Battalion was shelled by enemy and a few casualties accrued.
At 4-15am exactly our first line rushed forward and immediately seized the first line of hostile trenches from the East edge of wood Y16-Y15-NE corner of Railway Wood and took prisoners all of the enemy in the trenches that had not been killed.
The Roy Scots Fusiliers in conjunction with 5th Fusiliers seized the trenches between Y13 + Y15. at the same time.
The Battalion rushed forward in support of the Royal Fusiliers reinforcing their line. The line continued its advance, bombing parties forcing their way along the trench Y16-Y20 driving the enemy at a run into his second line trenches.
The attack was being covered on the right by rifle and machine gun fire from the Menin Road and from the South of it, and covered on the left by rifle and machine gun fire of the 6th Division from the railway.
The Battalion and Royal Fusiliers seized the trench Y20-Y21. The artillery bombardment on the first line of trenches had been most effective in rendering them untenable and in destroying the barbed wire entanglements. Many dead Germans were found in the trenches. The prisoners taken were forced to the rear.
The attack now assumed its second phase which was the seizing of the trench running from Bellewarde farm to house on the road 100yds South of Y17. Our artillery had already dealt with the trench which we seized at 4.30am with very few casualties to our side, the enemy being finally driven out with the bayonet.
The third phase of the attack followed immediately. A party of 50 NCOs and men led by Major Boxer succeeded in occupying the line Y17-Y18. It was however found impracticable to retain, owing to our own artillery not having ceased to shell this position. The artillery observers were prevented from seeing the flag carried seeing the flag carried by the infantry, denoting the progress of the advance, by mist and smoke from shells. Also communication was difficult owing to the signal wires being cut by the enemy fire.
The advance of the infantry had been extremely rapid and was carried out with great dash and fervour and they had accomplished their object too quickly for our artillery, which caused many casualties to our side.
The commanding officer – Major H E BOXER was himself wounded when he ordered the men to fall back on the line Y17-Y20.
Units in their eagerness had rushed forward, mixed together and were much disorganised in captured trenches.
The attack had been brilliantly carried out and many acts of gallantry were performed by all ranks of the Battalion, both during the attack itself and during the subsequent enemy bombardment.
At 6.0am the Battalion now under the command of Major D F Grant received orders to fall back on to the first line of captured trenches Y16-Y17 and Y16-Y15 to reorganise and hold the line at all costs, which was held accordingly.
The Germans heavily bombarded the captured trenches throughout the day, the bombardment becoming most violent at 4pm when it became evident that a counter attack was being launched. The counter attack was met by our own artillery and by heavy rifle and machine gun fire, the enemy being repulsed with great loss to him.
At 6pm the enemy bombarded the trenches and ground behind with Gas-shells and the men had to resort to the use of respirators.
At 9.30pm the Battalion was relieved by the 4th Gordons (8th Brigade) and marched back to bivouac I.8.b.4.5 arriving about 5am next day.
17th June 1915
The battalion having returned to bivouac rested during the day.
A roll call was taken at 12 noon.
The following casualties had been incurred during the previous day’s fighting.
Major H E R Boxer – Wounded and missing
Captain J R G Magrath – Wounded
Captain R H Spooner – Wounded
Lieut A D Walker – Missing
2Lieut F C Green – Killed
2Lieut J H P Barrett – Wounded
2Lieut R O Pearson – Missing
Died of Wounds 3
Whether from one of the three bayonet charges, our own artillery barrage or the later German bombardment of their old trenches, Private James Burt was presumed dead on the 16th June 1915 as part of the action described by the Battalion Diary.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Private James Burt, 15273, 1st Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 16 June 1915. Remembered with honour, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
James is also commemorated on the war memorial in Bourne.