16 Jul 2009

BURTENSHAW Vernon George


Private DM2/163148, 403 Mechanical Transport Company, Army Service Corps
Attached 11th ANZAC Corps Heavy Artillery
Died of wounds on Wednesday 1st August 1917
Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Ieper, Grave I.B.17

Vernon Burtenshaw was baptised on the 2nd October 1887 at Cuckfield, Sussex, the son of William and Ellen Burtenshaw. By the time of the 1901 census their home was at New England Road, Haywards Heath, and at that time William's occupation was given as a bill poster. There were just two children still at home - Vernon, who was thirteen, and his sister Alice, seventeen. It isn't known when the family moved to Lancing, but definitely by 1911 when Vernon married Esther Matilda King at S.t James the Less. The wedding was on 8th April that year, both were twenty-three years old, the groom's occupation being given as 'van driver' and the bride's as 'domestic servant.' Esther already had one daughter, Kate, three years old, and within a short time the family was set to grow. After their marriage the couple moved to Old Shoreham Road, Hove, and in May 1912 their first children were baptised at St. James the Less, twin girls, Doris Mary and Phyllis Victoria Burtenshaw - at that time Victor was employed as a drayman. Then in November 1913, while still living at the same address, they returned to St. James for the next baptism, a second set of twins, Olive Marjorie and Raymond George. By November 1915, just before his enlistment, the couple were living at 3 Seaton Terrace, Lancing, just around the corner from Vernon's parents in Penhill Road, and had produced a third set of twins, Alec Vernon and Connie Hester Burtenshaw. Six children in three and a half years could well be a Lancing record!

Vernon Burtenshaw enlisted into the Army Service Corps on 7th December 1915, and trained as a driver in a Motor Transport Company. In August 1917 he was attached to 11 ANZAC Corps Heavy Artillery at 'Y' Siege Park near Ypres. The unit war diary, held at The National Archives in WO95/1014 makes unusual reading, and illustrates vividly the dangers that the men of the Army Service Corps faced every day. It's easy to joke about them moving pots of jam around, but in July 1917 the establishment of the Park was ninety officers, 3,376 other ranks, and sixteen hundred vehicles; motor cycles, cars, caterpillars and lorries. In that month alone casualties included:
One man who died after being crushed between two lorries.
One man found dead in the roadway following a hostile air raid.
Two men admitted to hospital having collided with a motor cycle and side car, one of whom later died.
Several men killed and wounded by hostile shell fire, and one man who died as the result of a self inflicted rifle wound. Many of the casualties are mentioned by name, but unfortunately Vernon Burtenshaw is not among them. A short item in the Worthing Gazette of 12th September 1917 reported his death:

DIED FROM SHELL WOUNDS - The death is announced, from shell wounds received at Ypres, of Private V. G. Burtenshaw, of the Army Service Corps, whose home was at 3, Seaton Terrace. Private Burtenshaw, who was a coachman in private life, had been at the front about four months.'

Vernon Burtenshaw is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, four miles west of Ieper [Ypres] near to the site of Casualty Clearing Stations and other medical facilities during that period of the war.

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