3 May 2010

COLBOURNE Bernard Barton


Lance Corporal G/7083, 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action on Thursday 19th October 1916
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, Pier and Face 7c

Bernard Colbourne's name does not appear on Lancing War Memorial, but he is included here as a man born in the village, and a member of one of the large extended families of Lancing. He was born on March 10th 1881, the sixth son of John and Mary Jane Colbourne. Neither of his parents were local, but they moved to Lancing in 1870, soon after their marriage, and set up in business as grocer, baker, and later on draper, and built the shop which was to be home for many years for their family of eleven sons. John Colbourne died in 1890 at the age of 41, and Mary continued to run the family business with the help of her family, including Bernard, who was employed there until he joined the Royal Navy on the 19th August 1899. His naval service record is held at The National Archives in ADM188/472, and includes the following details:

292813 Stoker
Date of Birth: 10th March 1881

Occupation: Grocer's Assistant

Date of engagement: 19 August 1899

Period of engagement: 12 years [later cancelled by purchase]

Height: 5ft 7½ inches

Hair: Dark, Eyes: Hazel, Complexion: Fresh, Marks: Scar on palm of left hand

During his time in the navy he was on several different vessels including Australia, Warrior, Duke of Wellington, Exmouth and Prince of Wales, his conduct reports throughout stating 'Very Good.' In August 1905, while on duty in the Mediterranean, he paid twelve pounds to buy his discharge, leaving the Royal Navy on November 20th 1905. He returned to Worthing and by the outbreak of war in 1914 he was married and in business as a butcher at 114 Montague Street, Worthing. I was pleased to find recently that this address, in an area of the town much changed over the past one hundred years, is still trading as a butcher's shop.

Bernard Colbourne's army service record does not survive at The National Archives, but he enlisted in Worthing in the first week of June 1915 [see first comment below] into the Royal Sussex Regiment. By the autumn of 1916 he was with the 13th Battalion, but his service number shows that this was probably not his original battalion - he may have been transferred at some time, perhaps after being wounded, or simply to replace the losses sustained by the 13th. By mid-October fierce fighting was still a daily occurrence on the battlefields of the Somme, and the Battalion War Diary for that period [TNA WO95/2582] shows that they were preparing for an attack on Stuff Trench, scheduled for October 21st. The diary makes no mention of casualties on October 19th, but 'Soldiers died in the Great War' CD shows that two men of the battalion were killed that day, one of whom was Bernard Colbourne. Two extracts taken from the Worthing Gazette give conflicting views about what was happening at the time; first from the 8th November 1916, a personal tribute from a comrade:

Brief announcement of the fact that Lance Corporal Bernard Colbourne has been killed in action was made in the last issue of the Gazette. The date of his death was about the 22nd October. Lance Corporal Colbourne quitted his business as a butcher in Montague Street and joined the Royal Sussex Regiment on the 1st June last year and went to France last August. Mrs. Colbourne has received a letter from Lance Corporal E. J. Belsey, an intimate friend of her late husband, expressing the heartfelt sympathy of himself and his comrades. He was with Lance Corporal Colbourne at the time he was struck on the battlefield, death being instantaneous. A cross marks his grave. In his younger days Lance Corporal Colbourne was in the Royal Navy, and this explains the further reference in Lance Corporal Belsey's letter:

'He was a great friend of mine. We were together on HMS Prince of Wales and before leaving England we pledged our faith to each other, should anything happen we would write to our friends.'

The second report, in the Worthing Gazette of 22nd November 1916, includes part of a letter sent from an officer in the battalion to Mrs. Colbourne:

An Officer of the Company to which the late Lance-Corporal Bernard Colbourne was attached in the Royal Sussex Regiment has written the accompanying sympathetic letter to Mrs. Colbourne, at 114 Montague Street:

Dear Mrs. Colbourne - It is with deepest sorrow I have to inform you of the death of your husband. He fell whilst gallantly leading his section into action. His death was instantaneous. His bright and cheery manner won him many friends, and his death is sadly felt by his comrades. He at all times proved himself a brave and efficient soldier, always willing and with a very high sense of duty. May God comfort you, and the knowledge that he died a hero's death help you to bear your sad bereavement.

In addition to his commemoration on the Thiepval Memorial, Bernard Colbourne is also named on Worthing War Memorial. His parents John and Mary Jane Colbourne are buried at the parish church of St. James the Less, North Lancing, and the inscription also remembers their son, killed in France:

In loving memory of L/Cpl Bernard Barton Colbourne who was killed at Thiepval, France, on 19th October 1916 aged 36 years, his duty nobly done.

Thanks to Christine Colbourne for supplying details of her husband's family


Paul Nixon said...

"...he enlisted in Worthing in the early summer of 1915..."

Sue, you're right. The number appears to date to the first week of June 1915.

Sue Light said...

Hurrah - I got one right!