Private William Burley, 10th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, died of wounds on 30th September 1915. He was born on 5th November 1895 in Islington, London and was the youngest of nine children born to George (a hairdresser) and Elizabeth (née Mocock) who had married at St Mark’s, Shoreditch on 19th December 1882.
Elizabeth died in 1898, aged 43. Her widowed husband and younger children spent some time the following year in Islington workhouse. Youngest son, Willie, as he was known, was first admitted on 14th January and discharged on 31st January. He was then readmitted for several days 11th-17th August, and then again on 23rd August for four months. The admission register for his final admission notes “father’s address unknown.” It seems that his father had died by 1907 as the marriage certificate of their sister, Elizabeth Louisa (1880-1965) lists her father, George, as deceased.
Willie’s brother, Alfred, was also an inmate at Islington workhouse, and attended Hornsey Road workhouse school (later Andover Children’s Home). He left the school in 1902, aged 14½, to join the band of the Manchester Regiment. Four other boys from the school joined the band at the same time. Alfred was still with the regiment in 1911, stationed in India and listed as a Bandsman.
Another brother, George Frederick (1885-1915) died on 6th June 1915 whilst serving as a Corporal with the Royal Fusiliers.
Willie is listed with his brother, Alfred, on the 1901 census as an inmate of Islington workhouse school, although he is recorded as Frederick William Burley. He is known also to have attended Temple Balsall School before going to work for Rev. William James Stavert, Rector of Burnsall, Yorkshire as a domestic servant. He worked for the Rector for several years before leaving to work John Delaney’s quarries at Threshfield, Skirethorns. He volunteered for the Army soon after the outbreak of war, being one of 18 volunteers recruited at a meeting in Grassington on 12th September 1914. He first entered a Theatre of War on 26th August 1915.
He was one of three men from the battalion wounded at Erquinghem on 22nd September 1915. The Battalion War Diary mentions him by name in an entry that says:
Bombardment continues, only heavier. This time enemy retaliates. Most of their shells however fall behind our trenches, nevertheless they damaged our parapet in places and blew in a communication trench. Three men were wounded, two seriously – 13655 Pte William Burley, A Coy. 13789 Pte Ernest Franklin, seriously. 13721 Pte Arthur Stubbs, A Coy. One shell burst about 5 yds from our bomb store and the man on guard received 30 wounds.
Private Burley was wounded by shrapnel one hour before a fellow Grassington recruit, Arthur Stubbs, was also injured. The two men were taken to a field hospital in the same ambulance. Willie was then brought back to England, receiving treatment at the 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge, which had been built on the joint cricket field of King’s and Clare Colleges. He succumbed to his injuries on 30th September 1915.
The Craven Herald, 22nd October 1915 reported his death and mentioned that he had an unmarried sister in Deal, Kent and a brother in the Army. However, the Register of Soldiers’ Effects lists his next-of-kin as his sisters – Elizabeth Louisa (1880-1965), Ellen Maud (known as Nelly) (1882-1956), Louisa (1883-1956), Rose (1886-1970) and Lily (1890-1982).
Private William Burley is buried at St Mary’s Church, Woolmer, Kent and is commemorated on war memorials at Linton-in-Craven and Burnsall. He is also commemorated locally on the war memorial at Temple Balsall.
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