Private William Henry Burwell

Private William Henry Burwell was born in March 1882 in Brightside where his parents had married the year before. His father, Thomas Francis who was described as a stationary engine driver in the census of 1881 had been living in Brightside after moving from his parents farm in Lincolnshire. His mother, Mary Elwiss, had been born in Finningly and was a servant.

William was one of five children. He spent his infancy in Brightside but the family had moved to Newark by the time his youngest sibling, Edward, was born in 1889. His father was a commercial traveller and has been found towns as afar afield as Kendal and Caernarvon on different census records.

William was, in 1911, a resident of the inebriates home in Cinderford, Gloucestershire. Run by the Church of England, the home accommodated around 50 patients, all male. The men were resident voluntarily and agreed to stay for a year. A report in the local newspaper described how the men looked after themselves as there were only four paid staff: a matron, a cook, a cashier and a general manager. Residents who were incapabled of working outdoors on the farm engaged in occupations such as woodworking and making carpets.

William must have been in a bad way through drinking to be a resident for twelve months. When he left the home,  he went to Canada, perhaps to start a new life.  He enlisted in December 1914 at Calgary, Alberta into the 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry.

His attestation record shows that he was a book keeper (he had been a bank clerk in 1911) and of average height and build. It also reports that he was single. After initial training, William was allocated to ‘C’ Company and left Calgary for England, arriving in Kent in May 1915 after a journey by train and sea that lasted just over two weeks.

In February 1915, Willam married Margarite Ann Stott. Margarite travelled to the UK just before the Battalion. She probably had relatives in Scotland as the miltary records show that she was staying at Fettercairn just south of Aberdeen.  By November 1915 she was meeting her in-laws at Fulwood.

In May 1916, Margarite was convicted of managing a brothel. This charge seems somewhat absurd as the record states that she was doing this between the 9th and 18th May 1916 which is a very short period.The brothel was at Comely Place in Edinburgh which is the address recorderd for Margarite, as his next of Kin, on WIlliam’s service record from April 1916. This address is crossed out and a different Edinburgh address recorded with a date of June 1916. So did Margarite not realise the nature of Comely Place when she rented a room there and was in the wrong place when the brothel was raided?

William’s record is hardly exemplary. In June 1916 he was absent without leave for 8 days at the same time as Margarite was leaving jail. He was absent for 2 days between 12th and 14th August and for 4 days in at the end of the month. On t he last occasion he spent 21 days in detention because he had resisted arrest and was ‘insolent to the police’ whist under arrest . He was again in detention, this time for 28 days. These periods of absence may well have been connected to his wife’s misdemeours.

The 31st Battalion moved to France at the beginning of December 1915 and was ‘in the field’ ten days later. In April 1916 the Battalion was at Ypres. William was killed in the actions at St Elooi, Belgium on the 6th of that month. Initially he had been reported missing on 10th April but this was revised to ‘killed in action’ and the date of death confirmed as 6th April.

William is commemorated at Menin Gate Memorial. The CWGC record states that William was the “Son of Mary Burwell, of 69, Brookhouse, Fulwood, Sheffield, England, and the late Mr. F. Burwell; husband of Margarite Anne Burwell, of 67, Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court, London, England”.

He is also named on the memorial at Fulwood and on his parent’s grave in Fulwood Graveyard, along with his youngest brother

William Henry Burwell killed in action, April 1916.
Edward Proctor BURWELL died in British East Africa 29th December 1927
Sons of the above

When Margarite was awarded a War Gratuity in 1922 she was living in Glasgow. There is an intriguing entry in the passenger lists. On 17th September 1920, the Malita left Liverpool bound for Quebec. on board was M Burwell, a wife aged 29, and her 4 year old daughter, again only recorded as M Burwell. Does this record refer to Margarite and was the child the daughter of William and Margarite?