Private R/10604 William James Burness
1st King’s Royal Rifles Corps
Killed in Action 27 July 1916
Husband of Clara Ann Burness, of 18, Weymouth St., Apsley End, Herts.
Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 13 A.
Born: Bethnal Green, Middx.
Residence: Old Ford, Middx.
Enlisted: Stratford, Essex.
William James Burness was part of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, first battalion, in 2nd Division which was one of the first Divisions to land in France in August 1914. The division remained on the western front throughout the war. Burness would have been involved in the Battle of the Somme, as well as the largest British offensive in 1915, the Battle of Loos, before he died during the Battle of Delville Wood in Flanders, France on 27th July 1916.
In the days before his death, his battalion had been fairly successful in capturing German prisoners and in setting up telephone communication across the trenches. On Thursday 27th July, his battalion left around 5am, with the intention of repositioning on the front line, where they went on to attack German trenches and take prisoners. It was reported that around 9:40am, the Germans prepared a counter attack, in which the ‘B company were enfiladed by shrapnel’ and despite the ‘tremendous loss to the Germans’ evidence suggests that William James Burness died around this point due to the shrapnel attack. Along with Burness, War Diaries suggest that the ‘bomb attack decimated B-coy and D-coy also suffered heavily’ suggesting multiple casualties. His name, along with others in his battalion, can be found at the Thiepval Memorial, Northern France.
William James Burness was born in Bethnal Green, London, on the 19th January 1879. He was the eldest of seven children, born to William James Burness and Sarah Jane Letter. He married Clara Ann Burrows on 5th August 1900 and had two children with her, one of which did not survive infancy. At some point after 1911, prior to Burness’ death, his family moved to Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, where his wife stayed until she died in May 1946.
Further information on the Kings Royal Rifle Corps can be found at: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/1508/kings-royal-rifle-corps/
War Diary, 1st King’s Royal Rifle Corps, WO 95/1371
By Katie Rowe, Anna Bennett and Eloise Hepburn
30 June 2015
Burness's name on the Thiepval Memorial(Photo: Richard Grayson, 27th March 2012.)