J. Burns (listed on the Memorial as J. Burns)
Corporal, Royal Army Medical Corps, 15th Field Ambulance
Service no. 6003.
Died on 20 April 1918, aged 28
Remembered at Tannay British Cemetery, Thiennes, France
Chris Burge writes:
John Henry Burn was born in 1890 and baptised on 15 January at St Mary the Less, Lambeth, the first child of Henry Thompson Burn and Elizabeth (née Castle) who had married on 11 May 1886 at St Paul, Walworth. By 1901 there were five children and the family lived at 39 Neptune Street (Seaham Street in 1912) along with two other families, totalling 16 people.
In the 1911 census, John, then 21, is shown living in three rooms at 35 Dashwood Road with his parents and six younger siblings. John’s father Henry worked as a bill poster, while John worked as a cellarman. By then Elizabeth had given birth to 13 children, seven surviving.
Dashwood Road, sandwiched between the Longhedge and Nine Elms locomotive works and criss-crossed by the lines of the competing railway companies, was an area of social deprivation. John’s home was a few yards from both St Andrews Church and the Bolingbroke Public House. It was never silent and always grimy.
John’s service number is within the range of men who joined the RAMC early in 1912, when initial training took place at Aldershot. To the Army he was 6003 Burns.
John was sent to France on 20 August 1914, one of four men attached to the Regimental Medical Officer’s team for the 5th Divisional Ammunition Column. At some later date he was transferred to the Division’s 15th Field Ambulance, a mobile medical unit with orderlies, bearers, horse and motor transport. It had been a long war and on 14 April 1918 the 15th FA moved near Boeseghem. Five days later, a party of 20 men was sent to assist the 13th FA, based at Thiennes, who were hurriedly moving their advanced dressing station to the safety of a cellar, after their farmhouse location was shelled. The keeper of the 15th FA war diary noted on 20 April that ‘1 man Cpl. Burns killed by shell at CROIX MORRAISE ref map 36A 1/40000 J.21.C.10.2’ (50°38’49.5”N 2°32’03.4”E Rue de Tannay France).
John’s parents wanted an inscription for their son’s headstone at Tannay British Cemetery, making sure his name was correct. It seems possible the evidence they provided to those dealing with the Stockwell War Memorial led to his name being spelt as he was known to the Army.
Henry Thompson and Elizabeth Burn were living at 55 Gaskell Street by 1918, remaining there for several years after the war.