Lance Corporal Benjamin Burrows M.M.


Thank you to John Callcut for letting us reproduce the following information, taken from his book: A Village at War. Newdigate in World War One.

Benjamin Burrows was born in Newdigate in 1884, the eldest child of Henry and Elizabeth Burrows. The Burrows family had always worked on the land, or the roads and lived in meagre accommodation with their large families. Benjamin’s grandfather, also called Benjamin, had at least eleven children so life was a constant struggle. In order to find work, Henry and his growing family moved around the area. By 1901 the family was unable to pay its way and a pregnant Elizabeth and her five children had been transported away from Newdigate to the Dorking Union Workhouse.

The three eldest children had managed to get work and lodgings; Benjamin and Mary were working at a coal merchants’ at Holmwood and Henry Jnr. was working on the farm at Sturtwood. The family was re-united when Henry Snr. found work as a farm labourer in Leigh. He moved to Herons Head Green with his wife and nine children, three further children having been born since 1901.

Benjamin Burrows enlisted with the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment which was popularly known as the Die Hards with whom he gained the Military Medal. They were involved in the final advance in Picardy which was where he met his death on the 23rd October 1918. By this time the family was living at 1 Oak Tree Cottage in Broad Lane, Newdigate.

In the attack the 98th Brigade of the 1st Middlesex were to lead the assault by capturing the village of Forest, enveloping it on both sides. ‘C’ Company was to be on the right, ‘A’ on the left, ‘B’ Company to ‘mop up’ Forest and ‘D’ in support. The 4th King’s were to then to pass through the Middlesex and capture the second and third objectives; this was the second phase. In the 3rd phase, the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were to advance through the 4th King’s and capture the fourth objective, the 1st Middlesex meanwhile moving up to support the Highlanders. The 100th Brigade was then to advance through the 98th and capture the final objective near Englefontaine.

Zero hour for the attack of the Middlesex had been fixed for 2.00am.

The advance began punctually on time, but nothing was heard until 2.45a.m. when a message was received by Battalion Headquarters from Captain Fate, commanding ‘B’ Company. This said ‘On the outskirts of Forest. Everything going splendidly. Enemy retiring. Very few casualties.’ An hour later ‘A’ Company was in Forest, having suffered rather heavy casualties; the remaining companies had already passed the village and had captured their objectives in time. ‘B’ Company estimated that 200 prisoners had been captured in Forest.

Benjamin Burrows died in the attack and was buried close to where he fell at the Englefontaine British Cemetery.

Born Newdigate, Surrey
Lived Leigh, Surrey
Son of Henry and Elizabeth Burrows of 1, Oak Tree Cottage, Broad Lane, Newdigate, Surrey
Regiment 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.
Number G/43461
Date of Death 23rd October 1918
Place of Death Picardy, France
Cause of Death Killed in action
Age 34
Cemetery Englefontaine British Cemetery, France

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