9475 1st Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment who died on 31 August 1916
Walter was born in Oadby in 1895, the son of Tom and Elizabeth Burton (nee Adnitt). His father, a bricklayer’s labourer, was born in Whissedine, Rutland and married Elizabeth in Oakham in 1894. The family had moved to King Street, Oadby by 1901. Sadly, Walter’s mother Elizabeth died in 1908. In 1911 Walter was working as a shoe hand and was living with his widowed father and sisters, Phyllis and Hilda at 4 Mount Road, Oadby.
Walter’s service number indicates that he must have been an army reservist at the outbreak of war and would have been recalled to the British Expeditionary Force. His service record no longer exists but his Medal Roll states that he landed in France on 17 December 1914. He was a member of the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. During 1915 the battalion saw action at the Battles of Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge, Festubert and Loos.
Troops of the 1/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment out of the front line for a rest. (Rebreuviette, April 1916)
Officers of the South Staffordshire Regiment study a trench map in a captured German dug-out.
Devastation at Delville Wood, Summer 1916.
In summer 1916 the South Staffordshires fought in some of the early Somme Battles – the Battle of Albert, the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, attacks on High Wood and the Battle of Delville Wood which began on 14 July. Intense fighting continued throughout July and August. A German officer wrote, “Delville Wood had disintegrated into a shattered wasteland of shattered trees, charred and burning stumps, craters thick with blood and corpses, corpses everywhere.”
Fighting in Delville Wood continued throughout July and August. The last week of August was very wet which made patrolling even more difficult. On 31 August German reinforcements were detected suggesting an imminent counter attack. German aircraft flew over the British front lines and a much more intense bombardment commenced. The German attack began at 1pm, with a second attack at 2pm. There was hand-to-hand fighting and German artillery fire increased in late afternoon and into the evening. 5, 966 British soldiers died during the Battle of Delville Wood. The South Staffordshire Regiment suffered 65 fatalities between 31 August and 5 September, including Pte Walter Adnitt Burton who was killed in action on 31 August.
Private Walter Adnitt Burton has no known grave and he is Remembered with Honour on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
Walter’s death was not recorded in the minutes of the Oadby Urban District Council until July 1917 indicating that, like many soldiers who fought on the Somme, his death was not confirmed for some time. For some reason his initial is given as T. Burton, that of his father. Possible a name Walter was known by in the village? (Leicester Mercury 7 July 1917).