Arthur Burton MM – uncovering the history

There’s been a lot of interest in the touching story of Arthur Burton, the local young man who fought in the first world war, who later farmed land near Brownhills. I took the step of posting a link to the story in Julian Ward Davies’ excellent ‘Stonnall History Group’ on Facebook, as luck would have it at the same time as Desmond Burton, a member of the same family, joined the group. Desond had this to say:

By a lucky coincidence I joined the group just a few hours before the fascinating information on Arthur Burton was posted. (Cecil) Arthur Burton (1892-1974) was the younger brother of Garnet Burton (1891-1984), after whom Garnet Close in Stonnall is named. I am Garnet Burton’s grandson, now living in North Wales. Arthur’s daughter Pauline is still alive and lives in Aldridge. The Burton family originally came from the Greenhill/St Michael’s area of Lichfield (the Old Burton Road), and Arthur was born, according to the records, at Whittington. By 1912 Arthur & Garnet seem to have moved to Rushall Hall Farm, Leigh Road, and by 1916 they were at May Bank, Leigh Road. Garnet married into the Anson family who had farmlands in Rushall and lived at the Manor Arms as farmers/pub owners. Incidentally, with reference to some earlier postings, I was born at Wordsley House (this is more certain than that Tom King was born there), which is soon to be on the market as our mother died 3 years ago – and that’s why it hasn’t been painted recently! Lower Farm was where Garnet lived until he retired and built himself a bungalow just above where Garnet Close is now. I don’t recognise the background of the photo of Arthur in uniform; it is certainly not Lower Farm or Wordsley House. I don’t think Arthur’s family moved to Sandhills Farm until later (that’s where they lived in the 1950s when I was young), so I wonder if it is Rushall Hall Farm or May Bank. Has anyone got any pictures of these places?

This is remarkable – this is local historical curiosity connecting with the present in a very real way. I had no idea that Garnet Close derived it’s name that way. Julian Ward Davies, top local historian, had this contribution to make:

It appears that Arthur was Garnet Burton’s brother. There will be one or two anecdotes about Arthur in a forthcoming eye-witness history which we will be putting out in the near future.

So it looks like there’s more fascinating history to come there. While we’re on the subject, David Evans has again been wonderfully industrious, and he’s supplied a lot more material to post up – but sadly I’m running out of time today, so I’ll keep it to the following.

David emailed (and commented on the previous post):

Hi Bob
Mr Burton’s diary is enthralling in many respects. There is mention of aeroplanes in action over the battle fields towards Passendale. It was here that France’s air ace, Guynemer was shot down in action, and there is a large memorial to him in Langemark. But also there is mention of a night-time bombing raid by a German plane.
There is graphic mention of gas attacks by the British and by the Germans, over this part of the battlefield.
There is the overriding sense of danger for this soldier who had to take messages – by foot, visual signalling or by telephone in the very heart of battle, and sometimes in the forward positions as close as 50 metres from “John” (the German front lines).
I will send you one ‘Memoranda’ which details a day near White Chateau, Ypres, before the Military Medal incident, in fact. This building is along the main road to Menin, and nowadays is a restaurant, I understand.
There are other local heroes, and this, I hope, will encourage their family members to offer their own stories.
A Walsall Wood man who was a fighter pilot in WWI and who went on to become a very well-known  and respected business man.
A  Walsall Wood builder, a WW2 soldier who was in the first wave of the Normandy Landings, at Arromanches.
A Brownhills Royal Navy Sailor, born and grew up in Pier Street, torpedoed three times the last time being onboard the last vessel to be sunk in the war, a mine-sweeper.
A Brownhills man, RAF, in the first planes to land at Bangkok  at the end of the war to bring home the POWs from the Death Railways in Burma.
I hope that others will come to light in due course
kind regards
David Evans

An image of the chateau at the time. The inscription is in French and Flemish. Picture supplied by David Evans.

Hi Bob

Many thanks for putting this memo in your blog. The entry for June 26th says:

‘We are given the privelage of swimming in a large pool in front of Chateau. A great many of us take it. This is the first swim I have had in France. A shell dropped over water when there was a lot in tonight but no one hurt they run with their togs in there hands.’

This was at Elverdinghe, just north of Ypres and west of the canal, the front line at the time. Readers may like to ‘Google Earth’ this.

The names ‘John’ or ‘Old John’ refer to the Germans!

The chateau is on the south side of the village.

kind regards
David Evans

Once again, I thank all concerned for the wealth of historical information they have seen fit to share and retell. This is a fascinating, emotional topic and one that is wonderful to peruse.

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14 Responses to Arthur Burton MM – uncovering the history

  1. john webster says:

    absolutely fascinating.. amazing thing this internet/web..

  2. Steve Hickman says:

    Hi Bob,

    Fascinating stuff about the The Burton Brothers. My Gran and Grandad Walter and Minnie Platt lived at 189 Main street in a House owned by Garnet Burton. This was from the 40’s to 1966 when Minnie Died. Your memory however is not what it used to be. I posted the origin of Garnet Close some time ago. Also Westwick Close which was from the name of a variety of Blackcurrents that Mr Burton grew for Ribena.

    Best regards

    Steve

    • Hi Steve

      Greta to hear from you again.

      My memory is worse than a bag of Walnuts. Sorry about that. With over 3,000 comments posted now, sometimes the line gets blurred between what’s been posted/commented/said in the pub/read somewhere online – I’m getting quite addled in my old age.

      Glad you’re enjoying the Burton material, it really is emotive, gut-wrenching stuff. Brilliant.

      Best wishes

      Bob

    • Desmond Burton says:

      Hi Steve, I am Garnet Burton’s grandson. I’m very interested to hear he was once your grandparents’ landlord! Was Ray Platt, who was my father’s farm manager for many years, their son, perhaps? Here’s a bit of extra information about him (and also in response to a much earlier posting of Dec 2010 on Bob’s blog). Garnet moved to Lower Farm, Stonnall, in about 1918, and it is true that he owned a lot of land: much of the farmland between the Chester Road (almost up to Shire Oak), Main Street and Cartersfield Lane, also the area where Westwick Close is now, and Whitacre farm in Lynn; altogether well over 200 acres. It was a mixed arable and dairy farm until the late 1950s. He also at some stage bought Wordsley House at the top end of Main Street, and various other houses in Stonnall. When my father Richard Anson Burton got married in 1944, he moved into Wordsley House, and took ownership of some of the land on that side, and also Whitacre Farm. As Garnet got older he gradually handed over his own lands to my father, some fields were sold off for housing development, and the Whitacre was also sold. Garnet built himself the bungalow which stands back from the road just below where Garnet Close is now, with an unspoilt view over the farms – so he could see what my father was getting up to! It was actually my father’s decision to go into specialised fruit farming (blackcurrants and gooseberries), and the first blackcurrants were planted on 1st February 1960, according to my late mother’s diary. Ribena (and Rowntrees) became a big part of our life for many years! While his brother Arthur was, of course, a war hero, and has deservedly received much attention recently, Garnet was a rather reserved family man, more interested in serving the village community: he was a councillor, church warden, school governor, etc. He was also a generous benefactor: for instance in 1971 he bought and donated two pieces of land next to the church (the car park and the extension to the graveyard). He was also a lifelong Walsall supporter, and he used to give me his season tickets when he was away on holiday! Garnet died in 1984 and is buried in a small grave near the easternmost wall of the church, next to his first wife Edna. Strangely enough, after his death, his brother Arthur’s son (also Arthur) bought and moved into his bungalow.
      Kind regards Des Burton

      • Steve Hickman says:

        Hi Desmond,

        Ray Platt was indeed my uncle. Minnie and Walter Platt lived at 189 Main Street Stonnall, almost opposite what used to be the village shop. They had four children My Mom Beryl, Ray, Margaret and Bill. Sadly Bill is the only one left. Ray died in 1995 and Mom died earlier this year. Mom was the eldest and was bought up by her Grand Parents who owned Prospect House at the bottom of Castle Hill. This was was because at that time my Gran and Grandad lived in one of the two tiny cottages on the little triangle opposite Castle Hill. It was in this cottage that Ray was born. Shortly after they moved to Main Street. When My parents got married they also lived for the first couple of years of married life at Prospect House where I was Born.
        Ray’s wife Margaret is still alive. She was a Williams who’s family have farmed along Cartersfield Lane for many years.
        I remember the Blackcurrent fields very well. When the land was sold and the Blackcurrant grubbed up. They were piled into great mounds which made wonderfull ‘Castles’ for little boys to play on. Eventually they made magnificent bonfires before building work commenced.

        Regards Steve

  3. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    a note for Desmond Burton, please
    The photo of Arthur in uniform was taken at the home of Louise and Margaret Mockridge, 41 Finchley Road London NW…during a social visit to their house by a group of eight soldiers.
    The house no longer exists..but perhaps there are relatives of these two good ladies who showed kindness to these soldiers in March 1915 who will recognise the house from photos they may still have in their faily archives.

    kind regards
    David Evans

    ( p.s. I have sent more articles to Bob to put on line at some time )

    • Hi David

      The house, in my head, looked similar to the one at the junction of Castlehill Road and Main Street, Stonnall, which I mistakenly thought was held by the Burton family at some point:

      http://g.co/maps/c9j4t (Google street view)

      – it looks vaguely similar from the rear. Or maybe not ;0)

      I will post your comments through to the Stonnall Local History Group. Why not sign up for Facebook, and join yourself? It’s a great group. You’d also clearly enjoy the Lichfield one. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, but those groups are excellent.

      There will, of course, be more articles to come on Arthur Burton in the coming days, from the excellent material you’ve supplied. I’m pacing them a little to allow them to go down, as it were. I’m also working with reader [Howmuch?] on a series of articles about other local heroes, so it’s probably worth staying tuned for a while.

      Thanks David, your material and support has been wonderful.

      Cheers

      Bob

    • Desmond Burton says:

      Thank you very much, David, for this information! Best wishes, Des Burton

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    It is a pleasure to be able to contribute in this way. My hope is that a greater interest and appreciation of these fine local people results. I visit this part of Belgium and North France every year and over the years have been staggered by the awful loss of life..not only by the Allies, but by the German troops also. A few years ago on Nov 11th I stood with many other tearful people,to see the Armistice Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres. Not triumphant in any, but moving and unforgetable..especially the presence and compassion shown by the British Legion to others with their wreaths etc.

    with best wishes and my appreciation of all the hard work you put in to your blog.

    David Evans

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