PRIVATE JAMES BURT

Died 12th April 1917
No. 802769 of the West Ontario Regiment, 18th Battalion.
Born: Woburn Sands, 11th January 1897
Resided: Ontario, Canada
Enlisted: Dorchester, Canada, January 1916

See Frederick Burt for family history

James was twin of Henry Burt. He had possibly been adopted and sent to Canada after the murder of his mother, as according to his army records, at the time of his enlistment on January 20th, 1916, he was living on Rural Road no. 2, Belmont, Ontario. He gave his next of kin as Fanny Burt, his step-mother, of 21 Chapel Street, Woburn Sands. He was working in farming, which perhaps explained his dark complexion, along with blue eyes and brown hair. He was aged 19 and unmarried, although in his army will, he asks that Miss M. Marsh, of Rural Road no. 8, Watford, Ontario, and Miss Edith Hutchinson of 90 Mamelon Street, London, Ontario, be notified as well as his next of kin. It was Edith that he had assigned his army pay to.

He gave the army the address of his sister, Mary, in Stony Stratford to send any medals or decorations to, and the address of another of his brothers, Charles, in Bletchley, to which they sent the memorial plaque and scroll to.

James sailed from Halifax, Canada to Liverpool in August 1916, aboard the SS Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic. He started out in the 135th Battalion, but was then transferred to the 116th and went overseas to France. Here, he was transferred again, to the 18th Battalion, where he joined them in the field on 3rd December 1916.

He was killed in action, aged 20, a month before his twin. The 'North Bucks Times' reports that his step-mother received cuttings and letters in June 1917, from the 'London Ontario Advertiser', along with printed sketches and pictures. The London Ontario Library was able to find his picture, printed on May 1st. The 18th Battalion was part of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. Captain Fletcher wrote to the family:

“He enlisted with me at Dorchester last winter. [1916] The impression he made upon me right from the start was good. I would that there were more like him - always obedient, cheerful, with a smile on his countenance that would drive away gloom from the rest of us. I feel as if I have lost a son, and I cannot express the feelings of Mrs. Fletcher, myself, or my daughters. Your boy had supper with me just a few days before he left for overseas. While in my Company he spoke of you, his mother, and always with reverence and love, that stood out so prominent in his disposition. We sometimes ask ourselves, is the prize worth the price we are paying? We believe it is.”

He is listed at Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Listed on the Woburn Sands Memorial.

Canadian newspaper obituary
Postcard of James, before he left for France

A Memorial Plaque was issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British & Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war.

James' army papers show his movements.

James was not the only Woburn Sands man to fight with the Canadians, as William Emms, the local watchmaker, also did. He survived the war, and was later in charge of the War Memorial clock.