January 25th 1918

Further to previous correspondence on the matter, Capt. Geoffrey Carpenter (Uganda Medical Service) has written on the subject of a War Memorial:

“…but why only for those ‘who have given their lives for their country in this Great War’? Surely this war is not the first occasion on which Dragons have died for their country or for others? Nor will it be the last. Peace hath her victories no less than war.

I remember at the beginning of my first term the Skipper announcing the death in a boating accident of a boy who had only left at the end of the preceding term, and was drowned while trying to save others. Would this occasion, when we are all trying to do our bit, be a most suitable one for collecting funds for a memorial for all time, past, present and future, of our friends who have died, are dying, and will die for others long after we have gone?”

Claude Burton (‘Touchstone‘), father of Capt. Paddy Burton (Beds), who was killed on the Somme, has written:

“A mere affair of masonry and medallions – the ordinary type of war memorial – falls a long way short of my own aspirations in the matter…

It seems to me that since Old Boys have fought and died for those who are to follow them, the memorial most fitting them would be one which would benefit directly the future boys of the School, and I would therefore suggest that the bulk of the money subscribed should be employed in founding scholarships which should give a better chance in life to those who need it…

Of course this is only an individual opinion – one amongst many, but I feel that if my eldest son were still with us he would have inclined to some such solution of the problem.”

In view of the opinions expressed on the subject, I would not at present commit myself to any particular scheme. Subscribers may be sure that no definite conclusion will be adopted until all those who are interested have had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, and then a Committee of Old Boys and parents of past and present boys will have finally to decide on what shall be done.

 

August 10th 1916

Paddy Burton‘s father, who writes under the pseudonym of ‘Touchstone’ for the Daily Mail, has sent us this poem for the forthcoming edition of the ‘Draconian,’ to be printed alongside the notice of his son’s death.

How well it captures the pain all parents must feel when receiving such heart-breaking news as the death of a beloved son.

Burton P (2b)

Deeply regret to inform you that Capt HPC Burton 1st Bedford Reg’t was killed in action July 27. The Army Council expresses their sympathy.

A SCRAP OF PAPER
A scrap of paper! “Killed in action,” so
Die all the dreams of happier days to be!
And yet, thank God, you were the first to go
When England called for Men to keep her free.
Thank God for that pure, manly heart and true
That kept your face for ever towards the light
That lit the only path you ever knew
And made you victor still in death’s despite.

Not all our sighs, not all our selfish tears,
Can call you back, but you whose clear young eyes
Looked on the promise of the coming years,
You never grudged the final sacrifice.
Is it not written that your latest breath
Bade him who brought you succour not to stay
But to pass onward through that land of death,
To lead your well-loved soldiers in the fray?

A scrap of paper? Nay, a sacred scroll,
A great and glorious treaty, signed and sealed
In your heart’s blood, wherein our England’s soul
For those who shall come after, stands revealed.
So thank we God who in his mercy gave
His own dear son to death upon the tree,
For all who follow him who died to save
And win the deathless crown of victory!
                                       Touchstone

August 5th 1916

 

Paddy Burton

Captain Paddy Burton (4th Bedfordshires)

Alongside the notification of the death of Robert Gibson, The Times yesterday also listed the death of Paddy Burton.

On July 27th, Paddy led an attack on Longueval by the 1st Bedfordshires (to whom he had been attached since May 1915). This was a success, but there were isolated pockets of resistance. He and another officer discussed how they could dislodge the Germans from a house, where a machine-gun was sweeping over the British position. Paddy decided on an attack with hand grenades, during which he fell wounded in the leg.

Company Sgt Major Afford went to his assistance, dressing his wound before attempting to carry him to a place of safety. During this, Paddy received a second wound, which proved to be fatal, a bullet having come through the lip of the shell hole, penetrated the lower part of his head.

Afford reported that Paddy “…remained conscious for a few hours, during which time I stayed with him and comforted him. His last words were to me, requesting me to carry on with the task he had so nobly set out to do…

At day-break I supervised his body being laid to rest close by the spot where he met his end.”

The day before he was killed, Paddy Burton reconnoitred the approaches to the village of Longueval together with another officer, who recalled:

“It was a very trying job, as our guide lost himself and we sent him back. We were under incessant shell-fire and we knew that a great part of the ground was exposed to snipers, and we had to find out absolutely everything for ourselves. I don’t think I could have done it without Paddy … He must have been at least as tired and depressed as I was, but he wouldn’t allow it to show.”

Paddy was one of those boys who make life ceaselessly interesting to a schoolmaster. It may be said that he was a strange compound of liberal and conservative, but what characterized him most was his independence of judgement and his pluck.

He was to have been married during his next leave.