Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Herbert Burden: Shot at Dawn
In 2001 a memorial was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield, Staffs to 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers shot by their own side for 'cowardice and desertion' during the First World War.
The statue is modelled on the likeness of Private Herbert Burden of the Northumberland Fusiliers, executed at Ypres in 1915 for desertion. Burden came from Lewisham, where his father worked as a gardener, and was just 17 years old when he was shot. It is likely that he had lied about his age to join the army, since he must have been only 15 or 16 when he joined up. This was common and colluded with by the authorities who turned a blind eye to underage recruitment. According to some reports he at one time deserted the Fusiliers for another regiment, the East Surreys at Deptford, and then returned to the Fusiliers.
During his brief 'trial' Burden stated that he had just gone 'to see a friend of mine in the R.W. Kent Regt. in which Regt. I served in 1913 and as I heard he had lost a brother I wanted to enquire if it was true or not'.