Born in 1891 at Stratford, son of Walter (Carman) and Zedarena Burton. 18th October 1891: Baptised Albert Edward Burton at Walthamstow. 1901: With his family at 1 Marion Terrace, Granville Road, South Woodford. He ceased to be a Milkman on 17th January 1910 when he joined the Norfolk Regiment in Norwich. 1911: The family home was at 1 Tower Villas, Cowslip Road South Woodford, but Albert was with his Regiment at Malplaquet Barracks Aldershot. Located in India before the war, the Battalion moved to Mesopotamia, landing at Basra from the SS Bandra.
In November 1915 British/Indian forces commanded by General C.V.F.Townshend were advancing towards Baghdad, but were halted by the Battle of Ctesiphon fought from 22/25th November 1915. Casualties among the Norfolk Regiment were 6 officers killed, 27 men killed, 225 wounded and 2 missing. Such were the overall number of casualties that the remains of the British force were withdrawn 44 miles to Kut al Amara, with the Norfolks forming a rear guard. On arrival the Battalion consisted of half its fighting strength. On 14th November 1915 Albert Burton was recorded as Wounded in Action at Kut, where the force was besieged by the Turks until 29th April 1916 when Townshend surrendered. In March 1916 both his parents and a Miss R Cooper of 10 Vine Cottages, Chigwell Road wrote to the Army, concerned because they had not heard anything from Albert for several months. They were right to be fearful.
On 6th May 1916 began the forced desert march of some 2500 British troops and 9,300 Indian troops/non combatants from Kut to captivity in Turkey. They were herded like animals by mounted Turkish and Arab guards who freely beat them with whips sticks and rifle butts. Rations including water were minimal, with disease and malnutrition rife. The men would rest overnight on open ground before enduring a further 12-15 mile march next day, but anybody who dropped out of the line was killed or abandoned.
Of the 261 men from the Battalion who were captured at Kut, only 78 came back to England from Turkey. Seven out of ten would die from illness and mistreatment, giving a casualty statistic of 70%. Though he began the march, Albert Burtons suffering would be limited. On 19th June 1916 Lt. Col. Browne-Mason RAMC recorded that he died from Dysentery at the Caserne d’Artillerie Hospital in Baghdad.
His name was among those published in the London Gazette on 13th June 1916 having been “Brought to Notice” by Major General Townshend for “good service in connection with operations under his command.” He appeared again on 12th December 1917 with the award of a posthumous Distinguished Conduct Medal, which was collected by his mother at Warley on 24th June 1918.
Albert Burton, “a steady man, clean & hardworking & thorough” had suffered probably the greatest privations of all the men of Woodford who were lost during the conflict.
X/R: Private Nathan (John) Burton (Brother)
Research by Adrian Lee, Local Historian