Frank Eliot Burt
The Debating Society at King Edward VI School was established, under the chairmanship of the Headmaster, in October 1909, the term that FRANK ELIOT BURT, the son of a wholesale boot manufacturer in Lichfield, arrived as a boarder in School House. Soon, Frank was a lively contributor to debates. He supported the motions ‘Might is Right’ and ‘The detrimental effect of sentimental value attached to the past’ but opposed the argument for ‘Strikes.’ A keen photographer, he won the photographic competition in the Scientific Society, and was a solid middle order batsman in the 1st XI of 1910 and 1911. As a member of the 1st XV of 1909, 1910 and 1911, he earned his colours playing as three Quarter. ‘Though more of a build for the wing,’ reported The Stratfordian, ‘he came into the centre and played a useful game. Has a useful natural swerve and tackles well.’ A Prefect in Form VI A, he passed his Senior Oxford Locals Examination before returning to Lichfield and becoming a clerk in the National Provincial Bank in High Green.
Frank Burt was attested with the North Staffordshire Regiment on November 28 1915 and placed in the A reserve. He was however mobilised on January 23 1916 in 1/6 Battalion The Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment), but did not move to the Western Front until 1917.
On July 21 1916, while serving in Dublin in 2/6th Battalion during the aftermath of the Easter Rising and the execution of its leaders, Frank was promoted to Lance- Corporal, and on September 11 his commanding officer recommended him for the Officer Cadet Unit. Successfully completing his course at number 8 Officer Cadet Unit in Lichfield, he applied for a Territorial commission in the infantry and on March 12 1917 became a Second Lieutenant. Crossing to France on April 7, he joined the 2/6th Battalion as it was completing training at Ecquedecques, about eight miles west of Bethune, and before it moved into reserve for the rest of the month.
Early in May it moved back into the line at Souchez and came under attack from enemy aircraft. On May 7 it was subjected to very heavy artillery bombardment, and the following day at Hargincourt ten miles north-west of St. Quentin, Frank was severely wounded in the left leg when he was struck in the knee joint by a rifle bullet. First assigned to staff duties, he crossed from Le Havre to Southampton on SS Glentully Castle on May 20, and began a period of sick leave. It was two months before he appeared before a Medical Board on July 28 which pronounced his wound ‘severe and to some extent permanent.’ Declared unfit for general service, his sick leave was extended to September 24, a date that coincided with the announcement in the London Gazette that Belgium had made him a Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Couronne.
Attached to 5 (Reserve) Battalion at Mablethorpe on November 6, it was not until February 13 1918 that he appeared before a Medical Board again. The London Gazette announced another Belgian award for Frank, this time it was the Croix de Guerre. The announcements published no details or citations, but both awards would have followed a recommendation by his commanding officer. He returned to France on April 3, and within a month was placed in charge of a Company with the rank of Acting Captain. Severely wounded once more he was hospitalised for two months and had to relinquish his command and acting rank on August 1.
Promoted to Lieutenant on September 1, he spent twenty-one days in training, first near Bethune, then Amiens and Peronne. Between September 21 and 27, the Battalion was in the reserve line at Levergies, north-east of St. Quentin, and then in the front line south of Bellecourt, eight miles north-west of where the battle of St. Quentin was fought on two succeeding days, resulting in four officers and seventy men wounded, and fifteen other ranks killed from the Prince of Wales’s ( North Staffordshire Regiment).
In his book on the battle of Riqueval, K.W. Mitchinson recorded the misery of the night of October 4/5: exhaustion was so complete that even the wet, followed by frost, allowed, if not sleep, at all events stupor. ‘German shells crashed all around their positions during the night and the following day; men spent the day being sniped at by field guns as they lay in exposed positions.’
The Battalion was in action in an attack at Sequehart, five miles north of St. Quentin, in the Battle of Beaurevoir Line. A heavy artillery bombardment preceded the advance at 6:05am supported by several tanks, and it met little opposition until the enemy line was reached. After some brisk fighting, German resistance was overcome with many killed or taken prisoner.
The attackers pressed on towards the hill, and although the Germans fought back desperately, developing enfilading machine gun fire, the first objectives were taken. The Germans mounted a counter-attack on Montbrehain, and the left side of the attack was driven back, during which the Battalion Commander was killed and a moderate withdrawal was ordered.
During the battle, over two thousand prisoners, several guns and many machine guns were taken, but the cost to the Battalion was high. Three officers were killed and seven wounded, twenty-one other ranks were killed and 143 wounded. Amongst the dead was Frank Burt. He was buried in the Busigny Communal Cemetery, Nord, fifteen miles north-east of St. Quentin, and is commemorated on the Lichfield War Memorial, and in the Memorial Library at King Edward VI School.