Pte. J.W. Burn

FIRST NAMES: Joseph William

UNIT: 4th Yorkshire Regiment

NUMBER: 1155

STATUS: Killed in Action

DATE OF DEATH: 2nd May 1915


AGE: 22

Joseph Burn was born in Brompton and enlisted in the army in Northallerton. He was the eldest son of Matthew Thomas and Martha Burn, who lived at No. 4 Primrose Terrace, Brompton. He had a brother, Avington Matthew Burn, who also fought in France.

On their journey to France, the 4th Yorkshires travelled by train from Newcastle to Folkestone. As they did so they passed through Northallerton and some of the soldiers threw messages from the train as they sped through the station. Joe Burn was one of those who threw out a message, little realising that his family would still be treasuring it almost 90 years later. Joe's swiftly penned message read:

Dear Mother & Father,
Just a line to let you know we are all well. We left Newcastle at 9 this morning, sat, for Folkestone. We had a good send off. I threw this out at Northallerton.
From you loving son

Almost as soon as they disembarked in France, the 4th Yorkshires were rushed into the line to stem the German advance around Ypres where their use of poison gas had allowed them to break through the Allied lines. on 24th April 1915 the 4th Yorkshires mounted a counter attack near the village of St. Julien which earned them the nickname of the "Yorkshire Gurkhas". Joe can have had little time for writing home, but he did write at least one letter which his family have preserved. It read:

'Dear Mother,
Just a line hoping you are all well as it leaves me at present. By the time you receive this you will have seen we have been in action & that we lost Joe Taylor of N.A. All Brompton lads are alright. We are having a rest now. If you get Wilf Parkers address off Lucy mine is name same except name and number (1155) . When you write will you please send me a small bit of brown twist, not too much as we get shag dished out. Well I think this is all just now so look after Jess.

From your loving son

Curiously, although Joe Taylor was born in Northallerton, he is listed on the Brompton Memorial and is believed to have been living and working in Brompton, so Joseph's reference to "Joe Taylor of N.A." is a bit of a mystery.

Joe was killed in action, aged 22, when the Germans attacked the 4th Yorkshire Regiment, using poison gas, during the Second Battle of Ypres. Several other local men were lost during the same attack and none of their bodies were ever recovered. They, like Joseph Burn, are all commemorated on the famous Menin Gate, the Memorial to The Missing at Ypres.