1st and 14th
Field Company Engineers, AIF
Serial Number: 2157
Date/Place of Birth: 1893, Penrith, NSW
Date/Place of Death: 2 September 1918, near Mont St Quentin France
Biographical details: Henry John Burrows was born in 1893 at Penrith, the son of Edwin Charles and Rubina (nee Squires) Burrows. Burrows attended Penrith Superior Public School before serving an apprenticeship with Henry Vale and Co, an engineering works at Auburn. Prior to enlistment, Burrows worked for the Railway Department at Penrith as a fitter. On enlistment, Burrows listed his occupation as mechanic and stated that he was a good horseman. Two brothers also served during World War 1: George, who after obtaining a commission, won a Military Cross and Bar with the14th Field Company Engineers and Norman Charles who served with the 6 Field Artillery brigade in 1918-1919.
Service details: Burrows enlisted on 23 July 1915 and was allocated to the 11th reinforcements, 1st Field Company Engineers and sailed for the war front aboard A17 HMAT Port Lincoln on 14 October 1915. After arriving in Egypt, Burrows was hospitalised on 6 January 1916 at No 2 Australian General Hospital. On 22 January he was transferred to No 2 Auxiliary Hospital with Phimosis and rejoined his unit after being discharged on 29 January 1916. Burrows spent a few weeks with the 1st Field Company Engineers before being taken on strength by the 14th Field Company Engineers then stationed at Tel-el-Kebir. Burrows was admitted to No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital with sore feet and was then transferred to an Ambulance Ferry Boat. Burrows’ service record does not state how long he was hospitalised on this occasion. He was hospitalised again from 2-7 May before rejoining his unit.
On 18 June 1916, Burrows’ unit embarked aboard the Kinsfawn Castle to join the British Expeditionary Force in France. He disembarked at Marseilles on 24 June 1916. On 13 July, Burrows was admitted to the 8th Field Ambulance with a sore throat and was transferred to the 5th DRS the following day. He rejoined his unit on 22 July 1916. On 6 November 1916, Burrows suffered gunshot wounds to the scalp and thigh at Fleur Baix. He was sent to the 38th Casualty Clearing Station before being transferred to the 18th General Hospital at Camiers. On 18 November 1916, Burrows was transferred to the 6th Convalescent Camp at Etaples. On 2 December he was admitted to the 26th General Hospital as the scalp wounded had not healed, and on 13 December rejoined his unit.
On 10 January 1917, Burrows was admitted to the 26th General Hospital with onychia, was transferred to the Base Depot on 19 January and rejoined his unit on 7 February 1917. From 10 – 24 April 1917 Burrows was on furlough in England. On 22 October 1917, Burrows was admitted to the 8 Australian Field Ambulance with bronchitis. He was subsequently transferred to the 9th DRS. He was discharged on 29 October and rejoined his unit on 17 November 1917.
In January 1918, Burrows was granted leave in England and rejoined his unit on 6 February. On 8 May 1918, he was sent to Lewis Gun School, rejoining his unit on 11 June 1918. On 1 September 1918, he was wounded in action and was admitted to the 9th Australian Field Ambulance with gunshot wounds to the abdomen. He was transferred to the 61st Casualty Clearing Station and died the following day.
Memorial Details: Burrows’ name is commemorated on Memorial Panel 23, 119 Daours Communal Cemetery Extension France, the St Stephen’s C/E Roll of Honor and the Penrith Honor Roll in Memory Park.
- Australian War Memorial WW1 Nominal Roll
- Australian War Memory Roll of Honour
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- National Archives of Australia Search: B2455, BURROWS H J
- Penrith City Library Biography files
Nepean Times 8 April 1916, p3
Soldiers’ Letters: Mrs E Burrows of Penrith, is in receipt of letters from her two sons, George and Jack. Extracts are:-
From George (February 27) As I explained in my last letter, we have made another move. Well, we are expected to move again in a few days. Some of the 1st Field Company are joining up with some later reinforcements, and making a new company. Jack and I, along with others, are detailed for the new company. I suppose you can guess fairly well where we are; you have seen the place. We see a fair amount of shipping, and are able to have a swim. It is fairly warm here during the day, but the nights are lovely. There is plenty of work going on. I am driving a loco, running about eight miles.
From Jack (February 20) We have shifted camp from Tel-el-Kebir to a place the name of which I am not allowed to mention. At night the searchlights of battleships are playing all around us, and in the morning their guns begin to speak across the desert. I have met Bert Evans, Darcy Evans, Charlie Werner, Stan Colless, H Bailey, G Hollier and Bob Grogan. George and I are off to see Bert Evans this afternoon, it being a holiday to-day.
Nepean Times 5 January 1918, p3
Soldiers’ Letters: Sapper Jack Burrows, writing to his parents, under date 3 October last, describes the operations known (per Magazine article) as the “attack on the ridges’, Lys sector, Western Front which occurred to end of September and early October, was the “worst battle he had ever seen.” The British and Australians advanced about 1,00 yards on a 12 mile front, and he “was satisfied that with the artillery the British now possessed they could take any objective aimed at it in the Front.” The “barrage” he says, was like a tremendous sustained thunderclap, and he describes the falling of hordes of Germans, hurrying to the counter attack (which was nipped in the bud) “like the falling of wheat before they scythe.”
Nepean Times 11 May 1918, p4 c2
A Soldier’s Letter: Following are extracts from a letter received by Mrs E C Burrows, of Riley Street, Penrith, from her son, Sapper Jack Burrows (in France), who has been promoted to a second corporal. “I have refused promotion four times, but they have forced me to take it now; it was all done while I was on leave. I had a splendid time when on leave. After I left Edinburgh I went to Glasgow for two days, and had one day on Loch Lomond. We called at eight wharves on the Loch, and landed at Inversnaid. We had an hour and a half there, so walked around and saw Rob Roy’s cave; then joined the boat and left for Bullock Pier again, arriving back in Glasgow by train at 5.30. It was a well spent day. We could see Ben Lomond clearly. When I was coming back from England I had an afternoon in Boulogne, so I went and saw Sister Stella Colless; she was very good to me. When I got back I found Stan Colless was attached to our company, with 100 infantrymen; he is lieutenant in charge of them.” Another son, Sergeant George Burrows, adds as a footnote: “Everything is going along O.K.”
Nepean Times 21 September 1918, p2 c2
Fallen Heroes: Cpl H J Burrows: The war continues to take its toll of victims from amongst the brave lads of this district who entered the ranks in defence of the Empire’s freedom and liberties. The list continues to steadily grow, and already many of the best and most promising of our young manhood have paid the supreme penalty. This week it is again our painful duty to add further to the long list, and we feel sure the deepest sympathy of the public is with the bereaved relatives of the fallen soldiers – Lieutenant Stanley Colless, DCM, MC, Sgt Frank Abbott, and Corporal Henry John (Jack) Burrows.
The three soldiers were members of the Church of England, and the news of their death was sent through Rev N M Lloyd (acting Rector of St Stephens). News of Lieutenant Colless’ death came through on Thursday, and Sgt Abbott’s and Corporal Burrows’ on Saturday. Out of respect for the three men, who have given their lives that we here in Australia may live in peace and comfort, the Dead March in Saul was played at the conclusion of service on Sunday morning at St Stephen’s by the organist (Mr E W Orth), and as the congregation left the Church the bell was tolled. Last week-end was indeed a sad one for Penrith. News of the death of these three well-known lads, each of fine physique and genial personality, coming together being a keen blow to residents. But what of the parents and families of these fallen heroes- the nerve-racking strain that was their’s for so long, the ever longing thought of their safe return home, and then – the news of their death. We who have not had this brought home to us cannot realise the feeling of a mother, or a father, sister or brother, who have lost a dear one – sometimes two and three – in battle. We trust it will be a consolation to the deceased soldiers’ parents and family circles in their anguish of spirit at their demise, to know that they died heroically, serving the cause of their God, their country and civilization, and that their names will be immortally engraved on the glorious annals of Australia’s noblest heroes.
The late Corporal Henry John (Jack) Burrows, youngest son of Mrs and Mrs E C Burrows, Riley Street, was born at Penrith, being in his 25th year. He received his education at the Penrith Superior Public School, after which he was apprentices to Messrs Vale and Co., Engineers at Auburn. At the expiration of his training with that well-known firm, he joined the Railway Service as a fitter, being stationed at Penrith. After serving eight months on the railway here he enlisted for active service. He became attached to the 14th Field Company Engineers, and sailed for the front early in October, 1915. After serving in Egypt for some little time, he went direct to France. At Fleur Baix he was wounded in the head and thigh, and after about 12 weeks in hospital and convalescing, he returned to the firing line. To show the remarkable physique of Corporal Burrows, after he was wounded, he walked three miles to the rear of the lines before he was attended to. Early in 1918 he was gassed, but after treatment he again returned to the front, and took part in a number of severe engagements. The gallant Corporal died of wounds on 2nd September, 1918. Two other sons of Mr and Mrs Burrows are on active service – Lieut George Burrows, M.C., and Private Norman Burrows. The former saw service at Gallipoli and was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery in connection with wiring operations and building a strong point in Polygon Wood. He had been in command of the section to which Corporal Jack Burrows was attached whilst in France, and was no doubt present when that brave lad received his mortal wound, which will be some consolation to the sorrowing parents and family. Private Norman Burrows only landed in England from Australia about three weeks ago.
Nepean Times 21 September 1918, p3 c6
Correspondence: Telegrams to Fallen Soldiers’ Relatives:
(To the Editor, “Nepean Times”).
Sir,- I desire, through your valuable columns, to draw attention to the state of affairs existing in your town in regard to the way bad news from the Western Front is delivered to relatives. To state my case, apart from others, an urgent wire was sent from Victoria Barracks at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning last with regard to the death of my brother, and my parents received no news of it until 4.30 pm. The clergyman to whom the wire was sent, I admit, was somewhat indisposed, but why keep the wire when others could deliver it? And worst of all, to have the news broken to you (as in my case) in a place of business. It is well known, locally, that the news had been spread broadcast at noon that day, which goes to show there must be a leakage in the connection with handling of these wires. Hoping this will be the means of making the lot of soldiers’ relatives, as far as bad news is concerned, much easier.
I am, yours etc,
Edward M Burrows, Angus Street, Meadow Bank.
[The facts revealed in the above communication are deserving of severe criticism. If delays of this kind are going to continue, and the news is allowed to leak out before relatives are advised, it would be far better for the Military authorities to forward the wires direct to relatives. There have been other cases of delay similar to this one referred to, and where the contents of telegrams have been known by many before relatives had been apprised of the fact. It is hoped, in future, there will not be a repetition of this sort of thing. – Ed. N.T.]