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(Abt 1836-)

Major Herbert ('Bert') Edgar Burton


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Major Herbert ('Bert') Edgar Burton 32

  • Born: 1864, Kensington, London 33
  • Marriage: Nance
  • Died: 7 Dec 1944, Beadnell, Northumberland, England, United Kingdom aged 80 33

bullet  General Notes:

Herbert Edgar BURTON, GC, OBE

No. & Rank at the Time of Action: Major
Unit/Occupation: Honorary Superintendent, Tynemouth Motor Life-Boat
Date and Place of Birth: 1864
Family: Son of QMS instructor at Chatham School of Military Engineering. Major Burton had three sons and one daughter, one son being lost when the ship he was serving in was sunk during the 1914-18 war.
Early Life: Enlisting in the R.E. in 1878 at the age of 14, he progressed from Bugler to C.S.M. by 1888, became a Warrant Officer in 1894, and was commissioned in 1902 "for good services in the field". A Bt. Major in 1917 "for services in The Great War", he was Major, Coast Bn. on his retirement in 1919. His services at this stage totalled nearly 16 years in the ranks, nearly 8 years as a W.O. and over 17 years in command rank.
But Major Burton had by no means ended his career. In 1921 he was recalled as T/Major with the Defence Force, and he was employed as Adjutant to recruit and organise the 50th Divisional Engineers T.A. from 1922 to 1927.
Even then his service was not completely ended, for he came back to the 50th and 23rd Divisions for some months in 1939. In 1940 organized District Local Defence Volunteers, later Home Guard.
Date and Place of GC Action: 1st November 1914, off Whitby, North Yorkshire
The London Gazette: 30th June 1924
Account of Deed: On 1st November 1914 Major Burton displayed great gallantry and very fine seamanship in bringing the Tynemouth motor lifeboat 44 miles through a stormy night, unaided by coast lights, to Whitby and, after all other efforts had failed, rescued 50 people from the government hospital steamer Rohilla, which had been wrecked at Whitby two days earlier.
Remarks: EGM - GC exchange.
Additional Information: On the 6th of August 1914 Rohilla was requisitioned and converted for use as a Hospital Ship. On the 29th of October she left Leith bound for Dunkirk to board wounded but at 0400 the following day she ran aground on the Saltwick Nab, one mile south of Whitby. At the time the sinking was attributed to a German mine, this was propaganda, with no coastal lights available because of the war she lost her way, ran onto the bank and in the ensuing storm broke her back. Lifeboat crews from Whitby, Upgang and Tynemouth attended the stricken vessel and for their heroism were awarded three gold and four silver medals. Major Burton of the Tynemouth lifeboat was awarded an Empire Gallantry Medal on the 30th of June 1924 for his bravery, this was later changed to a George Cross in 1940 when the award was instituted. Because the ship was only four hundred yards from the shore some of the crew attempted to make their own way to landfall but sadly even with the efforts of the lifeboat crews 84 members of the ship's compliment perished out of a total of 229.
Burton's promotion and retirement were announced in the London Gazette as follows:
Capt HE Burton to be T/Major 5.9.15 (LG 9.10.15, p.9995).
Capt HE Burton RE awarded Brevet Major (LG 4.6.17, p.5467).
Capt & Bt Maj HE Burton OBE RE to be Major 4.6.19 (LG 2.8.19).
Maj HE Burton OBE Coast Bn, RE retired on retired pay having reached the age limit 15.9.19 (LG 17.9.19, p.11665).
Final Rank: Major
Other Decorations/Medals: OBE (Mil-Purple ribbon), Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Transvaal', 'Orange Free State' and 'Cape Colony', King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901' and '1902', British War Medal, Victory Medal, 1911 Coronation Medal and Army LS & GC. Additionally he was twice Mentioned in Dispatches, His Victory Medal is sadly missing from his group at the RE Museum.
RNLI Silver Medal for rescue of survivors of the wreck SS Dunelm, 1913, RNLI Gold Medal for rescue of survivors of the wreck of HM Hospital Ship Rohilla, 1914, American Gold Cross of Honour, 1915, Coronation Medal.
GC Location/Sale History: Royal Engineers Museum, Brompton Barracks, Prince Arthur Road, Gillingham, Kent ME4 4UG
Date and Place of Death: 7th December 1944, aged 80 years, at Beadnell, Northumberland.
Cause of Death:
Town/County Connections:


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

• Honours, 1901. 34 OBE

• INFO: Lead attempts to save the hospital ship ROHILLA sunk in 1914, 1914.

• Military Award, 1915. 33 American Gold Cross of Honour

• Military Award, 30 Jun 1924. Empire Gallantry Medal (for leadership) Tynemouth Lifeboat


Herbert married Nance.

last updated 06 Apr 2008

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