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Stanley Harold Burch portrait

Stanley Harold Burch 

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Royal Field Artillery
'A' Battery with 165th Brigade
Bombardier 17227
Died 31st October 1918

Stanley Burch's Parents

Stanley Harold Burch was the fourth of eight children born to parents George Charles Burch and Mary Elizabeth (nee Davis). His family also included three older half-brothers from his father’s first marriage

Burch tree

Father: George Burch

George (Harold’s father) was born at St Peter Port, Guernsey in 1846. He grew up on Guernsey, where he married his first wife, Emily Caroline (nee Leggatt), in the early 1870s. George and Emily’s first son, George Alfred Rawles Burch, was born on the island in 1874 and soon thereafter the family moved to the mainland, where the other two sons were born. William Silver Burch was born in 1877 in Newport, Gwent, and in 1881 the family of four was living in Cheltenham, where George’s mother was also living with them; the assumption is that she had been widowed at this point. The third of George & Emily’s three children, Vivian Albert, was born later the same year at Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire.

By 1883, the Burch family was in Bath, but the records show the death of George’s first wife, Emily, in the first quarter of that year, leaving the three boys (George junior, William & Vivian), ages nine, six & two.

Mother: Mary Davis

With surprising speed – namely in the same quarter of 1883 – George married Mary Elizabeth (nee Davis), originally from Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire and who only two years previously had been a housemaid at a manor house in Mickleton, Gloucestershire, ten miles from her home, but many miles from anywhere that we know her paths might have crossed with that of George Burch. One assumes that she came to Bath to take up a position in service in a Bath household.

She and George were married at Holy Trinity, Combe Down.


The Burch Family

George and Mary Burch then went on to have eight children together, beginning with seven boys in a row. Reginald Thomas (1884), Charles Henry (1885) and Arthur Douglas (1888) all preceded Stanley Harold (1889). By the time of the 1891 census, John Frederick (1891) had also arrived.

George and Mary appear in the 1891 census living at ‘Forgetmenot Cottage’, on Combe Down. This was on a road called Williamstowe, which is a turning off The Avenue. [Is the cottage still there?] They were living with the three boys from the first marriage (George junior, William and Vivian), plus Reginald, Charles, Arthur & John, but Stanley is missing from the list. He is to be found on census night aged 1 and staying/living in Shipston-on-Stour with his maternal grandfather.

Mary went on to produce her 6th and 7th (and George’s 9th & 10th) sons Ernest Sholto (1893) and Harold Thomas (1896); both born at Combe Down.

The next child was a girl – at last! – called Theodosia Mary Elizabeth. Theodosia was born in 1898 and took her maternal grandmother’s first name, as well as both of her mother’s forenames. The birth record for Theodosia reveals that the family had by now moved to Twerton; the Bath Directory for 1900 shows them living at 44 Lyndhurst Road, with their garden backing onto the Great Western Railway line.
44 Lyndhurst Road
44 Lyndhurst Road

In the same year, George junior (Stanley's eldest step-brother) married and remained living locally in Bath, carrying on the trade of a licensed grocer in Weston. 

William married the following year and also stayed in Bath, continuing into the cabinet-making trade.

Given that Stanley was aged 9 when the family moved to Twerton parish in 1898, it is fair to assume that he had begun his schooling in Combe Down and transferred to South Twerton School when the family moved to Lyndhurst Road. We know that George (father) worked at Bath Cabinet Makers which at that time had its works in Bellotts Road, just a short walk over the GWR.

One year later, at the time of the 1901 census, the family was living at 12 Ringwood Road. Of Stanley’s three elder step-brothers, only Vivian was still at home, now a French polisher aged 19. Charles (16) was a bus conductor, with all the younger siblings still attending school. Stanley’s eldest brother, Reginald, had apparently joined the military as he was recorded in 1901 as being in barracks in Canterbury.

12 Ringwood Road

12 Ringwood Road; home to the Burch family from 1901

‘Silver’ Wedding: a family affair

In 1902, it was the turn of Vivian (the youngest of Stanley’s elder stepbrothers) to marry. His bride was called Rosalie Leggatt Silver. Note that the middle name 'Leggatt' coincides with Vivian’s mother's (Emily) maiden name and that the surname coincides with Vivian’s brother's (William) middle name.

Further digging into birth and marriage records reveals that Emily’s sister (Julia Leggatt) had married a publican called George Silver in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1874. Hence when William was born to George and Emily Burch in 1877, the inspiration for his middle name ‘Silver’ was close at hand and a very poetic, arboreal-sounding name to couple with ‘Burch’ as a surname. But, more interestingly, George and Julia Silver had a daughter in 1883 by the name of Rosalie Leggatt Silver; this means that Vivian’s 1902 marriage was to his first cousin. A proper family occasion!

1904 reports of school prize-givings show that Stanley’s brothers Ernest & Harold attended East Twerton School, winning prizes for their good attendance in that year. The Parish board of Twerton had to regularly assess the capacity of the Parochial School (opposite Twerton station), East Twerton School (next to St Peter’s – now Oldfield Park Infants) and South Twerton (now Oldfield Park Juniors) and adjust intake accordingly. Hence it seems that Stanley attended South Twerton while his brothers were admitted to East Twerton. The family homes at Lyndhurst Road and Ringwood Road put them roughly between the two schools.

In 1908, Theodosia – the one daughter among ten brothers – died aged 9.


Stanley working at Pitman Press

In 1911, Stanley (aged 21) was working as a bookbinder’s machinist and living with his parents (George was then 64 and still a cabinet maker) plus Charles (then 26 and a motor engine driver at an iron foundry; probably Stothert & Pitt), John (20, shorthand clerk), Ernest (17, stereotyping apprentice) and Harold who, at 14, was listed simply as having ‘left school’. Stanley’s eldest brother Reginald was listed in the census in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, as a commercial traveller, staying at a hotel.

The link between the occupations of Stanley, John and Ernest turns out to be that they all worked at what later became the Pitman Press. This famous Bath business was founded on the industry and invention of Sir Isaac Pitman and the shorthand method he developed in 1837. It became a leading publishing house & print works, in addition to its work with the Pitman shorthand system that became an international standard.

From modest beginnings in premises in Nelson Place West (known as the ‘Phonetic Institute’, near Norfolk Crescent), Pitman’s business moved first to Albion Place (Upper Bristol Road; ‘Second Phonetic Institute’, 1851), then to Parsonage Lane (between Westgate St and Upper Borough Walls; ‘Third Phonetic Institute’, 1855) and then to Kingston Buildings, next to the Abbey (‘Fourth Phonetic Institute’, 1874).

 Kingston Buildings sign BIT32139
The street name sign for Kingston Buildings in Bath is famously written with Pitman shorthand declensions, denoting the earlier presence of the Phonetic Institute here. [Image: Bath In Time]

When it outgrew its fourth premises at Kingston Buildings in 1888, the Pitman Press moved to purpose-built premises on the Lower Bristol Road. This was known as the ‘Fifth Phonetic Institute’ and was the precursor to the huge (now derelict) site today known as the Bath Press site.

Pitman Press Lower Bristol Road

The Fifth Phonetic Institute on Lower Bristol Road, now the derelict site of the defunct Bath Press, where Stanley and two of his brothers worked. These buildings were incorporated into (engulfed by) a 1920s rebuild.


1920s aerial Pitman Press

An aerial view of the Pitman Press site in connection with its expansion in 1924. This photograph also shows long-disappeared housing to the bottom and left-hand sides of the photograph. The row between the Lower Bristol Road and the railway (on the left-hand side of the photo) was called Hopmead Place.




Pitman Press office

The office where Stanley’s brother John worked. This section of the original building can still be discerned in the roofline today (below).

Pitman Press aerial


While Sir Isaac Pitman died in 1897, the Burch lads working at the company would probably have come into direct contact with Isaac’s sons, Alfred & Ernest, who continued management of the company from 1884. In 1913, a celebratory dinner was held at Fortt’s Restaurant in Milsom Street (now Waterstone’s bookshop) in honour of the centenary of Sir Isaac’s birth. A contemporary newspaper report names the attendees, with Stanley and John both listed. Stereotyping (in which Ernest was employed) was the process of producing a plate from which to print, rather than typesetting individual letters. This made reprints of books much easier, for example, as the original plates could be re-used, avoiding the process of re-setting pages and pages of text.

Stanley Burch in WW1

When the War came, it touched the Burch family very significantly, owing to the number of young men of appropriate age for service.

Stanley’s eldest brother Reginald had already joined the military in 1901 and was in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, having enlisted while living at Glas Newydd, Victoria Park, Colwyn Bay.

Within weeks of the war beginning in August 1914, the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette began carrying lists of those who had joined up; these names were submitted by – and listed under names of – employers. Stanley’s brother Ernest, previously connected with the Somerset Light Infantry 4th Battalion in the years before the war, was listed on September 26th under a contingent from Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons.

Royal Field Artillery 

We don’t know exactly when Stanley himself joined up, but he served with the Royal Field Artillery, whose job it was to bombard enemy lines, often in preparation for assault by infantry soldiers. The artillery would have devised bombardment strategies to an agreed plan: for example, if an attack on enemy lines was due at 3pm, they might have utilised large shells to blow trenches and defences open, before deploying shrapnel to inflict maximum damage and cut through wire, culminating in a crescendo of explosive hell, prior to stopping completely at 3pm, allowing the infantry to engage, or creating a moving barrage behind which infantry could advance.

Equally, due to the damage inflicted by artillery, both sides targeted each other’s guns and there was a balance to be struck between the range of fire of one’s own guns versus those of the enemy.

Stanley was in CLXV (165th) Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, which was originally part of the battle order of 32nd Division. Individual divisions were generally formed of four brigades (each of these comprising multiple infantry battalions, plus a machine gun company and a trench mortar battery). Then each division also had field artillery (RFA) batteries, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps and Army Service Corps.

The activities of 32nd Division are summed up at http://www.1914-1918.net/31div.htm

On 10th December the War Office authorised the formation of the Fifth New Army. Like the other Kitchener Armies, it comprised six Divisions, in this case numbered 37 to 42. What eventually became 32nd Division was originally numbered 39th. In April 1915, the original Fourth New Army was broken up and its units converted for training and draft-finding purposes. When this took place the Fifth New Army became Fourth New Army and its Divisions were renumbered to 30th - 35th: thus what we remember as 32nd Division was born.

The Division was largely comprised of locally raised units often known as "Pals". It was a predominantly Northern Division, although locally raised units from Birmingham and Bristol were also in the structure.

After (in most cases) commencing training near home (although the Glasgow battalions moved to camp at Gailes and the 11th Border at Blackhall), the units were moved in May 1915 to concentrate in Shropshire but Prees Heath was found to be too wet for training and the brigades instead moved to Yorkshire (Wensley and Richmond, with use of the firing ranges at Strenshall). It was not until August that the Division moved for final training and firing practice at Codford on Salisbury Plain.

In November 1915 the Division received a warning order to prepare to sail for France. But on 2nd December final orders were received that the 31st Division would go to Egypt, accompanied by the artillery of 32nd Division. The artillery from 31st Division would join 32nd Division in France.

So 31st Division and 32nd Division effectively ‘swapped’ artillery units in November 1915. The 165th RFA, now with 31st Division...:

…sailed from 7th December, with Divisional HQ being established at Port Said on Christmas Eve. The last units arrived in Egypt on 23 January 1916.

1916
The Division took over the No 3 Sector of the Suez Canal defences and Divisional HQ moved to Kantara on 23 January. The stay in Egypt was short, and between 1-6 March the Division sailed to Marseilles for service on the Western Front. The 31st Division subsequently remained in France and Flanders and took part in these actions:

Battle of the Somme 1916

The Battle of Albert including the attack on Serre
The Battle of the Ancre

1917

Operations on the Ancre

Arras Offensive

The Third Battle of the Scarpe
The Capture of Oppy Wood


1918

First Battle of the Somme 1918

The Battle of St Quentin
The Battle of Bapaume
The First Battle of Arras

Battles of the Lys
The Battle of Estaires
The Battle of Hazebrouck
The Defence of Nieppe Forest
The attack at La Becque

Advance in Flanders
The capture of Vieux Berquin

Final Advance in Flanders

The Battle of Ypres
The action of Tieghem

This represents a fairly general account of the Division to which Stanley Burch’s RFA Brigade was attached. Individual circumstances often required the temporary assistance of Field Artillery (for example) in operations with other Divisions, so the list of engagements should not be seen as exhaustive or 100% accurate. But reading readily-available descriptions of the engagements listed above will give an idea of how the Division moved around and its role in specific battles.

Stanley Burch's Death

Stanley Burch died on 31st October 1918, just two weeks short of the end of the War. Although this date corresponds to a specific action in which 31st Division was engaged (namely the action of Tieghem) Stanley is recorded as having died of pneumonia. We do not know for how long he was ill and whether he spent time in a field hospital prior to his death.

He was the last of the 33 South Twerton men to die.

9 Nov 1918 new item

When Stanley’s death was announced in the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette in November 1918 (above), the piece mentioned that Stanley’s step-brother Vivian had previously been killed in 1916. He was killed in action on 17th Oct 1916, while serving with the 2nd Bttn, Hampshire Regt at the age of 35.

The article further stated that ‘five other sons’ were still serving. These were Reginald (Royal Welch Fusiliers), Arthur (Army Service Corps), John ‘Frederick’ (Royal Army Medical Corps), Ernest (4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry) and one other? 

The Bath newspaper of 9th November 1918 also carried a photograph of Stanley Burch. He is one of the few soldiers for whom we have a photograph. The caption gives him the rank of 'Gunner', whereas he is listed elsewhere as 'Bombardier' (a higher rank). In fact his medal card reveals that his official rank may have been 'Driver' and that he was previously a 'Lance Bombardier'. 

Medal card excerpt

This from www.findmypast.co.uk

A driver was a soldier trained in the management and use of horses. The six horses drawing the gun, or wagon, were driven by three drivers, all on the nearside horses, and much training was required before drivers would be rated as competent. The drivers, of course, also looked after the horses and the management, condition and state of health of these animals was regarded as one of the most important functions in the battery.

Nov 1918 newspaper announcement with photo

Burial

Bombardier Stanley Burch is buried at Arneke British Cemetery in France 

From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:

The cemetery was begun by the 13th Casualty Clearing Station which moved to Arneke from the Proven area in October 1917. It was joined by the 10th and 44th Clearing Stations in April 1918. The cemetery was used by these hospitals until the end of May, and again from July to September 1918 by the 62nd (1/2nd London) Clearing Station. In November it was used for a short time by the 4th and 10th Stationary Hospitals. A few French soldiers were buried from clearing stations in April 1918 and French units buried in Plots IV and V at the north-west end of the cemetery, mainly in May and June 1918.

Arneke British Cemetery contains 435 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and five from the Second World War. There are also 126 French and five German war graves.

Arneke Cemetery

Arneke Cemetery 


Decoration

Bombardier Stanley Burch was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

British War Medal 1914-18Allied Victory Medal
British War Medal 1914-18Allied Victory Medal

Commemoration

Burch on S Twerton memorial

In addition to his inscription on the South Twerton School memorial, Stanley Burch is commemorated as follows:

Bath War Memorial

See separate page for details of the Bath War Memorial. Stanley Burch's inscription:  

Burch on Bath memorial

Pitman Press Memorial

The Pitman Press works on the Lower Bristol Road also created a memorial in 1924 that carried the names of workers from the company who gave their lives. It includes 4 South Twertonites - including Stanley Burch - and the brother of George Strong.

With the Pitman Press (later Bath Press) works now derelict, we are currently making enquiries as to the current whereabouts of this memorial.

Pitman Press Memorial


Ascension Church Memorial

As a parishioner of the Ascension Church, Stanley Burch's name is inscribed on the oak tablet in the Church (see separate page for details of the Ascension Church Memorial):

Burch on Ascension memorial



Further Information

The Burch family beyond the war

From newspaper reports, we know the following details of the Burch family:

Sept 1922: Mary (mother) dies

Also detailing the specifics of service of her seven sons in WW1.

Death of Mary (mother)

Dec 1922: George (father) dies

This item includes a few other details of family history and confirms that Stanley 'died in the service' rather than having been killed.

1922 death of George Burch

1923: Ernest marries and brother John is Best Man

1923 Ernest marriage 

We have been fortunate enough to make contact with Mahlon Burch, a grandson of Ernest & Olive Burch. His father was Alan Burch, about whom he tells us the following: 

"Alan Burch (my Dad) was batman to General Bourne in the Indian artillery! My Dad was a very capable musician so was much needed by officers and soldier to help lift their spirits with endless sing-alongs around the mess hall piano. He was very fond of the General and learnt many things a slightly upper working class boy from Bath might never have learnt … Like how to fold a dress jacket so that it could be worn straight out of the suit case, without pressing! The General was very close to his wife… and the first order of business at a new post was to put out the picture of the General's wife and the photograph of the General's children!"

Alan Burch emigrated to New Zealand in 1949, where Mahlon also lives. Many thanks to Mahlon for his contribution!

Later Family
We have also been able to trace the following details of Stanley's siblings:
  • Eldest brother Reginald: May have died in Bristol in 1953. 
  • Brother Charles: No details known.
  • Brother Arthur married Gladys Hughes in 1922 and later family included the surname 'Mather'
  • Brother John married Elsie James in 1924, with subsequent 'Burch' offspring.
  • Brother Ernest married Olive Collins in 1922. They had a son who emigrated to New Zealand in 1949 and there is still Burch family in New Zealand.
  • Harold Burch married Myra Dickinson in Lancashire in 1931 and settled there. They had several children.

Living Relatives 

It would be great to hear from any other living relatives of Stanley Burch.


Please get in touch!

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