Edward Benoni Burgess

Edward was born in Transvaal, South Africa on the 17th June 1892. His father was Alfred Augustus Burgess, (a self-styled gentleman at the time of Edward’s baptism but whose father had been a blacksmith), and his mother Ada Eliza (néeJones, the daughter of the innkeeper at the Eight Bells in Haddenham as well as a coal merchant).

Travelling to England at a few months of age, he was baptised at St John the Baptist church, Bisley, Surrey, on 28 August 1893. The middle name Benoni seems to be an attempt by his father to inject a degree of exoticness into the family. The truth was that Alfred was a philanderer, drunk and conman and Edward’s parents were divorced in 1898 with Ada divorcing her husband on the grounds of cruelty and adultery. Subsequently Edward, and his elder brother Alfred, went to live with his maternal grandparents, Frances and John Jones now a retired innkeeper and coal merchant in Skittle Green, Haddenham.

Edward and his elder brother Alfred were both educated at LWGS. The date of Edward’s arrival at LWGS is unknown but probably around 1900. He was definitely at the school in the summer term of 1906 but was listed as absent in during the autumn term of 1907.

He returned to South Africa after leaving school and was employed as a pumpman. His estranged father died in 1914 at the young age of 50 and it is likely that Edward had not seen him for many years. By this time the father had moved back to Essex where he had been born.

Edward served in the 31stRegiment of the Royal Fusiliers, later transferring to the 4thRoyal Sussex and 4thSouth African Regiments, joining B Company, formed primarily from men of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment. The regiment formed part of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, which in January 1916 sailed for Egypt to help quell a local uprising, before being transferred to the western front, landing in Marseilles in April 1916.  The regiment suffered heavy casualties throughout the war.  In December 1917, Edward, by now a Lance Corporal, was severely wounded, and evacuated to hospital in Rouen where his right leg was amputated at the thigh, and left leg fractured. He died of his wounds on the 6thJanuary 1918 and was buried in St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France. He is commemorated in Thame on Lord Williams’s School honours board and is also remembered on Haddenham war memorial.

His elder brother Alfred Jnr. had followed the family profession and had become a blacksmith in England but at some point he returned to South Africa and died there in 1957.

[Much of the information provided by the Thame Remembers Research Group].

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