Friday 9 November 2012

Charles John Burchett 1892-1919

The war memorial in Herstmonceux church lists the men of Herstmonceux who died  fighting in the First World War.  It is an alphabetical list but at the bottom another name was added - that of C J Burchett of the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Charles John Burchett was born on the 20th April 1892 in Herstmonceux, one of the children born to David  Robert Burchett and Harriet (nee Hunnisett).  His family can be traced back in Herstmonceux for many generations and he was a cousin of William Henry Burchett who is also listed on the war memorial (Charles's father was a brother of William's mother).  He attended the local school and then worked as a gardener before he began making trugs (a local industry Herstmonceux is well known for).

Colonel Lowther of Herstmonceux Castle got permission, soon after the start of the First World War, to raise a battalion of local men; over a thousand men signed up in the first few days including Charles Burchett and his cousin William Henry Burchett.  Having joined the Southdowns Battalion Charles was transferred to the Royal West Kent, although when and why is unknown.  His cousin William was killed on the 3rd September 1916 on the Somme and is buried at Ancre British Cemetery and is also remembered on his parents gravestone in Herstmonceux graveyard.

Charles survived the fighting and returned home to Herstmonceux where his mother had been widowed two years previously.  He took up work as a trug maker but died on the 21st December 1919 from pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), little more than year after the end of the war.  TB is an infectious disease which had only been recognised as a contagious illness in the late 19th century and as an airbourne disease it passed quickly amongst soldiers living in close proximity whose immune systems were already weakened as a result of living in trenches in less than sanitary conditions.

Charles was buried in Herstmonceux graveyard on Christmas eve 1919, the parish magazine of February 1920 reported that "Mrs Burchett wishes to thank all kind friends for their sympathy in her bereavement and also for the beautiful flowers which were sent to her".

Charles John Burchett may not be one of those who officially died in the First World War but there can be little doubt that he died as a direct result of the war.

With thanks to David Lester - see his website for more information on the Southdown Batallions

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