BURN, Edgar James
(Service number 27061)
|First Rank||Lance Corporal||Last Rank||Lance Corporal|
|Date||11 December 1896||Place of Birth||Hilton, South Canterbury|
|Date||31 May 1916||Age||19 years 5 months|
|Address at Enlistment||Romahapa, Otago|
|Occupation||School teacher (Otago Education Board)|
|Previous Military Experience||Cadets|
|Next of Kin||E. H. BURN (father), Romahapa, South Otago; later at "Mavora", Riccarton Road, East Taieri|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 11 inches. Weight 144 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair brown. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both good. Limds well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth good. No illnesses. free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Good bodily & mental health. Slight defect but not sufficient to cause rejection - refer for operation for enlarged tonsils - operation done. No fits.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||8th Reinforcements 3rd Battalion, G Company|
|Date||23 September 1916|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Devonport, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Otago Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
December 1916 - admitted VD Section Codford Hospital - not severe. 5 October 1917 - gunshot wounds to buttock & right leg; skull fracture.
|Date||5 October 1917||Age||20 years|
|Place of Death||17th Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium|
|Cause||Died of wounds|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium|
|Memorial Reference||XX. E. 15.|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Edgar James BURN was the youngest son of Edgar Huie and Fanny Louisa (née Millar) Burn. Edgar was born on 11 December 1896 at Hilton, South Canterbury. His father was a school teacher and spent time at Hilton, Silverstream and Fairlie schools in the South Canterbury region before moving to Waipahi and Romahapa in South Otago. Edgar, junior, was educated at Fairlie School before spending a couple of months at High Street School in Dunedin on his way to Waipahi. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a pupil of Otago Boys’ High School. Edgar, senior, attended Otago Boys’ High School in his early days in New Zealand. At the school jubilee in 1913 he was considered the best drill instructor the school had ever had. In 1877 when he was first lieutenant, the Artillery Corps reached its maximum efficiency, was in splendid order, and elicited great praise for marching and handling. It was in 1904 while the family was at Fairlie that their mother Fanny died. In that same year his father was appointed a Justice of the Peace at Fairlie.
In September 1910 both Edgar and his sister Mary, of Waipahi, won Presbytery prizes for Grade IV (Standards V and VI) Scripture examinations, these being awarded at the Sabbath School demonstration held under the auspices of the Mataura Presbytery at the Gore church. 1913 saw Edgar playing in the schools’ boys’ tennis competitions in Dunedin, where he and his partner reached the final of the handicap doubles. He also progressed to the second round of the handicap singles. .
The second annual shooting competition for Territorials and Cadets was held at the East Gore Rifle Range in late 1914. Sergeant E. J. Burn (48th Company) was one of those taking a keen interest in shooting, scoring well enough to win some prize money in the Senior Cadets 500 yards Championship. “It was not only a good sport, but it was a valuable asset to every man in the country,” said the Mayor on presenting the prizes.
Edgar James Burn was a school teacher with the Otago Education Board, in a relieving capacity at Tahakopa, when he enlisted on 31 May 1916, aged 19 years 5 months. He was following in an excellent teaching tradition in the family – his father and uncle being teachers, his brother Haitly before joining the Defence staff and his sister Mary; and in 1871 his paternal grandmother, Mrs Margaret Gordon Burn née Huie, was appointed the first principal of the Otago Girls’ High School, later taking the position of principal at Waitaki Girls’ High School. The volunteers of the South Otago quota of the 17th Reinforcements – including E. J. Burn, Romahapa – paraded at the Milton Defence Office on the night of 31 May 1916. They had “answered the Empire’s urgent call to duty and willingly offered their services for the noble cause of King and Country.” They thoroughly enjoyed the usual complimentary social functions arranged by the Y.M.C.A. and St John’s Club. The next morning they marched to the railway station, headed by the 14th Regimental Band and to the hearty cheers of a large number of residents. The flour mill whistle also sounded a parting salute. Soon after at Trentham Camp, Edgar was appointed lance-corporal, his rank on embarkation on 23 September 1916 on the “Pakeha”.
In December 1916 Edgar was admitted to the VD Section at Codford and a few days later moved to Rochester Row London Military Hospital, and subsequently to the New General Hospital at Brockenhurst. The hospital and progress report of 15 January 1917 listed Lance-Corporal E. J. Burn, 27061, as not a severe case. In May 1917 he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Otago Regiment and, after another stay in the Venereal Hospital, proceeded overseas. Soon after he was detached to the School of Instruction for a week.
The next report was the final one – Lance-Corporal Edgar James Burn of the Otago Infantry, son of Mr E. H. Burn, schoolmaster at Romahapa, had died of wounds on 5 October 1917 in Belgium. Having suffered gunshot wounds to the buttock and right leg and a fractured skull in Action, he died at the 17th Casualty Clearing Station. He was just 20 years old. Within a fortnight the Rector of Otago Boys’ High School had reported the death at the front of Edgar and three others to the Board of Governors, which resolved to send letters of sympathy to their next of kin. The Otago Education Board passed a resolution of sympathy with his father. In its May 1918 annual report the Education Board recorded with regret the casualties at the front, and that 99 employees had to date joined the Expeditionary Forces. Edgar James Burn was buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. His name was recorded on the memorial of the High Street Primary School, Dunedin,and on the Romahapa Roll of Honour. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which were to be sent to his sister, Miss M. G. Burn, school mistress in Dunedin, while the plaque and scroll were sent to his father. His father had remarried in January 1917. Edgar’s brothers Captain Andrew Haitley Burn and Second Lieutenant Guy Millar Burn, both served in World War I.
When the final welcome home gathering was held by the Waipahi community in May 1920, the opportunity was taken to present framed certificates to the relatives of the fallen also. The chairman expressed sympathy to the relatives of “fallen men who gave their all in the cause of freedom and justice. The New Zealand men had done their part, and had proved that they were able to stand beside the best soldiers the world had ever produced. . . . Anything the people had to-day they owed to the bravery of their soldiers, who also brought honour and glory to New Zealand.” After the concert items, a wreath in memory of the fallen hung over a table draped with the Union Jack and New Zealand Ensign, and the Mayor of Gore presented the certificates. Rev. D. McColl, responding on behalf of the relatives of the fallen men, said that the Allies fought for truth, justice and righteousness, and as a result the old flag still floated overhead. And in 2015 the children of the Middle Room of Romahapa School researched and remembered fallen soldier, Lance Corporal Edgar James Burn. A photo of Edgar James Burn is to found in Volume 2 of “Onward – Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force” (held by the South Canterbury Branch NZSG).
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [17 November 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0020488) [08 December 2014]; CWGC [17 November 2014]; Temuka Leader, 12 March 1904, Mataura Ensign, 7 September 1910, 21 December 1914, 3 May 1920, Otago Daily Times, 22 April 1913, 18 May 1916, 16 October 1917, Otago Witness, 6 August 1913, 31 October 1917, 29 May 1918, Evening Star, 26 January 1915, 18 October 1917 [x 2], 19 October 1917, 9 December 1918, Bruce Herald, 1 June 1916, New Zealand Times, 19 June 1916, 16 October 1917 Evening Post, 15 January 1917, Sun, 16 October 1917, 11 December 1918, Clutha Leader, 19 October 1917 (Papers Past) [03 December 2014; 11 September 2017]; School Admission records (South Branch NZSG & Dunedin Branch NZSG); NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [11 September 2017]
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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