BURDON, Randal Matthews
(Service number )

First Rank 2nd Lieutenant Last Rank Captain


Date 4 August 1896 Place of Birth Ferndean, Midhurst, Sussex, England

Enlistment Information

Date Age
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Student
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with Imperial Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation British Army
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With British Indian Army, 13th Duke of Connaught’s Bengal Lancers in India
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Western Front (France); Italian Campaign; India
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards Military Cross

Award Circumstances and Date

For “leading his platoon through two rows of uncut wire. Although wounded early in the attack, he continued to command his men until wounded a second time.” About June 1917.

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

September 1916 - gunshot wound in right shoulder.Admitted to hospital at Reading; getting on well. 1917 - wounded in an attack; wounded again while continuing to command his men.

Post-war Occupations

Sheep farmer; author


Date 29 November 1965 Age 69 years
Place of Death Wellington
Cause Coal gas poisoning
Memorial or Cemetery Cremated Karori Crematorium, Wellington; ashes interred St Thomas Anglican Churchyard, Woodbury
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Randal Matthews Burdon was the second of the three sons of Cotsford Matthews and Mildred (née Yatman) Burdon. Born at Ferndean, Midhurst, Sussex, England, on 4 August 1896, he was baptised there on 25 September following. His parents had married in 1892 in England, but their first son was born in the USA, in 1893. In 1901, the Burdon brothers – Cotsford, 7 years, Randal, 4 years, and George, 9 months – were at Hill Grove Farm, Lurgashall, Essex, England, in the care of the family governess. Randal and Cotsford were pupils. The family came from England to New Zealand in 1902 and immediately settled at Woodbury, where Mr Burdon farmed “Parkhurst”. Randal attended Waihi Boys’ Preparatory School near Winchester when it started in 1907. From 1911 untill 1914 he boarded at Christ’s College, Christchurch, where he played in the first eleven and the first fifteen.

Mrs Burdon and Mr Randal Burdon, of Woodbury, left for England by the Remuera in early February 1915. Randal intended to study law, but his plans were stalled by the war. He gained a commission as second Lieutenant in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. In mid-September 1916, his parents received advice by cable that their son had suffered a gunshot wound in the right shoulder. He was admitted to hospital at Reading and was reported as getting on well. The next news was good but tempered by reports further woundings. 2Lt. R. M. Burdon, Royal West Surrey Regiment, an old boy of Christ’s, has been awarded the Military Cross for “leading his platoon through two rows of uncut wire. Although wounded early in the attack, he continued to command his men until wounded a second time.” [Evening Post, 27 June 1917] At the Christ College prize-giving in February 1918, the headmaster read a lengthy list of Old Boys who had fallen and another list of those who had won military distinctions. The latter featured Lieutenant Burdon for the Military Cross. Forgoing his plan to study law, Burdon “became a Captain in the 13th Duke of Connaught’s Bengal Lancers on India’s north-west frontier.” [Richard L. N. Greenaway]

Home on leave, Randal Burdon, 13th Lancers, I.A., married Jean Stewart Bowden on 8 April 1920 at the Woodbury Anglican Church. He was attended by his older brother Cotsford, both Lieutenant Randal Burdon and Lieutenant Cotsford Burdon in uniform. At the reception given by Mrs Sinclair-Thomson (bride’s aunt) at “The Crossing”, the cake was cut with the bridebroom’s sword. Captain and Mrs Randal Burdon were expected to arrive at Woodbury from India in October 1921. They would bring with them their infant son, John Rowland Burdon, born on 2 January 1921 at Kohat, India. A daughter was born in New Zealand in 1924. For his service in France and Italy and in India, he was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His address for despatch of the medals was Parkhurst, Woodbury, S. Canterbury, New Zealand. Randal and Jean were to divorce in 1932.

After the war Randal engaged in sheep farming at his Woodbury run, “Heselden”. Later he was to turn to his love of history and writing. At a gathering of the Geraldine Secondary Ex-pupils’ Association in August 1932, Captain R.M. Burdon gave an interesting and instructive address on India. “In introducing the speaker, Mr Williamson said that as a student of the history of India and an officer in the British Army in that country during the Great War, Captain Burdon’s lecture would be most interesting. Captain Burdon, who dealt with the subject in a most comprehensive manner, made effective use of a large map. He commenced his review from the inauguration of the East India Company, and traced the developments of British influence in India, and the overthrow of the French, till the time of the Indian Mutiny. After dealing with the causes of the Mutiny, Captain Burdon traced to various political developments since that time, down to the present stormy period launched by Gandhi and his associates. In referring to the many difficulties England had had to overcome to maintain law and order in various areas in India, the speaker paid a warm tribute to the loyalty of certain of the Indian Princes, who made a noble response to England’s call for aid during the Great War, and since then had done their utmost to co-operate with the rulers of the country. Many people thought of India as a country, but it was really a commonwealth of warring factors. . . . . . Captain Burdon dealt in an interesting manner with the larger cities, the people, and the customs. In referring to his Army experiences, the speaker said that the majority of people thought that the Bengal Army, which was officered by Britishers, was comprised of Bengali, but such was not the case, as the Bengali were not a fighting people. The Bengal Army had its headquarters in Bengal territory, but the regiments were comprised of the Gurkhas and other famous fighting races of Northern India. Captain Burdon also related a number of interesting personal anecdotes of his experiences in the British Army in India. In expressing his thanks to Captain Burdon, the president remarked that the Ex-pupils’ Association was indeed fortunate in being able to secure the services of a speaker who was so well versed in the state of affairs in India. In reply, Captain Burdon said that it had given him great pleasure to give the address, as he had enjoyed recalling Indian history and incidents of his life in the Army. . . .” [Timaru Herald, 31 August 1932]

On the first Saturday of October 1934, at “Parkhurst” Woodbury, Geraldine, Mrs Burdon gave a musical At Home for Mr Frederic Page, the young New Zealander whose composition, “Music for the Eve of Palm Sunday,” had been warmly praised by Mr Percy M. Buck and other eminent authorities in England, where Mr Page hoped to continue his musical studies in the future. Among the guests were Captain Randall Burdon and Mr Cotsford Burdon. Both Randal Burdon (Timaru) and Cotsford Burdon (Geraldine) were at the wedding of their brother, George Lyon Burdon, to Fanny Peake at St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin, in September 1936. Messrs E. and D. Barker (brothers of the bride) and Captain R. Burdon and Mr G. Burdon (brothers of the bridegroom) gave a dance after the wedding of Mr and Mrs Cotsford Burdon in January 1937. “The dance was held in the Woodbury Hall, which was tastefully decorated for the occasion, and the lively music added to the happy spirit prevailing.”

Randal Burdon was instrumental in the forming of a Geraldine Branch of the National Party in July 1936. The motion of Commander G.H. Dennistoun and Captain R.M. Burdon to form a branch was unanimously accepted by the meeting. Both men were appointed to the inaugural committee. Canterbury’s Early Days – Development of Pastoral Country. “Perhaps on account of the approaching New Zealand centennial, but whatever the cause, there is no doubt that an increasing and deeper interest is being taken in the history of our land. . . . . To those people who desire to gain a general and clear-cut outline of the history of this Province [Canterbury], Mr. R.M. Burdon’s book “High Country” is invaluable.” [Timaru Herald, 18 March 1939] In February 1942, Captain R.M. Burdon (Woodbury) was elected to the executive committee at the first annual meeting of the South Canterbury Historical Society.

From the 1930s, Randal had been writing history publications. In 1948, when his health was deteriorating, he moved from his farm to Wellington, where he was contracted to write official histories. His declining health hampered his research abilities. He continued, however, to contribute to several publications, his work for “An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand” being printed after his death.

Randal died on 29 November 1965 at Wellington, aged 69. He was cremated at Karori Crematorium, his ashes interred at St Thomas Anglican Churchyard, Woodbury. He was survived by his son, John Roland Burdon, and his daughter, Juliet Virginia (Burdon) Hobbs. He left Wills in both New Zealand and England. Randal Matthews Burdon’s name is recorded on the Christ’s College Roll of Honour. Both Mr and Mrs Burdon of Woodbury contributed with time and money to the war effort. His father died at his residence, Parkhurst, Woodbury, on 3 January 1920. He had been suffering health-wise for a long time and had been under medical treatment. He was found dead in the plantation, with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head. Later in 1920, Mrs Burdon and their youngest son (George Lyon Burdon) went Home. They intended spending about a year in the Old Country and, by the mail received in September, were about to leave Guildford (England) for Scotland.

‘On Sunday a special service was held in the Pleasant Valley Church, when the vicar of Geraldine, the Rev. H. Purches, dedicated a lectern, a prayer desk, .and sanctuary chair, the lectern having a brass plate bearing the words “To the Glory of God and in memory of Cotsford Matthew Burdon —Ex umbra in solem,” all being the gift of Mrs C.M. Burdon, who, with her son, Mr George Burdon, were among the worshippers. The lectern, which is of dark oak, represents an angel with wings holding a book. It is very beautiful, and is the work of Mr Guernsey, of the Christchurch School of Art. There was-a very large congregation, and the vicar preached an impressive sermon from the text, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Mrs R.T. Sercombe was at the organ.’ [Press, 19 January 1922] The newly built part of St Thomas’s Anglican Church at Woodbury was dedicated in June 1926. Memorial windows were to be erected by Mrs C.M. Burdon. Mrs Burdon was also an organist at this church. In 1930 Mrs C. M. Burdon travelled extensively through Europe. Mrs C.M. Burdon died on 26 August 1938 at her residence, “Parkhurst”, Woodbury, after a very active life in church and community affairs.


Star, 15 February 1915, Timaru Herald, 21 June 1915, 6 January 1920, 31 August 1932, 4 July 1936, 29 January 1937, 27 & 29 August 1938, 18 March 1939, 17 February 1942, Lyttelton Times, 19 September 1916, Press, 19 September 1916, 22 February 1918, 10 April 1920, 19 October 1921, 19 January 1922, 1 July 1926, 4 October 1934, 27 August 1938, North Otago Times, 21 September 1916, Evening Post, 27 June 1917, Otago Witness, 13 April 1920, Temuka Leader, 10 April 1920, Sun, 29 September 1920, Star, 2 June 1932, Otago Daily Times, 24 September 1936 (Papers Past) [06 August 2015; 22, 23 & 24 January 2022]; Christ’s College School List & Old Boy’s Register [22 January 2022]; UK British Army Lists ( [22 January 2022]; UK British Army Medal Card (Archives UK, per [22 January 222]; Karori Crematorium, Wellington, record (Wellington City Council) [24 January 2022[ St Thomas Anglican Churchyard, Woodbury, headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [22 January 2022]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [22 November 2022]; Richard L. N. Greenaway. 'Burdon, Randal Mathews', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 January 2022); Wikipedia (per google search) [24 January 2022]

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Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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