50 Lionel George Fuller – BURTON
50 Lionel George Fuller Burton was born in 1895 in Otago New Zealand to parents George Burton and Jessie Elizabeth McDonald. His father George died in September 1899 leaving behind Lionel , and siblings William b. 1889, Gladys b.1880, Hilda Isobella b. 1892 , Jessie Elizabeth b.1883 and Alexander John b.1898.
In October 1900 Lionel’s mother Jessie married Benjamin John Fuller and in 1902 gave birth to a son Alfred Ben Fuller. The Fuller family were best known for their work in stage and theatre and migrated from England to Australia in 1894. They then toured with their variety shows to New Zealand where they finally settled.
When Ben Fuller had married Lionel’s mother, the Fuller family had established a circuit of vaudeville theatres and revues. By the early 1900’s the Fuller business had expanded back across the Tasman Sea to Australia , and now they had a large number of permanent theatres in both New Zealand and Australia.
Ben Fuller and his young brother John Fuller would go on to build a theatre and film empire in both New Zealand and Australia.
It was in this environment that Lionel George Fuller-Burton and his younger brother William were raised and later employed with the Fuller enterprises.
In May 1903 more tragedy struck the Burton-Fuller’s and Lionel’s, mother Jessie suddenly passed away in Dunedin New Zealand.
In 1913 Lionel now 19 years old had joined the expanding Fuller family enterprise in Australia and worked as an electrician at the National Theatre in Sydney.
On the 21st August 1914 Lionel George Fuller Burton enlisted with the 1st Field company Engineers and his next of kin was his stepfather Benjamin Fuller , c/o National Theatre Sydney.
Lionel was wounded within the first week at Gallipoli , a gunshot wound to the leg and he was admitted to the No2 Gen. Hospital. He returned to Mena camp hospital and then returned to his unit at Gallipoli on the 5th June and stayed up to the evacuation.
Returning to Alexandria after Anzac, Lionel immediately went out and got drunk, no doubt he wasn’t the only one and was charged with drunkenness, insolence and breaking ship from the HMS Caledonia on the 29th December. He forfeited 2 days pay, but I am sure the loss of a few days days pay was worth it for Lionel and his fellow revellers. Lionel later contracted the mumps and remained in hospital for a number of weeks.
While in France on the 22/5/16 he was promoted to Lance Corporal.
The Battle of Pozieres
The village of Pozières, is located in the Somme Valley, France. The main road running along the ridge, in the middle of the British sector of the Somme battlefields ran from the towns of Albert to Bapaume and close by stood the village of Pozieres, the highest point on the battlefield.
On the 19th July 1916 the men of the 1st Field company Engineers had bivouacked just outside of Albert, approximately 3 miles from the front lines. On the 21st July they marched into Albert and commenced helping to dig a communications trench that same night. The heavy bombardments from the Germans had already commenced and were relentless.
By Sunday the 23rd July the company had moved in closer to the front lines at Pozieres and commenced construction of a strong point for a machine gun placement.
Original 233 Cpl Thomas Arkinstall reported that the section was in front of Pozieres about 100 yards past the village , and were digging an advanced Machine Gun position overlooking two roads leading to Pozieres and Bapaume.
For four days, Pozieres would be pure hell for the men of the 1st Field Company Engineers.
Major Richard John Dyer was the young officer in charge of the 1st Field Company Engineers during the Battle of Pozieres.
Major Richard Dyer remarkably not quite 23 years old was the very able and hardened Gallipoli veteran, famous for his single handed efforts at Gallipoli and his bravery at the German Officers Trench, creating his own landmark at what became known as “Dyers Crater”.
The young Major was no stranger to putting himself at great risk. However as Major and commanding officer, he was now placing his men at great risk and his diary entries show his hesitance in despatching the sections whilst under extremely heavy bombardment from the Germans.
Link to the full 1st FCE Unit diary July 1916 –July 1916 RCDIG1008590-1
The drawings above from the unit diaries showing the detailed plans for the construction of the “Strong Point” and machine gun placement.
Original 29 Bob Lundy recorded in his diary on the 23rd July the casualties and the devastation of the day, noting that there were dead laying all along the track and every inch of ground was just shell holes.
Within the first four days of the operations the return lists for the engineers prepared by original Lieut. Robert Osborne Earle for Major Richard Dyer outlined the devastation to the men of the 1st Field Company..
The casualties list recorded the men who were either killed, wounded, missing , gassed or suffering shell shock, between the 22nd and 26th July 1916.
Fourteen of the originals were included on this list of casualties…..58 Percy Hirst was listed as killed, 215 William Allan (Whelan) was listed as missing, 234 Archibald Bland and 50 Lionel Fuller Burton were listed as wounded.
Also wounded was 88 George Casburn, a gun shot wound to the right hand and shoulder and 163 William Rice also a gunshot wound to the shoulder.
123 William Goodwin, 76 James Hamilton, 184 Donald Clark, 237 Evelyn Lloyd.. all wounded.
336 Alfred Girdler and 157 Frederick Newson were gassed, and 242 Thomas Cook and 26 Roland King were both listed suffering from shell shock.
Interestingly the brothers of fellow originals 14 Edmund Banks and 139 James Pasfield were also on the same casualty list.
Pozieres Main street 1914 Pozieres Main street 1916
Above Left to Right – 234 Archie Bland, 50 Lionel Fuller Burton, 58 Percy Hirst
215 William Patrick Allan Whelan was originally reported missing on the 23rd, all later enquiries confirmed that he was killed in action on the 25th .
Still searching for a portrait of 215 William Whelan
During what became known as the “Somme Offensive”, between the 23 July and early September 1916, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions of the Australian Imperial Forces were involved in 19 attacks on German positions in and around the ruins of Pozieres.
Although the British and Australian artillery were no match for the German artillery and machine guns, despite that, they held their positions and subsequently held Pozieres at great cost. The Australians suffered 23,000 casualties while advancing only two kilometres.
Australian official historian Charles Bean declared that the Pozières Ridge ..” is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”- Charles Bean
Lionel’s war record shows there was some confusion regarding the confirmation of his death and perhaps the lines of communication between the records office and the various family members was strained.
A Mr.T.H Giles, the brother in law of Lionel was the superintendent of the State Advance Office, a New Zealand Government post. He made a desperate plea on behalf of the family for confirmation of Lionel’s circumstances so he could advise his wife and the “MISSES Burton” of their brothers death. He advises that ” the brothers and sisters have no mother or father to assist them” and he also states that they had no relationship with the step father for a number of years.
Perhaps it was only Lionel and William who shared a bond with their stepfather. William would later receive all of Lionel’s medal, and was still employed with the Fuller group at Her Majesties Theatre in Wellington.
Lionel was buried with fellow sapper 234 Archibald Bland at Puchevillers Military .
A modern photo of Puchevillers British Military Cemetery Somme France. The Casualty Details: UK 1132, Canada 213, Australia 417, New Zealand 1, Total Burials: 1763
Story ©Vance Kelly 2016
Sources: AWM, NLA, NAA, Manly Library, Museum Victoria, Ancestry.com
Family Notes :
Descendants of the Fuller Burton Family are noted on Ancestry.com
The following are some interesting links to Biographies on Lionel’s Step father Sir Benjamin John Fuller.