Private Thomas E Burbidge was born at Ketton, the son of James Burbidge and his wife, and was a butcher's assistant before the war. He joined the 9th Battalion Devonshire Regiment in February 1916 when he reached 18, and went to the Western Front in September the same year. He took part in the fighting at Beaumont Hamel during the Battle of the Somme, and was killed the following year, by machine-gun bullets on 26 October 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). On 24 October the battalion was bussed to Shrapnel Corner outside Ypres and then marched up the Menin Road to get into positions for their dawn assault on Gheluvelt. They would attack on a 200 yards frontage with Zero hour at 5.40am. At 4.30am German artillery began firing intermittedly. The opening British barrage was met by a furious German response as the Devonshires began to move forward. The attack did not go well and almost immediately enemy fire was reported on both flanks with German strongpoints proving particularly difficult to deal with. Conditions were such that one officer reported that the mud and water was so bad his men's rifles and Lewis guns had become clogged. Reinforcements were called for but German counter attacks succeeded in pushing the British back and the Devonshire's ended up at their original starting point. In Rutland and the Great War, George Phillips quotes an officer who wrote a more colourful account of the fighting than the dry prose of the war diary: "We went over with our rifles and Lewis guns bound up with flannel so as to keep the muck out, and with special cleaning apparatus in our pockets, but you can't clean your rifle when your own hands are covered an inch thick. We killed a great number, one sergeant laid out thirteen with his own bayonet; altogether we actually killed over 600 with the bayonet; but the ground was too heavy to allow us to out-manoeuvre the pill-boxes, and though we took three or four the rest did us in. In one box we got thirty-eight Boche, killed them all with a Lewis gun through the port hole." The war diary recorded casualties over the two days as 14 officers and 294 men killed, wounded and missing. Thomas was only 19 when he died. He has no known grave and is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 38, and on the war memorial in Ketton.
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