Herbert Walter Burrell (1887‒1916)

Burrell monument

Herbert Walter Burrell was born in Forest Gate, Essex, in 1887, his parents being Walter Burrell (1848‒97), printer, and his wife Maude Eliza (née Mouel) (1855‒1919).  He was one of nine children, his siblings being: Lilian Maud (1878‒1936), Mabel Ellen (1879‒1950), Florence Mary (1882‒1962), Alfred William (1885‒1941), Jesse (1887‒87), Horace John (1890‒1932), Henry (1892‒1950), Percival (1896‒1918).  Between c.1887 and c.1897 the family lived at 6 Dean Street, West Ham, Forest Gate, where Walter worked as a ‛printer’s machine minder’.  After Walter’s death at the age of 47 in 1897, Maud brought her family back to Cambridge and by 1901 was living at 6 Queen’s Terrace, Norfolk Street (Petersfield), with seven of her children. It was there that Herbert was baptised in the church of St Andrew the Less on 12 April 1905.

In 1901, Herbert, aged 14, was apprenticed as a printer himself.  Since Herbert’s grandfather had been a ‛printer-electrotypist’ at the Cambridge University Press printing works on Silver Street, the family actually living in the Pitt Press building (across the road from St Botolph’s Church), and three of Herbert’s uncles were printers, the printing trade was very much in his blood.

Herbert Burrell, with Jessie and Eric

Sometime after 1901 Maud moved her family to 67 Maids Causeway, Cambridge, where they were living by 1911.  At some point between that move and 1911 Herbert returned to Essex, where he worked as a compositor.  On the day the 1911 census was taken, he was boarding at 43 Shoebury Road, East Ham with the Gratwick family.  Significantly, visiting on that day were Jessie Parsley and her sister Elsie May, aged 24 and 22, both of Cambridge.  We can only assume that Herbert had got to know Charles Henry Parsley, fire brigade fireman and carpenter-joiner, and his family, who lived at 1 Auckland Road, Chesterton and later at 8 Newmarket Road, while he was still in Cambridge.

Herbert and Jessie married on 11 April 1912 at the church of St Andrew the Less, where Jessie had been baptised on 18 December 1887.  The couple moved to West Ham, Essex, soon thereafter.  There they had a son, Eric Walter (1913‒91), born on 30 March 1913 and baptised at the church of St Andrew the Less on 11 May 1913.  At the time of the baptism, the family’s address was recorded as 70 Caulfield Road, East Ham, London.

Herbert Burrell: medal

At the age of 28 (thus probably in 1915), Herbert enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in East Ham, Essex, and served in the 2nd Battalion, attaining the rank of Lance Corporal.  His regimental number was R/12297.  He was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme on 23 July 1916, his death being commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.  Although presumably no bodily remains were identified, a packet of family photographs was found on the body of an enemy soldier and returned to Jessie (see illustration).  The packet, which Herbert had kept in his chest pocket, has a hole from the bullet that killed him.  Jessie later received his medal of honour and a letter of condolence from the King (see illustrations).

Herbert Burrell: royal letter of condolence

(Jessie subsequently married Thomas Rufus Duncan on 29 August 1918 at St Mark’s Church, Battersea Rise, Wandsworth.  Jessie, Thomas and Eric moved to Canada shortly afterwards, where the couple had two daughters.  Eric married Lilliam Esther Trotter (1913‒96).)

Herbert’s younger brother Percival was also killed while on active service in the war on 23 August 1918.  The names of both men are recorded on the Cambridge Guildhall Memorial.

England census returns 1891, 1901
England & Wales census return 1911
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837‒1915 (Herbert; Eric)
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837‒1915 (Walter/Maud; Herbert/Jessie)
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916‒2005 (Jessie/Duncan)
London, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754‒1932 (Jessie/Duncan)

British Army WWI Service Records, 1914‒1920
UK, Soldiers died in the Great War, 1914‒1919
UK, Commonwealth War Graves, 1914‒1921 and 1939‒1947

Church of St Andrew the Less, baptism (Jessie, Herbert, Percival, Eric) and marriage (Herbert/Jessie) registers
Church of St Botolph, burial register (Walter, Maud, Lilian Maud)

Private communications from Pat Hungerford, grand-daughter of Jessie Parsley and her second husband, Thomas Duncan

Ian Bent and Emma Easterbrook

Herbert Walter Burrell