Burnham Green At War

Great War

The War Memorial at All Saints Church, Datchworth lists the names of thirteen men who fell during the Great War.  Of those thirteen, six either came from Burnham Green or had strong Burnham Green connections.


John Bennett died 10/3/1918 aged 19

The son of George and Florence Bennett of Burnham Green, John had two brothers and two sisters.    He must have signed up with the Lincolnshire Regiment along with his schoolfriend, Stanley Arnold towards the end of the War.  Their Regimental numbers are only 11 apart. 
John lasted even less time in the trenches than his friend, dying on 28th March 1918.  His body now lies in the Hermies Hill British Cemetery, just a few miles away from Stanley’s grave in Lebucquiere.  As well as the usual personal details, the gravestone also bears a special message from John’s family “Not lost but gone before”.  A rose was placed on his grave in May 2014.
John’s younger brother, Edward, always known as Ted, lived in Burnham Green for many years after the War.


William Ellis died 6/4/1918 aged 25

William Ellis was a 16 year old farm labourer living with his Auntie Mary and various cousins in Burnham Green at the time of the 1911 Census.  One of the cousins was Joshua Threader, who lived in Bramfield Road, Datchworth for many years.
They had all moved here as a family from Water End Farm, Sandridge, where William was born. 
Like several local people, he joined the Bedfordshire Regiment and died at the age of only 25 on 6 April 1918. His body lies in the Gommecourt British Cemetery No 2, in Hebuterne near Arras in Northern France and a rose was placed on the grave in May 2014.

Bill Hipgrave died 23/10/1918 aged 25

Walter Hipgrave died 30/8/1919 aged 19

Born in Burnham Green in 1888, the son of cowman, Henry Hipgrave, William was a twelve-year-old schoolboy living in Burnham Green Lane with two younger brothers, Robert and Walter, two younger sisters, Mabel and Mary and an older sister, Emily at the time of the April 1901 Census. The following year, he had another brother, Herbert, who went on to live in White Horse Lane, Burnham Green later until his death in about 1980.
William’s younger brother, Walter served in the Machine Gun Corps and was repatriated to England to hospital on October 2, 1918 while William was still fighting.  This must have been a shock to his large family.  But worse was to come.
William, who had joined the Norfolk Regiment, was killed tragically in the “final push” on 23rd October 1918, only two weeks before the end of the War.  This news would have come just as the family were concerned about the fate of Walter, whose Service Record shows he died in hospital of Meningitis on 30th August 1919. 
Whilst Walter’s name does not appear on the War Memorial, nevertheless, he has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestone in the west part of the Datchworth All Saints graveyard.   Both William and Walter were awarded the Victory medal posthumously.
William’s name appears on the Memorial at Vis en Artois in Northern France and a rose was laid near his name in May 2014.


Albert Tyler died 16/3/1917 aged 35

The son of Charles Tyler, a Datchworth Railway plate layer, Albert had two older brothers, George and Edward. 
He was married in 1906 to Alice Mary Ewington of Burnham Green and they were living in Watton Lane, Datchworth at the time of the 1911 Census with their three children, Albert John aged 5, Ernest William aged 3 and Gladys Amy aged 1. 
Albert went off to War with the First Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment and died on 16 March 1917.  He now lies buried in the Cambrin Military Cemetery in northern France.
After his death, he was awarded the Victory Medal, British War Medal and the 1915 Star (for service in France and Flanders).


Cecil Tyler died 14/8/1916 aged 19

The son of William and Dinah Tyler of Burnham Green, Cecil was still at school at the age of 13 and living in Burnham Green with his two sisters and five brothers when the 1911 Census was taken. 
He followed his brothers, Ted and Ernie (who joined the Leicestershire Regiment) and Lewis (who joined the Bedfordshires) and went off to War in the 7th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. Albert Tyler (also on the Memorial) was, in fact, not closely related to them.
There is a story that Lewis met Ted and Ernie in the Trenches and the story made the British Newspapers, but the news story has not yet been found.  Cecil’s parents were to receive the terrible news of his death at the age of only 19. John Lisles (also on the Datchworth Memorial) wrote to Cecil’s Mother when Cecil was killed. 
Cecil now lies in Northern France in the Ration Farm Military Cemetery at La Chapelle d’Armentieres.  His brothers, Ted, Ernie and Lewis survived the War. Cecil’s grave is unusual in that it does not just record the usual bare details of name, rank, regiment number and date of death.  His parents selected the following personal message, which is engraved at the foot of his stone: “Thy will be done.  ‘Tis hard to say, when those you love are called away.  Mother and Dad”

Those who lived

Of course, apart from those who died, many more went to War and came home again.  We are compiling a list of those who went to War and returned.  So far, we only have the following names, but are sure there must have been many more.

Ted Tyler

Ernie Tyler

Lewis Tyler

Bill Archer

We are hoping we'll find out more from the 1921 Census now that it is published. Meanwhile, what can you tell us about them?


Second World War

The Second World War also took its toll of men from Burnham Green.  Of the four Second World War names that appear on the Datchworth War Memorial, Robert Francis Brownsell was from Burnham Green. 

The son of Charles and Amy Brownsell of Burnham Green, Robert Brownsell was born in 1917 and grew up a keen footballer, playing for the renowned Burnham Green Football Club before the War.  He is listed in the Football Club Minutes as playing in the 1937/38 season, when they played in the Hertford and District Junior League (1st Division), the Welwyn Garden City Hospital Cup, Knebworth Nursing Cup and the Graphic Cup.  It is not known for sure, but he probably played when the team won the Welwyn Garden City Hospital Cup for the first time in 1938.

Soon after, he joined the First Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment as a Private.  He was the only member of Burnham Green Football Club not to return from the War.  He was killed in action in Germany, tragically near to the end of the War on 1st March 1945, little knowing that VE Day was just two months away. 

Robert is now buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, just the German side of the Dutch border. As well as being remembered on the Datchworth War Memorial, his name is also engraved on a family gravestone in the Datchworth churchyard.


Air Raid Shelters

During the Second World War, air raid shelters were much in demand.  In London, the Tube network was used at time of air Raids.  Being an agricultural community, Burnham Green air raid shelters were made of straw bales.  Whilst they were reasonably warm and provided some noise insulation, they were generally considered a great fire risk, especially as heating was provided by way of paraffin heaters!

There were two such shelters on the Green and, at the end of the War, they were burned down as part of the celebrations.


Flying bombs

During the later part of WW2, Doodlebugs, the dreaded German flying bombs, were aimed at the Digswell viaduct with the aim of disrupting the main communication route between London, York and Edinburgh.  Many of these would have flown right over Burnham Green and, despite many explosions evidenced by craters in the woods, the viaduct is standing to this day.


Tanks on the Green

 There is a story that British tanks arrived once and parked on Burnham Green.  But we have no more details.  Do you know anything about this?


German pilot

Lily Brice told a story of a German pilot who was shot down over Burnham Green.  He landed in the field behind Two Oaks Drive and gave himsellf up to locals without a fight.


Parcels for the troops

Burnham Green Football Team, which had considerable success during the 1930's, had garnered the men of the village into a tight knit unit. The outbreak of War saw many of them go off to serve their country.  Those who remained, either too young or too old to fight, formed the Burnham Green Social and Welfare Committee, which raised money locally and sent parcels of food and clothing to the troops. After the War, it went on to purchase the Village Hall and secure it for the village.