Fascinating history of Kettering war hero discovered

A Kettering war hero's '˜startling' history has been discovered more than 130 years after he died.

Thursday, 11th October 2018, 6:00 am
Jason Robinson (right) with his mum's third cousin removed Richard Burton, who he met for the first time, at their ancestor's grave. NNL-181010-103737005

John Burton served for 25 years in the Army, including as a private at the Battle of Balaclava made famous by the Charge of the Light Brigade poem.

With his war medals remaining in the family, Private 624 Burton’s great-great-great-grandson Jason Robinson set out 15 years ago to find out about his ancestor’s achievements.

Jason, who lives in Aldershot, said: “We had the medals in our family which have been passed down through generations.

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Pte Burton's grave. NNL-181010-103459005

“When I found out about his history I was quite startled.

“I was taken aback by what he’d achieved and seen.”

John Burton was born in Kettering in 1810 and worked as a farm labourer before joining the Army.

He enlisted at Queen’s Square for the 11th Hussars in London on January 15, 1830, and was described as 5ft 6in with brown eyes and brown hair and with a fair complexion.

Pte Burton's war medals. NNL-181010-102745005

Pte Burton was one of the soldiers who escorted Prince Albert to his wedding with Queen Victoria, and spent seven years in India.

In 1854 he sailed with his regiment to the Bulgarian port of Varna, where he was hospitalised, before being sent the Crimea.

He was at the Battle of Balaclava, led by the 7th Earl of Cardigan and made famous by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, and also fought in the Battle of Inkerman.

Pte Burton was also at the first siege of Sebastopol where a Chinese bronze cannon was captured which was, and still is, used to forge the Victoria Cross.

Fred Mason's grave. NNL-181010-103509005

After the Battle of Balaclava Pte Burton and 71 other men were given compulsory medical discharge. He was discharged at Chatham in May 1855.

He was granted a £5 gratuity and a pension of 1 1/2d per day.

He died on October 27, 1884, at the age of 74 and was buried in Kettering’s London Road Cemetery.

He will now be remembered at a special service, conducted by the Rev David Walsh, on October 25 – exactly 164 years since the Battle of Balaclava.

Jason said: “He was born in Kettering and came back to Kettering.

“But he’s been a man’s name on a forgotten Victorian grave until now.

“We’ll be remembering him and giving back his identity to mark exactly 164 years since the Battle of Balaclava.”

Pte Burton had varicose veins and rheumatic pains and when he was discharged at the age of 45, he was the oldest private in the regiment.

He was in possession of four good conduct badges and was awarded the Long Service medal, Good Conduct medal, Turkish medal and Crimean War medal.

Using the Crimean War medal and making contact with his distant cousin Richard Burton, Jason researched his ancestor and managed to obtain his pension book and military record from the Public Records Office in Kew.

Most of the information was discovered in the past 12 months, 15 years after Jason first began to look.

He said: “When I first looked into it I didn’t even know where to start.”

On his return to Kettering Pte Burton went on to work for Viscountess Mary Isabella Hood, the grandmother of Sir Horace Hood who was killed in action at the Battle of Jutland aboard HMS Invisible.

Jason, who “dipped his toe” in the Royal Navy before moving on to another career, says other ancestors of his also played their part in military history.

Pte Burton’s grandson Fred Mason served in the Royal Engineers and may well have worked for MI5 in Whitehall in 1929.

And another private, Pte 1529 William Burton from the 1th Hussars, was born in nearby Thrapston.

He died in Crimea on October 18, 1854, a week before the Battle of Balaclava, and was one of the regiment’s youngest soldiers at the age of 16.

Jason believes John and William Burton were related in some way, be it cousins or as uncle and nephew.

Pte Burton will be remembered at the London Road cemetery service at 11am on October 25.

A trumpeter will play the full cavalry version of The Last Post.

Refreshments will be served afterwards at Barton Hall, where Pte Burton worked.