Christopher Stigant Burt
Corporal Christopher Stigant Burt, regimental Number 2000497, of the 1/4th Hampshire (T.F.) Battalion, was killed in action at the Hanna Defile (Umm-el-Hannah) in Mesopotamia, on the 21st January 1916.
Christopher was born on the 10th March 1892 in Southwark, London, to Christopher George Hirons Burt and Clara Eliza Burt (nee Stigant). In the census of 1901 the family was living at 55, Ripley Road (or Place, the writing is difficult to decipher). Christopher’s father was recorded as George in this census. His occupation appears to be copper gauger but as this has been written over it is impossible to say for sure. There was a cable making factory close to where the family was living so perhaps this was where he was employed. Christopher (9) was the oldest child who was living at home with his parents. There were four younger siblings also living there, William (7), Lilly (5), Samuel (3) and Miriam (9mths).
Unusually Christopher was not baptised as a baby, but when he was 16 in 1908, he was baptised in Swindon along with his 14 year old brother William. They were living at 244, Ferndale Road, and their father was recorded as a traveller. This probably referred to a travelling salesman.
By 1911 the family had moved to 198, Ferndale Road, Swindon, Wiltshire. According to the census return this was a house with six rooms, not including bathroom, landing, lobby or scullery. Christopher’s father, now listed as Christopher rather than George as in 1901, was a draper’s assistant. Christopher, at 19, was a student teacher with the Borough Council. Samuel and Miriam were school students and there were new additions to the family, Clyde Thomas (7), Horace James (2) and Ralph George (6 mths). Lilly, who would now have been 15 is not on this census. Clara is recorded to have had 10 children by 1911, 9 of whom had survived. There is a possibility that Lilly was the child who died but neither a death record nor the 1911 census record for her has been found to date. There must also have been 3 older siblings who were not accounted for in the 1901 census.
Preparing for a Career in Teaching
By the time Christopher was thinking of a job in the teaching profession the old system of a five year apprenticeship as a pupil teacher had changed. The school leaving age had been raised to 15 and there was an alternative route into teaching. Students could take an examination to qualify for a bursary. This would enable them to remain in school studying for another year. Following their time as a bursar they could then become a student teacher prior to applying for entry to a training school. This is the route that Christopher took. In 1908 the Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle reported that the Swindon Education Committee had decided that Christopher was not eligible for a bursary but as he wanted to become a teacher they awarded him a scholarship, of free education and £12, to enable him to continue his studies. The following year the newspaper reported that he would be awarded the bursary with a maintenance grant of £30 on the condition that he would serve for one year as a student teacher after his bursary expired. In 1910 the paper had an article on prize winners which included Christopher passing an examination in drawing the outline of a plant. (find out more about the Teacher & Training College here)
Winchester Training College
Winchester Training College photograph courtesy of Alwyn Ladell
In 1911 Christopher began his two years of training at Winchester Diocesan Training College. The College magazine, The Wintonian 1910-1914, had a report in the Territorials section about the shooting competition. Private Eason was awarded first prize with a score of 74 points and Christopher was second with a score of 72. Christopher was the Treasurer of the Sports’ Club in his time at College. He was also reported as attending the first Winton Reunion Meeting in London for the group of students who had attended College between the years of 1911-13.
After completing his course at College Christopher got his first teaching appointment at a Church of England school in Whitton, Twickenham, Middlesex.
Christopher enlisted in the 1/4th Hampshire (T.F.) Battalion in Winchester. We have been unable to find an attestation date but a newspaper report in the Middlesex Chronicle in October 1914 includes Christopher on its’ Roll of Honour of Whitton men:
…Over 80 from our village are with the Forces of the King, … Bravo Whitton!
The same local newspaper in November of the following year reported:
Lately no news has been received in the village from Mr. C.S. Burt, who before joining the 4th Hants Regiment in August 1914 was assistant master to Mr .H.E. Brown at the Church of England Schools. After a period of training in this country he went to Poona and from there to Rawal Pindi, and it may be credibly supposed that he is now with the Persian Gulf Expeditionary Force.
Panel of the Basra War Memorial showing Corporal C S Burt
Photograph courtesy Royal Hampshire Regiment
One Company of the Regiment were besieged at Kut-al-Amara. In an attempt to free them the Relief Force was formed, the 7th (Meerut) Division, comprising amongst others, the rest of the 1/4th Hants .They were under the command of Major-General Sir G.Younghusband. In January 1916 the first attempt to relieve Kut began. Their first major encounter with the Turkish Army was at Shaikh-Saad, on the 6th January, where they forced the Turks to withdraw, but at the cost of 600 Relief Force lives. They continued their advance towards Kut and next met the Turks, on the 13th January, at the Wadi, nine miles upstream from Shaikh-Saad. The Relief Force was victorious and the Turks withdrew again, this time to their defensive positions at the Hanna Defile. Weather conditions did nothing to help an army attempting to advance. There had been heavy rain and the ground was so heavy with mud that all movement was hampered.
The sensible course of action would have been to delay attacking at Hanna until weather conditions improved and until they had better intelligence on Turkish defensive positions and strength. The pressure to continue the advance, however, was intense as the reports emanating from Major-General Townshend at Kut suggested that the food supplies were rapidly running out. For some units, such as the 1/4th Hants, there were compelling personal reasons to want to advance as quickly as possible towards Kut. Some of their friends were amongst those besieged there. Between the 18th and 20th January the Relief Force manoeuvred into position ready to mount their attack. This allowed the Turkish forces extra time to strengthen their positions. A combination of poor intelligence, underestimation of the enemy, both in their numbers and their ability, and the physical conditions of the terrain which offered no natural cover, plus the mud, all contributed to the heavy loss of life suffered by the Relief Force. The 1/4th Hants suffered badly on the 21st January at Hanna. Amongst the 60 Fallen from Winchester Training College, more died at Hanna, or were taken prisoner on that day, than any other during the course of the Great War. Their numbers make up 1/12th of the total number of fallen alumni. The Relief Force failed in their attempt to remove the Turks from their positions at Hanna. Of the 16 officers and 339 other ranks of the 1/4th Hants, 13 and 275 respectively were lost on that day. Christopher was killed in action.
The Middlesex Chronicle published on Saturday 13th May 1916, carried the following article which showed that several months after his death, they were still awaiting news.
News of Whitton Warriors
The fate of another popular figure in the village who donned khaki immediately after the first call to arms, and of whom nothing has for some time been heard, is giving rise to much anxiety. He is Cpl Christopher S Burt, of the 4th (Territorial) Batt of the Hants Regt. Twelve months before the outbreak of the war he came to the Whitton Church of England Schools straight from Winchester Training College, as an assistant master, and in addition to becoming a favourite with the children, of whom he had the educational care, he earned the esteem and regard of all connected with the local company of the Church Lad’s Brigade (which he commanded up to the time of his joining the forces) and the Whitton Athletic Club, and the zeal he exercised in promoting the welfare of the schoolboys in the matter of sport added to his popularity. After serving with his regiment for a time on Salisbury Plain he proceeded to India, where he remained until the spring of last year, eventually joining the force sent to the relief of General Townshend, under command of General Nixon. On January 16th this year he wrote a card to Mr H.E. Brown (the headmaster of the schools), stating that he was quite well, and adding “letter follows at first opportunity”. The card arrived safely, but the promised letter has not been received, neither has any other communication, other than the official announcement that Cpl Burt is missing, which it is sincerely hoped will mean the warrior is safe as a prisoner.
Corporal Christopher Burt is commemorated at Basra and at Swindon, Wiltshire.
Researcher and Author: Dee Sayers
Ancestry (2018) Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018]
Ball, D & M. Photograph
British Newspaper Archive (2018). Middlesex Chronicle – Saturday 13 May 1916. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000227/19160513/044/0003 [Accessed 2018]
Alwyn Ladell photography. (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.flickr.com/photos/alwyn_ladell/ [Accessed 2018]
Kut 1916 The Forgotten British Disaster in Iraq by Patrick Crowley
The Royal Hampshire Regimental Museum archives, Serles House, Southgate St, Winchester SO23 9EG
Vickers, J. The University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image
War Memorials & Roll of Honours Swindon, Wiltshire. (2018). Home page. Available at: www.oodwooc.co.uk/ph_sw_warmemorials.htm [Accessed 2018]
|University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office|
|47M91W/||P2/4||The Wintonian 1899-1900|
|47M91W/||P2/5||The Wintonian 1901-1902|
|47M91W/||P2/6||The Wintonian 1903-1904|
|47M91W/||P2/7||The Wintonian 1904-1906|
|47M91W/||P2/8||The Wintonian 1905-1907|
|47M91W/||P2/10||The Wintonian 1908-1910|
|47M91W/||P2/11||The Wintonian 1910-1914|
|47M91W/||P2/12||The Wintonian 1920-1925|
|47M91W/||D1/2||The Student Register|
|47M91W/||S5//5/10||Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia|
|47M91W/||Q3/6||A Khaki Diary|
|47M91W/||B1/2||Reports of Training College 1913-1914|
|47M91W/||Q1/5||Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949|
|47M91W/||R2/5||History of the Volunteers Company 1910|
|47M91W/||L1/2||College Rules 1920|
|Hampshire Record Office archive|
|71M88W/6||List of Prisoners at Kut|
|55M81W/PJ1||Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903|
|All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.|