Clarence Allen BURLING


BURLING, Clarence Allen

Service Numbers: 27, 27A
Enlisted: 10 January 1916
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 51st Infantry Battalion (WW1)
Born: Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia, August 1889
Home Town: Perth, Western Australia
Schooling: West Tamworth Public School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Coach builder
Died: Wounds, 3rd Casualty Clearing Station, Pozieres, Somme, France, 4 April 1917
Cemetery: Pozières British Cemetery
Plot II, Row D, Grave No. 20
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

10 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 27, 44th Infantry Battalion
6 Jun 1916: Involvement Private, SN 27, 44th Infantry Battalion
6 Jun 1916: Embarked Private, SN 27, 44th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Suevic, Fremantle
4 Apr 1917: Involvement Private, SN 27A, 51st Infantry Battalion (WW1)

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Francois Berthout

Pte 27A Clarence Allen Burling,
51st Australian Infantry Battalion,
13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division
Through the fields of the Somme, stand, immaculate and solemn, hundreds of white cities, serene and peaceful cemeteries where row upon row, rest in peace thousands of young men united forever in silence, in camaraderie and brotherhood with which they lived watching over each other and in which so many of them fell side by side in the shroud of poppies of northern France, a country they knew little but for which they gave their today in the trenches and the barbed wire and far from home, tall and proud, loyal and guided by the finest spirit of bravery, held firm to the front line in the prime of their lives which they sacrificed in the innocence of their youth and for us, for peace and freedom, gave their all and shed their blood to make prevail what men have best in themselves, our humanity. They were Australians, French, New Zealanders, British but beyond their nationalities or their rank, they were above all men whom I look at with the deepest feeling of respect when I walk in front of their graves and over whom I will always watch with infinite gratitude to keep their memory alive so that these men to whom we owe so much live forever.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and with the deepest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 27/A Clarence Allen Burling who fought in the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion, 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 106 years ago, on April 4, 1917 at the age of 27 on the Somme front.

Clarence Allen Burling was born in 1890 in Tamworth, New South Wales, and was the son of David and Clara Margaret Burling, of 85 Adelaide Street, Woollahra, New South Wales. He was educated at West Tamworth Public School and after graduation, worked as a coach builder until the outbreak of the war.

Clarence enlisted on January 10, 1916 in Perth, Western Australia, in the 44th Australian Infantry Battalion, A Company, and after a training period of just over four months, he embarked with his unit from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board HMAT A29 Suevic on June 6 and sailed for England where he arrived on August 10 and was taken on strength in the 11th Training Battalion then two months later, on October 7, Proceeded overseas for France.

On October 9, 1916, Clarence finally arrived in France and was disembarked at Etaples where he joined the 1st Australian Divisional Base Depot then less than ten days later, on October 28, was transferred to the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Murray Ross, and in which he fought until his death.

The 51st Battalion was raised in Egypt in 1916 as part of the process that was known as "doubling the AIF" to create the 4th and 5th Divisions. Following the evacuation from ANZAC and with recruits arriving from Australia in large numbers, it was decided to split the 1st Divison (1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades) and the 4th Brigade in two to create sixteen new or so-called "Pup" Battalions.The 3rd Brigade was split to create the 13th Brigade and together with the 4th and 12th Brigades comprised the new 4th Division.

On October 20, 1916, Clarence was therefore taken on strength in the 51st Battalion, in the trenches of St Eloi, in the salient of Ypres and occupied in this sector a trench called "Shelley Lane". It was here that Clarence saw for the first time, the use of tanks but which, in deep mud, were unable to fight effectively then, on October 23, were relieved by the 23rd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and marched for Reninghelst, reached Wippenhoek on October 25 then the railway station of Hopoutre from which they embarked for Gorenflos, in the Somme, where they arrived on October 28 and followed a training period here until November 3.
On November 4, 1916, Clarence and the 51st Battalion left Gorenflos and moved to Vignacourt, in the rear of the front, and followed new tactical exercises here, including trench attacks, then on November 7, during one of the coldest winters the Somme have ever known, the battalion marched to Buire-Sur-L'Ancre where they arrived the following day, reached Fricourt on 13 November, the "Pommiers Redoubt Camp" in Montauban on 14 November and Bernafay Wood, near Longueval on 15 November.Here, they were mainly employed in "Decauville railways work".The so-called "Decauville" trains were mainly used to transport ammunition and more specifically large caliber shells and despite the biting cold, the men of the 51st Battalion worked tirelessly on a railway line extending from Longueval to Montauban to Flers.On November 26, the 51st was relieved by the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion and moved to the front line at Flers where furious fighting took place a few days earlier in an attempt to capture, in this sector, an extremely well-fortified German trench system called "The Maze" and the 51st,in this sector of the front, occupied several trenches called "Switch Trench", "Gap trench" and "Hay Alley" directly under the fire of German machine guns and shells.

On December 2, 1916, still in Flers, the men of the 51st Battalion relieved the 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion and were placed on a line of support called "Bulls Road", in trenches described as "in good condition" then on December 6, were relieved by the 12th Australian Infantry Battalion and marched into billets at Buire where every man was medically inspected and many of them suffered from trench feet. A period of training followed, including short route marches, musketry range practice and received in the days that followed a reinforcement of 91 men. On December 19, the 51st moved back to Vignacourt where they received new reinforcements (79 men) and remained there until January 3, 1917.

On January 3, 1917, Clarence and his unit left Vignacourt and marched through Cardonette, Buire, Fricourt, and arrived in Bazentin, at "Bazentin Camp B", also called "Bendigo Camp" and were employed there in working and carrying parties, received new reinforcements, and built "Duckwalks", wooden paths connecting the lines and trenches to each other and which avoided the men having to walk with difficulty in the mud then on January 27, moved back to the front line of Flers where they relieved the 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion and again occupied the "Switch Trench" and the "Gap Trench" which they fortified with lines of barbed wire and fought in this sector until 16 February, when they were relieved by the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion and moved to "Perth Camp"near Bazentin where they rested until the end of the month.

On March 1, 1917, the 51st Battalion marched into billets at Buire where they reorganized in accordance with instructions received from headquarters and underwent a further period of training including trenches attacks under cover of intense artillery barrage in conjunction with the men of the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion then on March 21, moved to the "Mametz Camp". Less than a week later, on March 26, they joined a rest camp near Le Barque, on the Albert-Bapaume road and the next day, marched for Vaux-Vraucourt (Pas-De-Calais) then on April 1, moved to Noreuil where an attack against the enemy lines was planned for the following day.

In late February of 1917, the German Army in northern France retreated to the Hindenburg Line in order to shorten its line and thereby establish a more defensible position. British and dominion troops immediately followed-up this withdrawal. In order to delay their advance, and provide time for the Hindenburg Line defences to be fully prepared and manned, the Germans fortified numerous villages and towns on the approaches to the Hindenburg Line and established rearguards in them. Noreuil was one of these villages. It was attacked by the 50th and 51st Battalions, with the 49th and 52nd in support, on the morning of 2 April. Attacking to the north of the Noreuil, the men of the 51st advanced quickly past it and discovered a previously unknown, but unoccupied, trench between them and their objective,a sunken road to the east of the village. Encountering machine-gun fire from Noreuil, now behind them, they halted in the trench. The 50th, hooking through the village from the south, had encountered much heavier opposition. The parties detailed to "mop-up" the village proved too weak and were captured, allowing the Germans to attack the troops that had passed beyond it from the rear. Only after the battalion reserves were committed to the battle was the 50th able to secure positions to the south of the 51st. The sunken road, however, remained in German hands and was not occupied until they withdrew in the early hours of 3 April.

Unfortunately, it was on April 2, 1917, during the attack on Noreuil that Clarence met his fate and was seriously wounded by bullets from an enemy machine gun, one of which perfored his abdomen and another broke his left hummerus. He was immediately evacuated and admitted to the 13th Australian Field Ambulance then transferred to the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station in Pozieres, Somme, where he died of his injuries two days later, on April 4, 1917 at the age of 27.

Today, Clarence Allen Burling rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers-La-Boisselle, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "In loving memory of the only son of Mr and Mrs Burling of Perth."

Clarence, it was at the dawn of a life filled with dreams, expectations and hopes that with determination and conviction, for your country and your loved ones, you answered the call of an entire nation, of all freedom-loving peoples, at the call of duty to do your part alongside your comrades, to fight side by side around causes that brought together a whole generation of young men who, together, without distinction of age, without distinction of rank, marched and fought in the name of peace and freedom to make prevail the light of a better world then with their heads held high and their valiant hearts they left all they had, the warmth of their homes, the love of their families, the tender arms of their fiancées, of their mothers, the beauty of a nation that had seen them born and grow up for an unknown destination, for an uncertain future but they were determined and ready to move forward for this war to end all wars and with their best mates, on steamboats, sailed the ocean, on what would be the last voyage of thousands of them but not one of them remained behind, not a single one of them left their comrades alone and proud under their slouch hats, their eyes turned towards the future and towards a dark horizon they arrived in France and marched together behind their officers, the bagpipes and the buglers punctuating their steps through the villages whose houses were destroyed by the fury of a devastating artillery but when they came to the Somme, they saw young children, the people of France who greeted them with a tender warmth in their eyes. The young Diggers brought with them their good humor but they also brought a new hope that nothing broke and here they became more than men who came from the other side of the world, they became our sons, adopted and loved deeply by the French families who had lost their children in the war. Far from home, they found in the Somme, in Amiens, in Villers-Bretonneux, the love of a whole country which gave them strength and courage, a reason to fight and joined the trenches, the mud, the battlefields of Pozieres which was the first major but also the deadliest engagement of the Australian Imperial Force in the Somme and under the bullets, under the shells, in the barbed wire, in seven weeks of a hell never seen before, lost 23,000 of them but despite this cataclysm, this apocalypse and these sacrifices, they never lost their faith and their courage, their determination never broke.Together, in a bond of sacred camaraderie, guided by the ANZAC spirit, an esprit de corps, mateship, brotherhood, courage and unity in the face of adversity, a spirit of common endeavour, gallantry and sacrifices, they watched over each other and despite their fears, despite torrents of blood, despite rains of bullets and hails of shells flying all around them, they went over the top and charged with the most exceptional bravery Beyond the parapets, running, stumbling and falling in the barbed wire, in the shell holes facing the enemy trenches and despite the sight of their friends who fell, mowed down in a last dash, they went further under a hellfire until November 11th sounded the end of the war, the end of the carnage but when they looked behind them, they saw what their unfailing commitment cost, they saw their comrades, their brothers lying lifeless and in silence in fields turned gray, their rifles still in hand, as if beyond death they were still ready to do their duty in this mud in which they lived and fought for four horrible years but today, more than a hundred years after the end of the great war, these forever young men rest in peace side by side on the soils of a friendly country for which they did and sacrificed so much, for which they gave their , their lives, their everything through the poppies on which they stand silent and solemn and remind us every day what was the price of the peace in which we live thanks to them then with the deepest respect, with dedication, with love and gratitude, I will always watch over them, I will always take the greatest care of the memory of the young Diggers and their brothers in arms who fought and fell on these sacred grounds of the Somme on which I would always proudly carry high and proud the flame of the ANZAC spirit, the flame of remembrance to keep forever in its light these young men to whom we owe so much. Thank you so much Clarence, for all that you, your comrades and Australia had done for us who will watch over you forever with love like our sons. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them.