George BURNS

Badge Number: S48565, Sub Branch: Barmera

BURNS, George

Service Numbers: 3043, S75017
Enlisted: 5 August 1915
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 8th (SA) Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC)
Born: Mundalla, South Australia, 25 October 1892
Home Town: Mundulla, Tatiara, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Farm Labourer
Died: 20 February 1966, aged 73 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Derrick Garden of Remembrance, Shrub Bed 3, Position 1
Memorials: Bordertown Men who Enlisted from Mundalla Roll of Honor, Mundulla Methodist Church Honor Roll, Mundulla Soldiers Memorial Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

5 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3043, 27th Infantry Battalion
12 Jan 1916: Involvement Private, SN 3043, 27th Infantry Battalion
12 Jan 1916: Embarked Private, SN 3043, 27th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Medic, Adelaide
11 Dec 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3043, 2nd Machine Gun Battalion

World War 2 Service

20 Apr 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Captain, SN S75017, 8th (SA) Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC)
13 Dec 1945: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Captain

Help us honour George Burns's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by N. Campbell

Any story about George Burns (MM) is not complete without mentioning the service of his sons, John BURNS (MM) and George BURNS (Jnr). 


The Burns Family and service.

George BURNS was born at Mundulla, South Australia on the 25th October 1892 to Mr and Mrs John BURNS.  His father was a farmer in the area.

George was a labourer before he enlisted. On the 5th of August 1915, George enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force at ADELAIDE. He proceeded immediately to Mitcham camp. On enlistment he was described as 22years 10 months old, 5’9 ¼” tall, with medium complexion, grey eyes and dark hair. He listed himself as “Single” on the papers.

He was a Private with the 27th Infantry Battalion when on the 12th of January 1916 they embarked aboard the HMAT A7 “MEDIC” troopship from Adelaide. He served with the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion.

On the 15th June 1916 George was taken on strength of the 27th Battalion and was part of the 2nd Machine gun section.  Fighting was fierce and George was recognised for his bravery for events that occurred on the 5th November 1916 north of Fluers.

The citation read: -

'For gallantry and resource shown by him during attack on German position north of FLERS, on morning of 5th November 1916, and for devotion to duty in the way he assisted in getting the Machine guns into action. He then, under heavy shell fire, carried messages back to our trenches, returning with ammunition, continuing to do so until the guns were brought back. He also bandaged his wounded Officer and 6 other infantry who were lying close by.'

For that action George Burns was awarded a Military Medal, he was advised of this in early 1917.  Around the same time, he was transferred from the front to hospital for a “debility” (Several others in this area were affected by gas attack around this time so it is possible he was gassed.)


In August 1917 the Border Chronicle published this article: -

“The following extracts are from a letter received from Pte. G. Burns, M.M., 7th Machine Gun section, Hurdcott, England, by his brother, Mr R. Burns, of Mundulla.

“We are having very stirring times here. I was in London last Wednesday during the most terrible air raid ever made on England. The damage was considerable but the most frightful of all spectacles was the fiendish manner in which bombs were dropped upon a large school, killing and injuring many innocent children—of course this is nothing for Germans as we know only too well.

I had only just arrived in London on my way to Northampton when the business started, as our train pulled into a certain station, they bombed a train about two chains away getting her fair in the centre.

There were fifteen taube planes and they presented a beautiful sight as they flew over in battle formation at a height of about 15 thousand feet. They were spread out in fan fashion with a single pilot leading. It was a most beautiful sight and excelled anything which I have ever seen. Our airplanes are just as good and capable of equivalent work, but the Taube is much more graceful, like a swallow.

The pity of it is that all made good their escape. I shall be surprised if our airman do not reciprocate in a few days. It is my belief that the Allies should lower to the ground every German town within reach.

Air craft are taking a very big place in the conduct of this war and I believe are destined to take an even greater, perhaps make the final decision. The fighting is still terrible on the Western front and the Australians are right in the thick of it, and I guess will remain there to the end. “

On the 1st January 1918 George was made Temporary Corporal.  Unfortunately, George suffered and was hospitalised a few more times. On 13th September 1918 he reverted to the rank of Private.

George returned to Australia on HMAT Saxon, arriving on the 13th February 1919. He was discharged on the 15th May 1919 as “medically unfit for further service”. By this time, he had served for 3 years and 280 days in the AIF.

On the 7th March 1919 a homecoming and welcome social was held at the Mundulla Hall for George and other returning soldiers.

By November 1919 George had moved to Barmera where a meeting of men decided to start a local branch of the R.S.A. George was elected as Secretary.


Getting married to Dorothy Chappie.

Georges wedding was celebrated at the Winkie (near Berri) Church of Christ on 22nd December 1919 when Pastor C. Hunt married him to Miss Dorothy Chappie. Theirs was the first wedding in the church.  They travelled to Bordertown for their honeymoon.


On the 14th October 1920 the BURNS’ still living at Lake Bonney, had a son, John, at the Renmark Hospital. In later years John was joined by twin girls, Patricia and Peggy and another son, George Jnr.


In 1927 George BURNS was appointed Water Master for the Waikerie and Cadell Irrigation districts and moved to live at Waikerie. He joined the local RSSILA branch and was an active member in all civic affairs around the town.

George served with the Militia groups in the Riverland and held the rank of Captain.

Captain George BURNS was elected as the second president of the Waikerie branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) this later was renamed the Retuned Serviceman’s Association (RSA), and is now called the Returned & Serviceman’s League (RSL) when the inaugural President, Major Thomas HEMING resigned to enlist in the Second AIF in 1940.

John and George Jnr enlist.

Captain BURNS was also heavily involved in other services and organisations around the town.  John and George BURNS Junior both enlisted in the Army in World War 2.

George Jnr was only young and served in Australia and in the Pacific region. John fought in the Middle East and New Guinea with the 2/27th Battalion (His fathers battalion).

John BURNS followed his father into the 27th Battalion but also followed his father and was awarded the Military Medal.

Military Medal

The citation for John read:_

SX 4556 Cpl. John Henry Burns, A.I.F., by his conduct in the Owen Stanley Ranges and at Gona has earned the admiration of and set an example for all members of the Unit. He has displayed the highest qualities of courage, unselfishness, cheerful obedience, arid devotion to duty, which have done much to improve the morale of his comrades.

In September 1942, Burns was one of a party who had been cut off by the enemy and compelled to proceed from Efogi to Itiki along a dangerous track through the Owen Stanley Ranges carrying on stretchers several wounded personnel.

During the first 10 days of this hazardous journey Cpl. Burns worked untiringly in assisting to carry the stretchers across almost impassable ravines, and by his cheerfulness encouraged many of his weakening comrades to carry the wounded to safety.

Cpl Burns impressed all by his devoted efforts to comfort the men, adjusting the dressings on their wounds regularly, and providing them with, food and water, when other bearers had given in with exhaustion and " lack of food. Eventually when a place was reached safe from enemy patrolling it was decided to leave the stretcher cases in a native garden, while the balance of the party went to arrange succour for the wounded, Cpl. Burns volunteered to remain with one stretcher bearer and care for the wounded.

During ten days of waiting Cpl. Burns did much to, relieve the suffering of the wounded, did his utmost to shelter them from heat and flies by day, and wet arid cold by night, and, in spite of his own weakness, he made desperate attempts to forage food from native gardens.


Two of the wounded men died, and using his bayonet and steel, helmet, he scraped for each of them a grave.

The party was threatened by the proximity of enemy patrols, and yet Cpl. Burns always presented a cheerful appearance arid buoyed up their spirits by giving talks on the Bible and other topics. By his actions he relieved: the pain of those who had been mortally wounded and saved the lives of many others. ...

Bravery and wounded

At Gona, Cpl. Burns' showed exceptional courage by carrying his portable wireless set into action and. maintaining communications under heavy fire until he was wounded.”

John BURNS was wounded in the hand and later re-joined his unit. Both the BURNS boys survived the war.

George Snrs mother was very proud, boasting in the newspaper of her son, grandson and Son in law having been awarded Military Medals!     

George had re-enlisted at Waikerie as soon as the Volunteer Defence Corps began and was promoted to Captain, serving until the completion of the war.  He had also been President of the Local Repatriation Committee, deputy chairman of the War Funds Committee, Waikerie Hospital Board, and Emergency Transport Control Boards.

In 1944 George was promoted to the position of District Irrigation Officer for the Waikerie and Cadell Irrigation Scheme areas. (another promotion but for the same area which had expanded).

George BURNS was also a Justice of the Peace often sitting in judgement in the Waikerie Court. On May 5th, 1947 Waikerie Council passed a resolution to start a Fire Brigade in Waikerie, As early as 1922 efforts to begin a volunteer Fire brigade in the town had failed.

At the inaugural town meeting, Captain BURNS offered to commence as the first Brigade Captain of the Waikerie Emergency Fire Service for a period of one year to get it established.  He was voted in unopposed.

By December 1947 Waikerie Brigade was selected from the Riverland Region to represent the brigades in competitions in Adelaide. Despite being less than six months old the brigade won the Wet Drill competition and just missed a place in the overall finals.  This was very much a credit to George BURNS who in turn said the credit belonged to his Second in Charge, Mr Stan TRUSCOTT (also a returned serviceman).

In February 1948 George BURNS resigned as Officer in Charge of the Waikerie Fire Brigade. By this time, they had applied for and been granted two air raid sirens for use in the town area as a fire warning system, had the funds to build a Fire shelter (for the equipment) approved by Council and they had begun recruiting and training more individuals around the town.

Such was the respect of the men for Mr BURNS that, at their insistence, a position of “President of the Waikerie Fire Brigade” was made and George BURNS was elected to it. Stan TRUSCOTT was elected Brigade Captain. (A position he held for in excess of 15 years!)

On July 30th, 1948, Mr HINCKS, the Minister for Irrigation, assisted by George BURNS opened the Loxton War Service settlement Irrigation scheme. This opened 9,000 acres for settlement by ex-servicemen.

In February 1949, George BURNS was appointed resident Superintendent of Irrigation and left Waikerie to reside in Barmera. A social function was held where many of the people from town turned out and farewelled Mr and Mrs BURNS.

Mr and Mrs BURNS later retired to Lower Mitcham in Adelaide. On the 20th of February 1966, George BURNS passed away aged 73 years of age.  He was cremated in a private ceremony at the Centennial Park Cemetery two days later.

George BURNS ashes are interred at the “Derrick Gardens of Remembrance”, at Shrub Bed 3, Position 001. He had served over 7 years in uniform during time the nation was at war, and his contribution to the local Waikerie community was immense.

LEST WE FORGET such service by one family!