Sir Samuel Roy (Ginger) BURSTON KBE, CB, DSO, KStJ, VD, MiD

BURSTON, Samuel Roy

Service Numbers: Officer, VX2
Enlisted: 25 March 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Major General
Last Unit: Headquarters (2nd AIF)
Born: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 21 March 1888
Home Town: Medindie, Walkerville, South Australia
Schooling: Melbourne C of E Grammar School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Medical Practioner
Died: Aortic aneurysm, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia, 21 August 1960, aged 72 years
Cemetery: Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Melbourne
Memorials: Adelaide Royal Adelaide Hospital WW1 Roll of Honour, Adelaide Treasurer and Chief Secretary Roll of Honour, The Adelaide Club Great War Roll of Honour, Victorian Garden of Remembrance
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World War 1 Service

25 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Major, Officer, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance, Melbourne, Victoria
23 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, Officer, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
23 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Major, Officer, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance, HMAT Borda, Melbourne
11 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, Officer, 7th Field Ambulance, ANZAC / Gallipoli
18 Sep 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel
7 Mar 1920: Discharged AIF WW1, Colonel, Officer, Army Medical Corps (AIF)

World War 2 Service

13 Oct 1939: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (WW2) , Major General, VX2
13 Oct 1939: Enlisted VX2, Melbourne, Victoria
14 Oct 1939: Involvement VX2
6 Jan 1948: Discharged Major General, VX2, Headquarters (2nd AIF)
6 Jan 1948: Discharged Australian Military Forces (WW2) , Major General, VX2

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

Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Excerpt from Blood Sweat and Fears: Medical Practitioners and Medical Students of South Australian who Served in World War 1. Courtesy of the Authors

Samuel Roy Burston was born in Melbourne on the 21st Match 1888, the fourth of seven children to James Burston, a soldier and businessman who served as Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1908 to 1910, and his wife Marianne, nee McBean. He graduated from the University of Melbourne MB BS in 1910. After graduation he worked at the Adelaide Children's Hospital in 1911 and in 1912 he served in the Northern Territory as a medical inspector of Aborigines with the Aboriginal Protection Board. He returned to Adelaide where he married Helen Elizabeth Culross on the 16th April 1913 in St Michael's Anglican Church, Mitcham. He took up general practice in Mile End, South Australia. Burston was also at the Adelaide Hospital and the Adelaide Children’s Hospital.

Burston enlisted in Adelaide on the 26th March 1915 as a 27 year old and his wife was named as his next of kin. He was 6ft 2ins tall, 12st 7lbs, with previous military service of 5 years as a Bugler in the Victorian Military Forces Militia and 21/2 years as Captain AAMC reserve.  He could ride a horse and had a speaking knowledge of French. He was appointed Major in the 4th LH FdAmb and embarked for Egypt on the 26th June 1915 to join the MEF at Gallipoli on the 4th September 1915. After 6 weeks he was admitted to the ANZAC Hospital with enteric fever, transferred to Egypt and then to England to the 3 Army Hospital for further treatment. After 11 months he resumed duty to France with the 11th FdAmb on the 24th November 1916. He was transferred to be the SMO, Australian General Base Depot and then promoted to lieutenant colonel in October 1917. Further postings were as CO 1 Aust Con Depot, and DDMS, Le Havre in August in 1918. He was Mentioned in Dispatches and, in 1917 awarded the DSO for supervision of an ADS during a prolonged gas attack. After the cease fire in November he became, as temporary colonel, and Assistant DMS, at the AIF Depots, UK. He returned to Australia on duty on the Orsova with his wife and 2 children on the 22nd November 1919 with his appointment terminated on the 7th March 1920. He was issued with the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal with Oak leaves.  He was appointed CBE in March 1920.

Burston was reappointed to the staff of the Adelaide Children's Hospital and the Royal Adelaide Hospital on returning to Adelaide in 1919; he also began lecturing at the University of Adelaide.  He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and then the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in the 1930s. Colonel Burston officially joined the 2nd AIF on the 13th October 1939, as Deputy Director of Medical Services (DDMS); he was promoted to Brigadier, and promoted to Major General on the 16th February 1941. Burston became DGMS at GHQ Australia on the 8th May 1942, which soon became Land Headquarters (LHQ). Burston was appointed KBE in the Military Division in 1952. Burston was involved in thoroughbred racing both as a punter and owner. As Chairman of the Moonee Valley Racing Club oversaw the construction of the Burston Grandstand. Sir Samuel Roy Burston died at his home in South Yarra from a ruptured aortic aneurysm on the 21st August 1960.  


Biography contributed by Annette Summers

Major General Burston KBE, CB, DSO, VD, KStJ, and medical coordination during WW2.

Burston was appointed DGMS LHQ in Melbourne in April 1942.  His new responsibilities were vast and involved all medical personnel and units in Australia, the Middle East, Ceylon and the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) including Papua New Guinea (PNG). The importance of medical coordination was demonstrated when Burston was DMS 2/AIF in the Middle East, in 1941.  At this time, there was an equipment supply crisis because of bureaucratic red tape, lack of production and storage facilities in Australia.  Therefore, in North Africa much good quality equipment captured from the Italian Army was utilised.  Burston personally saw the challenging conditions involving 6th Division Medical Units as well as the Australian General Hospitals, in Greece.  He had the difficult task of informing 2/5th AGH that many would stay in Greece after the Germans had over-run the country. His role as DMS AIF Middle East required continued mediation and negotiation to protect the interests of the medical services and soldiers whom they served.  His leadership skills and authority were widely recognised.  Field Marshal Sir Thomas Albert Blamey, GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, ED, Commander-in-Chief of the Australian forces, relied on him and later used his report on the health of the Australians in Tobruk for the relief of 9 Div and 18 Bde 7 Div in late 1941.   His leadership as DGMS, Australian Army, in the years from 1942 to 1945 were crucial to the Allied war effort. Initially, he had to publicise the role of the AAMC at a time of crisis and win the confidence of the public.  He developed the medical policies and practices which enabled the AAMC to provide the best possible medical support to the front-line soldiers.  Burston's most significant achievement was the battle against malaria which was by far the greatest disease threat in the South West Pacific Area.  This was especially so on the Kokoda Track, PNG, and at Milne Bay, PNG. He ensured that the measures proposed were implemented.  Burston appealed to General Blamey and to General Douglas Macarthur explaining that if the necessity of personal protective anti-mosquito measures and the use of medication as directed were not carried out by generals down to private soldiers, then “General Blamey would not have an Army to Command”.   His strategy led to the establishment of the Land Headquarters Medical Research Unit in Cairns, a vital achievement with the malaria rates falling by 95% in 3 months. Burston's personality and vast experience, as well as his ability to select and direct the activities of his chosen subordinates, contributed to his great success as the medical head of the Australian Army.  A tall and imposing figure, he was a man of charm and integrity.  Despite the trappings of office, he was approachable and retained the common touch. No other Australian Medical General has ever had to command such large numbers (35,000) and so many units (400), over such a vast area: Middle East, Australia, PNG, the Islands and Borneo.


Blood, Sweat and Fears III: Medical Practitioners South Australia, who Served in World War 2. 

Swain, Jelly, Verco, Summers. Open Books Howden, Adelaide 2019. 

Uploaded by Annette Summers AO RFD