Alfred Sydney BURVETT

BURVETT, Alfred Sydney

Service Number: 157
Enlisted: 7 March 1915, 2 years Citizen Forces, Shell sowing
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 24th Infantry Battalion
Born: Benalla, Victoria, Australia, February 1895
Home Town: Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Carlton State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Silversmith
Died: Killed in Action, Pozieres, France, 24 August 1916
Cemetery: Courcelette British Cemetery
Plot V, Row D, Grave No. 12
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

7 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 157, 24th Infantry Battalion, 2 years Citizen Forces, Shell sowing
10 May 1915: Involvement Private, 157, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '14' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Euripides embarkation_ship_number: A14 public_note: ''
10 May 1915: Embarked Private, 157, 24th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Melbourne
24 Aug 1916: Involvement Sergeant, 157, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 157 awm_unit: 24 Battalion awm_rank: Sergeant awm_died_date: 1916-08-24
1 Jul 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 24th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Sgt 157 Alfred Sydney Burvett
24th Australian Infantry Battalion, A Company,
6th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division
Through the silence of the green fields of the Somme bathed in peace and light rise solemn and eternal in remembrance, the white graves of a whole generation of men who, row upon row in endless lines among roses and poppies, silent and young forever, watch united forever in camaraderie and fraternity on these sacred soils of northern France on which more than a hundred years ago, in fury and madness, in the mud of the trenches, through the lines of barbed wire, gave their youth and their today to fight bravely in the name of peace and democracy, freedom and humanity and faced with coolness and determination, the sufferings and the demons of a world at war but for their country, for France and for us who live today thanks to them, they volunteered in the prime of life and faced deluges of bullets and shells which decimated their ranks but not their courage and under fire, under walls of steel, through hurricanes of lead and steel, they held their heads high and charged bayonets forward until their last drop of blood, until their last breath of life and were taken too soon, too young in the eternal rest of death which never had the last word on them because today, united forever in silence, they stand like the proud sentinels of the past, gone but not and never forgotten and over whom I will always watch with respect to keep their memory alive so that the names, lives and faces of these young men 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 Serjeant number 157 Alfred Sydney Burvett who fought in the 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, A Company, 6th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division, and who was killed in action 106 years ago, on August 24, 1916 at the age of 21 during the Battle of the Somme.

Alfred Sydney Burvett was born in 1895 in Benalla, Victoria, Australia, and was the son of Alfred Stephen Burvett (1860-1940) and Maria "Dolly" Burvett (née Jerram, 1875-1913), of 3 Mackenzie Street, Melbourne, Victoria. He was educated at the State School in Carlton, Victoria, then after graduation, served in the Senior Cadets and in the Citizen Military Forces for two years and before the outbreak of the war, worked as a silversmith.

Alfred enlisted on March 7, 1915 in Melbourne, Victoria, as a Private in the 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, A Company, under the command of Lieutenant General James Gordon Legge, and after a short training period of two months at Broadmeadows Camp, Victoria, he embarked with his unit from Melbourne, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on May 10, 1915 and sailed for the Gallipoli Peninsula.
On August 30, 1915, Alfred was disembarked at Gallipoli and with the 24th Battalion, served in the Lone Pine sector, taking over responsibility for the front line on September 12.The Battalion's positions were very close to the Turkish trenches and was hotly contested. The position was so tenuous, that the troops holding it had to be rotated regularly, and as a result the 24th spent the remainder of the campaign rotating with the 23rd Battalion to hold the position and remained until the evacuation in December 1915.
On December 19, 1915, Alfred and the 24th Battalion left Gallipoli and after a quick stop at Moudros, Greece, were sent to Egypt and arrived in Alexandria on January 10, 1916 and then took part in the defense of the Suez Canal against the Ottoman forces then on March 20, joined the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in Alexandria and proceeded overseas for France.

On March 27, 1916, after a week-long voyage on the Mediterranean Sea, Alfred arrived in France and was disembarked at Marseilles. Shortly after, the 24th Battalion marched into billets at Rebecq, Belgium where they arrived on April 1, reinforced in men and horses then followed a period of training until April 7. The next day, they moved for Haverskerque, in the north of France then for Sailly-Sur-La-Lys and Fleurbaix which they reached on the 10 April where Alfred's A Company was billeted in the area of "Croix Marechal".On April 15, the 24th Battalion entered the Fleurbaix trenches from where they relieved the 23rd Australian Infantry Battalion and faced very hostile enemy sniper fire, then on April 21, were relieved by the 23rd Battalion and moved back into billets at Fleurbaix then on April 29, marched through Fort Rompu, Bac St Maur, Croix Du Bac and arrived at Hallobeau where they followed a new period of training including bayonet fights, physical exercises then until May 28, dug lines of communication and combat positions on the front line between Rue Marle and Bois-Grenier.

On June 1, 1916, Alfred and the 24th Battalion marched to Erquinghem where the men were mainly employed in working parties then on June 12, moved into billets at Rue Marle and remained there until the end of the month.On June 30, Alfred was promoted to the rank of Corporal and to the rank of Serjeant on July 1.The same day, the battalion entered the trenches in the Rue Marle sector but were relieved three days later by the New Zealand Rifles and went in billets to "La Creche", near Armentieres then marched through Pradelle, Ebblinghem, Wardrecques, Arques, and arrived in billets to St Sauveur where they underwent a period of training including new formation attack tactics, trench assaults and on July 15, orders were received for the battalion to move, this time to the battlefields of the Somme.

On July 16, 1916, the 24th Battalion and Alfred arrived in the Somme, in the small village of Rainneville then the next day, marched through Rubempre, Herissart and arrived at Toutencourt where they bivouaced until July 21. The following day, they moved to Varennes which they left on the 25th for Albert and on July 27th fought their first major engagement in one of the battles which was one of the deadliest and hardest for the Australian Imperial Force on the Somme front, the hell of Pozieres.

At this point of the war, the British strategy focused on the seizure of the ridge east of Pozières village from where an attack could be mounted on German strongholds further north at Thiepval which had not fallen to British attack on the opening day of the battle, 1 July 1916. By the time the Australians entered the Somme battle the operation had become a series of attacks aimed not so much at a break-through of the German lines as the capture of key positions and the wearing down of the enemy.

Between 23 July and 5 August 1916, the Australian 1st and 2nd Divisions captured Pozières village and Pozières heights, a ridge 500 metres east of the village. The initial attack began at 12.30 am on Sunday 23 July when the 1st Division seized the German front line and in the following hour reached the main road through Pozières. At dawn the Germans counter-attacked but the Australians held on. The rest of Pozières fell on the night of 23-24 July and further gains were made on the night of 24-25 July. The Germans reacted to the seizure of Pozières by concentrating the bulk of their artillery on the Australians. Constant barrages were directed onto the village and the narrow approaches creating a nightmarish situation for troops forming up and attacking in the dark. By 27 July, the 2nd Division had taken over in Pozières.

The 2nd Division was ordered to take Pozières heights. The attack commenced at 12.15 am on 29 July but the Germans were ready and the attack failed at a cost of 3,500 Australian casualties. The Australian commander of the 2nd Division asked that his men might attack again rather than be withdrawn after failure. Following an intense bombardment on 4 August 1916, the Australian seized Pozières heights. The exhausted 2nd Division was now rested and the 4th Division took up positions on the Pozières Heights. Attacking north along the ridge, the Australians in ten days of continuous action reached Mouquet Farm. The 4th Division was now relieved. The farm resisted capture until 26 September 1916, the day after the commenced of a major British offensive.

In less than seven weeks in the fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm three Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties. Of these, 6,800 men were killed or died of wounds. It was a loss comparable with the casualties sustained by the Australians over eight months at Gallipoli in 1915.

On August 1, 1916, after a few days of deadly fighting, the 24th Battalion was sent to rest in the "Sausage Valley" where they received a reinforcement of 95 men and on August 4, with a force of 656 men, moved back to the Pozieres trenches in a support role for the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion during the attack and capture of the Windmill then the following day occupied the OG1 Trench and in the evening relieved the 22nd Battalion in OG2 Trench but were heavily shelled by the German artillery firing from Courcelette then on August 6, were relieved by the 15th Australian Infantry Battalion and marched to "Tara Hill" for rest and organization. Between August 4 and 6, the battalion lost 148 men.

On August 8, 1916, Alfred and the men of the 24th Battalion marched for Warloy-Baillon then the next day, marched through La Vicogne, Contay, Herissart, Talmas and arrived at Berteaucourt-Les-Dames on August 11 where they remained until August 20 and the following day, moved to "Brickfields" near Albert and two days later, proceeded to the trenches of Mouquet Farm with a force of 598 men and had to face an elite German regiment, the "Prussian Guard", a force estimated between 300 and 400 men firmly entrenched in the cellars and tunnels of Mouquet Farm which poured tons of shells on the Australian lines.In the battalion's war diary it is written that "the Boches fire on the wounded".

Unfortunately, it was on August 24, 1916 that Alfred met his fate and during a heavy bombardment of Australian positions by the Germans he was killed in action by a shell, he was 21 years old.

Today, Serjeant Alfred Sydney Burvett rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Courcelette British Cemetery, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Beloved eldest son of Alfred S.and Maria Burvett, Melbourne, Victoria."

After his death, Alfred's obituary was published on October 14, 1916 in "The Register" as follows:
"Miss Alice Sydney Burvett, a well-known pianist, of Kadina, has received news that her eldest nephew, Serjeant Alfred Sydney Burvett, was killed in action in France on August 24, in his twenty-one year.He was the oldest son of Miss Burvett's only brother. This is the second bereavement through the war in the family, as on August 7, 1915, the second son succumbed to gunshot wounds received at Lone Pine,Gallipoli. The deceased was in the nineteenth year of his age, and was buried at sea."

Alfred Sydney Burvett had a brother who also fought bravely in the Great War. He was Private number 2119 Herbert Henry Burvett who served with the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion. Unfortunately, Herbert died of his wounds on August 7, 1915 at the age of 19 in Gallipoli and was buried at sea. His name is remembered and honored with respect at the Lone Pine Memorial.

Alfred, Herbert, it is with the greatest courage that at the dawn of your young lives you answered together the call of duty in the most beautiful bond of brotherhood and patriotism to do what was right, to do your part alongside your friends and comrades on the battlefields of the great war, guided by the ardor of youth and the desire to fight, to make your country proud on distant and unknown soils on which gathered and fought with pride and loyalty a whole generation of men who, under the rising sun, carried high and proud the colors of the young and strong Australian nation which sent its sons overseas in defense of humanity and justice and who, on the hot sands of Gallipoli, discovered the horrors of war but served with devotion until their last breath of life to preserve peace and humanity which was threatened by the madness of men seeking power who unleashed the hells on earth n But with extreme bravery, the young Diggers, alongside their brothers in arms, fought fiercely through the burning hills of Gallipoli, under Turkish machine guns and paid the price for each step forward with the blood and tears of men who thought that the war would be the greatest adventure of their lives but who, under the shells, through the howls, had as only reality, death and suffering and as only youth, as only life, the darkness of a world at war and the open-air slaughterhouses of battlefields on which death was everywhere at all times and lived tormented by the fear of not seeing the sun rise on a new tomorrow, of dying alone and forgotten far from everything and of their loved ones whose love gave them the hope and the strength to stand and fight beyond their limits, beyond their strength and on the blood-red beaches of Gallipoli, was born in an immortal bond of camaraderie, a spirit who guided them throughout the war, a spirit called ANZAC, a spirit of valor, bravery, determination, loyalty and sacrifice, a spirit which, after the first sacrifices of Gallipoli, from the heat of the Dardanelles, led these exceptional young men on the fields of the north of France, through the hills and the red valleys of poppies of the Somme on which was once again seen the bravery of the whole Australian nation on the battlefields, in the mud of Pozieres in which fought and fell so many young friends and brothers who had to dig to try to protect themselves from bullets and shrapnel but who, by moving the earth, found only what remained of previous murderous attacks, legs, arms, helmets, bayonets and shovels smeared with blood and powder which now covered the young faces of these young heroes who, despite the horrors they endured, with unfailing endurance and courage, went over the top through the deflagrations of shells which fell all around them and which, under their slouch hats, rushed with conviction and resolution under the bullets and shrapnel which mowed down a whole generation of men who collapsed in the barbed wire and the shell holes but who never backed down, who faced their destiny without fear and together wrote the history of Australia but also the history of the friendship which unites France and Australia in remembrance , in mutual respect and admiration and through the eyes of these men was born in my heart my love of Australia, my adopted country, my love and my admiration for all these heroes on whom I am proud and honored to watch through the cemeteries and battlefields of the Somme on which the ANZAC spirit will live forever and on which I will always stand with love, gratitude and respect to honor the memory of these men whom I love to call with the most deep of affection "my boys of the Somme" for whom I would give my life so that their names and their memory live forever. Thank you so much Alfred, Herbert, for everything. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.