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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

N.C.D Burgess, MM and Bar, CdeG [Belgium]



Norman Christopher Donald Burgess was born on January 14th, 1892 in Parkes, New South Wales to Edward Allen and Margaret Burgess [Nee McKenzie] as their second youngest child. Norman's parents were from Wales [Glamorgan and Monmouthshire specifically] and a portion of his 10 siblings were born in Wales, New Zealand before his parents settled in New South Wales, Australia. It is known during his early life that he took part in football, evidenced by the photo below. He is located in the middle.
Norman Burgess 1912

Norman enlisted at Queens Park in Waverley on March 31st, 1915 at 23 years old whilst he was working as a Salesman. He was assigned the service number '2957' and was assigned to 'A' Section, 5th Field Ambulance which was only recently formed at the time. He embarked on May 31st, 1915 from Sydney as a Private. His ship, the Ajana was docked in Bombay and he was given a weeks leave. Norman ended up in Heliopolis until he was deployed to Gallipoli during the early hours of August 22nd with the rest of the 5th Brigade which were to see action later that day. 
Looking down Kaiajik Dere showing Turkish trenches on the right and Australian trenches on the left of Dere, Hill 60 in in the centre. Suvla Bay and Salt lake are in the distance directly behind Hill 60, looking north west.

Hill 60 held strategic importance to both the Turkish and Australians as it was on the Sari Bair ridge that overlooked Suvla Bay even though it was somewhat shallow in its actual height. If it were to have been taken, it would've linked Suvla and ANZAC together, possibly making it one of the notable victories if it were to have succeeded. The first attack took place on August 21st with the 4th Brigade under Colonel John Monash and a few British Army/New Zealand Regiments which, without much coordination and cohesion, collapsed with very slight gains. The following attack was to be made by the 5th Brigade, which at the time had the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Battalions at their disposal.

On August 22nd, the men of the 18th Battalion were ordered to charge the Turkish trenches with bombs and bayonets when infact they had no bombs as well as no ammunition. Although they were fresh and quite healthy, they were inexperienced and green. They commenced the attack at dawn and were forced to retire from some of the trenches, leading to 383 casualties with some wounded remaining in no-mans land. Norman Burgess was involved in the actions immediately following the August 22nd, as he was recommended for the Military Medal for his actions. The recommendation reads..


'On the morning of August 22nd, 1915 at Gallipoli after the attack on Hill 60 Trenches by the 18th Battalion and their retirement from some of the captured trenches, a number of wounded were left in the open. At dusk Captain Savage* of the 5th Field Ambulance acted at once and called for volunteers and organised the parties under Sergeant Long and with these bearers went into the open to search and bring in wounded under continuous rifle and shrapnel fire the whole time during the night. They continued in bright moonlight to go out and search for wounded. The search continued the following night and they brought in over 30 of our wounded men. On one occasion Sergeant Long, Corporal Smith and Private Bryant went almost to the enemy trenches, the New Zealanders holding their fire, and brought in a wounded man. Privates Ramage and Burgess were out collecting wounded when Private Ramage was shot dead. All these men behaved with conspicuous devotion to duty on this occasion and on the night of 27th August, 1915.'
*Captain Savage was later recommended for an MC at Pozieres in August 1916 and won a DSO in 1918

Body of an Australian on Hill 60

His Military Medal was published in the London Gazette on October 27th, 1916 on page 10486. Norman's participation on Gallipoli seems to have been minor following this, as he reported to duty at Tel-El-Kebir on January 11th, 1916 following the evacuation. He was appointed Lance Corporal on February 12th, 1916 and was transferred to the 15th Field Ambulance on the 24th as a result of 'doubling the AIF' in Egypt for the upcoming involvement in France. He embarked from Alexandria on June 19th and arrived in Marseilles on the 28th. In France, they supported the 15th Brigade which was under the command of Brigadier-General 'Pompey' Elliott and held the 57th, 58th, 59th and 60th Battalions. The Brigade had been in France for a few weeks before they were committed in an assault at Fromelles as part of the Battle of the Somme. The 15th Field Ambulance was no doubt overflowing with casualties as the 59th and 60th suffered horrendous losses, with the 59th losing 695 and the 60th suffering 757 casualties, nearly wiping the battalion out.

'1: Sergeant Burgess MM and Bar, Belgian Croix de Guerre'

In Norman's record, it states he was awarded the Military Medal on November 4th, then appointed Temporary Corporal on the 6th. He reverted to Lance Corporal on December 10th. Once again he was promoted to Corporal on February 20th, 1917, then to Sergeant on March 11th. During the period of early 1917, the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line with a mixture of the Allied Forces on their tail. The use of the 15th Brigade during this time was slight, only partaking in a defensive role during the attacks to breach the Hindenburg Line. Their next involvement would be at Bullecourt in May, 1917 though it would be light defensive duties. Shortly after Bullecourt, Norman was once again recommended for the Military Medal. The recommendation reads..

'On 14/5/1917 and 15/5/1917, while at forward R.A.P., near Bullecourt this N.C.O. kept together and organised his squads despite frequent casualties among them owing to the enemy's heavy and continuous H.E., gas and shrapnel shelling. His courage and personality made it possible for the evacuation of wounded, of whom there were great numbers, to be carried on steadily. This N.C.O. has at all times shown himself self-sacrificing in his devotion to duty and a splendid example of courage and endurance to his men under very trying circumstances.'

There was a Bar to his Military Medal awarded in the London Gazette July 18th, 1917 on page 7274. He went to England on Leave on August 5th, arriving back on August 12th, then going to a rest camp shortly after on the 27th. He arrived back at his unit on September 4th, just prior to Polygon Wood. By this time, His elder brother, Lance Corporal E.A Burgess of the Engineers had been killed in June 1917.

Published July 11th, 1917

His war was not all safe.. below are some Red Cross reports he wrote to some fellow comrades.

15802 A.A.A Joyce; Killed in Action 2.10.1917
[no photo available]
'Joyce was killed while carrying the wounded from the line and was buried at Hooge Tunnel, Ypres. His grave is not in a military cemetery, as it was impossible to have him taken to the rear at the time. His friends in the section erected a cross over his grave and same was in good condition when we left the section.'

13865 W.R Wheldon; Killed in Action 25.10.1917
'Regarding Wheldon. He was killed during an enemy bombardment of the position we were occupying and died instantly from shell wound in chest. He was buried in a military cemetery in Ypres.'

He went to England on Leave on November 9th, arriving back on the 25th. He then received his Belgian Croix De Guerre at the beginning of 1918, apparently by the Belgian King. He was on detached duty to the 4th Army Medical School for a spell in March 1918 and was later involved in 'Pompey' Elliot's scheme on April 25th, 1918 which was the capture of Villers-Bretonneux. The action proved successful, with Pompey earning himself the Order of the Bath.

Looking back on the battle of Villers-Bretonneux - ABC News
Soldiers near Villers-Bretonneux
Norman Burgess, around 1917-18

On May 1st, he was promoted to Temporary Staff Sergeant and this was made permanent on June 22nd. He was promoted once again to Temporary Warrant Officer Class One [Regimental Sergeant Major] on August 11th during the Battle of Amiens. On September 30th, he was On Leave for a third time in England, arriving back on October 19th. Norman finished his war in Boencourt as a permanent Warrant Officer Class One though funnily enough, the unit war diary states "Rumours of Armistice being signed are very strong but no official message to this effect has been received' with the official news coming on the 16th, 5 days following the signing. As a 1915 embarker, he arrived in Southampton on January 3rd and began his Return to Australia on March 9th, arriving back on April 23rd, 1919. He was discharged thereafter on July 1st at 2 M.D.

He returned to civilian life, marrying one Helen Mary Campbell in 1922 and bearing two children with her, Helen [1923] and Norma [1925]. He worked at Winchcombe House in 1933 which specialized in Wool, Sheep, Cattle and other animals. in 1937, he was a Representative of a company. During the Second World War, Norman didn't immediately rush to enlist to go for another crack, in-fact, he enlisted into the R.A.A.F 4 days after the Japanese attack on Darwin on February 23rd, 1942.

Photo of Burgess during the Second World War

He started out as an Aircraftman 2 'Trainee Officer' and was discharged on March 27th, 1942 to accept a commission at the rank of Pilot Officer at No.2 Recruiting Center. On September 28th, 6 months after his commission he was appointed Flying Officer, then on November 17th he was transferred to No.2 Initial Training School, probably on the Clerical or Administrative side of operations. A report by one of his superiors show that he is not the top man, but very keen all the same. Promoted to Flight Lieutenant in July 1st, 1944, he was transferred once again to No.6 Recruiting Center on February 26th, 1945. His final posting was at No.2 Personnel Depot to which he was transferred to on May 30th. His commission was terminated on June 26th, 1945, a few months before the war was over.

Norman Burgess with wife Helen (nee Campbell)Norman had served in two World Wars, probably affecting his health badly as he died on August 9th, 1954 in Wyong, New South Wales. Below are some photos I neglected to include to avoid clutter.

Burgess & Youden parentsNorman Burgess with daughter Helen


After multiple years in the service, below is his final medal group. I have manipulated stock photos to display his final group.


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