Alfred Alexander Burt VC

b. 03/03/1895 Hertford, Hertfordshire. d. 09/06/1962 Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

Alfred Alexander Burt (1895-1962) was born at Port Vale, Hertford on 3rd March 1895. His father was Thomas Richard Burt, a railway porter. His mother was Martha nee Dear, and his parents married on 11th October 1880 at All Saints Church, Battle Bridge, Islington, London. After a spell in London, his parents moved first to Arnold, Nottinghamshire, before settling in Hertford. Thomas and Martha had seven children – William Thomas (born 1885), Francis (born 1889), Ellen Martha May (born 1881), Edith Lilian (born 1883), Ellen Margery (born 1897), and Thomas Lionel (born 1902) as well as Alfred.

Alfred A Burt VC

Alfred was educated at Cowbridge Road School, Hertford and was employed by Hertford Gas Company as a toolboy and later became a fitter. He enlisted in 1st Hertfordshire underage on 15th February 1911 and was only 5ft 3in tall. He joined because his future wife’s older brother, 2746 Private Harry West, someone young Alfred looked up to, was serving. Alfred gained a new job in Basingstoke a few days before war broke out, but was mobilised on 5th August 1914.

Promoted to Corporal on 18th September, he went to France on 6th November with 1/1st Battalion. Harry West was killed at Alfred’s side on 19th November and was buried by him. Harry’s remains sadly were not recovered after the war, and he is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

On 27th September 1915 at Cuinchy, France, Corporal Burt’s company was ready to attack when a large minenwerfer bomb fell into the trench. Knowing full well the destructive powers of this bomb the corporal, who might easily have got under cover behind a traverse, went forward, put his foot on the fuse, wrenched it out of the bomb and threw it over the parapet, and so saved the lives of many of his comrades.

He was admitted to 19th Field Ambulance with myalgia on 11th November 1915. It developed into influenza and he was transferred to No 11 Stationary Hospital at Rouen. He went to No 1 Infantry Base Depot on 30th November and did not return to his unit until 23rd January 1916. He was evacuated to England, having been gassed, on 2nd February and was put on the strength of the Administrative Centre, Hertford. He was granted leave to 1st March and during this time he was presented with an illuminated address at Hertford. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4th March 1916. Alfred was discharged on 31st March as no longer fit for service due to gas injury.

Alfred Burt married Jane Elizabeth nee West on 23rd December 1916 at Hertford. News that his wife’s younger brother, 10978 Private William Horace West, 8th Bedfordshire, had died of wounds on 21st December 1916 arrived as they left the church. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, France. Alfred and Jane went on to have two children – Jenny May Burt (born 1917) and Alfred Victor Charles Burt (born 1920).

Alfred returned to fitting for the Hertford Gas Company and was a member of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. He rejoined 1st Hertfordshire as a Private on 12th April 1922 and was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on 29th July. He won a major shooting competition, but was discharged at his own request on 26th August 1925 when he moved to Chesham and became landlord of the New Inn. Just before the Second World War he returned to fitting and during the war worked for Arthur Lyon’s in Chesham, producing searchlights and generators. He was also an ARP Warden for a time. The years took their toll and he was an invalid from the early 1950s and he was in a wheelchair by 1956.

He died of carcinomatosis and carcinoma right bronchus at Tindal General Hospital, Chesham on 9th June 1962. He was cremated at West Hertfordshire Crematorium, Watford, where his ashes were interred. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were gifted to the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regimental Museum by his daughter in 1979 and are held at the Regimental Museum in Hertford.