William Francis Burman VC

b. 30/08/1897 Stepney, London. d. 23/10/1974 Cromer, Norfolk.

William Francis Burman (1897-1974) was born at 5 Baker Street, Stepney, London on 30th August 1897. His father, George, was a vanguard – carman. He married Agnes Elizabeth McGuire, a cork fitter, on Christmas Day 1889 at St Philips, Stepney. William had four siblings – Agnes, George, James and Jane.

William F Burman VC

William was educated at Stepney Red Coat School until 1911. It is not clear what he did next, but he may have helped his father as a carman. He was a member of D Company, 1st Cadet Battalion The Queens (later North East London), affliated to the Rifle Brigade. He enlisted on 23rd March 1915 and went to France in March 1916. He was promoted to Sergeant a month later.

During the Battle of Passchendaele on 20th September 1917 south-east of Ypres, Belgium, when the advance of his company was held up by a machine-gun at point-blank range, Sergeant Burman shouted to the men next to him to wait a few minutes and going forward to what seemed certain death killed the enemy gunner and carried the gun to the company’s objective where he used it with great effect. Fifteen minutes later it was seen that about 40 of the enemy were enfilading the battalion on the right. Sergeant Burman and two others ran and got behind them, killing six and capturing two officers and 29 other ranks.

The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 19th December 1917. He was presented with an illuminated testimonial by the Mayor of Stepney on 2nd August 1918 and £220 from public subscriptions. He also received a presentation bayonet and scabbard and a gold watch from the London Borough of St Pancras. He was demobilised on 7th March 1919.

He was a candidate for the Mile End Ward in the November 1919 Stepney Borough Council elections and was a member of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. He married May Violet Watts at St Mary Magdalene, Peckham on 4th March 1922. They had two sons: Donald Francis (born 1928) and David (born 1934).

William attended the VC Dinner at the House of Lords on 9th November 1929. As a result of the draw for positions, he sat to the right of the Prince of Wales, who had the Viscount Gort VC to his left. In 1939, William was now working as a chauffeur living in Hampstead, London. After the Second World War, he continued as a chauffeur to the Managing Director of the Daily Mirror for 30 years. He then ran his own car hire business in Temple Grove, Golders Green until retiring in 1964.

William died at the Royal British Legion Home, Halsey House, Cromer, Norfolk on 23rd October 1974. He was cremated at St Faith’s Crematorium, Norwich, and his ashes were scattered in Section 2-5 at Golders Green Crematorium, London. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals were loaned to the Imperial War Museum by the Burman family, and are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.