JOHN STEMBRIDGE BURDGE (1895 – 1st July 1916)

John was born in Churchill in 1895. He was the last of the six children of Reuben and Emma Burdge. These were Mary, James, Elizabeth, William, Edith and John. Stembridge was the maiden name of his grandmother Mary who had been born in Bridport. She was still alive in 1911, aged 89, living in Says Lane with Reuben and Emma. John’s grandfather, James, who was born in Churchill in 1821, had been a soldier in the 7th Royal Fusiliers. He served in the Crimea and gained medals and bars for fighting at Sebastopol, Inkerman and Alma. By 1861 he was an Army Pensioner living back in Dolberrow with his only child Reuben, who had been born in Aldershot Camp in 1857/8. In 1881 Reuben (23) and his mother were recorded as fish hawkers. Subsequently, Ruben became an apparently prosperous fishmonger.

After marrying in 1885, Reuben and Emma moved to Says Lane, Upper Langford where they lived next to another James Burdge, a farmer and likely relative. They remained there until the end of their lives, Emma dying in 1930, Reuben in 1931. For a time the Clarke family, whose sons Percy and Harold were also killed in the war, lived close by.

John Stembridge Burdge joined up in 1914, entering France in September 1915. He was killed in action on the 1st July 1916, aged 21 while serving as a Lance Corporal with the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (15990) attached to the Royal Engineers. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, which is located on the northern part of the 1916 Somme battlefields near the village of Pozières. These men died in the Somme battle sector before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.  Over 90 percent of those commemorated died in the Battles of the Somme between July and November 1916.

The following sad report appeared in the Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald on 15th July, 1916:-


The sincere sympathies of residents throughout the Langford district are extended to Mr. and Mrs. R Burdge, the parents, and Mrs J. Burdge, the bride of only a few weeks, now the widow, of Corpl. J. Burdge, the young hero having been officially reported as having been “killed in action.”  The deceased was one of the brightest and most cheerful of lads, and his manly qualities, coupled with his open frankness and sincerity, won for him the warmest affection of a wide circle of friends, and the highest regard and esteem of residents of all ages and in whatever sphere of life.  It was barely a month since the deceased was home on leave, and ere he returned to his military duties he was married to Miss Elsie Cox, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. B. Cox, the ceremony taking place on the 2nd June.  Corpl. Burdge joined Kitchener’s Army in 1914, and served in “D” Coy., 8th Somersets, but latterly he had been attached to the Royal Engineers.  He was present at the battle of Loos, when he experienced a wonderful escape, his bayonet being struck with a piece of shrapnel shell and shattered but the plucky young soldier was himself unscathed.  His wife has for several years been a member of St. Mary’s, Langford, choir, and it was whilst proceeding to the church to take part in the service that the intimation of her great loss reached her.  The one bright gleam in the great sorrow which has overtaken her will increasingly, as time softens the cruel blow, be the fact that her husband gave his life in the noblest of all causes, that of country, honour, and right.  It is worthy of note that the gallant young soldier’s grandfather, the late James Burdge, served with the 7th Royal Fusiliers through the Crimea War, for which he obtained two medals and three bars for Sebastopol, Inkerman, and Alma.”

John Stembridge’s young widow married again in late 1918. Her husband was Richard J Avery and they lived in Ash Cottage, Langford until at least 1925. Elsie died in South Molton, Devon, in 1965.