b. 29/01/1923 Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. d. 11/07/1993 Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland.
Richard Henry Burton (1923-1993) was born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire on 29th January 1923, the son of George Henry Burton and his wife, Muriel. He grew up in Melton Mowbray and was schooled there until 14, when he followed his father into the building trade until the age of 19. Still a teenager, he enlisted into the Northamptonshiire Regiment in 1942, before he joined the Duke of Wellington's to go to French North Africa, where he experienced soldiering in the Tunisian campaign. His OC A Company was Captain Freddie Huskisson, who - characteristic of the Dukes - already had eight rugby caps for England.
With his regiment, Private Burton went into the capture of the Isle of Pantellaria in 1943, the Anzio beach landing in January 1944, and the long slog up Italy. Anzio cost the Dukes 11 officers and 250 other ranks wiped out. Burton's OC was wounded. The northward slog was most costly. Weather reduced the battalion to mule transport, laden mules becoming 'bellied' under the weight of ammunition or stores. Thus, the Dukes confronted the Gothic Line in October 1944, and notably a crucial 2,000ft feature - Monte Ceco - which held up the Allied advance. A six-day battle ensued in rain. The initial attack from the south failed, mud in place knee-deep being a cause. A silent second attack from the west was launched in a downpour under heavy German mortar fire on the evening of 8th October.
In the final stage Capt A. Burns took Burton, the runner, with his platoon through to assault the crest, held by five Spandau machine-gun teams. Despite withering German fire, Burton managed to kill the first team with his tommy-gun; and similarly the next, till his ammunition ran out. He then picked up a Bren light machine gun and, firing from the hip, neutralised two further German machine-gun teams, allowing his company to consolidate on the forward slope of Monte Ceco.
The Germans counter-attacked fiercely. Burton, with his companions lying dead or wounded around him, beat off that attack with accurate Bren fire. A second German counter-attack was mounted on Burton's flank and, firing in enfilade, he again broke up the impetus of this attack, saving his company's position. Burton's VC citation reads: 'Private Burton's magnificent gallantry and total disregard for his own safety in many hours of fierce fighting in mud and continuous rain were an inspiration to all his comrades.' He was awarded the 44th Army VC of that war. His citation was published on 4th January 1945, and he personally received his VC from King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
He married the girl he had met before going to war, a Scot called Dorothy Robertson, in 1945. They went to live in Kirriemuir, Angus, there bringing up three boys and a girl. The Leicestershire lad became a convert Scot, even to the accent. Sadly one of his sons, Richard Alan, died in 1983. After the war, Richard had returned to the building trade, and stayed in the business until retirement. He passed away on 11th July 1993 in Kirriemuir, aged 70, and was laid to rest in Kirriemuir Cemetery in the same grave as his son. In 1998, at an auction at Spink’s, London, Burton’s medals including his VC were purchased by Michael Ashcroft and are now part of the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
KIRRIEMUIR CEMETERY, KIRRIEMUIR, ANGUS, SCOTLAND. SECTION NE, LAIR 103
Richard Burton's medals including VC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (Aug 2014).
Union Jack Club