Our People - John Thomas Burke
4138 Sergeant John Thomas Burke
2nd Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
Killed in Action 14 September 1914
John is buried at La Ferte-Sous-Joarre Memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France.
Leyland - St.Marys R.C. WW1 and WW2 Cross
Leyland - Church Road Civic Memorial
La Ferte-Sous-Joarre Memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France.
1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
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John Thomas Burke was born Blackburn in 1882 to Patrick Burke and Ellen Burke (nee Harrington). Patrick was born in Galway, Ireland in 1848, while Ellen was a native of Preston - she was born about 1850. In 1891, the family lived at 9 Coddington Street in Blackburn, an area which is now dominated by a huge Tesco superstore. At this time Patrick was a labourer in a local cotton mill and Ellen was a cotton winder. Besides John they had 4 other children, Mary (11) who was a cotton winder on half-time, Maria (6), a scholar, James (3) and Catherine (2 months). All the children were born in Blackburn.
By 1901 the family had moved to 65 Harwood Street in Blackburn, just around the corner from Coddington Street. Patrick was now listed as an engine fitter and labourer, while Ellen did not have an occupation listed. Mary was still a cotton winder, John was a mould man in a timber yard, Maria a cotton winder and James a cotton cloth hooker. Catherine at 10 years old was probably a scholar, but nothing is listed.
In 1911 they had moved to 24 Heyes Street, Blackburn. All the family were still together and John filled out the census return on behalf of his father (below). Patrick was a general labourer an an Iron Foundry and Ellen was at home. Mary was a coloured yarn winder, John a steel tool grinder in the motor industry, Maria a cop winder, James a yarn packer and Catherine a weaver.
John joined up with the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1901. A copy of some of the documents in his military record still survives, although they are badly burnt and suffer from water damage. He was 19 years and 8 months of age according to the attestation documents and resided at that time in Blackburn. The document was signed 28th November 1901. In the medical examination he is described as being 5 feet 4 and 3 eighths of an inch high and weighing in at 11 stones. He was of fresh complexion with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was a Roman Catholic and didn't have any other distinguishing features. John was promoted to Corporal 30th August 1905 and Lance Sergeant 4th June 1909. There are some other details in regard to transfers and re-engagements that are not too clear.
By the time war broke out, John had married Winifred Burke (nee Leonard) in 1912 at St. Josephs in Blackburn. They were married by the Reverend L Delaney and the marriage was witnessed by Hugh Carns and Mary Agnes Leonard. They then moved to Chorley where they had their first child, Frederick, born 7th May 1913. They then moved to 7 Mosley Street, Leyland. The records show that Winifred and Frederick were living at 15 William Hopwood Street by 1920.
After war was declared John was promoted full sergeant 7th August 1914. His battalion and regiment made up part of the British Expeditionary Force, and he disemebarked with them 13 August 1914. In the days before the Battle of the Aisne the battalion had taken part in the retreat from Mons. From 24th August up to the 5th September 1914, a senior officer commented that they had marched around 180 miles. John was to die during the Battle of the Aisne. The War Diary on the day of his death reads as below.
"In conversation with Fred Wilkinson at St. Mary’s, Leyland, at the ‘Arnhem 50th Anniversary Commemoration Service’, he told me that Sgt Burke (as he was known) was a friend of his parents, and lived in either Mosley Street or Malden Street, Leyland. He was killed very early in the war being, possibly, a reservist. He was a Blackburn man and, after his death, his family moved back to Blackburn, his son Fred becoming a well known chemist in Blackburn in later years, whether with his own pharmacy, or not is unclear. (Information James Maguire)." William Waring, 26 September 1994.
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Edited 22 November 2016
1891 Census of England via Ancestry.co.uk / 1901 Census of England via Ancestry.co.uk / 1911 Census of England via Ancestry.co.uk / British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 via Ancetry.co.uk / UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920 via Ancestry.co.uk / British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 via Ancestry.co.uk / Commonwealth War Graves Commission / Lancashire BMD / Original work by William Waring, Leyland Historical Society