Memories of War from the Brandon Cemetery
Brandon Sun, June 5, 2017
David McConkeyThe First World War still casts a dark shadow. And we still struggle to understand the war, and the shadow.
We look at big historical events. And we retell the stories of ordinary people. We marvel at the interplay of global forces, human aspirations and sheer luck.
Here are some memories of the First World War from the Brandon Cemetery.
TEN THOUSAND, MAY 1917
One hundred years ago, the citizens of Brandon realized they were in the midst of a long war. To recognize the continuing sacrifice, an inaugural Decoration Day and Memorial Service was held at the Brandon Cemetery on Sunday, May 27, 1917.
The gathering was huge. The Brandon Daily Sun reported 10,000 people, the largest assembly ever held in the city. Notable in attendance were the soldiers who had returned home because of injuries suffered in Europe.
“Great War Veterans, Maimed and Scarred by War,” the Sun headline read, “Focal Spot for All Eyes and Prophetic of Hosts to Come.”
A FATHER AND SON GO TO WAR
When war broke out in August 1914, the Burton family – Arthur, Agnes and their five children – lived in Brandon at 39 Princess Ave. East. The oldest child was Albert, not quite 14; the youngest was Cecil, a baby. Sadly, the next month, Cecil died; he was buried in the Brandon Cemetery.
Arthur was born in 1878 in the United Kingdom. As a teenager, he immigrated to Canada, settling first in Minnedosa. In 1900 he married Agnes Nasval, an immigrant from Sweden.
Arthur worked as a school caretaker. He also served in the militia as a trumpeter. In February 1915, he enlisted for overseas service.
Two months after his father enlisted, Albert followed suit. Albert – born on Sept. 23, 1900 – was only 14 years, seven months old. The boy lied about his age, giving his year of birth as 1899.
Agnes urged her husband to keep an eye out for their son. In order to be with Albert, Arthur volunteered to take a demotion from Sergeant to Private, with an accompanying cut in pay.
Father and son, both trumpeters, were sent to Europe in September 1915. During fighting at Ypres, in June 1916, Arthur was captured by the Germans. He remained a prisoner of war in Germany for the rest of the conflict.
After the war, Arthur returned to Brandon. He worked as a postal carrier, and he and Agnes had three more children. Agnes died in 1924. Arthur married again, to Maud Fake, an immigrant from the U.K., and they had three children.
In 1953, Arthur died at age 75, soon after moving to Victoria, B.C. He is buried in the military cemetery at Esquimalt, B.C.
While his father was a prisoner of war, Albert continued to serve on the front lines as a trumpeter. Then, in November 1917, he was sent home because he was underage for active military service.
Albert came back to Brandon to live with his mother and siblings. He had just turned 17. He was a war veteran, having served two years in the trenches of Europe. Now safe in Canada, he had his whole life ahead of him.
But one year later – on Nov. 4, 1918 – Albert was dead: a victim of the flu epidemic.
“Young Hero Trumpeter Burton Braves Shot and Shell,” the Sun headline read, “but Succumbs to Plague.”
Albert Burton is buried beside his baby brother Cecil in the Brandon Cemetery, in Section 15, Block E, Plot 25. Noted on the headstone: his age (18 years, two months); his service in the war; and his vocation as trumpeter.
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