Page 259 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
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The Rifles Office Bodmin
 Patrick Linehan 2DCLI 100th Birthday
Our oldest soldier, and one of the few remaining who fought in the Second World War, achieved his centenary on 17th March 2019. We were pleased to lay on a small celebration for him at the Keep which was attended by members of his family and a good gathering of Old Comrades from our county branches.
Patrick, a Londoner, was enlisted into the Devon Regiment in the early months of the war, later transferring to the DCLI and joining the 2nd Battalion in North Africa towards the end of the campaign. Following the surrender of the Afrika Korps at Cape Bon, near Tunis, on 11th May 1943, the battalion underwent a comprehensive period of absorbing reinforcements, re-equipping and re-training before crossing to Naples on 21st February 1944 and moving up into the Italian mountains. Any thoughts of nubile girls lying in the sun were immediately swept away by the cruel reality of bitter cold, rain and snow.
Patrick was captured at the abhortive crossing of the River Ronco on the night of 25th – 26th October 1944 – a battle in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong. A fellow 2nd Battalion soldier, Johnny Birch who was also present died a week after Patrick’s birthday party, and a more detailed account of that terrible action is recorded in his obituary published elsewhere in these pages. Both were captured and spend the last months of the war as prisoners.
Patrick is still remarkably agile both in mind and body, living alone (he is sadly now a widower) in his own house, 9 Prospect Place, Hayle. However, his son Tim is able to keep a close eye on him as does the landlord of the nearby Angarrack Inn. It was certainly a real pleasure to be able to entertain Patrick on his 100th Birthday.
    Arthur Burt
It is never too late to publish an obituary even if the individual died over a century ago.
Arthur Burt was born in Mevagisse on 15th July 1887. He grew up to work as a labourer in that area, until, with the outbreak of war and Lord Kitchener’s call to arms, he enlisted into his County Regiment at St. Austell on 7th September 1914. Arriving at the gates of the Depôt barracks in Bodmin, he was confronted by a scene of the utmost confusion. There was at that time an almost complete lack of uniform, equipment, weapons and even proper accommodation; most importantly there were far too few officers and NCOs to look after this vast influx of enthusiastic but as yet undisciplined men who had exchanged the security and comfort of home life for the unknown world of a wartime army. They did so to fight the Hun, and it must have been very galling for them to find themselves kicking their heels in a grossly overcrowded barracks without even having a rifle to handle.
This situation was brought under control with remarkable efficiency. New ‘Service’ battalions were quickly established – the 6th DCLI at Aldershot on 4th September, and the 7th DCLI at Woking on 22nd September. Burt was posted to the latter. The Battalion trained hard, moving to Pirbright the following February, and then to Witley in March, and finally to Amesbury before embarking at South- ampton on the evening of 24th July 1915.
Landing at Boulogne the following morning as part of 61 Brigade the 7th Battalion was split up, the companies being attached to experienced batalions of 82 Brigade in the Armentières area of northern France. On 6th September it took over its own sector of the line at Fleurbraix just south of Armentières. The War Diary states: ‘Life in the trenches is horrible. The
weather did its best to make things utterly miserable – frost, rain, snow and sleet coming alternatively.’ If that was not enough, the War Diary addes: ‘Enemy extremely active’.
The great battles of the Somme were launched on 1st July 1916, but it was not until 23rd July that the 7th Battalion bade a less than fond farewell to the Fleurbaix sector and started the long march to the Somme valley. On 3rd August it took part in the final bloody assault on a piece of shell torn ground that had once been the village of Guillemont. On 16th September, 61 Brigade was attached to the Guards Division for an attack on Les Boeufs. The 7th Battalion lost 10 officers and 170 soldiers in the subsequent fierce fighting. Arthur Burt was one of those killed.
The above is all based on fact; it is now necessary in recounting the last days of Arthur Burt to rely on supposition. The War Diary states that on 7th September the Commanding Officer of 7 DCLI, Captain J. B. Macmillan, recommended ten men for the award of the Military Medal (the names are not given). On 24th September the Divisional Commander, Major General W D Smith presented the Military Medal to Lance Corporal Wakeham together with six Commander-in-Chief’s Certificates for Gallant Conduct. The War Diary gives the names which include two men previously killed. One of these was Arthur Burt. It is a fair presumption that he was one of those recommended for the Military Medal by Captain Macmillan.
Burt’s body lay undiscovered on the battlefield of Les Boeufs for a hundred and three years. Its remarkable discovery and subsequent reburial in the Guards’ Cemetery is fully recounted elsewhere in The Bugle.
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