As promised last month here is some more information about the graffiti that inspired the Scars of War project that took place in West Norfolk this autumn. We are very grateful to Kevin Hitchcock for all the research he has undertaken uncovering the fascinating stories behind the names. This post is all about one man who left his mark, literally in the tower of King’s Lynn library.
During WW1, there were a number of Yeomanry regiments based in King’s Lynn. They were tasked with protecting Norfolk from invasion. These were mounted regiments, keeping their horses on the Walks and Friars Field. With their proud traditions, these light Cavalry regiments left a lasting impression on the town. Most of the men were billeted in the homes of local people, some of which had their own sons, husbands and fathers away serving. Perhaps there are families that still have memories of these young men staying with them.
It’s therefore not surprising that many local young men chose to enlist and join these regiments which included the Berkshire Yeomanry, the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars and The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. One of those men was Arden Burn.
Arden was born in Lincolnshire but moved to King’s Lynn by 1901 and attended the King Edward VII School (KES), he appears in the school magazine’s Roll of Honour list during the war. He lived at Cam Villa on the Gaywood Road which still stands to this day, along with his parents, John and Lily, and his brother Leslie.
To the young Arden, the Yeomanry would’ve made an impressive sight, and maybe he imagined himself cutting a dashing figure on horse back and seeking adventure. So it was that on the 19th November 1915, at the age of 19 Arden enlisted into the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, his occupation being listed as a fruit farmer.
Little did he know that the demands of war meant that in less than a year’s time, their horses would be taken away and they would be moving through the Somme mud on the way to the front-line trench. It must’ve seemed like a long way from standing on the top of the Library tower, looking down London Road and leaving his name on the bricks.
Like many of his comrades, he was transferred to the 6th Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was moving to the front-line trench by early October 1916. They were to take part in the last great offensive of the Somme Battle, their target was ‘Rainbow Trench’ and they were to go over the top on the 7th October.
It’s not clear what happened to Arden next, it’s possible that he was badly injured in the same bombardment that killed Aubrey Cato while they were resting in the sunken road; but confusion in the records is excusable considering that over 250 men died on 7th October going over the top and killed in just a few hours.
We do know that Arden received terrible wounds that meant he spent the next nine months in hospital.
It was reported in the paper, while he was convalescing at a hospital in Hunstanton, that he had received over 14 wounds from a ‘whizz bang’ artillery shell and that one wound had gone septic.
Arden had survived, but many of his comrades, who stood beside him on the tower, did not.
Amazingly, this was not the end of Arden’s war. You would think he was entitled to put his feet up, but instead he volunteered for the Labour Corps working for an agricultural company. His skills as a fruit farmer was greatly in demand amid food shortages; it was even proposed that the Walks be dug up and used to grow potatoes! This he continued after the war, going into business and running Burn’s Nursery along Wootton Road. He married Dorothy and had two children.
Sadly, Arden’s brother, Leslie, was killed in 1917. His name is remembered on the Gaywood war memorial and in Gaza.
It’s said that every family was affected by the WW1 and it still affects us today. No one remained untouched, and the Burn family carried the Scars of War for many years.
Kevin Hitchcock (September 2018)