There does not seem to be a familial connection between John and Albert Burgess.
John was born in South Malling in the third quarter of 1897, the second son of Alfred and Mary Ann Burgess, nee Dunk. In 1901 the family were living at 2 Chalk Ham Cottages in South Malling and Alfred was working as a cowman.
By 1911 they had moved to 2 Holly Cottages, St John Street. John was listed as school, house boy part time. Alfred was not at home. He seems to have been a patient at the Hellingly Hospital, where he died in mid 1911. Sadly John’s brother Bernard died the following year. Little more is known about John’s early life.
John’s army service papers are not available to view but from other sources we know that he joined the 14th Reserve Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and was numbered SD5458. This number dates from the middle of March 1916. The 14th Battalion was a South Downs Battalion, originally formed from depot members of companies of the other South Downs Battalions. It had a training role and was considered a local reserve battalion. It moved to Aldershot during 1916 as part of the 23rd Reserve Brigade.
At some point John was transferred, first to the 8th Pioneers Battalion, and later to the 7th Battalion. He retained his original number even though both the 8th and 7th were service battalions. It is also not known when he entered France but it would have been in a draft of other men to bring initially the 8th and later the 7th battalions up to strength after battle losses.
Looking at the battalion war diaries, the 7th Battalion were involved in the Battle of Bapaume between 24/25th March and then at Arras on 28th. The entry for 28th March 2017, the date of John’s death, gives their location as Aveluy Wood. 18 other ranks were reported killed that day with a further 24 reported missing.
John was among the missing having no known grave. He is remembered with his colleagues on the Pozieres Memorial on panels 46 and 47. He was entitled to the War and Victory medals which would have been sent to his mother as his next of kin.
John is remembered on the St John sub Castro Memorial, the Lewes War Memorial and the Royal Sussex Regiment Roll of Honour held in Chichester Cathedral.