Arthur Graham Burnett


Lance Corporal 26165, 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)

Died 24th July 1917 aged 31

No Known Grave Commemorated Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Husband of Lily Burnett

Lived 138, High Street, Heckmondwike

Arthur was born in Scarborough in 1886, the eldest son of James Thomas Burnett, a Tailor, and his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Dodds, who lived at 35, Columbus Ravine. He was three years old when his mother died and his father remarried.

Arthur was a pupil of the Central Board School at the corner of Trafalgar Street West, and Melrose Street, Scarborough until 1899, when he left to become an ‘Errand Boy’ for Birdsall and Wilson, the Scarborough Grocer, Tea Dealer and Provisioner in their store located at 23, St Nicholas Street. By 1911, Arthur had moved to lodgings at 15, Woodbank Place in Bradford and was described as a 23 year old Grocer. His brother, James William Burnett had moved to Pioneer Street, Westtown, Dewsbury and was working as a Tram Overlooker. Prior to the outbreak of war Arthur was residing at 138, High Street, Heckmondwike, whilst working for the Maypole Grocery Company at their branch at 26, Market Street, Heckmondwike. The Maypole Dairy Company sold butter, margarine and tea and had 985 shops throughout the country by 1915.

Arthur enlisted in the army at Heckmondwike during the autumn of 1915. He was initially posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) which was situated at the Regiment’s Depot at Fulford Barracks in York. Arthur underwent the customary three months training before being made Lance-Corporal and then being posted to the 2nd Battalion in January 1916. During June 1916 Arthur returned to his home town of Scarborough for a fortnight’s leave and to marry Lily Scales, the Scarborough born daughter of Sarah and Thomas Scales on Sunday the 11th of June, at Jubilee Primitive Methodist Church, which stood in Aberdeen Walk. Shortly afterwards he returned to his unit in time to take part in the Somme Offensive.

The 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment was amongst those given the unenviable task of capturing the village of Orvillers La Boisselle on the opening day of the Offensive on 1st July. They quickly ran into heavy machine gun fire and suffered appalling casualties. The Division was relieved that first night and took no further part in the battle until that Autumn. In late October the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, with an active strength of only 437 officers and men, went into action to capture an enemy position known as Zenith Trench. Fighting was fierce and by the end of the operation Arthur's unit had suffered many casualties, 230 officers and men were killed, wounded or missing.

The Battalion subsequently endured ‘concentrated misery’ during the terrible Winter of 1916/1917 in trenches at ‘Priez Farm’, near to the village of Rancourt. The hell in which Arthur and his comrades had found themselves had been described; "The conditions beggar description, the trenches are flooded and have fallen in. There is no cover either in front, support, or reserve lines, and men are being evacuated sick with frostbite and exhaustion by the hundred. The conditions are so bad that we were unable to see the actual trenches". Whilst in these positions Arthur and three other men had been buried in a trench collapse. After being dug out, with much difficulty, the four almost suffocated soldiers had been transferred to a hospital in England, where they had remained until well into 1917.

Arthur had not long been returned to the fighting front in France when he was killed by German shell fire on 24th July. News of Corporal Burnett’s death had at first been posted to his widow, who had in due course forwarded the news to his parents and her father, Thomas Scales, a Chinaware Dealer, who had subsequently reported the tidings to the news office of the ‘Scarborough Mercury’, which had in turn, reported the soldiers death in an extensive casualty list on Friday the 10th of August 1917.

The Cleckheaton Advertiser and Spenborough Times reported Arthur's death together with that of a second Heckmondwike Maypole employee, Gunner Fred Hanson of Industrial Buildings, Hightown, who is remembered on the Spenborough Memorial.

No identifiable remains of Corporal Burnett were ever found, either during the war, or in the numerous searches of the battlefield after the war. His name was eventually included with those of nearly fifty six thousand other officers and men who had been lost in the Ypres Salient, on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Belgium. Arthur’s name is located on Panel 21.{KH/PL-ex2}

Medals: Victory and British

Commemorated:- Heckmondwike Green Park Memorial and the Vellum Roll of Honour. Scarborough's Oliver's Mount Memorial; Roll of Honour previously within Hoxton Road Wesleyan Chapel, Scarborough (demolished); Inscription on the family grave in Dean Road and Manor Road Cemetery Ref: Section N, Row 17, Grave 37.


1) Fifth Army Intelligence Report; National Archives File, AWM 26/6/189/3

2) Spen Valley Historical Society acknowledges the Scarborough Maritime Museum website "The Road to Passchendaele" at for their kind permission to use text from "Neath a Foreign Sky" Paul Allen.


4) Photograph of Arthur Graham and Lily Scales on their wedding day in Scarborough with kind permission of his relatives.

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