17 August 2018

Young WWI tank driver who died in battle to be honoured through RBLI's ‘Wall of Honour’ campaign

A young Suffolk tank driver who was killed in battle during the First World War only for his grave to be destroyed later in the conflict will be memorialised  as part RBLI's unqiue commemoration campaign - the Wall of Honour.                                   

Private Albert Bursford, of Newmarket, gave his life for his country on the very first day of the battle of Cambrai in France, 1917, after a bullet entered the tank he was driving, killing him aged just 21.

He was laid to rest by nearby farmers on their land, only for his impromptu grave to be destroyed by shellfire sometime later during the war.

No physical memorial has since been established in the UK for Albert, however, his name will now be placed on our Wall of Honour which has been set up in line with this year’s centenary recognition. 

The project offers members of the public the opportunity to have their name, or the name of a family member, friend or loved one, engraved onto a plaque in the charity’s historic memorial garden in Aylesford for £100 – all of which will go directly to helping current veterans in need of support through RBLI’s services.

Albert’s great niece Wendy Brimicombe, who herself served in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, said: “I think it’s a brilliant way of memorialising him.

“Because he died so young, he didn’t have a family of his own – all the older members of my family have all past on. My dad was the last one who remembered him, so now there isn’t anyone who can talk about him anymore.”

“It’s vital that we keep these sorts of stories alive -I think it’s important that it never gets forgotten, although its 100 years since the end of the First World War, there are still people alive who are deeply affected by it.”

All the money raised through the project will go directly to supporting current ex-forces personnel through RBLI’s services such as the national employment support programme LifeWorks, or our social enterprise which employs veterans and people with disabilities, Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company. 

“This is what made me do it,” Wendy added.  “I can get my uncle Albert remembered through the wall forever, but I also get that feeling where I have been able do something for people now.

“It’s crucial that we make sure that money is there for not only the families of those who didn’t come back but also those who came back not the same as they went.”

All donors to the project will be personally invited to attend the unveiling of the wall at a special event in RBLI’s memorial garden, Aylesford, Kent on Armistice Day this November – precisely 100 years on from the end of the First World War.

“I will be in bits,” added Wendy. “My dad only died in September last year – he would have really liked to have known we were doing this.”

Royal British Legion Industries’ Chief Executive and former Brigadier Steve Sherry CMG OBE said: “Although the Wall of Honour project is available for anyone to recognise members of the Armed Forces, past, present or of any conflict, there will always be a special significant when recognising those associated with the Great War considering the importance of this year.

“It is with great privilege that we are able to honour the tremendous sacrifice made by Private Bursford and provide Wendy and the rest of his family with a place at which they can pay their respects.”

To leave a lasting legacy, join the Wall of Honour and visit www.rbli.co.uk/wallofhonour or contact fundraising@rbli.co.uk or call 01622 795966.