Regiment : H.M.S. Invincible Royal Marine Light Infantry
Service number : PO13944
Conflict : WW1
Date of death : 31st May 1916 aged 30
Place of death : Battle of Jutland, North Sea
Buried : Commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire, Panel 22.
Relatives : Son of Thomas and Mary Burford, High St., Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Memorial : Bromsgrove United Reformed Church
Also appears on : Bromsgrove St John the Baptist Church WW1 Memorial. Bromsgrove United Reformed Church Hall - this memorial is now in Avoncroft Museum, Stoke Heath, Bromsgrove.
Credits : Researched by Elizabeth Dovey and Sandra Taylor.
William Burford was born on 15th April 1885 in Bromsgrove. He was the son of Thomas Burford, a wrought nail maker who worked at home, and Mary Burford. William had an elder brother called Frank, who was a railway dray boy and two elder sisters, Rose, who was a nursemaid, and Florence. The family lived in Mill Lane. According to the 1901 Census, at the age of 15, William was a bricklayer’s labourer but by 1911, he had joined the Navy and is recorded as a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on board ship in Portsmouth.
William was on board HMS Invincible at the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916. The battlecruiser suffered a direct hit and exploded and sank. 1026 men were killed and only 6 survivors were picked up. William’s body was never recovered and he is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
The following information has been researched by Sandra Taylor:
William Burford was born on the 15th April 1885 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, one of five children of Thomas and Mary Burford. In 1891 the family consisting of Thomas, Mary and their 4 children, Frank aged 17, Rose aged 12, Florence aged 8 and William aged 5, lived in Mill Lane, Bromsgrove. Thomas was employed as a wrought iron maker and Frank as a railway dray boy. By 1911 Mary was a widow living alone in Mill Lane, William was a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on board ship in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
William enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in Birmingham on 26th September 1904. At the time of his enlistment he was employed as a bricklayers labourer, was 5 feet 7¾ inches tall with fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. After almost a year at the naval depot in Deal, he was transferred to Portsmouth on 21st September 1905. Over the next 9 years he spent time on several ships interspersed with shore service at Portsmouth. On 3rd August 1914 he embarked on HMS Invincible, remaining with the ship until her demise at the battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916.
HMS Invincible was a battlecruiser commissioned in April 1906. On 31st May 1916 during the Battle of Jutland she was hit by shells fired from the German ships Lutzow and Derfflinger. One of the shells penetrated the front of ‘Q’ turret igniting over 50 tons of Cordite stored below. The resulting explosion tore the ship in half. The ship sank rapidly taking 1,020 men with her, only 6 of her crew members surviving the attack.
On 10th June 1916 Berrows Worcester Journal reported as follows:
Bromsgrove Men Lost in Naval Battle
Five Bromsgrove men have been lost in the naval battle, three of whom were on H.M.S. Invincible. They were William Burford, Royal Marines, son of Mrs Burford of Mill Lane;………
William Burford has no known grave, the photograph available shows his name on Portsmouth Naval Memorial.