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Private Richard Henry Burton

Discussion in 'British WWII Medals and Awards' started by Jim, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    During September and October 1944, long after the D-Day landings of 6 June in France, the Allied troops in Italy were still fighting a much less publicized war. Facing powerful defences and veteran defenders, the Fifteenth Army Group reached to within 15 miles of Bologna, at the southern edge of the Po Valley.

    The mountains were high, an exceptionally cold winter set in and fighting became difficult. The troops were exhausted and the High Command decided that further assaults over the terrible and treacherous terrain in winter could only weaken the armies for the final push against Germany in the spring of 1945.

    Richard Henry Burton

    [​IMG]

    Various changes took place at senior level. General Alexander was promoted Field Marshal and given command of the entire Mediterranean theatre. The American Mark Clark became commander of the Fifteenth Army Group, General Lucian Truscott was appointed leader of the Fifth Army and British General Sir Richard McCreery took over the Eighth Army. The Fifteenth Army Group was now polyglot in composition, with British, American, New Zealand, Canadian, Newfoundland, South African, Gurkha, Indian, Polish, Italian and Japanese-American units. This remarkably heterogeneous mixture reflects the necessity earlier in the year to send veteran divisions to France for the Allied invasion. Capturing the higher German positions was extremely difficult and dangerous but they could not be by-passed because they dominated the routes along which the Allied troops were advancing. From these fortified enemy positions, some of them 2,000 feet up, the German observers could call down artillery fire or request that armour be deployed to block the Allied advance.

    On 8 October 1944 the 1st Battalion the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) was brought up to capture such an enemy position at Monte Ceco. Every man who saw this hill of over 2,200 feet knew that it would be difficult to take and that casualties were likely to be heavy. They were, but not as heavy as they might have been were it not for the courage of Private Richard Burton, whose VC citation was gazetted on 4 January 1945.

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    Private Richard Henry Burton, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) ​

    In Italy on 8th October, 1944, two Companies of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment moved forward to take a strongly held feature 760 metres high. The capture of this feature was vital at this stage of the operation as it dominated all the ground on the main axis of advance. The assaulting troops made good progress to within twenty yards of the crest when they came under withering fire from Spandaus on the crest. The leading platoon was held up and the Platoon Commander was wounded. The Company Commander took another platoon, of which Private Burton was runner, through to assault the crest from which four Spandaus at least were firing. Private Burton rushed forward and engaging the first Spandau position with his Tommy gun killed the crew of three. When the assault was again held up by murderous fire from two more machine guns Private Burton, again showing complete disregard for his own safety, dashed forward toward the first machine gun using his Tommy gun until his ammunition was exhausted. He then picked up a Bren gun and firing from the hip succeeded in killing or wounding the crews of the two machine guns. Thanks to his outstanding courage the Company was then able to consolidate on the forward slope of the feature. The enemy immediately counter-attacked fiercely but Private Burton, in spite of most of his comrades being either dead or wounded, once again dashed forward on his own initiative and directed such accurate fire with his Bren gun on the enemy that they retired leaving the feature firmly in our hands. The enemy later counter-attacked again on the adjoining platoon position and Private Burton, who had placed himself on the flank, brought such accurate fire to bear that this counter-attack also failed to dislodge the Company from its position. Private Burton's magnificent gallantry and total disregard of his own safety during many hours of fierce fighting in mud and continuous rain were an inspiration to all his comrades. It is so rare to find a reference in a citation to 'mud and continuous rain' that we must infer that the officers who drafted Private Burton's citation themselves had to contend with these dreadful conditions, which were made even worse by the onset of winter.

    Private Richard Burton, who came from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was 21 at the time of his exploit. He was later promoted corporal. His death occurred in July 1993.
     

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