On the 20 Sept 2017 a commemorative paving stone was unveiled in Arbour Square, Tower Hamlets, London EP1 on the 100th anniversary of Sgt Burman’s VC action. The commemorative stone was unveiled by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and a Rifles contingent of ten, found by G Coy 7 RIFLES, Bugler Dan Graham from the Rifles Band & Bugles in Winchester and was headed up by Col Dan Reeve MC, late CO of 3 RIFLES.
William Francis Burman was born on 30 Aug 1897 not far from where the commemorative stone was laid. Burman enlisted in the Army in 1915 at age 17 joining the 16th (Service) Battalion (St Pancras) of the Rifle Brigade and was promoted to sergeant before he was 19. He was awarded the VC for an action at a position called Bulgar Wood during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). From his citation: "On 20th September, 1917 south-east of Ypres, Belgium, when the advance of his company was held up by a machine-gun at point-blank range, Sergeant Burman shouted to the man next to him to wait a few minutes and going forward to what seems certain death killed the enemy gunner and captured the machine-gun and took it to the company's objective where he used it with great effect. 15 minutes later it was seen that about 40 of the enemy were enfilading the Battalion on the right. Sergeant Burman and two others ran and got behind them, killing six and capturing two officers and 29 other ranks." Burman's C.O., in recommending him for the VC, said, "Sergeant Burman is the finest fellow that ever lived, standing only 5 ft 4 in, but with the heart of a lion, his courage and fortitude throughout were amazing to see.
After the war Burman became a chauffeur for the managing director of the Daily Mirror newspaper, holding the job for thirty years, then started his own car-rental business. He retired in 1964 and in 1971 moved into a Royal British Legion Home in Cromer, Norfolk, where he passed away at the age of 77 in Oct 1974. His medals are on display at the Imperial War Museum, London. Burman VC with Rolls Royce YR 8642
The car in the picture is a Phantom I The registration prefix ‘YR’ was only ever issued between July 1926 and January 1927 so the car can be accurately dated from that short period. Judging by the break in the roof line half way over the rear compartment, it would appear to have a landaulet body.
Burman VC was part of the Guard of Honour for the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey in 1920 and sat next to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 VC reunion dinner having won a draw to do so. After the dinner, The Daily Mirror reported his story of the event "When he (The Prince) heard that I was a chauffeur, we discussed cars and he asked me which I liked best. He gave me his opinions and said that British cars were best. During the dinner he remarked on every little incident. When he sat down after making his speech he laughed and said “It’s a dry job, speech-making""