July 1917


David Childs

In July the Americans became very aware that the struggle in which they were now embarking was not going to be a walk over. On the second day of the month General Pershing requested that his army be raised to one million men only, nine days later to amend this to upwards of three million. Pershing was not being pessimistic. On 31st July the Battle of Pilckem Ridge opened the Third Battle of Ypres, the most controversial and, for some, scandalous operation of the whole war when troops bogged down in mud struggled to advance and hold just a few acres of land, suffering enormous casualties in the process.

Away from the Western Front, the self-proclaimed legend, T E Lawrence and his Arabs, captured the port of Aqaba.

We will remember them

One of the casualties of Pilkem Ridge was Private George R Burton, aged 23, who died on 31 July and whose name is recorded at the Menin Gate memorial. He was serving in the Wiltshire Regiment which was heavily involved in the muddy struggle of Passchendaele. His parents, George and Adelaide Burton, lived in the High Street. The luck of the Tisbury Lads had held until the last day of the month: August would be very different.


As George Burton has no known grave he was probably reported missing before it was assumed that he had died. For millions this was a period of purgatory that seldom ended with the joy of a loved one being found alive. This state is reflected in the poem written by Anna Gordon Keown. It remains a part of the GCSE syllabus.

Reported Missing

My thought shall never be that you are dead:
Who laughed so lately in this quiet place.
The dear and deep-eyed humour of that face
Held something ever-living, in Death's stead.
Scornful I hear the flat things they have said
And all their piteous platitudes of pain.
I laugh! I laugh! -- For you will come again -
This heart would never beat if you were dead.
The world's adrowse in twilight hushfulness,
There's purple lilac in your little room,
And somewhere out beyond the evening gloom
Small boys are culling summer watercress.
Of these familiar things I have no dread
Being so very sure you are not dead.

©  Tisbury History Society
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