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Burton, Alexander Stewart (1893–1915)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Alexander Stewart Burton (1893-1915), soldier, was born on 20 January 1893 at Kyneton, Victoria, son of Alfred Edward Burton, grocer, and his wife Isabella, née Briggs, both Victorian-born. The family moved to Euroa and, after attending the state school, Burton followed his father into the firm of A. Miller & Co., working in the ironmongery department. He was a chorister in the Euroa Presbyterian Church, a member of the town band, and was active in sport. In 1911 he began his period of compulsory military service.

On 18 August 1914 Burton enlisted in the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, and embarked for Egypt in October. On 4 April 1915 his battalion embarked for Lemnos and on the 25th took part in the landing at Anzac. Burton, who was ill with a throat infection, watched the landing from a hospital ship but a week later he was in the trenches. The 7th Battalion was then fighting near 400 Plateau; on 5 May it left Anzac beach to participate in the attack on Krithia, then returned to serve at Monash Valley and Steele's Post. Burton was slightly wounded in action and in July was promoted lance corporal for having volunteered for and taken part in a dangerous operation; he was later promoted corporal.

Burton was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery in the trenches at Lone Pine on 9 August. Early that morning the Turks launched a strong counter-attack on a newly captured trench held by Burton, a personal friend Lieutenant F. H. Tubb, Corporal W. Dunstan and a few others. The Turks advanced up a sap and blew in the sandbag barricade but Burton, Tubb and Dunstan repulsed them and rebuilt it. Supported by strong bombing parties, the enemy twice more destroyed the barricade but were driven off and the barricade was rebuilt. Burton was killed by a bomb while building up the parapet. Tubb and Dunstan were also awarded the Victoria Cross. Burton's award was gazetted on 15 October and on 28 January 1916 he was mentioned in dispatches.

His kind and manly nature had won him many friends; even before Lone Pine he was frequently mentioned in soldiers' letters for various daring acts. He has no known grave, but his name is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli, and by an oak tree and bridge at Euroa. In 1967 his family presented his V.C. to the Australian War Memorial. He was unmarried.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • A. Dean and E. W. Gutteridge, The Seventh Battalion, A.I.F. (Melb, 1933)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • London Gazette, 15 Oct 1915, 28 Jan 1916
  • Age (Melbourne), 15 Oct 1915
  • Western Mail (Perth), 19 Nov 1936.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Burton, Alexander Stewart (1893–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/burton-alexander-stewart-5437/text9229, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 14 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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