The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Wiliam Robert Burns

BURNS, William Robert

William Robert Burns was born on the 10th of October 1896 in Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada. His parents, William Robert Burns and Mary Elizabeth Connell were both also born in New Brunswick and had married there in 1883. Their parents had been born in Ireland. William Snr. was a Tailor and by 1901 there were seven children in the family, William Jnr. being the fifth. They were then living in Dorchester.

In March 1915 William Jnr. enlisted in Winnipeg in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He gave his father as his next-of-kin, with an address at Logan Avenue, Winnipeg, indicating that the family had moved in the previous four years. William’s occupation was a ‘Salesman’ and later information showed that he was working for Alex McDonald & Co., Wholesale Grocers and other businesses.

He signed up with the 17th Battery of the 5th Artillery Brigade arriving in Plymouth in August 1915 and embarked for France on the 15th of January 1916. His military records do not show where he was engaged in the following year, though in September 1917 he went on a ‘Fullerphone’ Course. This was the system of communication between the trenches and headquarters. In May 1918 he suffered a barbed wire wound to his leg and was hospitalized.

He was back with his Unit in the field in July having written his Military Will, leaving all his property to his father, whose address was then Norwood, Ontario. On the 30th of September he was granted eighteen days leave to the UK.

William and his friend, James Pearson, went to London, Belfast and then on to Ennis in Co Clare where they visited Pearson’s godfather. They returned to Dublin and boarded RMS Leinster to travel back to London to continue their leave. Pearson survived the sinking, but William Burns did not though his body was recovered and taken to the military hospital in Dublin. He was later buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery with full military honours. His medals were later sent to his father who was then living in Toronto. William Burns died on his twenty-second birthday.



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