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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
People in story: 
Mr William Fry
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
28 June 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from CSV Actiondesk on behalf of Mr William Fry and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr Fry fully understands the site's terms and conditions

When the Americans came they were stationed at Scampton near Lincoln. They came regularly into Lincoln to the dance hall near the theatre and they started "jitterbug dancing". We would ask them where their friend was. They would reply "gone for a Burton", meaning gone for a new suit ie a coffin, they had been killed. That was where the saying came from.

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Message 1 - Re: Sayings

Posted on: 28 June 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

The saying "Gone for a Burton" is not American; it is RAF slang dating back to 1939. It refers to a suit made by Messrs Montague Burton, probably connected with getting a 'wooden suit', i.e., a coffin.

However in 1978 Eric Partridge, the eminent philologist and expert on slang, had a letter from Peter Sanders who wrote "My wife, who was in the WAAF during WW2, tells me that the RAF took over some billiards halls above the Montague Burton shops as medical centres and consequently the excuse 'he (or she) has gone for a Burton' originally meant no more than absence for a medical inspection, inoculation, etc".

"A Dictionary of Catch Phrases from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day", by Eric Partidge (edited by Paul Beale), Routledge, 1983.



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