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15 October 2014
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Gunner Burnard and the Brigadier

by Ron Goldstein

Contributed by 
Ron Goldstein
People in story: 
Reginald Geoffrey Burnard
Location of story: 
Cassino
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A3757854
Contributed on: 
08 March 2005

Geoff (ringed) and Larry with some of the lads at 228 Signal Training Rgt in Congleton

I first met Geoff in March 1943 at Congleton in Cheshire.

I had been posted to his unit, the 228 Signal Training Rgt, to join a draft of Driver/Wireless Operators about to be sent to North Africa as re-inforcements to the British First Army.

Geoff stood out like a sore thumb, not because he was noisy or flashy, the reverse in fact, he was overly quiet and perhaps too well spoken for your average ‘squaddie’.

He also seemed much older than the rest of us, I would have guessed in his 30’ s as opposed to the early 20’s of his peers, it should have occurred to me then that he was probably a volunteer.

Sixty years later and trying to remember his accent, the nearest I can get to it is that it was like Brian Sewell’s, the renowned art critic. The beautifully enunciated vowel tones were certainly there and as an ex Londoner with a slight cockney accent myself, I was suitably impressed. Rumour had it that Geoff was a former bank manager and, somehow he never seemed at home in his uniform which, I noticed, he always kept immaculately pressed.

After our spell in North Africa and Sicily I next remember meeting up with Geoff again as our unit assembled for the forthcoming battle of Cassino. We were in this nameless field and had been watching with some interest a procession of French North African Gouams in their colourful uniforms, trudging along the nearby road with their heavily laden mules.

Suddenly , with a shriek of brakes, a Jeep pulled up and out popped a red-tabbed Brigadier. After checking our Div and ‘Tac’ sign by the roadside to make sure he had come to the right place he strode into our camp.

There was much saluting from all ranks, a flurry of activity from the BSM and an abortive attempt to call out the guard but the Brigadier insisted that he wanted no fuss.
He was, he said, only there on a personal matter and could someone find him Gunner Burnard ?

In the meantime our O/C, Major Mouland was peeping furtively from his tent-flap, obviously not wanting to be involved if it wasn’t an official visit and yet presumably slightly peed off that the Brigadier hadn’t actually asked to meet with him.

With much interest and amusement from all the onlookers, Geoff was warmly greeted and back-slapped by the Brigadier who, we later learned, was his brother-in-law !

I can’t remember any further sightings of Geoff and was to hear no more of him until April the 14th when we received the shocking news that whilst carrying out his normal duties as a wireless op he had been killed by a blast from a German mortar.

There is a footnote to this little story.
In 2005 the Heroes Return scheme reminded me that I had never been back to Cassino and I so I decided to visit the Commonwealth cemetery and pay my respects to the fallen.

I looked up the details of Geoff’s burial site on the CWGC website and discovered for the first time that his name was Reginald Geoffrey Burnard, he was aged 42, married and came from Somerset.

I’ve no doubt that when I visit the Cemetery I will find other men of the 49th LAA Rgt who fell at Cassino but it is Geoff that I will remember the most because he was the first and I believe the only Driver/Op of our group to be killed at Cassino and his death reminded us only too well that we all lived on borrowed time.

Ron Goldstein

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Message 1 - Re: Gunner Burnard and the Brigadier

Posted on: 08 March 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

What a lovely but poignant story! Gunner Burnard's perpetual Internet Commonwealth War Graves Commission's commemoration can be viewed here http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=2608410About links

 

Message 2 - Re: Gunner Burnard and the Brigadier

Posted on: 08 March 2005 by Ron Goldstein

Peter

Thank you for that.

Geoff and you would have got on fine together !

Ron

Message 1 - Re=Gunner Burnard and the brigadier

Posted on: 08 March 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Ron,
I am mortified that I stood on those hill sides thinking of the battle there and never thought of visiting that beautiful cemetary.
A very good story that shows the make up of the different kinds of people involved in the war. They were not all Young fire eaters, so many were Fathers with grown up children but wanted to do what they thought right.
Thank you for showing yet another facet of those men whose stories they cannot tell themselves.
Frank.

 

Message 2 - Re=Gunner Burnard and the brigadier

Posted on: 09 March 2005 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Ron - as always a well told tale of the people we met in those conflicts, who never seemed to fit into the scheme of things but did a most excellent job when called upon.
best regards
tomcan

 

Message 3 - Re=Gunner Burnard and the brigadier

Posted on: 09 March 2005 by Larry (Lew) Fox

Ron

Reading your story about Geoff reminded me that on many occasions he said to me “Larry…I will never come out of this war alive “
I used to say him “ It’s ridiculous to reason like that …we could all say that” but he was convinced that he would not survive .
At the time this seemed most strange to me as we did not talk about any premonitions that we may have had .
When I eventually heard of his death it was almost as if he was saying to me “I told you so !”

Keep up the good work Ron !

Larry

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British Army Category
Monte Cassino 1944 Category
Italy Category
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