Percy Edward Burleton was born on 24th July 1885, the youngest of seven children to George and Lucy Burleton. George was a quarryman, and the family lived in the village of Draycott, near Wells in Somerset.
Percy’s older brother Lewis worked for the railways, and this is a trade that his younger sibling followed. By the time of the 1911 census he was living with his brother in Glastonbury and worked as a carman, delivering goods to and from the local station.
In February 1914, Percy appeared as a witness in an inquest about the death of a colleague, George Gillett. George had gone missing one night after the two had met for a drink in a local pub. The alert was raised when George’s coat was found hanging on a branch on the banks of the River Brue, to the south of the town; the waters were dredged and George’s body found.
At the inquest, Percy confirmed that the two men had had a drink in a local pub, and that George had seemed a little strange, but not the worse for drink. He reported that the deceased man had been quieter than usual at the railway stables for a week or so. George had left the pub at 10:55 that evening, and that was the last time that Percy had seen him.
Part of a carman’s duty was to collect money for the goods they had delivered; this was then paid to the station clerk on a daily basis. In the week leading up to his death, the stationmaster had been advised of some financial discrepancies, and on the day he drowned, he had been spoken to and advised the matter would be reported to the police if the missing amount was not paid back.
The place where George’s coat was found was not on his way home from the pub, and he would have had to have gone out of his way to get there. When considering their findings, the jury returned a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity, citing that the financial situation George had apparently gotten himself into.
When war broke out, Percy seemed to have been keen to get involved. Initially joining the Devonshire Regiment in September 1914, his experience with his job saw him transferred to the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers.
Shipped to France on 22nd September 1915, his service saw him awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star. Sapper Burleton was moved to the Eastern Front and served in the Balkans for three years. According to the Central Somerset Gazette, which reported his passing, he contracted ‘a chill’ on the boat back to England and was admitted to Frensham Hill Hospital in Surrey.
Sadly, the chill seems to have been more severe than the report suggested, and Sapper Burleton passed away on 17th September 1918. He was 32 years old.
Percy Edward Burleton lies at rest in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church in his home village of Draycott, Somerset.