At the time of the 1901 Census, the Burgess family was living at Shaftesbury House, Cheadle Hulme. In the house at the time were John & Louisa Burgess, who were Jack’s parents, together with his older brothers and sisters, Charles, Alice, Alfred and Edith and his younger brother Harold. However, Jack was not living there at the time. The family had significant financial means, even for the time and had two live-in servants – a cook and a housekeeper. It is possible, therefore, that Jack might have been away at boarding school, common in those days for the sons of middle class parents.
He is almost certain to have been living in Africa at the outbreak of war and serving with the Battalion which, at the time, was comprised mainly of part time soldiers. For much of the war, the unit was based in northern Kenya, effectively acting as a border patrol, to prevent incursions from German East Africa (including Tanzania) to the north. Jack’s medal entitlement records at the National Archives show him to have originally been a private in the Magadi Defence Force. This was one of the units hurriedly brought together to defend the Ugandan Railway.
Although no further definite information has come to light, there is mention of a Sgt Burgiss (sic) engaged in fighting with the 3rd KAR in January 1915 and this may well be him. The town of Jasin is on the coast of what is now Tanzania and was defended from a fort by a company of the 2nd Kashmiris, supported by a small group of KAR men operated as a Machine Gun Section. They came under attack from a strong force of German troops on 18 January.
The account of the North Lancashire Regiment in Africa records that “Three British soldiers were in the fort. Serjeant Burgess of the KAR Machine Gun Section and a lance corporal and a private who were signallers. During the fighting on 18 January, these three had been a great help…by controlling sections of the perimeter and firing aimed shots at the attackers.”
By the early morning of the 19th, ammunition had just about run out and there was no water. The fort commander had little option but to surrender. Two British officers who had been engaged outside the fort were paroled back to the British lines, but the remaining 280 troops, including the three British were taken prisoner. If this was indeed Jack, then he spent the last two years of his life in a PoW camp. The Times, in its edition of 24 November 1917, reported that he had died of dysentery.
(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)