George Owen Burrell was born at Scotton in 1889, with his birth registered at Knaresborough though it is possible that he was actually born in the schoolhouse at Lingerfield. He was the son of Samuel and Jane Burrell who lived at Lingerfield School House where Samuel was the schoolmaster. The 1891 census shows the there were four children at that time, namely William, aged 8, daughters Ileen (5), Francis (2) and George himself(1).
The family were still at the Lingerfield Schoolhouse in 1901 when William, then aged 18, was working as an ironmongers’s apprentice but the other children were still at school. By this time Samuel and Jane had had two more children, Nora (8) and Rupert (6).
By 1911, George was 21 and a boarder in York where he was a student teacher. His parents remained at Lingerfield where the only children still living in the schoolhouse were Ileen, Nora and Rupert who, at 16, was an apprentice electrical engineer.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour records that George Burrell had been educated at Harrogate Secondary School but had also spent two years at the Boy’s National School at Knaresborough (also known as Castle Boy’s School in the Castle Yard) before entering St. Johns Training College at York (where he appears in the 1911 census). He spent two years at St John’s before being appointed Assistant Master at his old school in Knaresborough. The Castle School ledgers show that he had commenced duties as a pupil teacher in August 1906, teaching Standard I and left to go to Harrogate in December 1906. He resumed teaching duties at Castle School in April 1908, teaching Standard III under the supervision of Miss Imrie, and completed his apprenticeship in July 1908. In September 1908 he became an Uncertified Assistant teaching Standard I and qualified as a Certified Assistant in July 1912 following his time at York.
George Burrell was also a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, a lay preacher and Sunday School teacher at Scotton church and secretary to the local cricket club.
At the beginning of the war, George Burrell was one of five male teachers at the Castle Boy’s School; all would enlist into the army during the course of 1915. George left his teaching duties on 5th November 1915 to enlist, on 8th November, in a Battalion of the Yorkshire Hussars which was being raised by Lord Feversham of Duncombe Park in Helmsley. The Battalion was made up primarily of volunteers from the farming communities of Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland and was subsequently incorporated into the 21st Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC). Their early training took place at Helmsley before they moved to Aldershot and subsequently they were sent to France on 4 May 1916.
The 21st KRRC fought in the Battle of the Somme where Lord Feversham was killed. George Burrell fought as C12154 Rifleman Burrell, serving in B Company of the Signalling Section of the Battalion. After the Somme, the 21st KRRC were sent to the Ypres salient in Belgium where George Burrell was killed in action at Wytschaete on 12 March 1917; he was 27 years old. He had been wounded on 10 March and died on his way to hospital. He is buried in Klein-Vierstraat British Cemetery, 6km south west of Ieper (Ypres).
The Sergeant of his section wrote to his parents on 13th March:
“It is with the most sincere regret that I have to inform you that your son Owen died yesterday as a result of wounds received whilst in the line. Everything possible was done for him at the time, and I had great hopes that he might recover, but unfortunately he succumbed to his injuries whilst on the way to hospital. His loss will be greatly felt by the section, as at his own special work he was our best man. His cheerful, willing spirit whilst in the line was constantly remarked upon, and was a fine example to the other men. As he was one of the old boys who came out with the section from England we feel his loss all the much more deeply. I hope to be able to attend his funeral this afternoon. It may be some little consolation to you to know that he will be given proper burial by a Church of England chaplain in a little cemetery behind the line. The grave will also be permanently marked with a cross erected by the battalion. In conclusion, may I offer you my truest sympathy in your great loss.
Believe me, very faithfully yours,
Mansfield Brewer, Sergeant Signalling Section”.
Harrogate Herald 1917
The bad news was announced locally by the Harrogate Herald in their edition of 21 March 1917 which contained an account of his death and a photograph of Rifleman Burrell. He had been highly esteemed by the managers, teachers and pupils at Castle School and the news of his death was reported to have cast considerable gloom over Scotton.
Samuel Burrell conveyed the sad news of the death of his son to Castle School by letter which the school received on 19 March 1917. The school wrote back with their condolences as did the West Riding Education Authority at Wakefield.
For his war time service, George Burrell was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. His name does not appear on the Knaresborough war memorial but he was commemorated on the memorials at Scotton and at Castle
School, although the latter plaque does not seem to have survived.
On 28th November 1919, Colonel Collins of Knaresborough unveiled a tablet to commemorate all five teaching staff at Castle School who had served during the war, together with photographs of George Burrell and Charles Firth, the two teachers who had lost their lives during the conflict. The parents of both men were present at this ceremony.
George’s brother Rupert Cecil Burrell was also born at Scotton; he served as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers and survived the war.