43. Bertie Burrington’s Archive
These documents record the life of an ordinary, but remarkable North Devon man, who overcame a difficult start to create a happy family life in Barnstaple.
Bertie Burrington (1894-1982) was born in Braunton, where his father was a level crossing keeper. By the time he was six his father had died in the Asylum at Exminster, probably of GPI (general paresis of the insane), leaving his wife with debts as well as hungry children to feed.
Bertie’s mum Mary took her six youngest children to Cornwall, to work as a crossing-keeper in her own right. By 14 Bertie was back in Barnstaple working as a general labourer and later joined the 6th Volunteer Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. He was called up at the outbreak of the First World War and was soon on his way to India, later fighting at the battle of El Foka in Palestine.
The 1920s were a difficult time, and the archive includes letters from Bertie’s commanding officer trying to help him get a job. Eventually he secured work at the Post Office, but remained in the Devons, and was called up again in 1939. This time he didn’t go overseas and returned safely to his wife Alice and his two daughters in Clifton Street.
As well as serving in two world wars, Bertie’s claims to fame include his 40 years in the Post Office and his reputation as an expert catcher in the Barnstaple Raleigh Cricket Team. He was also the first person to have an X-Ray in Barnstaple.