Pte 15/1277 West Yorkshire Regiment, Prince of Wales Own. 15th Battalion, Leeds Pals

September 1895 saw the birth of Israel Burnett Westerman in Hirst, Northumberland. He was the first child of Lincoln and Sarah-Elizabeth. The two had married one year previously, and four years after Israel was born they had their second child, William.

Initially, the family lived at 14 Cliff Terrace in Micklefield and the 1901 census showed Lincoln as a hewer in a coal mine, but ten years later he had given this up and was working as a Wesleyan Town Missioner. Also at this point, the family had moved to 36 Ryecroft Street, Ossett and Israel was working as a drapers assistant to Mr Hallas of Bank Street. His brother William was still at school. (Source: 1901, 1911 Census)

Israel was 18 when war broke out in 1914, but he did not join up straight away. He waited until the middle of 1915 and joined at Colsterdale. His records list him as simply Burnett Westerman – but it is not known if he went by this name  previously or if it was a change he made around this time. He was posted to C Company, No. 10 Platoon, No. 7 Section.

His medal card shows that he went to Egypt with the battalion and arrived just before Christmas in December 1915. He stayed until the beginning of March before embarking for France. Israel was wounded on the first day of the Somme – he was operating a machine gun that was hit by a shell. He was buried by the subsequent explosion and spent several weeks in hospital before returning to the front. Later on in 1916, he was wounded again but not seriously. (Source: Medal Card)

On 3rd May 1917, he was part of the attack on Oppy Wood, much like Lance-Corporal Harold Brown and Private John Ellis, all of whom have their stories on this blog. Israel was one of the 262 missing other ranks, along with those who were killed and those who were wounded. Like Harold and John, Israel’s body was never found and instead, he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. (Source: CWGC)

The Ossett Observer reported his loss and there was a subsequent report which confirmed his death:

‘Official intimation has been received this week by Mr. L. Westerman, Wesleyan town missioner of Ryecroft-street, Ossett, that his son, Private I.B. Westerman, of the West Yorkshire Regiment ‘Leeds Pals’, who was reported missing on May 3rd 1917, was killed in action that day or a subsequent date.’ (Source: Ossett Observer)

Burnett was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Source: Medal Card)

William also joined one of the Yorkshire Regiments and was also wounded – in his case late 1917 – but he survived the war.

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.