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William Wallace Allison Burn

Our Soldiers Flag, New Zealand Ensign fundraising flag (1914-1918). Auckland War Memorial Museum (Ref: W0414, 1929.332, F016). Soldier's records were identified by Margaret Nash of the Panmure Branch of NZSG. This image has no known copyright restrictions.

Our Soldiers Flag, New Zealand Ensign fundraising flag (1914-1918). Auckland War Memorial Museum (Re …


  • Title
  • Forenames
    William Wallace Allison AWMM
  • Surname
    Burn AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
  • Service number
    WWI 1/315 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    17 July 1891 AWMM MelbourneVictoria AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
    WW1 Pre 14 August 1911 AWMM 281 Hereford Street, Christchurch, New Zealand AWMM
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    WW1 Isabel Burn (mother), 281 Hereford Street, Christchurch, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Pre 1 August 1912 AWMM Single/WWI AWMM


Wars and conflicts

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Military decorations

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Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
    WW1 14 August 1911 AWMM Student/Civilian AWMM
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    Killed in Action, Cause of Death AWMM

Biographical information

Biographical information

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  • Son of Mrs Isabel Matilda Burn of Christchurch, New Zealand

    Auckland War Memorial Museum 'Scars on The Heart' WWI has the following information: "In 1914 New Zealand had one trained military pilot, Lieutenant Wallace Burn of the New Zealand Staff Corps, and a single military aircraft, the Bleriot Monoplane Britannia. Both were sent to war.

    In 1915 as New Zealand's "only qualified aviator belonging to the Defence Forces of the Dominion", Burn was loaned to the Indian Government after New Zealand and Australia received a request for pilots for Mesopotamia where the Indian Army were fighting the Turks. Burn was the New Zealand contribution to the Australian 'Half Flight' of four pilots, 40 mechanics, mules and an aircraft workshop.

    The Flight first went into action on 31 May 1915 and provided invaluable air reconnaissance for Townshend's advance. Turkish positions were plotted on maps, and urgent messages dropped to the troops on the ground in tins with streamers attached. (Radio equipped aircraft were not introduced until September 1915). The aircraft were also used for directing artillery fire by dropping 'smoke balls' on the target. Bombing was equally primitive. The first one kilogram bombs were dropped by hand by the observer over the side of the aircraft. When the 20 pound (9 kilogram) areola bombs arrived, the bomb-racks supplied with them would not fit, and the bombs were dropped through an improvised hole cut in the cockpit floor.

    On 30 July 1915 two Caudron aircraft were returning to Basra. Reilly piloted one and the Australian Lieutenant GP Merz the other, with Burn as his observer. Both aircraft were forced to land with engine failure. Reilly was fortunate to land near a village where the Arabs were friendly. Merz and Burn were not so lucky. They force-landed near a camp of Arabs who attacked and after a running battle killed them. Merz and Burn were the first professional military pilots of the Australian and New Zealand forces to die in war. Ironically because he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps in Mesopotamia, Burn's name never appeared in the New Zealand Roll of Honour. His brother Trooper R.B. Burn (7/315) of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles was killed at Gallipoli during the night advance on 6/7 August 1915, seven days after his brothers death."

    William Wallace Allison Burn - 1891-1915

    He was the first New Zealander to train as a military aviator and the first NZ pilot to be killed in action. William was born in Melbourne, Australia but his family moved back to NZ and lived in Christchurch where he attended Christchurch Boys High school. He was the youngest of 3 sons of Forbes Burn and Isabel Ayers. He had been involved with the rugby football, rowing and the cadet service while at school. After joining the NZ Staff Corps he was sent to England for 2 years military training. He studied aviation and received an Army’s pilot certificate. At the special request of the Indian Army he was sent to the Persian Gulf.

    In August 1915, his mother who was a nurse living at 281 Hereford Street, received a cablegram from the Viceroy of India informing her that William was missing. Later news informed the family that his plane had been attacked by Marsh Arabs near the Euphrates River and had been forced to land in the dessert. He and his observer were never found.
    Probate of his will was granted in October 1915 but in March 1916 there was an ad in the Press stating that a Copy of his policy with the Australian Mutual Provident Society would be released. Presumably this allowed the administration of his will to be completed.

    More information in NZ Herald WW1 stories written by Kurt Bayer, published on August 12 2014 titled “Desert Fight Claims Airman’s Life.”

    Above biography was transcribed, researched and written by Margaret Nash of Panmure Branch of NZSG
    _____________________________ AWMM
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About death

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  • Death
    30 July 1915 AWMM
    Age 24 AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name
    Basra Memorial, Basra War Cemetery, Iraq AWMM

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DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
17 April 2018BrianMelbourne, AustraliaResearcher

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