Burns, George

Burns, George        1917 October 26th        Fovant

Australian’s Suicide – Shot Himself with a Revolver

An inquest was held by Mr F H Trethowan (Coroner for South Wilts) on Thursday in last week, to enquire into the circumstances attending the death of an Australian soldier, George Burns, who apparently shot himself with a revolver. He came from New South Wales and was 25 years of age.

Evidence of identification was given by Bombardier L H Tolliday, of the Postal Corps, AIF, stationed at the Field Post Office, Fovant, with Burns. On Monday the latter said to him, “If they do anything to me or anything happens to me write to this address,” and he handed witness a slip of paper. He said he had refused to obey an order and might get into trouble. He knew that Burns was being moved to another station, and that he considered it was unfair. On Wednesday, about 7pm, Burns entered the Post Office. He seemed quite normal and went from the sleeping room into the office, which was empty. Shortly after he heard a sharp report, and he and Capt Bassett, who was with him, went into the room and found Burns lying dead on the floor near the stove, with a revolver at his feet. The revolver had been supplied to the Post Office where it was kept. About the end of July a great friend of Burns’ went to France, and he was very much upset and wept, and seemed to feel it very much. Another friend went to France on Wednesday and Burns spoke to him about it and seemed rather upset.

In answer to the Foreman, Tolliday said Burns had not served overseas. He was not weak-minded, but very sensitive.

Pte Benson, AIF, also of the Post Office Corps, at Fovant, said Burns threatened to blow out his brains in August. He understood he was upset because a great friend of his had gone to France. Witness got him out of the way and went to the office and took the cartridges from the revolver and gave them to Tolliday, and when Burns said he would shoot himself he told him he could not do so with an empty revolver. Later he wanted to know who had removed the cartridges. He stormed and raved about it, and witnesses told him he would get the cartridges in the morning. Burns was sober. He was usually cheerful, but for a week after his friend went away he was very upset.

Captain E Huntley, RAMC, Fovant Military Hospital, said Burns was brought in at 7.40am on Wednesday. Death was due to injuries to the head caused by a revolver bullet.

A verdict of “Suicide during temporary insanity” was returned.

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