Remembering the Burton brothers
Ronald Garnet Burton was born in Millthorpe, New South Wales, on 31 October 1917, the son of William Burton and Ann Clara Frances Burton. Ronald attended Orange High School and played cricket, football, and tennis. Later he studied accountancy and was employed as a clerk at the Bank of New South Wales.
In March 1941 Burton enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, having previously served in the 1st Battalion of the Militia. Once in the RAAF he began training as a pilot.
In July 1941 Burton embarked in Sydney for overseas service, first to Canada, then Britain. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Burton was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined squadrons based in Britain throughout the course of the war.
Around the time of his arrival in Britain, Ronald Burton would have received news of his brother, Petty Officer Supply Eric Samuel Burton.
Eric Burton was serving aboard HMAS Perth, and was reported missing, later confirmed killed, when the Perth was sunk in the battle of Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942. A total of 357 members of Perth’s crew – including Petty Supply Officer Eric Samuel Burton – were killed when the ship went down. Of the 320 survivors who became prisoners of the Japanese, 106 died during three and half years of captivity. At war’s end in 1945, only 218 remained alive to return home to Australia.
Ronald Burton undertook further specialist training in Britain before being posted to No. 50 Squadron, Royal Air Force. As part of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command, No. 50 Squadron was at that time equipped with the twin-engine Avro Manchester heavy bomber.
A matter of weeks later, on the night of the 6th of June, the Manchester in which Burton was a crewmember was lost after a raid on Emden, Germany. Heading home, the aircraft developed engine trouble and crashed into the North Sea. Burton was killed instantly. He was 22 years old.
A memorial fence was dedicated to the two Burton brothers in their hometown of Millthorpe.