May 9, 2014

Capt. Alexander Burnfield MRCVS – Black Watch Highland Regiment – WW1

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:06 pm by Aleksan

Our grandfather, Alexander Burnfield, was born on a farm in Perthshire, Scotland. After becoming a Blacksmith and Farrier, he qualified as a Vet at the Royal Dick Veterinary College, Edinburgh. Eventually in 1907 he travelled with his family to Longstock, Hampshire to farm at Hazeldown. During the First World War he joined the Black Watch based at Tidworth Barracks. Captain Alex. Burnfield served in the Veterinary Corps and his duties included vetting horses before shipment to France for the Army and visiting the Remount Centres at Romsey and Swaythling.

Horses were obtained for the War from farms in Britain but most came from America after a selection and quarantine process. Sometimes a horse would be in-foal and those were often taken to Hazeldown Farm for safekeeping; and they were only returned when the foals had been born. These apparently remained at Hazeldown!

He used to drive regularly to Southampton Docks in his yellow car but he never stopped at the checkpoint. Although he was well known to the guards, other cars being black, he was occasionally shot at – and his car was marked by several bullet holes. As an officer in the Black Watch based at Tidworth Barracks he was expected to ride on a Thoroughbred horse. However he always insisted on riding back to the farm on a Draught horse so he could take milk to the railway station at weekends.

On one occasion questions were asked in Parliament because he tethered horses, sick with a virus, on Southampton Common so as not to infect the other Army horses. This was very controversial but after three sleepless nights his actions were vindicated by the Government.

After the War he carried on farming with his three sons at Longstock, Stockbridge and at Little Ann near Andover. He also provided a Veterinary service to local farmers. The Burnfield family continues to farm locally, and Alexander’s great granddaughter, Catherine, is currently training to be a Vet at his old college in Edinburgh.

Alexander J Burnfield
Jane D Reynell

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