Company Sergeant Major Joseph Birkett DCM
240883 2/5th East Lancashire Regiment
Lived at 49 Marlborough Street, Burnley
The Burnley Express of 16 August 1919 reported:
BURNLEY BANDSMAN'S D.C.M. PRESENTED.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was presented on Saturday last, at Fulwood Barracks, Preston, to ex- Company Sergeant-Major J. Birkett, 1/5th East Lancashire Regiment (Burnley Territorials). Ex-C.S.M., Birkett, who is now demobilized, and resides at 49, Marlborough Street, Burnley, enlisted on October 9th, 1914, in the 2/5th East Lancs. He first got the information of his honour through the columns of the "Burnley Express," on June 4th, 1919, when we published the honours and awards list from the London Gazette, dated June 3rd, 1919. The Depot Colonel at Preston presented him with the medal as stated, the following regiments being represented on the parade, about one company in strength; East Lancashire Regiment, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, one battery R.F.A., and a small detachment of A.S.C.
In presenting the medal the Colonel said he hoped the Sergeant Major would live long to enjoy the distinction he had received, and that it would carry him through life with honour and glory. C.S.M., Birkett was also mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's dispatch on October 7th, 1917, for "Gallantry in the Field." He was wounded on March 21st, 1918, in the left hand, and was sent to No. 6 General Hospital, Rouen, France, for eight weeks, afterwards being posted to the 1/5th East Lancashire Regiment, (Burnley Territorials), and he went all the "push" with them up to the armistice. C.S.M., Birkett did not see active service until March 1917, being kept behind with the 2/5th East Lancs Regimental Band as Bandmaster. He was in charge of the band when it came to Northeast Lancashire in 1916, from Sussex, on a recruiting campaign.
It will be remembered that Sergeant-Major Birkett was very popular in Burnley as a Bandsman, as he toured the world with the famous Besses o’ th’ Barn Band, from January 1909 until March 1913. During this period he added to his then previous good record of 1,078 concerts, and travelled to nine countries with this famous combination, which at that time held the record as the finest brass band organisation in the world. France and Belgium bring his record of travel to 11 countries, something the ex-Sergeant-Major is proud of.
The citation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal published in the London Gazette reads: "For devotion to duty and gallant services. During the action at Briastre on the 20 October 1918 and at the Foret de Mormal on the 6 November 1918, he displayed high qualities of cool courage and leadership under trying conditions, his work throughout being carried out under heavy shell and machine-gun fire. At all times he set a splendid example to all warrant officers non- commissioned officers and men, and has thereby been of invaluable service to his battalion."
With thanks to Andrew Gill. For more information go to: www.burnleyinthegreatwar.info