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Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Sgt 435 24y 26 Oct 1914 25 Jul 1918 5

Major Ross Burrell  (1888 - 1960)               

Burrell Brothers booklet            

Robert and Edith Burrell and family

Ross and Moreton Burrell were the only sons of William Robert and Edith Jane Burrell née Armstrong. The names of Ross Burrell and Moreton Burrell are on the Wharf Street Congregational Church Honour Board.  This is simply explained because their parents were members of that congregation, having first met each other at the Wharf Street church in the 1880s, but it is also interesting to note that Mrs Edith Burrell’s grandfather was the Rev William Pascoe Crook (1775–1846), missionary, schoolmaster and the first Congregational minister to settle in Australia.

William Pascoe Crook was the son of Count Croah, a French nobleman who with his family escaped to England during the French Revolution and started life again at Dartmouth in Devonshire, their name being anglicised into “Crook”. W. P. Crook was born in Dartmouth, England and died in Melbourne (then in New South Wales) in 1846.

During his lifetime he served with dedication and outstanding ability, often in pioneering ventures, in many places, beginning as a missionary at Santa Christina in the Marquesas. He married Hannah Dare (1779–1837) in England and travelled as chaplain on the ship Ocean in the expedition to establish a British Settlement at Port Phillip, New South Wales.

During this colonising project W. P. Crook worked tirelessly amongst the settlers as preacher and teacher of their children but the settlement was later abandoned and the whole equipment moved to Port Dalrymple. The Crook family journeyed to Sydney where W P Crook was associated with the Rev. Samuel Marsden (1765–1838), chaplain, magistrate, missionary, farmer, also prominent in the early establishment of the colony of New South Wales.

He established a school which became the first boarding school in Australia and became Marsden’s parish clerk and official pastor at several preaching places. He returned to the islands where he laboured for nearly twenty years as pastor at a Tahitian church and returned to Sydney in 1830. There he opened a school, became a prominent figure in several philanthropic causes and preached in Wesleyan and Congregational churches. His wife died in Sydney in 1837 and when his own health failed in 1841 he went to Melbourne to live with his son and died there in 1846. William Pascoe Crook’s participation in the early days of colony and church in Australia is well documented in historical journals and accounts. It is mentioned here because his life and work also influenced his family including its later generations.

William Robert Burrell (known as Bob) and Edith Armstrong were married at the home of Edith’s brother in Leichhardt Street, Brisbane in 1887 by the Rev. J. Ewen, Presbyterian minister at Fortitude Valley at the time. The couple went immediately to live in Townsville because Mr W. R. Burrell, a clerk in the Brisbane office of the Custom Department had received a transfer to the Townsville office. Their four children - Ross, Lydia, Ellen and Moreton - were born in Townsville. 

They returned to Brisbane shortly after their youngest child Moreton was born and lived briefly at Stoneleigh Street Albion before settling for the rest of their married lives at Denelbie, Byrne Estate, Bowen Bridge Road, Windsor1.  Lydia died in Brisbane at the age of 23 years as the result of a congenital heart condition. Eileen married Lieutenant Maurice Christopher Wood in Brisbane in 1916. 

Early life

Ross, the eldest member of the Burrell family was born in Townsville on 26 August 1888.  He attended Windsor State School and the Normal School and at the age of 16 in December 1904, he passed a Brisbane Technical College examination in shorthand correspondence after attending classes at Fortitude Valley State School. He was a member of his school cadet corps and on leaving school worked as a book keeper at Queensland Trustees Limited. He was well known in Brisbane as a Rugby referee.


On 26 October 1914 Ross Burrell enlisted at Brisbane to serve overseas in the Australian Imperial Force, giving his age as 24 years though he was really 26 years old and stating his religious denomination was “C.E.” He stood to the height of 5 feet 3½ inches (162cm). Private Burrell, regimental number 435 was allotted to the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance for initial training at Enoggera. 

War service - Gallipoli

In November he was promoted to Corporal and by May 1915, he had landed at Gallipoli in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. On 13 June he received a bullet wound. Details of the casualty were confused at first and cables and letters were sent between the Base Records Office and Ross’s mother and father.  On 13 June he received a bullet wound. Details of the casualty were confused at first and cables and letters were sent between the Base Records Office and Ross’s mother and father.

Mr Burrell wrote to Senator Pearce, Minister for Defence, on 7 July 1915: 

“I have my only two sons at the front, one of whom No 435 Corp Ross Burrell 2nd L H Field Ambulance was wounded about 3 weeks ago in the Dardanelles and was invalided to Malta. I have had 2 cables from him since but in none has he stated what his injuries are.

Today I received another cable from him stating that he was going to England for treatment. Presumably the authorities will not allow him to advise me to what extent he has been injured. Naturally his mother and I feel very anxious and will be very grateful if you will exert your authority and obtain for us the desired information if possible and to what hospital in England he is going so that we may write to him.”

A week later Mrs Burrell wrote from her Bowen Bridge Road home: 

“I received today an urgent telegram stating my son 435 Corp Ross Burrell had been seriously wounded and that you would cable should we wish it done. We would very much like to know extent of injuries and his present address.

If he has left Malta at what hospital in England. We received a cable from him on 7 July saying he was leaving Malta for England for treatment. But we do not know what address in England. Will you please cable and find out for me.”

On 27 July Captain Lean, Officer-in-charge of Base Records in Melbourne advised Mrs Burrell that her son, Corporal R Burrell was in the Hospital at Manchester and recommended she contact him through the High Commissioner in London. It was eventually revealed gunshot wounds to the head had caused the trouble but he had recovered sufficiently to carry out duties as a medical orderly on board HMAT Suevic from England to Sydney in November and from Sydney to Alexandria on HMAT Runic arriving there on 20 January 1916.  Corporal Ross Burrell returned to Field Ambulance duties in Egypt before embarking from Alexandria on the troopship Oriana to France in March.

War service - Western Front

He was promoted to Sergeant in October while based at the Australian Divisional Base Depot at Étaples.  In 1917 Ross Burrell was transferred to the 5th Field Ambulance establishment, acted for a while as Sergeant-Major and took leave in England.

On 18 January 1918, while Sergeant Ross Burrell was serving from the Australian Infantry Base Depot at Le Havre, he was transported to Hurdcott, England then to Weymouth for hospital treatment. A note mentioning “old face GSW”2 was recorded as the reason for his sudden admission to hospital. The letters "PB" meaning Permanent Base indicated he was unfit for active service and was employable only at a base depot. So serious was his condition, a decision for his early return to Australia on SS Ruahine was soon made and he was discharged from the AIF on 25 July 1918.

Sergeant Burrell was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  The bullet wound on Ross Burrell’s forehead left a permanent scar physically and in all likelihood, on his mental condition.

Post war

On his return to Brisbane, Ross Burrell lived again with his parents at Earl Terrace, Windsor and resumed his career with Queensland Trustees Limited. His employment as a senior officer in Queensland Trustees Limited lasted over twenty-five years.

On 6 October 1926 he married Myra Heaslop (1894–1978) at St Michael’s and All Angels’ Church of England, New Farm. Myra’s late father, Thomas Heaslop (1853–1911) had been a successful retail merchant and company director and Alderman of the City of South Brisbane from 1888 to 1895, three of them as Mayor over three successive yearly terms during which the present fine  municipal buildings in Vulture and Stanley Streets were built. Mr and Mrs Heaslop’s residence was Newstead House, Breakfast Creek.

With their two children (Thomas Ross and Joyce Ross), Ross and Myra Burrell lived at 178 Bowen Terrace, New Farm. Ross gave many years of service to the Queensland Bowling Association and the Booroodabin Bowling Club where he was President. Ill health troubled him and he acted on his doctor’s advice by resigning from the positions he held in connection with bowls in 1936.

Burrell’s son, Mr Thomas Ross Burrell OBE (1927 - 2009) was a member of the Brisbane Stock Exchange and was noted for his significant contributions to the Australian financial services industry. Their daughter, Mrs Joyce Angus lives in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

World War II Service

During World War II, Ross Burrell served on full time war service in the Citizen Military Forces. From 24 June 1940 to 18 June 1942 Major Burrell, Personal Number Q185205, was attached to Head Quarters, Northern Command and was later appointed Major, Sea Transport, responsible for training of troops on transport ships which required his involvement in the activities of Eastern Command.

He served on voyages of RMS Aquitania3, RMS Queen Mary4 and RMS Queen Elizabeth5 during voyages between Australia and the Middle East. Queen Mary, for example, travelled from Suez via Trincomalee6 and Fremantle to Sydney arriving there on 25 May 1941. Major Burrell’s record of service notes his employment in Poona, India in March 1941 while in the service of Eastern Command.

Ross Burrell died in Brisbane in 1960 aged 71 years. His name is inscribed with other members of the Heaslop and Burrell families on the Heaslop Monument at Dutton Park Cemetery, South Brisbane.

1. The address of the Burrell family residence “Denelbie” was earlier described as Earl Terrace or Earle Terrace, off Federation Road, Lutwyche or O’Connell Town, later Windsor. The location today is dominated by the airport link motorway and major connecting roads though Bowen Bridge Road, Federation Street and Byrne’s Paddock Park still exist.
2. The gunshot wound occurred when a bullet grazed the right side of his skull, melting the bone.
3. The RMS Aquitania was the longest serving Cunard liner built in the 20th century and survived service in both World Wars. Launched in 1914, she was sold to a breakers’ yard in Scotland in 1950.
4. The RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line – known as Cunard-White Star Line when the vessel entered service. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers for the duration of the war. Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California, United States, where she 
remains permanently moored.
5..Royal Mail Ship Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1938. The vessel was scrapped in July 1948.
6. The British and the Allied Powers chose Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, as the chief naval base for the entire South East of Asia and Far East Command during World War II.

Select Bibliography

• National Archives of Australia, World War 1 and World War 2 military records
• First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Gunson, Niel, William Pascoe Crook, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Melbourne University Press, Volume 1, 1966
• Bardon, Richard, The Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church in Queensland, 1849 – 1949, Smith & Paterson, Brisbane, 1949
Brisbane Courier, 21 Dec 1887; 15 Sept 1913; 28 Sept 1926, p 16; 29 Sept 1926, p 21; 30 Sept 1926, p 17; 2 Oct 1926, p 23; 4 Oct 1926, p 17; 7 Oct 1926, p 17.
Argus, 6 September 1926, page 7
The Sunday Mail, 15 Jan 1950
The Queenslander, 16 September, 1911, page 29
The Congregationalist, 1 March 1912
The Courier-Mail, 26 May 1936; 28 April 1951
The Telegraph, 29 Sept 1926, p 14; 4 Oct 1926, p 4; 7 Oct 1926, p 4
Daily Standard, 7 Oct 1926, p 2
The Week, 15 Oct 1926, p 28
Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Nov 1928, p 8; 19 Aug 1929; 10 Oct 1929; 13 May 1933, p 8; 28 Apr 1950; 25 Oct 1988; 10 Feb 1990
The Mercury, Hobart, 5 July 1938, p 1
• Ryerson Index on line
•, Electoral Rolls
• Wharf Street Congregational Church Year Book, 1916, p 20
Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Annual Report, 1916
• Archives, Brisbane Grammar School, The Golden Book
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths, Marriages
• New South Wales Register of Births, Deaths, Marriages
• Bank of New South Wales Roll of Honour
• Australian War Memorial, Record G0000788, letter Capt M Burrell to Brig Gen HR Goddard, 7 Dec 1918
• Brisbane City Council, Cemetery Records
• State Library of Queensland


Thanks are expressed for the considerable help, additional information  and explanation given by Chris and Roger Burrell (grandsons of Ross Burrell) and Mrs Joyce Angus (Ross Burrell’s daughter) enabling the revised publication in May 2018. 

Compiled by Noel E Adsett, Brisbane, May 2015 ©  Revised April/May 2018 ©



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