Memorial for Hugo de Burgh

Hugo de Burgh's memorial
Hugo de Burgh’s memorial

A memorial stone for Colonel Hugo de Burgh, who was senior British officer (SBO) at four PoW camps, has been erected in the family’s graveyard in Co. Kildare.

Col. H.G. de Burgh (1894-1954) had a distinguished career as a soldier and horseman. He served in the first world war, in West Africa, India and Afghanistan, and again in the second world war, when he was captured in north Africa.

As senior British officer at PG 49 Fontanellato, Italy, in September 1943 he led a mass breakout of 600 Allied officers. He himself escaped over the Alps to Switzerland. During the Allied occupation of Italy he was Officer Commanding the Allied Screening Commission.

On 15th March, 2014, the memorial stone was placed in the de Burgh graveyard at Maudlins, Naas, Co Kildare, next to the grave of Col. de Burgh’s father, Hugo Henry, killed in South Africa in 1900. The Rev. Phillip Heak, rector of the family church, St David’s, read Col. de Burgh’s favourite psalm, 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, whence cometh my help.”

Maudlins is a short walk from Oldtown, seat of de Burghs since the late 17th century, when Thomas de Burgh left the 13th century home at Dromkeen. Since 1762 this line is the senior. A new Oldtown has been built by the present head of the family, in County Wicklow, also called Oldtown, to replace the present seat.

Col. de Burgh, OBE, MC, was born in National City, California. After his father’s death and his mother’s return to Ireland, he was raised at Oldtown, Ballinapierce and Blackhall. He had a brother, Commander UC “Don” de Burgh, who served in the Royal Navy in both world wars, and a sister, Marguerite Anstruther, of Balcaskie.

Col. de Burgh married three times and had eight children, of whom two survive, Michael and Hugo, as does his widow, Lucy de Burgh. There are 16 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

Col. de Burgh’s own gripping account of his perilous escape to Switzerland can be read in the Escape Stories section by clicking on msmtrust.org.uk/escape-stories/smugglers-way/. His family descendants retraced the route in September 2013 and the report can be read at msmtrust.org.uk/news/crampons-and-champagne/