William Burns enlisted into The King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) and volunteered for airborne forces during World War II on the formation of No 1 Parachute Brigade in 1941 while serving as a Lance Corporal.
After completion of the selection course at Hardwick Hall, he was posted to the 2nd Parachute Battalion (2nd Para Bn) then in the process of forming up, and assigned to C Company (C Coy). Along with other members of C Coy he attended the first parachute training course for personnel of No 1 Parachute Brigade at RAF Ringway in November 1941.
He took part in Operation Biting (Bruneval) in February 1942 as a member of Jellicoe section and served with C Coy in North Africa (1942-43), Sicily (1943) and Italy (1943). The following year (1944) he deployed, while serving as a Sergeant with 8 Platoon C Coy 2 Para Bn to Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.
Sgt Burns was killed in action while in the garden of Utrechtsestraat 31 on 18 September 1944, aged 33 years old. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Memorial at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, near Nijmegen.
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