Monday, 16 September 2019

Will Sidney's War - Images from WW1

Hi there everyone

This post has certainly been a long time coming ... I last wrote about William Preston Sidney in November 2018 ... It was 22 June 1919 and Will had finally been demobilised from the British Army.

Will had certainly paid his dues, having volunteered for the Territorial Force in February 1913, being mobilised in Doncaster on 4 August 1914, serving three postings abroad to France, Belgium and Italy and spending months on end in hospital. There is no doubt though that Will was one of the lucky ones, having made it through such an epic journey where so many others had fallen.

If you are new to Will's story and want to find out more, you can find all of my previous posts, right back from before the start of WW1 here.

I do plan to share what little we know of Will's life after the war, but before I do that I want to share the last bits and pieces that were included with Will's things ... starting with this group of photographs, which I haven't been able to fit within his overall story ...

You can find Will just to the right of middle in this first photograph. He is wearing a white shirt and waistcoast and is holding what appears to be a grooming brush. You can just see a horse behind the group of men. From this I am assuming that that this would have been taken early in the war, when Will was still a Shoeing Smith in the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons. It could have been taken on Salisbury Plain, whilst Will was waiting for his first posting ... the tents do look very similar to another photo we have that confirms this, by the date on the back, or it could just as easily have been taken during his first posting ...

I think that this second photo would have been taken at around the same time ... again the only clue is that Will would appear to still be acting as a Shoeing Smith ... this time Will is smack bang in the centre, in between the two chaps wearing caps ...
This next picture shoes Will in action actually shoeing a horse ...
It would seem that this photo was sent to his sweetheart, Ethel, as Will has written on the reverse ...
In this next photo we can see from the horseshoe badge on Will's right arm that he was still with the QOYD. He stayed with the Dragoons until January 1917, when he transferred to the 8th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment ...
Again ... it would seem that this was another photo that was either sent or given to Ethel, with Will's best love ...
These next photos get a little more confusing. I assumed they must have been taken after October 1917 as Will has marked the reverse of one as 'Cpl Sidney' and his diary confirms that he became a Corporal after displaying 'gallantry in the field' in October 1917 ...
The writing on the reverse of this photo made it quite intriguing. I couldn't decide whether Sgt Major Tate was really being awarded the DCM or whether it was a bit of a spoof, as it appears that a feather duster is being held above the shoulder of the chap on the left ...
This next photo is of the same situation but this time you can vaguely see the hand made poster behind, which seems to indicate that the award may have had something to do with Sgt Major Tate's disposition... though sadly I can't read the detail. It's also difficult to say for certain whether Will is in the photo, though he does seem to indicate that he is from what he's written on the back ...
Having seen that Will seems to have referred to himself as 'The Jolliboy' I've had a dig back through some other bits and pieces and found this ...
So ... now everything is crystal clear. These photos must have been taken in September 1918, when Will was in the 29 Stationary Hospital in Italy. You can see the list of 'characters' about half way down includes Sgt Major Harry Tate and Pte Jolliboy ... duly played by our very own Cpl Sidney.

I can't tell you how pleased I was to finally be able to work out what these photos were actually of and when and where they were taken ... mystery solved and Sgt Major Tate was definitely not really being awarded the DMC ... not on this occasion anyway ... and we think that the small chap with the weird hairstyle is definitely our Will.

I have had no such luck with this next picture. Will is definitely on the left, but I can see no clues as to where or when it would have been taken ...
There are just three more war time photos that I have found ... none of them appear to be Will and we have no real way of knowing for sure who any of them are or when they were taken. We do know that two of Will's brothers, Charlie and Herbert were definitely in the army, so two of the men could quite possibly be them ...
Charlie also served with the York & Lancasters, whilst Herbert was in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).

As well as these photographs I still have a number of cards and postcards to share, before moving on to Will's life after the war. Hopefully I will be able to share these with you soon.

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