Monday 29 September 2014

Will Sidney's War - July 1917 - Brothers in Arms

From our early research into Will's family tree, we knew that Will was one of seven children to Thomas & Ada (Grannie) Sidney.

Will had four brothers and 2 sisters.  He was youngest of the boys, with elder brothers - Thomas, Charlie, Harold and Herbert.

From our research on we had also established that Herbert was in the British Army during WW1.  He was a Corporal in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

We had also got the impression, from reading Will's diaries, that Charlie was also in the army during the war.

It was a real surprise to us to read Will's diary entries for the week of 1 July 1917 .....

There are a few parts of the entries for this week that I have not been able to decipher.  Where this is the case I have included ?????
"1 Sun - Reveille 6. B 6.30. Parade @ 10.15 for ‘O’ C ????? Transferred to 9th Battalion, Charlie’s Battalion. Slept all afternoon."

"2 Mon - Rev 6. B 6.30. Sent Ethel the 20/- from 34th IBD. Rifle inspections 9.30. Washed 1 shirt, 1 pr pants, 1 pr socks, 2 handkerchiefs. After washing rest for the day. Thinking of Ethel & all at home. Letter from Ethel & answered. Been to pictures. Drawn ammunition (120 rounds)."

"3 Tues - Reveille 4.30. Breakfast 5.0. Parade to entrain 8.30. Entrained for Abule?? @ 9.30. Landed @ 8.45pm. 1 slice of bread for the whole day. Met 2 old school chums @ Abule. Had a talk about old times (Happy hour). Night no Blan (could this mean blankets?)  Thinking of Ethel."

"4 Wed - Reveille @ 5. Went through gas @ 5.30 to 7.30. Marched from Abule to ????? (16k). Met Charlie (A bit of a surprise). Had a nice talk. A bit tired with the walk. Charlie on a Lewes Gun course."

"5 Th - Reveille 7.0. B 8.0. Got put into 14th Platoon (Charlie). Rest for an hour. Rifle inspection. Moved from 1 camp to a larger one. Clothes inspection. Met a lot of chums. Our transport got shelled. Knocked one lot out. Had a night with Charlie & his two colleagues. Thinking of Ethel."

"6 Fri - Reveille 6.30. B 7.30. Parade full M order 8pm for artillery dump. Helping to unload 18 Pdrs & 14 Pdrs. Heavy work & hard. Sent a Whizz Bang to Ethel. Thinking of her. A captive balloon fetched down by Fritz."

"7 Sat - Reveille 6.0. Unloading shells from a light rail to the dump. (118 lbs in each box). Had a very hard day of it. Went to see Charlie. He has had a letter from Harold. Haven’t had a minute to write to anyone. Taking shells (181bs) out of box. Ordered to wear short trousers. (Bare knees)"
We found it incredible to think that Will would have ended up in the same Battalion as his brother Charlie and that they would have met up in France.

Could this photo be the five brothers?

We know Will is on the right on the front row.  Could he be sat next to Charlie?  We really wanted to think he was, but feel it's more likely to be Herbert.  This is because of the Corporal's stripes, we know Herbert was a Corporal, from his war record, and the cap badge, which, whilst really difficult to view, looks to be more like the cap badge of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, than that of the York & Lancaster Regiment.

York & Lancaster Regiment Cap Badge

King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Cap Badge

The picture must have been taken whilst before Will transferred to the York & Lancaster Regiment as his cap is sporting the cap badge of the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons.

Will writes, on 6 July 1917, that he 'sent Ethel a Whizz Bang'.

Our research tells us that a 'Whizz Bang' was a German shell casing and we know, from Will's diary, that he was working at the artillery dump, so would have had access to this kind of thing.

We found this in Peggy's possessions when she died.  Peggy was Will & Ethel's only daughter. Could this be the actual 'Whizz Bang' that Will sent home?

We were surprised that it would have been possible to have sent one of these home, considering the circumstances.

This 'Whizz Bang' is quite intricately decorated, with images of four different flowers showing around the outside.  We have no way of knowing whether this decoration was carried out before Will sent the 'Whizz Bang' home, or whether it was carried out afterwards.

The base of the 'Whizz Bang' can be seen here.  The date it was manufactured is showing as Juli 1915, so it definitely fits in with Will's diary.  The GFSP marking, also showing on the base, confirms that the shell was manufactured by Geschoss Fabrik, Spandau.

It's amazing to think that we have something here that was actually sent back, by Will, to Ethel, from the front.

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