Sydney Bailey HURST
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Number:
Unit: 5th Battalion ROYAL SCOTS FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 26 August 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: London Cemetery, Neuville-Vitasse, Pas de Calais, France

Sydney was born on 15 April 1898 in the Heaton Norris area. His father, Walter, was Superintendent Gardener for Heaton Norris Urban District Council and, later, for Stockport Council. He and his wife, Sarah, were living at 30 Beech Avenue, in 1901, with their first three children - Ada(4), Sydney (2) and Helena (1). In the years to follow they would have three more - Mary, John and Winifred.

Sydney was educated at St Thomas' Day School in Heaton Chapel. When he left school, he found work as a clerk. Sydney must have been planning to follow his father into horticulture as he was studying gardening when war was declared. He enlisted into the Royal Scots (a different Regiment from the Fusiliers), as a private, on 11 January 1915 (service number 35084). His attestation papers show he was 5 feet 8.5 inches tall and had a 36 inch chest. Sydney had recorded his religious denomination as Church of England. He probably went overseas on active service a few months later, after he had finished his training.

In the early part of 1916, he was transferred to the 9th Battalion and was, at that time , a lance corporal. He applied to become an officer and was accepted into the 4th Officer Cadet Battalion at Oxford with effect from 7 June 1917. He was commissioned in the autumn and joined his unit in Palestine on Christmas Eve. In April 1918, he moved to France, spending his 20th birthday at sea.

26 August saw the engagement that would later be officially designated as the Battle of the Scarpe. On the 25th, the Battalion moved into assembly positions near the village of Mercatel (about 5 kilometres south of the French town of Arras).

At 3am the next morning, the Battalion attacked the heavily defended German trench system known as the Hindenberg Line, at a point south of Neuville-Vitasse. "A" and "B" companies led the attack, supported by "C" and "D". The men followed closely behind the protection of a rolling artillery barrage which worked its way across No Man's Land. The attack was successful.

The Regimental History recounts "Later in the day, the Battalion moved along the Hindenberg Line in a southerly direction in support of 4th King's Own Scottish Borderers who were attacking Henin Hill. The attack again being successful. The Battalion took up a position on the left of 4th KOSB. During the night, "C" and "D" Companies were worried by enemy bombers and trench mortars."

The chaplain wrote to Stanley's family saying he had been hit by a shell fragment which struck him in the chest and pierced his heart. He had unconscious for a short while until he died. The Battalion commander also wrote to his mother saying he was "a bright and promising officer" who was popular with officers and men of all ranks and his loss was keenly felt.

Stanley's file at the National Archives records that he was buried "at a point just north of Martin-sur-Cojeul". This village is on the far side of the Battalion's objective which suggests that Stanley was not killed until later in the day. Perhaps the shell fragment which killed him came from the trench mortar shells or grenades mentioned above.

Many of these small front line burial areas were closed after the War as the land was returned to civilian use. In September 1920, Sydney's body was, indeed, exhumed and it was reburied in its current resting place, where the grave is now maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

   
           
   
     
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