Sydney Hubert Seeviour

Private Sydney Hubert Seeviour, MM of the 2/4th Hampshire Regiment, ‘C’ Company, Regimental Number 202556, died of wounds, aged 30, on 28th August 1918, and is buried at Ligny-Sur-Canche British Cemetery, in France.

Early Life

Sydney was born on 13th July 1888 to Joseph and Eliza (née Braffett) Seeviour in Bournemouth, then in Hampshire. In the census of 1891, the family was living at 3, West Cliff Grove, Holdenhurst, Bournemouth.

The Metropole Hotel, Bournemouth

Photograph taken from the Wintonian Magazine

Joseph (34) was described as a cab proprietor, and an employer, who had been born in Horton, Dorset . Eliza (32) was originally from Poole in Dorset. There were 4 children in the family, George (10), Maud (9), Berkeley (5), and Sydney (2). All of the children had been born in Bournemouth. They had a 15 year old servant living with them, Bessie Ford, and a lodger called Alfred Jarvis who was described as an Assistant Clerk. By 1901 they had moved to 29, St. Michaels Road, West Cliff, Bournemouth. George had flown the nest sometime in the intervening ten years to follow a career in teaching. Maud was resident at the Western Counties Idiot Asylum in Starcross, Devon 1, where on the return she is listed as an imbecile. Of the children only Berkeley and Sydney remained at home but the family still employed a domestic servant, 18 year old Florrie Stockley. Berkeley was a harness maker and Sydney was described as a scholar. Sydney was working hard at Bournemouth School 2 where he was a pupil, having previously attended St Michael’s Elementary School. Perhaps he had already decided to follow in his brother George’s footsteps and become a teacher. The local paper, The Bournemouth Daily Echo, published the prizes and examination successes at the school. At 14, his third place in the sack race did not foretell the sportsman he was to become. In 1903 he was mentioned in the Prize List at Speech Day where he achieved a 1st Division Pass. Also that same year, he passed examinations in Model Drawing and Freehand Drawing. In 1904, Sydney was awarded Class III Honours in his examinations.

We see the first evidence in a newspaper report of that year that Sydney was an accomplished singer. His school performed the Mikado, to raise funds for the School Sports Fund. Sydney took the part of Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner. The paper reported:

There was a large audience, and the performance was in every way a distinct success. The parts, many of which are extremely difficult, especially for amateurs, were all filled by the boys of the school, who deserve the utmost credit for the very satisfactory manner in which they sang and acted throughout.

Sydney was to have a lifelong love for the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Sydney’s father Joseph was also in the paper, at the Bournemouth Horse Show, where he was awarded first prize in the Hackney Carriage drawn by a pony.

By 1905 Sydney had taken the firsts steps towards a career in teaching.  An article in the Bournemouth Daily Echo on Friday 22nd September names him as one of the candidates accepted for two years training as pupil teachers in the Borough, from 1st August 1906.

Sydney went back to his old elementary School St. Michael’s in Bournemouth to complete his apprenticeship as a pupil teacher. He then stayed at the school as an assistant teacher prior to gaining a place at Winchester Training College. In preparation for acceptance for a College place Sydney took some examinations including matriculation Chemistry , Oxford Junior Chemistry and Senior Level Chemistry, and The Science of Common Life (1st Class).  He was also examined in Freehand, Light and Shade, Blackboard and Model Drawing as well as taking courses in Brushwork and Clay Modelling. He received Physical Training at the Pupil Teacher Centre, and then in Spring 1907 he took the Preliminary Examination for the Certificate, gaining a distinction in Mathematics. College records tell us that he achieved a mark of 67.5% in his entrance examination. He did not do quite so well in the Archbishops’ Examination for admission, gaining only a second class pass.

By the time of the 1911 census, Sydney had also left home and was lodging at 25, Hatherley Road, Winchester, in the house of Mr Charlie Wheeler and his wife Sarah. Sydney was not the only lodger; there was also a young widow and her daughter from the Cape Colony. Sydney was by now employed as a schoolmaster in an Elementary School, by Winchester Education Committee. The family was still at the same address but Joseph was described as a jobmaster 3. Eliza 4 was an assistant in the business and they still employed a domestic servant. George was a headmaster, of West Street School, living in Gander Green Lane, Sutton, Surrey. Berkeley was married, living in Bournemouth, but now working as a cab driver. Maud was still in Starcross, Devon but the institution was now called the Western Counties Asylum Training Institution for the Feeble Minded. 5

Winchester Training College

Sydney attended Winchester Diocesan Training College from 1908 until 1910. The choice of College would have been an easy one for him, as his elder brother George had been a student at the College and no doubt would have told Sydney what to expect.

As the students were at College for two years, in their first year they were referred to as Juniors, and in their second year, Seniors. We are very fortunate to have copies of the College Magazine, The Wintonian, from which to glean snippets of information about our alumni. In his Junior year we learn that Sydney won the ping pong tournament. He played football in the second XI team, and was described as a ‘hard-working forward’. In another report we read:

The forwards as a rule work well together. The shining light is undoubtedly Seeviour at inside left. He is very apt to wander, but his wanderings seem to have good results, and he works very hard. He tries to score too many goals himself, instead of giving the ball to someone in a better position.

In his Senior year, Sydney was involved in the organisation of College Sports.

He obviously demonstrated good organisational skills as the Magazine reported:

It is our privilege to congratulate S.H.Seeviour (Sports Secretary) on the splendid success of Sports Day, 28th May last, and on his admirable and tactful management of the College Sport throughout the year. The uniformly good results obtained in all departments of sport are due in large measure to his enterprise and unfailing enthusiasm, and his ability and untiring energy for the common good are alike warmly appreciated by every member of his year and college.

Sydney was also mentioned for his skill at draughts. Although sport was of considerable importance at the College, there were other entertainments to fill their time. One such entertainment was the Debating Society. Sydney was a stalwart of this club and on one occasion debated against Tom Rowson on the topic of “Should Games be Compulsory in Schools?”.

In his first college exams at Christmas in his first year, Sydney was placed 3rd in the order of merit  with an average mark of  74.9%, but by Christmas of the following year he had slipped to 18th, his average mark dropping to 58%. He must have worked hard for the rest of that academic year as he had climbed back up to 7th in the order of merit by the summer. At the end of his two year course Sydney was classified by the College as Grade A in Reading and Recitation, Music, Science and Drawing and Grade B for Teaching. In the Board of Education Certificate Exam he achieved a distinction in Music.

When Sydney completed his training at Winchester he was appointed as an assistant teacher at St. Bartholomew’s Church School in Hyde, Winchester, under Mr W.C.Orchard. According to one of his obituaries, in March 1914 Sydney was appointed Headmaster. A report in the Hampshire Advertiser on Saturday 21st March 1914 states:

The managers of St. Bartholomew Hyde School have appointed to the vacant headmastership Mr Sidney H Seeviour, in succession to the late Mr. W.C. Orchard.  Mr Seeviour received his training at Winchester Training College, which he left four years ago to take up an assistant mastership at Hyde School. Mr Seeviour, who has received many congratulations upon his appointment, is only 25 years of age, and is thus the youngest schoolmaster in Winchester. Mr Seeviour, who was chosen from nine candidates, is a member of the Winchester Amateur Operatic Society…

His love of singing was demonstrated by his holding the post of Choirmaster at Hyde Sunday School. Sydney was also a supernumerary lay vicar 6 at the Cathedral.

Gifted with a splendid singing voice, deceased was, prior to the war, to be found taking a prominent part in the work of the Operatic Society and the Cathedral Oratorio Choir.

From Winchester to War

When war was declared, Sydney was still the Headmaster at St. Bartholomew’s School. Having stayed in the Winchester area, it is possible that he had kept his ties with the Territorial Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment that he would have been part of as a student. We know that he enlisted in Winchester and joined the 2/4th Hants, ‘C’ Company. The 2/4th battalion were formed at Salisbury Plain in September 1914 as a home service (second line) unit. They became part of the 2/1st Hampshire Brigade in the 2nd Wessex Division.

His attestation date is unknown, but we know from a newspaper report that was published after his death ;

As soon as leave could be obtained, he entered the Army. 7

We know from the College War Supplement that the 2/4th Hants left Winchester for Quetta, India 8 in early December 1914. We have to assume, as obituary notices mention him being in Quetta, that he left with them. Several of the younger College alumni volunteered to transfer to the 1/4th Hants and joined the war in Mesopotamia. Sydney remained in Quetta. Captain Goddard of the 2/4th Hants wrote of Quetta in a letter home:

I am still charmed with this wild waste country, its mountains, and upland vales and savage passes.

They spent time in Quetta before they left for Egypt, at the end of April 1917, landing at Suez. In May of that year they were attached to the 233rd Brigade in the 75th Division. The campaign in Egypt and Palestine was initially concentrated along the banks of the Suez Canal. The Canal was a vital supply route for the British, as it was used for moving troops from Australia and New Zealand to the Western Front, and for transporting food and other supplies to Britain. In 1917, with the Turks pushed back from the banks of the Canal, an offensive was launched which would take the British into the Holy Land and Syria. The campaign in Palestine became more important once the failure at Gallipoli and the disastrous defeat at Kut-al-Amara were recognised. Success in Palestine was believed, politically, to be a way of inflicting a defeat on Germany, and far less costly than the Western Front Campaign.

A Bournemouth School Magazine obituary of Sydney noted:

While in India, in Egypt, and in Palestine with the 2/4th Hants he often enlivened the days of the battalion by reproductions of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, as performed at school.

The 2/4th Hants arrived in Palestine in time to participate in actions including the Third battle of Gaza (27th October – 7th November 1917), the Capture of Junction Station (13th – 14th November 1917), and the battle of Nabi Samwell (20th – 24th November 1917). 9 There were two more battles in 1918 before the 2/4th Hants left the Division and moved to France, The Battle of Tell’Asur (11th -12th March 1918) and the Battle of Berukin (9th -11th April 1918). In May they left Palestine, arriving at Marseilles on 1st June 1918. A few days later they were attached to 186th Brigade in 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division.

Sydney would have seen action in France at the Battle of the Marne in July 1918. One of the actions within that offensive was the Battle of Tardenois (20th – 31st July 1918). The British Official History describes the part played by the 2/4th Hants on the 28th July.

On the eastern wing the British were again the spearhead. The 62nd Division had issued orders at 10:30p.m.on the previous evening for a further advance to take place at 4:30 a.m. by the 186th and 185th Brigades, the latter south of the Ardre, covered by the mounted troops to the old trench line beyond Bligny and the Montage de Bligny held by the 19th Division on the 4th June. Rain fell all night, making the fields and even the roads heavy going, while a cold mist formed in the morning, but when the 186th Brigade, with the 2/4th Duke of Wellington’s and 2/4th Hampshire in front line, deployed on the starting line at 4 a.m. it was immediately struck by machine gun fire…Nevertheless, by persistent pushing forward of small parties under covering fire, ground was slowly gained…

The 2/4th Hampshires’ War Diary gives us an account of what the Battalion was doing in August 1918. At the beginning of the month they were billeted at Chouilly. From there via St. Leger and Thievres they moved by train, bus and marching, to Achiet-Le-Grand, arriving on 24th August. The objective was to advance on German trench lines in that area. On the 26th the War Diary reports:

The assembly point was reached with great difficulty owing to rain and darkness and no guides being provided. The attack starting at 6am was successfully carried out.1st objective was gained without difficulty, except for enemy barrage which was fairly heavy. Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting the final objective owing to heavy MG fire from the road and high ground immediately beyond the final objective…by 9am all objectives were gained and the Battalion reorganised.

‘C’ Company had moved forward into the trench line achieving their position about dusk. On the 27th August, the day that Sydney was wounded, ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ Companies were covering an extended front line. A ‘C’ Company patrol was sent out towards the Horse Lines and was heavily fired upon by machine guns. The casualties for that day were 1 Officer and 5 Other ranks wounded and 1 Other Rank missing.

We learn what happened to Sydney through the letter, dated 28th August, that was sent to his parents.

I am sorry to tell you that your son…was very seriously wounded in both legs and arms and was admitted to our hospital at 7:15 p.m. yesterday – Everything possible was done for him but we could not save his life, he died at 12:40 a.m. He was in a comfortable bed and had every possible attention, and he will be buried with all military honours. May I tell you how much we sympathise with you in your loss? 10

From the family archive by kind permission of Kris Franks

Services were held for Sydney at St. Bartholomew’s Church, where members of the choir laid a wreath of white flowers on the War Shrine. Several members of Winchester Training College, including the Principal E.G.Wainwright, attended.

Sydney was awarded the Military Medal. 11 A contemporary newspaper report describes the Council Meeting when the medal was presented to Sydney’s parents.

At the meeting of Bournemouth Borough Council on Tuesday the Mayor said he had a duty to perform before they commenced the ordinary business. It was to hand to the parents of the late Pte S.H. Seeviour 2/4th Hants Regt, the Military Medal that had been awarded to him. He was sorry, however, that he had made the full sacrifice, and they had to deplore his death… (he) served at Quetta, India. He went through the Palestine Campaign, and in May 1916 12, was transferred to France. He was repeatedly urged by his officers to apply for a commission and at last he consented. His wedding was fixed for Aug 31st 1918, but on the day he was due to leave France (as a matter of fact, while an orderly was trying to find him to give him his papers), he was struck by a piece of exploding trench mortar which killed a Captain and Lieutenant and 3 others, and he died the following night. A notification was received that he had been awarded the Military Medal for services in the field, and it was understood (though this was not official) that it was really for work as a map sketcher of the battalion, and for the rescue of Australian wounded under fire the day before he died. His Worship, in conclusion, congratulated the parents on having a son who displayed such valour, and handed them the medal.

Sydney is buried in France, in the Ligny-Sur-Canche British Cemetery, Plot A, grave 27. Probate records show that Sydney left £356 18s 7d to his parents, who were by that time retired and living in Donnybrook, Saxon Road, Winchester.

He is commemorated on the Notre Dame Memorial in Saint Nazaire, and on the Bournemouth War Memorial.

 

Researcher and Author: Dee Sayers

Footnotes
  1. Western Counties Idiot Asylum was founded in 1864 in a large house with 2 acres of land. There were 40 patients by 1870 and a larger building was needed. This was opened in 1877 and was able to house 60 boys and 40 girls. A total of 1,451 patients had been admitted by 1913.
  2. Bournemouth School was opened in 1901 admitting 54 boys. The 1906 curriculum included natural science, drawing, vocal music, drill and gymnastics alongside history, geography, shorthand and book-keeping.
  3. A jobmaster was the keeper of a livery stable who let out horses and carriages by the job, or for a limited time.
  4. The census returns of 1911 required a wife to indicate how many live children she had given birth to, and how many were still alive. Eliza recorded that she had 4 children still living from a total of 6. The census returns from 1881, shortly after they were married, until 1911 only record the same 4 children. It is reasonable to assume that the other two children must both have died in the periods between the census returns.
  5. Feeble-minded appears to have become the accepted terminology as Maud is listed on the 1911 census as feeble-minded, when previously she had been referred to as an imbecile.
  6. A supernumerary lay vicar was an extra or substitute member of a cathedral choir who was appointed to sing certain parts of the service.
  7. Excerpt taken from a newspaper report supplied by Kris Franks, newspaper not identified.
  8. Quetta is now in Pakistan.
  9. The Battle of Nabi Samwell saw the death of another alumnus, Reginald Fulford.
  10. The 19th and 43rd Casualty Clearing Stations were at Frevent, close to the cemetery where Sydney is buried, between March 1918 and September 1918.
  11. The Military Medal was introduced in March 1916. It was the Other Ranks’ equivalent to the Military Cross that was awarded to Officers, for bravery in battle on land. It ranked below the Distinguished Conduct Medal. It was universally disliked when it was introduced as it was felt, (probably correctly) that it was a cost saving exercise. The DCM carried a £20 money grant and an extra 6d a day on the pension.
  1. The 2/4th Hants did not move to France until May 1918.
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University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office
Reference code Record
47M91W/ P2/4 The Wintonian 1899-1900
47M91W/ P2/5 The Wintonian 1901-1902
47M91W/ P2/6 The Wintonian 1903-1904
47M91W/ P2/7 The Wintonian 1904-1906
47M91W/ P2/8 The Wintonian 1905-1907
47M91W/ P2/10 The Wintonian 1908-1910
47M91W/ P2/11 The Wintonian 1910-1914
47M91W/ P2/12 The Wintonian 1920-1925
47M91W/ D1/2 The Student Register
47M91W/ S5//5/10 Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia
47M91W/ Q3/6 A Khaki Diary
47M91W/ B1/2 Reports of Training College 1913-1914
47M91W/ Q1/5 Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949
47M91W/ R2/5 History of the Volunteers Company 1910
47M91W/ L1/2 College Rules 1920
Hampshire Record Office archive
71M88W/6 List of Prisoners at Kut
55M81W/PJ1 Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903
All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.