Sydney Robert Slidel
Second Lieutenant Sydney Robert Slidel, of the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, died of wounds on 20th April 1918, aged 36, and is buried at Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery in Belgium.
Sydney was born on 3rd April 1882, in Portsea, Hampshire, to Charles and Sarah Ann (née O’Brien) Slidel. He was the youngest of four surviving children. In the census of 1891 the family was living at 22, Tottenham Road, Portsea. Sydney’s father Charles (47) was a writer working for the Civil Service and a pensioner from Haslar Hospital. 1 Charles was originally from the St. Pancras area of London. He enlisted for ten years in the Royal Navy, at the age of 16 as a ‘boy 2nd class’. He served on several ships including HMS Minotaur, Monarch and Hector. He retired from the navy in 1879.
Royal naval barracks Portsmouth Photograph courtesy of Alwyn Ladell
Sydney’s mother Sarah was 40 years old. The eldest child, also called Charles, born in 1870, was married and working as a carpenter, but still living in the Portsmouth area. Sydney had two older sisters Maud (14) and Mary (10). Ten years later the family had moved to 186, New Road, in the Buckland area of Portsmouth. Sydney began his education at St. Mary’s Board School, Portsmouth before working as a pupil teacher for the local school board in the Omega Street School, Boys’ Department. Maud 2 had married in 1897 and was no longer living in the family home. She and her husband, John Charles Edwin Ancell, a grocer’s assistant, were living nearby at 23, Copnor Road. Mary had also married, to Walter Charles Brown. Mary was living with her parents, at her family home with her 5 month old baby, Walter. Her husband was in the navy and in 1901 was serving, initially as a third writer and then as a second writer, on HMS Prince George.
By the 1911 census, Sydney was a certificated teacher, living in lodgings in Eastbourne, at 96, Pevensey Road, in the house of a widow Phillis Watford Reed, her widowed sister and her daughter, another Phillis Watford Reed.
The Parade, Eastbourne
Back in Portsmouth, Charles and Sarah had the house to themselves! Charles at 67 was still working, this time as a general shopkeeper. Mary and her husband were in a village near Arundel, Sussex, where both were employed in the aeronautical industry.
The 1911 census introduced a new feature, asking the wife of the family for the number of live children she had given birth to, and how many were still alive. It was heart breaking to read that by the age of 59, Sarah had given birth to 16 children, only 4 of whom were still living. Not all of those children have been traced, but they include Margaret (born and died 1878), Sarah (born 1874 death unknown), Albert (born 1873 died 1876) and twins Beatrice and Mabel who died within a few hours of being born in 1881.
Winchester Training College and a Career in Teaching
Having spent time as a pupil teacher, Sydney attended Winchester Diocesan Training College from 1904 until 1906. Before gaining admission to college, Sydney took exams and attended courses in preparation. These included exams in Elementary Physiography and freehand and light and shade exams in drawing. His medical report on admission was satisfactory.
The magazine documenting student life, The Wintonian, only has one mention of Sydney during his two years at College. He is named as the Indoor Sports’ Secretary. The students had a very full timetable of lectures, supervised study, and teaching practice. They also found time for outdoor seasonal sports and training with the College Company of the Volunteer Force 3. There were also plenty of opportunities for social interaction with ‘smoking concerts’, debating and indoor sports such as table tennis, bridge and draughts. After leaving College, the students continued to stay in touch through reunion events, both at Winchester and at places around the country including London, Portsmouth and Southampton. The association of former students was, and still is, called The Winton Club. An unknown student from Sydney’s time at College wrote about reunion:
What is it in this word that produces such a magical effect…Surely it lies in the fact that it is a reawakening of all that is peculiar to Wintonians. It is a re-kindling of those fires that have so many times sent a thrill through the being of everyone who has spent a portion of time within Winton’s walls. It is all this and more, it is a re-connecting of those links which have bound and still bind us to one another and to our Alma Mater…Memories of bygone days return vivid and clear, as once again the old paths are trod; associations recall them from the remote past, with smiling faces, busy minds, and full hearts, all join in their happy reminiscences, and goodwill exists throughout the whole gathering…return then men of Winton, in full numbers, and the present will give you a hearty greeting. Come back to old scenes and old days, and live an hour or two of them over again.
In his exams at the end of his first term at college, Sydney was placed 36th in his year group. By the time of his final exams in June 1906, he had raised that to 18th. Sydney was classified by the college as achieving Grade B in Reading and Recitation, Teaching and Drawing, C for Music and D for Science. His result for Physical Training was noted as very good indeed. In his Board of Education, Certificate Examination Sydney was given a First Class Pass, although he only achieved a Third Class Pass in his final Archbishops’ Religious Knowledge Exam. Sydney was placed 34th in the Order of Merit for his year group after his final exams with an average mark of 67.7%.
After his period of two years training was up, Sydney taught briefly at All Saints School, Winchester before returning to Portsmouth. While there he continued his links with the Hampshire Regiment Territorial Force 4. The Wintonian Magazine 1908-1910 mentions Sydney in their Territorial Notes section as he was awarded the Class A Prize for three or more years’ service. It was also during this period that he was initiated into the Freemasons and he continued his association with them after leaving Portsmouth. After his time in Portsmouth, Sydney was appointed to a position at East Street Boys’ School in Eastbourne (he is also recorded as having had a teaching position at All Souls’ School—explained by the school changing its name in 1907). It was there that he boarded with Mrs Phillis Reed and met her daughter Phillis. Sydney and Phillis Junior married in the spring of 1911. This news was reported in the Wintonian Magazine 1910-1914, when ‘Hearty Congratulations’ were sent. Sydney and Phillis went on to have 2 children, although sadly only one child survived. After three years teaching in Eastbourne Sydney was appointed headmaster at the village school in Warbleton, Sussex in 1912.
We are lucky to have a record of Sydney’s attestation papers. His record shows his time in the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. He enlisted on 14th September 1904, shortly after arriving at College and completed his service, having been promoted to Lance Sergeant, on 31st March 1908. In May 1909 Sydney enlisted in another volunteer battalion, the 5th Battalion (Cinque Ports), the Royal Sussex Regiment. He served with the 5th Sussex until May 1912. After war broke out Sydney joined the Volunteer Training Corps which was based at Herstmonceux in Sussex. He put his teaching skills to good use as he worked as an instructor. In April 1915 he was promoted to Platoon Commander.
In November of that year he travelled to Eastbourne to enlist with the 2/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (Service Number 3749, later changed to 201226). He was immediately promoted to Sergeant. This Battalion was a ‘Home Service’ unit which was based firstly in Horsham until it moved in September 1916 to Tunbridge Wells, becoming the 4th Battalion.
In January 1917 Sydney was recommended for officer training. This he did in Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland, and on 21st August 1917 he was commissioned as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment. More training followed and then on the 17th October 1917 he was sent to the Western Front to join his Regiment.
The Lincolnshire Regiment was part of the 177th Brigade of the 59th (2nd North Midland) Division. At the end of 1917 they were fighting around Cambrai and suffering heavy casualties. The Regiment was re-organised in January 1918 and Sydney was assigned to the new 4th Battalion. By March 1918 they were in action at St.Quentin and Bapaume, again suffering heavy losses. The beginning of April saw them moved to the Poperinge area of Flanders. The Regiment was bolstered with reinforcements and they then took over the front line at Passchendaele. There had been no time allowed to train the new men. On the 13th April they moved to the west of Neuve Eglise (Nieuwkerke) to defend the line there, in a position known as Crucifix Corner.
The Official History of the Lincolnshire Regiment tells of the events of the Battle of Bailleul on the 15th April, the day Sydney was wounded. The bombardment began at noon, with Crucifix Corner receiving particular attention. At 2:45pm the enemy gained a footing in the Battalion’s line, but they were driven back by a counter-attack. This pattern was repeated several times over the course of the afternoon with heavy casualties sustained.
A heavy frontal attack against the whole line then developed. On the right, rifle and Lewis gun fire forced him 5 back. On the left however, troops of the 4th Lincolnshire had been forced to retire and at last the enemy broke through and captured the crest of Crucifix Hill from the eastern side. He was now able to dominate the whole of the 4th Battalion with machine-gun fire, and the Lincolnshire were forced to retire.
The action then developed into a series of stands and retirements, in which hand-to-hand fighting was of frequent occurrence. Eventually a line was dug north of the railway in the rear of Hill 75, where at about 7:30 pm orders were received to retire to Locre, which was reached at about 2:30 am on the 16th.
On the 15th April 1918, 2 Officers were killed, 8 wounded, including Sydney, and 1 reported as missing. 12 other ranks were killed, 120 wounded and 170 missing.
Sydney was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinge 6. Five days later, on the 20th April 1918, he died of his wounds.
On the 20th April Phillis, his wife, received a telegram informing her that Sydney had been wounded. The following day another telegram arrived telling of his death. Phillis never remarried. She continued to live in Warbleton, leaving the School House and moving into Vine Cottage. Phillis requested Sydney’s medals be sent to her in 1921.
- Royal Hospital Haslar in Gosport, Hampshire was one of several hospitals serving the Portsmouth area, but was also the country’s foremost, and ultimately last, military hospital.
- Maud’s full name was Janet Maud. She appears on census returns under both those Christian names.
- The College Company of the Volunteer Force was a part of the Hampshire Regiment.
- The Volunteer Force became a Territorial Regiment in 1908. Link: History of the Territorial Force
- In this quote ‘him’ and ‘He’ refers to the enemy.
- There were three Casualty Clearing Stations near Poperinge, which were known popularly by the troops as ‘Bandaghem’, ‘Dozinghem’, and ‘Mendinghem’. Sydney was taken to the one with the nickname Bandaghem.
Alwyn Ladell photography. (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwyn_ladell/sets/72157665876163520/ [Accessed 2018].
Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018].
British Newspaper Archive (1915). Sussex Agricultural Express 30th April 1915, p.12. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000655/19150430/271/0012 [Accessed 2018].
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (2018). Home page. [online] Available at www.cwgc.org/ [Accessed 2018].
Kenward, R. School staff photograph
Lincs to the Past (2015). Slidel, Sydney Robert. [online] Available at: https://www.lincstothepast.com/SLIDEL–Sydney-Robert/1564145.record?pt=S [Accessed 2018].
The London Gazette. (2018). London Gazette 21st September 1917, Supplement 30299 page 9837. [online] Available at: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30299/supplement/9837 [Accessed 2018].
The Long Long Trail, (2018). Welcome to the long long trail. [online] Available at: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/ [Accessed 2018].
National Union of Teachers. (1920). War Record 1914–1919. A Short Account of Duty and Work Accomplished During the War. London: NUT.
Sussex people (2018). 2nd Lieutenant Sydney Robert Slidel. [online] Available at: www.sussexpeople.co.uk/2nd-lieutenant-sydney-robert-slidel [Accessed 2018].
Wikimedia (2018). File:The Parade from the Wish Tower, Eastbourne, England-LCCN2002696731.jpg [online] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Parade_from_the_Wish_Tower,_Eastbourne,_England-LCCN2002696731.jpg [Accessed 2018].
Wikipedia (2018). Royal Hospital Haslar. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Hospital_Haslar [Accessed 2018].
|University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office|
|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.|