Sydney Empson

north staffordshire regiment badgePrivate 41540, 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales) (previously TR/5/37923 10th Training Reserve Battalion and 47421, 51st (Graduated) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment), died of wounds, 31st May 1918, aged 19.

Born at Crowle in 1898, Sydney was one of six children of Walter Henry and Annie Empson (nee Fillingham). When Sydney was born they lived in Fieldside moving later to 4 Godnow Road. In 1911 Sydney was a farm horseman and his father worked for the Peat Moss Litter Company at Medge Hall.

Sydney’s recruitment for the army demonstrates how the changing fortunes of the war led to a change in the regulations for those enlisted into it. When the war began and legally all the way through it, recruits into the army had to be a minimum of 5ft 3in tall. When Sydney attested for the arm, aged 17 years 322 days, at Scunthorpe on 23rd October 1916, he was only 5ft 1in tall. He also only weighed 7 and 1/2 stone which the medical officer described as ‘under weight’.

But such was the army’s need for men that on 16th February 1917 Sydney was mobilised and posted to the 10th Training Reserve Battalion at Rugeley, Staffordshire. In January 1917 this battalion was re-designated the 51st (Graduated) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment although Sydney was only with them for a short time before he embarked for France on 18th March 1918.

On arrival in France Sydney was allocated to the 4th Battalion (Extra Reserve) North Staffordshire Regiment. In the spring of 1918 they were stationed on the Somme and Sydney would have joined them just in time to assist them in their resistance to Operation Michael, the German Spring Offensive.

The 4th North Stafford’s were in action on The Somme throughout April and May, stationed in the trenches around Bouzincourt, where they sustained almost daily casualties. On 27th May 1918,  Syndey was in the trenches when he received a gunshot wound in his neck. Taken for treatment to No 29 Casualty Clearing Station, near Doullen, at about 11.00am on the morning of 31st May 1918 after never having recovered consciousness, Sydney Empson died of his wounds. He is buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt.

A memorial service for Sydney took place at St Oswald’s Church on 15th June. Sydney was also one of the three members of St Oswald’s Church Choir to loose their lives in the Great War, who are commemorated on the memorial lectern in the church.

inscription to sydney empson on lectern in st oswalds church