First World War Project
Sidney PHILPOT (of Teynham)
Private, Service Number 41498
Sidney is recorded on the Teynham Memorial. The cover-sheet to his enlistment documents state that he "lodged" with Mrs Flora Hickmott (spinster) in Greenstreet while working as a munitions worker. That same document records his "home address" as 353 Dersingham Avenue, Manor Park, London.
Finding more about his family history has proved problematic. In the 1911 Census, it does appear he was living at 127 Kings Cross Road, St Pancras, W.C., London, employed as a pawnbrokers assistant in the household of Louisa Allworthy (widow). Earlier records have eluded us showing a Sidney (born in Camberwell/St.Luke's) with a brother George....
If you set aside the absence of "George" in Census data (he may well have been staying with another relative or sick?), then it appears his parents were Thomas (picture frame mould maker) and Alice of Rosemary Road, Camberwell (1891). At that time, Sidney's age is 6 and birthplace is St. Lukes, Camberwell - this age and birthplace are consistent with other records. This would make him one of ten children raised by Thomas and Alice.
Later, when declaring his next of kin, he initially names his next of kin as his brother, George Philpot, living at 114 Malvern Road, West Kilburn, London. These details are struck through, replacing his brother with his new wife (and ex-landlady) Flora Hickmott, now living in 17 Station Row, Teynham. Flora and Sidney married in Lynsted Church, on 23rd August 1916, three months after his enlistment. After the war, Flora returned to live on Greenstreet. By 1921, she acknowledges receipt of the War Gratuity and effects of Sidney from her home on Greenstreet half way between Station Road and Vine Cottage on the Teynham side of Greenstreet. She lived next door to James Post, hairdresser and chimney sweep, whose daughter Alice Post died from TNT poisoning in January 1916. In 1928, Flora re-married to Ernest Richards, registered in Milton.
From the surviving documents, Sidney stood at 5 feet 2½ inches; weighed 119 pounds; chest measurement of 34" (expanding to 36"). He was declared fit for General Service.
Sidney's body was found more or less where he fell and his body was later "concentrated" to his final resting place in the War Cemetery at Holnon. His body was found in the field by French authorities, identified by his Identity Disc, at Map Reference: 62b.S.3d. 3.9. That places Sidney at the time of his death in trenches immediately north of the village of Selency, France.
His death was reported locally:
|East Kent Gazette of 2nd November 1918|
|TEYNHAM MEN. The deaths of two more Teynham men are also reported, viz., Private James Frederick Laker, The Buffs (died of wounds October 22nd), and Private Sidney Philpot, Leicesters (killed in action September 24th).|
He was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals. [See Appendix 1]
Sidney enlisted at Canterbury on 18th May 1916 into the Middlesex Regiment. He was 26 years and 8 months old. He expressed a preference for service in the Royal Field Artillery as a driver. In the event, after joining the Middlesex Regiment, he was transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment to meet the pressing needs of the day.
His Casualty Form gives clues to his location and two episodes of treatment for Gonorrhoea, not an uncommon medical condition amongst soldiers in the trenches. On 30th October 1916, Sidney is admitted to No.9, Casualty Clearing Station (at Avelin, just south of Lille). The next day he is transferred to 11th Canadian Field Ambulance (Orchitis - testicular inflammation, probably arising from Venereal Disease). On 4th November 1916, Sidney is in No.1 Stationary Hospital (V.D. treatment; at Rouen, towards Le Havre). On 10th December 1916, Sidney finds himself in hospital at Étaples; by 31st December 1916, Sidney is admitted to Rouen (2nd Company Depot) with diagnosis of "Epididymitis", a complication arising frequently from Gonorrhoea. By January 1917 he has returned to his unit. However, a year later, he is again found to be suffering the effects of Gonorrhoea on 1st December 1917. On 3rd December 1917 he was admitted into No.4 Stationary Hospital (V.D.G.)(at Arques, near St. Omer), unable to return to the Front until 31st March 1918.
On 1st April, Sidney's Battalion was in billets in WINNEZEELE (West of POPERINGE) undertaking training before moving to the YPRES Sector the next day and into the Front Line at REUTEL, a point 1 kilometre West of BESELARE.
We now turn to the final days for Sidney, close to HOLNON Village.
SETTING THE SCENE
18th September 1918 (inferred): Operation Order No. 353
"1. The Enemy still holds the QUADRILATERAL Strong Point and is reported to be in HOLNON Village. The 6th Division is to attack tomorrow to capture these two places. SELENCY which is included in the objective completely dominates HOLNON and it is hoped that when the former is captured the enemy will probably evacuate the latter village if he still holds it. The 6th Division will attack tomorrow the 19th inst. With the 16th Infantry Brigade on the Left and the 71st Infantry Brigade on the Right.
2. The 71st Infantry Brigade will attack with 9th Norfolk Regiment; 1st Leicestershire Regiment; 1st West York. Regiment as shewn on the attached map.
The 1st West Yorkshires is attached to the 71st Infantry Brigade for this operation.
3. Objective is as shewn in GREEN on the attached Map. Special attention will be paid to the QUADRILATERAL Strong Point in S.3.b. and d. and S.4.a and c; The Chateau at S.3.d.90.10; Trench running through S.9.a.
4. BOUNDARIES. Brigade in BLUE. Inter-Battalion in RED.
5. Battalions will assemble n the start line marked in pencil and will be in position one hour before ZERO.
6. When attacking Units are in position Troops holding the DOUAI Trench Line or in front of it will withdraw behind the attacking troops the 2nd Sherwood Foresters taking the place of 1st Leicestershire Regiment in Squares M.33.c. and M.32.d........"
War Diary from 19th September 1918
19th September: Brigade Reserve near HOLNON: 1.10 a.m.: Brigade O.O. 353 received advising that the Brigade would attack the QUADRILATERAL and SELENCY, with 9th Norfolks on left, 1/Leicestershires in centre and 1/West Yorkshires on right. Company Commanders summoned to H.Q. and verbal orders issued to them regarding the assembly and delivery of the attack. Companies were disposed as follows:-
A Company – Right Front Company – S2d. 90.20 – S3c.85.80. - Lieut. S.M. Geddes in command.
C Company – Left Front Company – S3c.85.80. – S3b.30.85. – Captain J. Herring-Cooper in command.
B Company supporting A and 300 yards behind A. – Captain P.R. Milner, M.C. in command.
D Company supporting C and 300 yards behind C – Captain H.H. Duvall in command.
Objective of Battalion enemy line S9b.60.95. - EPICURE ALLEY – ETRETAT TRENCH – S4a.30.60.
Owing to my short notice, all preparations were very hurriedly made, but Companies had all moved off to positions of assembly by 4.45 a.m.
5.30 a.m.: Barrage opened and attack launched. Enemy barrage was put down at 5.31 a.m.
7.10 a.m.: Message (timed 6 a.m.) from O.C. "C" Company advising first line of objective captured, but he was unable to advance further owing to uncut wire.
7.40 a.m.: O.C. "C" Company confirmed previous message and asked for bombs to enable him to stave off a bombing attack which was threatening on his left. Bombs were sent for.
10.05 a.m.: Message received from 2/Lieut A.E.W. PATERSON, who had taken over command of "B" Company - Captain Milner being missing – to the effect that the 3 platoons of the Company with him were digging in along Bank from S3a.5.0. to S3c.7.8. unable to move forward owing to heavy M.G. fire from the right. Orders sent to him to maintain his position and to try to get into touch with "A" Company.
10.30 a.m.: Report (timed 9.25 a.m.) received from O.C. "C" Company stating that he was unable to move forward owing to the strength of the wire obstacle between the trench he held and the enemy line 80 yards away. He was unable to get touch on flanks, wire being practically untouched. Strength of Company approximately 1 officer, 60 O.R.s. From this message it was gathered that "C" Company were in C.T. running parallel with road in S3a, c and d, and not – DOUAI TRENCH and QUADRILATERAL.
12.40 p.m.: "C" Company advised several casualties from aerial darts. Up to now no news whatever had been received from "A" or "D" Companies.
4.20 p.m.: O.C. "B" Company reported (timed 3.45 p.m.) that he was in touch with "C" Company on his left and 1st West Yorkshires on his right. His approximate strength 2 officers and 52 O.R.s.
Situation remained unchanged for some hours. Still no news of the bulk of "A" and "D" Companies.
Parts of 2 platoons of "A" Company joined up with "C" Company during the evening, but all trace had been lost of O.C. "A" Company and 2 platoons. O.C. "D" Company was wounded shortly after zero and could give no information about his Company. Remnants from "D" Company began to come in and about 30 men were finally collected and attached to "B" Company. Captain MILVER rejoined at dusk, having been held up in a shell hole all day.
9.00 p.m.: Brigade Operation Order 354 received advising that Brigade Front would be reorganised and would be held by 9th Norfolk Right, on left 1/Leicestershires in centre and 2md Durham Light Infantry on right. Arrangements made with 9th Norfolk Regiment and 1/West Yorkshires. Relief was complete at 3 a.m. on 20th.
Reinforcements, 6 officers and 53 O.R.s came up to join Battalion right 19th/20th transport came under heavy shell fire when within 50 yards of Battalion H.Q. and sustained casualties. 3 out of 6 horses killed, and 1 wounded. Sergeant Camp, who was in charge of transport, managed to deliver rations, then got his 3 limbers away by using 2 chargers in the shafts and towing one of the limbers. The reinforcements sustained several casualties, and eventually 6 officers and 34 O.R.s went up to the Battalion. This made strength of Battalion about 16 officers and 300 O.R.s
Casualties to date being approximately 10 officers, 280 O.R.s
20th September: near HOLNON: Battalion was temporarily organised into 2 Companies, A and C Companies under Captain J. HERRING COOPER, B and D Companies under Captain P.R. MILNER, M.C. and held the line as follows:-
B and D in a series of posts from S3c.15.10 to S3c.80.80 – A and C Trench from S3a.50.20 to S3b.45.10.
These positions were maintained during the day. The enemy steadily shelled at intervals all valleys in the Battalion area and covered Front Line system with machine guns, which precluded any movement.
10.00 p.m.: Brigade O.O. No.355 received advising that Brigade Front would be held by 2nd Sherwood Foresters and 9th Norfolks from right 20/21st inst. A and C Companies were relieved by 9th Norfolks, B and D Companies by 2nd Sherwood Foresters.
Arrangements for relief made verbally with C.O.s concerned. Relief carried out during the night and finally complete 5 a.m. Battalion reorganised into 4 Companies again, and A, B and D Companies and Battalion H.Q. moved to QUARRY X12a and c, while C Company took over Battalion H.Q. positions in valley S2a. Battalion reported in new positions 5.55 a.m. Strength approximately 14 officers, 280 O.R.s
21st September: near HOLNON: Conference at H.Q. 2nd Sherwood Foresters of Battalion Commanders and B.G.C.B.B.C 18th Brigade and G.S.O. 6th Division also present and plans discussed for a further attack on the QUADRILATERAL and SELENCY to be made on 24th inst. by 18th Infantry Brigade and 1/Leicestershire Regiment.
Major WYKES admitted to Hospital, Lieut Colonel F. LATHAM, D.S.O. came up from Transport Lines and took over command of the Battalion in the line.
Quiet day spent in reorganizing the Battalion.
6 officers and 75 O.R.s from nucleus at Transport Lines joined at night.
22nd September: Another quiet day. Strength of Battalion in the line at 4 p.m., 19 officers, 361 O.R.s.
23rd September: 8.00 a.m.: 18th Infantry Brigade O.O. No.306 received relative to the attack on morning of 24th.
Attack to be carried out by 2nd D.L.I. on right (objective SELENCY), 1st West Yorkshires in centre (objective – ground between SELENCY and QUADRILATERAL as far East as CHATEAU.), 11th Essex on left (objective – QUADRILATERAL), 1/Leicestershires to remove to Railway Cutting X17b.75.50 night 23rd/24th
Attack to be delivered in conjunction with French on right, and 16th Inf. Brigade on left.
Zero hour 5 a.m. 24th inst.
Several casualties sustained during the day, one shell causing 15 casualties in B Company at conference at H.Q. 18th Inf. Brigade.
Enemy persistently and heavily shelled St. QUENTIN WOOD and open ground between the wood and HOLNON throughout the afternoon.
2.30 p.m.: 71st Inf. Brigade Operation Order 358 received advising their relief by 18th Inf. Brigade prior to attack, and our attachment to 18th Inf. Brigade as from 12 noon 23rd inst.
B and C Companies exchanged positions at dusk. H.Q. moved to X17b.72.50 at 10.30 p.m.
Circumstances of the death of Sidney Philpot
24th September: Quiet night. Bombardment opened at 5 a.m. and attack commenced. News was a long time in coming through as to the progress of the attack. Finally it was established that French troops had captured ROUND HILL and MANCHESTER HILL on the right, that 16th Infantry Brigade had reached ARGONNE TRENCH, NORTH ALLEY and BRETON ALLEY, but that 18th Inf. Brigade had met with exceptionally strong opposition and though a footing had been obtained by 11th Essex in the QUADRILATERAL and by the 1st West Yorkshires in DOUAI TRENCH, very little real progress had been made. 16th Inf. Brigade commenced bombing towards the QUADRILATERAL and 1st West Yorkshires towards the flanks of their objective and a certain amount of further progress was made but it was very slow work.
10.30 a.m.: A and D Companies ordered forward to Sunken Road in S2c, in close support to 2nd D.L.I. who had suffered heavily.
It was therefore decided that a further attack should be launched to link up between the French and the 1st West Yorkshires, and 1/Leicestershire Regiment was deposed to carry out this attack, objective of which was to be DOUAI TRENCH between S9a.50.95 and S9c.00.95. Verbal instructions to this effect were given by B.G.C., 18th Inf. Brigade their O.O. No.307 being received later at 7.30 p.m.
It was decided to entrust the attack to B and C Companies.
A conference at H.Q. 2nd D.L.I. was arranged with O.C. B and C Companies for 6.15 p.m.
In midst of conference, message was received to the effect that enemy had been seen advancing on HOLNON Village. "C" Company were ordered to move at once to trenches in S7b and d and remainder of Battalion "stood to". O.C. "B" Company left conference at 7 p.m., O.C. "C" Company moved his Company forward and returned to conference; finally conference broke up at 8 p.m., all arrangements having been made as follows:-
"C" Company on right to form up just East of HOLNON along line of hedge from S8b.40.15 to S9a.00.95. "B" Company on left from S9a.50.90 to S9a.30.50 about 300 yards West of DOUAI TRENCH. Zero hour 10.30 p.m., when barrage would open on trench. Attacking troops to move up under barrage close to objective. Barrage to remain on DOUAI TRENCH till 10.50 p.m. when it would lift 250 yards for 10 minutes. 5 minutes pause barrage in the same place. Company Commanders were Captain P.R. MILNER, M.C. "B" Company, Captain W. WILSON, D.C.M. "C" Company.
Attack duly launched and entirely successful, thanks largely to the fact that attacking troops followed so closely to the barrage, that as it lifted from the trench, they reached the parapet. The enemy had no time to recover and get his machine guns up. About 25 were killed in or about the trench, the remainder fled, and 8 prisoners, 14 machine guns, 1 dart machine and 2 Lewis Guns were captured. Our total casualties in attack 1 officer (Captain Milner) wounded, 47 O.R.s killed, wounded or missing.
A company of 11th Leicestershire Regiment (Pioneer) was sent forward from Battalion H.Q. as soon as the success of the attack was assured and assisted in wiring the position taken. Touch was quickly established with 1st West Yorkshires on the left, but an obstinate pocket of the enemy on the right held the position for two or three hours.
25th September: Near HOLNON: Finally the trench was cleared by bombing and touch obtained with the French on the right. "A" and "D" Companies were ordered up to DOUAI TRENCH to reinforce, as that the trench was held by the whole Battalion, less H.Q. personnel.
Morning passed quietly, but in the afternoon the enemy put down a fairly heavy barrage on the newly captured position. Enemy Machine Guns also reported active but apparently firing from long range. Patrols sent forward reported SELENCY VILLAGE clear of the enemy. Arrangements were accordingly made to establish posts East of the Village in conjunction with the French on the right and 1st West Yorkshires on the left. These posts were finally established along a line from S9c.80.60 to S9b.50.60.