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Sidney Isaac Hughes

Lance Corporal 12481 Sidney Isaac Hughes, 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards


Sidney Hughes

Sidney Hughes

(De Ruvigny)

Sidney was born Woodlands St Mary on 15 July 1891 the son of William Edgar (known as Edgar) Hughes and his wife Catherine née King. He was one of six children, all sons, born to the couple: Henry Edgar (born 1885), Percy Herbert (1887), Walter James (1889), Sidney, William Philip (1893) and Harold Fred (1895).  Sadly William died in July 1894 aged only 10 months.


Edgar was a farmer at Leigh or Lye Farm, Woodland St Marys, where all the children were born and raised until tragedy struck and Edgar died in 1896 aged only 36, he was buried in the churchyard on 1 February. In 1900 Catherine moved into 6 Berkeley Terrace, Berkeley Road, Newbury with her five sons. It is not known how the family spent the years between Edgar’s death and this move.


Life in Berkeley Road would have been very different to Lye Farm; the boys grew up and entered typical urban trades:- Henry and Harold became printers, Percy an upholsterer, Walter a carpenter and joiner and Sidney became a fitter (almost certainly for Plenty & Sons in their marine engine section).


6 Berkeley Road

6 Berkeley Terrace (now 6 Berkeley Road) the Hughes' family home in Newbury

When war broke out Sidney soon joined the Coldstream Guards, going along with his brothers Walter and Harold to enlist together on 10 September; they were given consecutive regimental numbers 12479 (Walter) to 12481 (Sidney). All three were sent out to join the 1st Battalion in Flanders in January 1915 after a relatively short training period. The troops in Flanders were desperately in need of replacements and reinforcements following the harsh winter and very heavy losses in October/November during the 1st Battle of Ypres - perhaps the Hughes brothers proved more able recruits than many of their contemporaries in the ‘Kitchener Armies’ who would not be sent overseas for a few more months.


The brothers landed in France on 9 January and were probably among the draft of two officers and 166 other ranks who joined up with the battalion at Montmorency Barracks, Bethune, on 20 January.


On 23 January the battalion relieved the London Scottish (1/14th (County of London) Battalion) in the trenches at Cuinchy, a small village a few miles east of Bethune. Two days later they heard that a German attack was imminent:


War Diary, Coldstream Guards - 25 January 1915
About 7am a German deserter came in and reported an attack imminent. The German attack commenced by the explosion of a mine in the trench held by No. 4 Coy. under Capt. Campbell. The first line of trenches were consequently rushed by the Germans. No. 1 Coy. on the embankment by the La Bassee Canal held its ground and No. 2 Coy. under Lt. Viscount Acheson held on to the keep and Brickstacks and repelled the German attacks. The Scots Guards on our immediate right shared a similar fate but were able to maintain a stand at the Brickfields. Reinforcements of London Scottish, Black Watch and Cameron Highlanders were sent up and a counter attack was made but it was found impossible to dislodge the Germans from the front trenches they had taken.


Sidney died in the maelstrom – perhaps one of the unfortunates in No 4 Coy who were manning the trench under which the mine was exploded. His body was not recovered so his name is remembered on panel 2 of the memorial to the missing at Le Touret.


What must Walter and Harold have thought, losing their brother after only two days in the trenches?


Name on Newbury War Memorial

Sidney's name on Newbury War Memorial

(lower middle)

Back home Sidney is remembered on tablet 11 of the Newbury Town War Memorial (as S J Hughes) and also on the memorial board and roll of honour in St Nicolas’ Church, Newbury.


A number of names on the Newbury town memorial were altered (mainly initials) when the memorial was refurbished and extended in 1950. At this time the weathered stone name tablets were replaced with the current bronze tablets, in some cases the weathering of the stones lead to confusion over the names. However, this does not appear to be the issue with Sidney since the programme for the dedication ceremony in 1922 also has his name as S J Hughes.


All five Hughes brothers were of military age and would have been subject to conscription even if they did not volunteer. It has not been possible to identify Henry and Percy among the many of their names serving during the war – and it is quite possible they either may have been unfit or in a reserved occupation – either way their wartime experiences remain a mystery.


As has already been noted Walter and Harold signed up together with Sidney and were close by when he died. Fortunately neither shared his fate, both survived the war.


Harold served with the Coldstream Guards until he was invalided out on 2 November 1918 after a shrapnel wound to his right thigh resulted in him losing the leg. His service record has not survived so it is not possible to determine when he received the wound (it is perhaps unlikely, but not impossible, that it was in the same attack that cost Sidney his life). He returned to civilian life and the printing trade as a compositor; he died in 1974, aged 79.


Walter also spent a long time with the Coldstreams, but left before Harold, not for a discharge but on 10 March 1917 on a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps, where his skills as a joiner could be put to good use maintaining the wooden framed aircraft of the day. Three weeks later the RFC was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to create the Royal Air Force. However, Walter did not spend much time at the front with the Coldstreams, he too was injured soon after reaching the front returning from France to the UK on 10 February, two weeks after Sidney’s death. It may well be that he was wounded during the same attack that killed his brother and spent the next two weeks in medical facilities in France before being repatriated. He never returned to the front.  On 28 October 1916 he married Bertha Owen from Shaw.


Thanks to Dick Flory for scanning Sidney's photograph from his copy of De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour.

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 Died this day:
16 August 1918
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