Rifleman, “D” Coy., London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles)
Service no. 556984
Died on 11 May 1918, aged about 36
Remembered at Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany
Chris Burge writes:
Sidney Williams was born in 1881, the youngest of Charles Richard Williams and Mary Ann Ford’s 10 children. Sidney spent his formative years in the heart of Southwark, living near London Bridge Station in Borough High Street above his father’s successful clothier and tailor shop. At the time of the 1901 census, Sidney was not quite 20 and working as an auctioneer’s clerk.
On retirement, Charles Richard and Mary Ann Williams moved to the relative quiet of 86 Gauden Road, North Clapham, where they rented four rooms. In the 1911 census, Sidney, 29, was living there with his parents and two sisters, 45-year-old Emily and 35-year-old Ada Lily, a schoolteacher. Sidney’s parents were now 73 and his father Charles lived on a masonic annuity (he had joined the Royal Jublia masonic lodge in the year before Sidney was born). Sidney was still working as an auctioneer’s clerk. Six other rooms at the same address were home to the family of Sidney’s older brother Mark Albert Williams, his wife Ellen and their three children.
Sidney Williams married Ethel Mary Edwards, a dressmaker originally from Dorset, in the spring of 1914 in a civil ceremony, which took place near the home of Ethel’s married sister Florence Richards who lived near Acton Green, west London. The couple lived in Jefferys Road, Clapham after their marriage. Ethel died soon after the birth of their son Frederick Charles Sidney Williams on 27 October 1916 and was buried in Wandsworth cemetery.
Sidney Williams may have been put on Army Reserve due to his personal circumstances, but around August 1917 he was called up and processed at the Central Recruitment Office in Whitehall, joining the 16th Bn. London Regiment as rifleman 556984 Williams, leaving baby Frederick in the care of his late wife’s sister, Florence Robinson. He entered France on 2 January 1918, and was one of around 50 reinforcements who joined the Queen’s Westminster Rifles in the first week of 1918.
They moved to the Gravelle sector in February where they remained during March. It was Sidney’s misfortune to be in the forward zone on 28 March 1918 when they suffered the full force of the enemy’s spring offensive, and was among the many killed, wounded and missing. After suffering a wound to his right leg, he was taken prisoner and held in the Friedrichsfeld POW Camp, near Wesel in Germany. Poor camp conditions and the lack of good medical care led to his death from sepsis on 11 May 1918, as reported on the camp’s ‘Toten-List’ (death list), dated 21 May 2018.
When taken prisoner Sidney had given his 80-year-old father Charles as his next of kin and he would have been the first to be informed of their youngest son’s death. Both Charles and Mary Ann died in 1919, and it was left to other family members to arrange for Sidney’s name to be added to the Stockwell War Memorial.
Sidney’s son Frederick remained with his aunt Florence and her husband and died in 1988, aged 72.
S. Williams. Rifleman, “D” Coy., London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles). Service no. 556984. Died on 11 May 1918, aged about 36. Remembered at Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany