Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Lest We Forget : Sidney Preston

Today marks the ninety-fourth anniversary of the death of Sidney Preston. He was my first cousin three times removed. Sidney holds a very special place in my heart, and has done ever since I first laid eyes on him in a family portrait given to me by Eleanor Finn, of Holt.

My framed photograph of Sidney Preston,
which sits proudly on my sideboard
Born 25 March 1889, Sidney was the son of Thomas John and Sarah Ann Preston. Sidney was very close with his four brothers and two sisters, Pattie and Mary.

From 1898 - 1905 Sidney attended Gresham's School, in Holt. Famous Greshamians include W H Auden, Benjamin Britten, and Stephen Frears.

In 1911 Sidney was residing in Hampstead with his eldest brother Thomas England Preston, who was a Solicitor. Sidney was studying as a Law Student when Britain declared war on Germany. He immediately joined up with the Middlesex Regiment, but was later commissioned to join the Essex Regiment.

On 27 May 1916 Sidney married his sweetheart Mabel Lillian Gold, at Holy Trinity Church in Kilburn, county Middlesex. From the transcript you can see that Sidney was stationed at Aldershot with the Essex Regiment.

Transcript of Sidney Preston's marriage
I would very much like to find out where Sidney was when he was killed. I keep searching on google and websites dedicated to the Great War but nothing definitive has come up yet. I need to visit the city library and see whether there are any military books available which will pin point the movements of the Essex Regiment during the first half of 1918. So far, I have titles such as the Battle of the Lys; the German Spring Offensive; Operation Georgette, all swimming around in my brain.

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"On 10 April, Sixth Army tried to push west from Estaires but was contained for a day; pushing north against the flank of Second Army, it took Armentières.
Also on 10 April, German Fourth Army attacked north of Armentières with four divisions, hitting the British 19th Division. Second Army had sent its reserves south to aid First Army, and the Germans broke through, advancing up to 3 km on a 6 km front, and capturing Messines. The 25th Division to the south, flanked on both sides, withdrew about 4 km.
By 11 April, the British situation was desperate; it was on this day that Haig issued his famous "Backs to the wall" order..."

This is an excerpt from a letter sent to Sidney's parents:

“It was whilst we were together in the barracks that I got to know and love your son. For there is no doubt about the fact that everyone who really knew him loved him. His men worshipped him, and his was out and away the best and most efficient company in the battalion in consequence. I often had the opportunity of learning what his C.O thought of him. Whenever there was something special to be done it was always Preston’s company to whom it was entrusted, for whatever he had to do was done thoroughly. I don’t think he had an atom of selfishness in his nature, for all that he did was for someone else and nothing was too much trouble.”

Sidney Preston c. 1910

Gone But Not Forgotten


  1. He sounds a very special man.

  2. A wonderful weaving of photos, documented facts, historical background, and a moving personal letter. People live on in other people. Thank you.

  3. Many thanks to Ann, Claire, Anne & Mariann for your lovely comments and feedback. It is so true that people live on in other people Mariann, thank you, your comment really touched my heart. xx

  4. Both fascinating and moving ... I hope you are able to find out more about Sidney.

  5. Very interesting post, Debs. Go to the CWGC website and search for "casualty" - there are 18 S Prestons in the results, and Sidney was killed on 10 Apr 1918 and is commemorated at Bienvillers Military Cemetery. You can download a certificate with a photo of the cemetery. Jo

    1. Thanks Jo, for your comment. I have Sidney's certificate from the CWGC website, thanks. I really appreciate your guidance. xx