Lance-Corporal Arthur Sykes, 333939, Highland Light Infantry, "C" Company, 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion.
Arthur Sykes was born in 1898 at Flockton, Wakefield, the son of Allan Sykes and his wife Annie (nee Mosley) who had married at St James’ Church Flockton on 7th June 1890. Allan was aged 20 and a miner and Annie was aged 25. Allan’s father, George, was a publican. In 1881 & 1891 he was the Landlord of the Reign Deer Inn (sic) at Caphouse where he died in January 1892.
In 1901, Arthur was living with his parents Allan and Annie Sykes at Rod’s Cottage, Lepton, Huddersfield. Allan was Lepton born and was working as a gamekeeper. The couple had six children: four girls and two boys.
By 1911, Allan Sykes with his young family had moved to Ossett and from 1907 to his death in 1920, he was the landlord of the eight-roomed, Victoria public house on Manor Road, Ossett. Allen and his wife Annie had six children: five girls and two boys aged between 10 years and 20 years living with them, and a seventh child had been born, but died before 1911.
Allan Sykes, aged 50, of The Victoria Hotel Ossett died on the 15th of July 1920 at Earlsheaton and Administration was granted at Wakefield on the 7th of August 1920 to his widow, Annie. His effects were £1,192 4s. Allan's address in 1918 was Park Square, Ossett even though he was still the landlord of the Victoria Hotel.
The 1/9th (Glasgow Highland) Battalion was formed in August 1914 at Greendyke Street, Glasgow as part of Highland Light Infantry Brigade in the Lowland Division. They moved on mobilisation to Dunfermline on the 5th November 1914 and left the Division, landing in France on the 23 November 1914 where they joined 5th Brigade in the 2nd Division. On the 30th January 1916, the battalion left the 2nd Division, and became GHQ Troops. On the 29th May 1916 they joined 100th Brigade in 33rd Division.
This extract from the Highland Light Infantry War Diary reveals how Arthur Sykes was killed:
"12 October 1918: transit - about 2 miles northeast - from bivouacs at Troisvilles to front line attack at Montay (just north of Le Cateau-Cambrésis)
0030: Batt moves to position for attack.
0300: Enemy’s shelling causes about forty casualties in Batt. HQ Coy suffered most. Men behave splendidly. Bridges and jumping off place reconnoitred by CO and scouts.
0200 [sic]: Batt moved off from Batt HQ. A & SH in K 26 b 2.4 and marched down ravine to MONTAY CHATEAU in K 22 a 4.1, thence along road to K 15 d 3.0 and down to bridge over SELLE RIVER at K 15 d 8.6. During the march down the ravine the Batt was heavily shelled resulting in about thirty (30) casualties.
0445: Batt was formed up for attack on road in K 16c in touch with 16th KRRC on left. “C” Coy was on right front, “A” Coy left front, “D” Coy in support to “C” Coy and “B” Coy in support to “A”. Each Coy was in two waves on a two platoon frontage. During the forming up heavy rifle and machine gun fire was opened by enemy but did comparatively no damage owing to the Batt being in dead ground. 0500: Attack commenced, Coys moving in a NE direction, the first objective being the Railway at K 16 c 8.5. The enemy put down a heavy barrage on road from K 15 d to K 12 c causing heavy casualties and a nest of Machine Guns on the RAILWAY at K 16 c 8.5 also inflicted heavy losses. A belt of wire running along about 60 yards from the railway and the concentrated Machine Gun fire made it impossible to advance. The leading Coys decided to withdraw to the road. The Batt strength on going into action was 19 Officers, 337 Other Ranks. The total casualties in the action were:
- Killed : 3 Officers, 19 Other Ranks
- Wounded : 4 Officers, 126 Other Ranks
- Missing : 2 Officers, 19 Other Ranks"
The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this short obituary for Arthur Sykes:
"The sad news came to hand on Monday that Lance-Corporal Arthur Sykes (20), of the Victoria Inn, Manor-road, South Ossett, has been killed in action on the western front. The message came from a comrade, who said: 'We were going over the top on Saturday morning, the 12th inst, when Arthur was struck by a machine-gun bullet in the lower part of the body, and death was instantaneous. He was the corporal in charge of our section, and a good pal and a good soldier too. We all feel his loss, and hope and trust that you will bear your sad loss as light as possible.' Deceased, who was a qualified signaller, joined the army voluntarily in August 1916, and after eleven months' service in France, was invalided home, being in hospital at Liverpool. He returned to France in June last, about the same time as his brother George (22), who had previously suffered severely from gas poisoning also rejoined his battalion at the front. Deceased was well-known and respected in the district, and previous to joining the army was employed at Messrs. Wm. Sykes' athletic goods factory, Horbury."
Arthur Sykes was killed in action on the 12th of October 1918, aged 20 years, the son of Allan and Annie Sykes, of "Briar Dene," Park Square, Ossett, Yorks. His army service record has not survived, but his medal card records that he was awarded the British and Victory medals, indicating that he did not serve overseas until after the 31st December 1915.
Above: German MG-08 Heavy Machine Gun.
Lance-Corporal Sykes is buried at grave reference I. A. 15 at the Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery 3, Montay, Nord, France. Montay is a village on the northern outskirts of Le Cateau. The Cemetery is one kilometre north of the village on the eastern side of the road to Solesmes.
This cemetery was made by the 23rd Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, on 26 and 27 October 1918. It contained originally 111 graves, mainly of officers and men of the 38th (Welsh) and 33rd Divisions, and the 6th Dorsets, but after the Armistice it was increased when graves were brought in from the battlefields west, north and east of Montay, and from certain small cemeteries.
Arthur’s only brother, George Sykes, was born in 1895 and he too served in the British Army during WW1. His army service record has survived: George Sykes, a carrier with J. Mitchell, Ossett, and living at the Victoria Hotel, Ossett enlisted on the 24th of February 1916, joining the 6th (Reserve) Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.
He was on Reserve until his mobilisation on the 26th of March 1917 and was with the BEF for embarkation on 6th July 1917. He was transferred to the 2/7th Worcestershire Regiment on the 20th of July 1917 and on the 12th of September 1917 he was wounded in action by a gas shell (gassed), which was serious enough to get him a ticket back to Blighty by the 26th of September 1917.
He returned to France on the 14th of June 1918, and was transferred to the 194 Labour Company, Labour Corps on the 18th of August 1918. He continued to serve in France with the Labour Corps until the 17th of January 1919, when he returned to England for demobilisation. He was transferred to “Z” Reserve on the 23rd of February 1919, when he was still living at the Victoria Hotel, Manor Road, Ossett. In June 1919, George Sykes was awarded a weekly pension of 5/6d from the date of his demobilisation to be reviewed after 52 weeks. The record shows that he was suffering from catarrh and laryngitis as a result of his gassing in September 1917. His Medal Card records that he was awarded the British and Victory medals for his Service.
On the 13th of November 1920, George Sykes and Annie Moiser were married at South Ossett Church. George was a carting agent of 37, Park Square, Ossett and the son of Allen Sykes, licensed victualler (deceased). Annie was the daughter of Albert Moiser, an insurance agent of 3, Groudle Place, Ossett. The couple had two children: Arthur born in 1921 and Ida born in 1923.
1. "Ossett Observer", 26th October 1918