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Sidney Samuel Page

Sergeant Sidney S. Page, 5343, M.M., Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 61st Battalion

Sydney Samuel Page was born in Ossett in 1892, the second child and second son of six children born to Alfred Edward Page and his wife Cecilia Ann (nee Andrews) who married in Cambridgeshire in 1889.

By 1901 the family had moved to Ilkeston in Derbyshire where Alfred was working as a journeyman joiner. By that time the couple had four children with only Sydney born in Ossett and evidence suggest that his parents arrived in Ossett after 1891 and left before 1896. Alfred was still living with his parents and siblings in Ilkeston in 1911 when, aged 19, he joined his father and elder brother working in a blast furnace.

Sydney’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Ilkeston and joined the Northumberland Fusiliers (service number 20882). He subsequently joined the Machine Gun Corps (M.G.C.) with service number 5343 and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was serving with the 61st Battalion M.G.C. when he was killed in action on the 22nd March 1918. He had also earlier been awarded the Military Medal.

He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals, but not the 1914/15 Star, indicating that he did not serve overseas before 31st December 1915. His medal card suggests these medals were awarded in respect of his M.G.C. service, suggesting that he may have been attached to them early in WW1. It is also likely that he remained in the same Brigade and division as his "parent" regiment, the Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 61st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps was formed on the 1st March 1918 and served with the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division of the 5th Army. On the 21st March 1918, the Germans launched what was intended to be a decisive offensive, attacking the British Fifth and Third Armies on the Somme in overwhelming strength. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic but ultimately successful withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days. In the initial clash, the South Midland faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so in consequence of the enemy's progress at other parts of the line.

Lieutenant Allan Ebenezer Ker, 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, was attached 61st Battalion MGC (Infantry) and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery on the 21st March 1918, during the Battle of St. Quintin.1

"On the 21st March, 1918, near St. Quentin, after a very heavy bombardment, the enemy penetrated our line, and the flank of the 61st Division became exposed. Lieutenant Ker with one Vickers gun succeeded in engaging the enemy’s infantry, approaching under cover of dead ground, and held up the attack, inflicting many casualties. He then sent back word to his Battalion Headquarters that he had determined to stop with his Sergeant and several men who had been badly wounded and fight until a counter-attack could be launched to relieve him. Just as ammunition failed his party were attacked from behind by the enemy with bombs, machine guns, and with the bayonet.

Several bayonet attacks were delivered, but each time they were repulsed by Lieutenant Ker and his companions with their revolvers, the Vickers’ gun having by this time been destroyed. The wounded were collected into a small shelter, and it was decided to defend them to the last and to hold up the enemy as long as possible. In one of the many hand-to-hand encounters a German rifle and bayonet and a small supply of ammunition was secured, and subsequently used with good effect against the enemy.

Although Lieutenant Ker was very exhausted from want of food and gas poisoning and from the supreme exertions he had made during ten hours of the most severe bombardment, fighting, and attending to the wounded, he refused to surrender until all his ammunition was exhausted and his position was rushed by large numbers of the enemy. His behaviour throughout the day was absolutely cool and fearless, and by his determination he was materially instrumental in engaging and holding up for three hours more than 500 of the enemy."

Was that brave Sergeant in Lieutenant Ker's group of fighters Sergeant Sidney Samuel Page who was killed in action on the 21st or 22nd March 1918 and was then posthumously awarded the Military Medal? The circumstances certainly fit, i.e. right place and right time. So far details of the Military Medal awarded to Sergeant Page have not been found so we may never know.

Sydney Samuel Page is not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour most probably because he and his family left Ossett by 1896. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the "U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918" listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

German Troops in St. Quintin March 1918

Above: German troops in the town of St. Quintin during the Spring Offensive of March 1918.

Sergeant Sidney S. Page, M.M., aged 25 years, died on the 22nd March 1918 and is remembered on the Addenda Panel at the Pozieries Memorial,2 Somme, France. Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert.

The Memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery which is a little south-west of the village on the north side of the main road, D929, from Albert to Pozieres. On the road frontage is an open arcade terminated by small buildings and broken in the middle by the entrance and gates. Along the sides and the back, stone tablets are fixed in the stone rubble walls bearing the names of the dead grouped under their Regiments.

The Pozieres Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918.

The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names, The Durham Light Infantry with approximately 600 names, the Machine Gun Corps with over 500, The Manchester Regiment with approximately 500 and The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery with over 400 names.

The memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery, Plot II of which contains original burials of 1916, 1917 and 1918, carried out by fighting units and field ambulances. The remaining plots were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately surrounding the cemetery, the majority of them of soldiers who died in the Autumn of 1916 during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme, but a few represent the fighting in August 1918.

There are now 2,758 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 1,380 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 23 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. There is also 1 German soldier buried here.

References:

1. Allan Ebenezer Ker, V.C.

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site