Private Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp (aka Thomas Price), 2475, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Ossett has its fair share of heroes who served in the Great War 1914-1918. Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp of 33, The Green, Ossett was not one of them even though he claimed otherwise. For a while he was lionised by Ossett’s public.
Thomas Price, let’s call him Sydney Beauchamp for now, claimed that he fought and was wounded at the Battle of Mons on the 23rd August 1914; the first major action of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). He might be forgiven for forgetting the actual date of his enlistment but the rest of his story was mostly a pack of lies. He did not fight at Mons and it wasn’t the first time that he had been economical with the truth.
The truth is this. Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp, a name surely intended never to be forgotten, of 33 The Green, Ossett did enlist in August 1914, at Pontefract, when he was posted to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.) His enlistment papers record that he was 5’ 5” tall, weighed 126lbs, chest girth 35”, blue eyes and brown hair.
He claimed to be 30 years and 210 days of age, born in Stepney, London, Middlesex. He was a joiner and he claimed that he had previously served with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment which he had left "by purchase". In other words he, or someone, bought him out of the army. Allegedly.
His date of enlistment with KOYLI was 28th August 1914, five days after the Battle of Mons was fought so gallantly in Belgium. Were he to have served at Mons and survived he would almost certainly have remembered. He lied about that as he did about the cigarette case which he showed to admirers, claiming that it had saved his life at Mons.
Instead this is what happened. On the 12th September 1914 the 7th Service Battalion, K.O.Y.L.I. was formed and Sydney Cecil was attached to that battalion on that day. Two weeks later on 26th September 1914 he was discharged on the grounds of being medically unfit for service. He was judged to be of "good character". He had been in the army for just 30 days but none of them at a time when the Battle of Mons was being fought.
Subsequently it would be proven that the Army was mistaken about his character. There was much more to Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp than met the eye. None of it suggested that he was of good character. By late 1914 his lies began to unravel and come to the attention of the authorities.
Sydney Cecil’s real name was Thomas Price (alias Prince) born in Mold, Flintshire, Wales in Spring 1880, the son of Edward Price and Mary Hughes who had married in early 1876. By 1883, the family of five had moved to the village of Tudhoe, County Durham where Edward worked as a miner. By 1901, Edward, Mary, their daughter and three sons had moved to nearby Low Spennymoor, County Durham where Thomas, the eldest son, was working the local mine with his father.
In 1904 Thomas enlisted in the army but lost his lance-corporal stripe at Lichfield in 1905.Later that year, in June, he was convicted of shop lifting, imprisoned for 3 months and discharged from the army. It’s not clear which Regiment he served in but, as we have we seen, in 1914 he claimed to have served with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment which he left "by purchase".
Left: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Cap Badge.
By 1907 Thomas was living in Oldham where he worked as a mill-wright. It was here, on 26th December 1907 at the Parish Church that 26 year old bachelor Thomas Prince (sic) of 5, Webster Street married his first wife, Norfolk born spinster Edith Ellen Nicholson Fish, aged 28 years of 17, Canning Street, Oldham. He claimed that his father’s name was Charles Prince, a mill-wright labourer.
The couple lived together for 11 months before Thomas deserted Edith Ellen in November 1908. Their only child, Annie was born later that year or in early 1909. Annie’s birth surname was Price. Thomas will have known that Edith Ellen was pregnant at the time of his desertion and he may never have seen his daughter. More than two years later in April 1911 Thomas Prince’s estranged wife, Edith Prince, was working at 15, Canning Street, Oldham as a servant in the house of 36 year-old widower and father four of Patrick McGrath, a foreman navvy. Edith Prince had with her, her only child Annie.
Where was Thomas? Having deserted his wife in late 1908, it is possible that he sought refuge in the army. In any event, by April 1911 Thomas Prince had reverted to his birth name of Price and at 29 years of age, he was serving in the infantry as a private in the British Army in India. He claimed to be unmarried. The army census recorded that Thomas Price was "absent". He may just have been having a night out. He may have returned to barracks with more than he bargained for and maybe this was the reason for his discharge on medical grounds in August 1914.
By 1912 Thomas Price had left the army and returned to the UK from India. He took lodgings in Aberavon at the house of 44 year old widow, Mrs Winnie Leach and changed his name to Sidney Cecil Beaucamp (sic). He married his landlady Winnie at Aberavon Parish Church on 19th June 1912. Bride and Groom gave the same address and Sidney claimed he was a bachelor and that his father’s name was Harold Arthur Beaucamp, a soldier. Winnie’s father was a carpenter as was Sidney (aka Thomas) and perhaps they worked together.
Together, for Winnie and Sidney, was to be short lived for she made the mistake of lending him £60 to form a business. On the following day, while she was out, he stole her jewellery to the value of £60. Once again he absconded, this time with his booty. It was 1912 and by this time in his life Thomas Price had served with and left at least two regiments. He had married two women ....and left them both. He was a liar, a bigamist, an absent father and a thief. There was more to come.
Having robbed and left the widow Winnie Leach, he fled Lancashire for Yorkshire and was next known to be living in Beeston, Leeds. By 1913, he had made his way to Wakefield and, on the 10th May 1913, in the name of Sidney Cecil Beauchamp, a 32 year old bachelor and pattern maker of Harlech Crescent, Dewsbury Road, Leeds, he married 33 year-old spinster Malinda Goldsmith of Painthorpe and the couple made their home at 33 The Green, Ossett. The press reported that his marriage to Malinda was at Chapeltown, but in reality the couple were married at St. James’s Church Chapelthorpe.
Above: No. 33 Ossett Green home to Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp 1913-1914.
By August 1914 he and Malinda were still living at 33, The Green, Ossett which was situated immediately behind The Cottage (now known as Dimple Well Lodge Hotel). This was his address when he volunteered and enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light infantry (KOYLI). In summer 1914 a daughter named Kathleen W. Beauchamp was born to a woman with the maiden name Goldsmith. The birth was registered at Dewsbury.
Thomas Price alias Prince, Beaucamp and Beauchamp was nearing the end of his journey of deception. The impossible imposter was soon to be caught and banged to rights.
In early 1915, proceedings were issued against Sidney Beauchamp and having been called to interview by Ossett’s Town Clerk, he disappeared and was later arrested in Hull. It is interesting that he was apprehended there because in late 1913 or early 1914, a Sidney Beauchamp was born in Hull to a woman called O’Hara. I wonder.
Even though the authorities had enough evidence to take action against him they appear to have been unaware of some of the above information; including the existence of his two daughters. Nonetheless in early March 1915 at Cardiff, Glamorgan Assizes, Aberavon, Thomas Prince (sic) alias Sidney Beauchamp was charged with two cases of bigamy and found guilty of feloniously marrying Malinda Goldsmith. He was sentenced to three years penal servitude at Portland Grove Prison. His sentence had an expiry date of the 1st March 1918.
Above: H.M. Portland Prison about 1904. During the period of Thomas’s incarceration he will have worked Portland stone to rebuild the prison and provide stone for the harbour breakwater.
This then was the life of Thomas Price, alias Thomas Prince, Sidney Cecil Beaucamp and Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp. Three aliases, three enlistments, three marriages, possibly three children and three years penal servitude. Thomas Price didn’t believe in doing things by halves. He served his sentence at Portland Prison in Dorset and qualified for early release on 1st June 1917 when his intended address was given as the Central Aid Association, London. His intended occupation was as a joiner. Central Aid Associations were established to relieve poverty and offer support to those in need.
By 1919 Thomas Price appears to have returned to the Wakefield area. He died there in Spring 1919, aged 39 years.
We are grateful to Andrea Hartley for bringing Thomas Price, alias Thomas Prince and Sydney Cecil Buchanan Beauchamp to our attention.
Maybe ...just maybe.... there is more. It is interesting that after fleeing Ossett in early 1915, in the hope of avoiding proceedings against him, Sidney was apprehended in Hull. In late 1913 or early 1914 a child named Sidney Beauchamp was born in Hull to a woman called O’Hara. Could this be the son of the same Sidney Beauchamp, born 13th December 1913, who appears in 1939 as a 26 year old furniture remover residing at Arrowe Park Camp, Birkenhead, Lancashire? This Sidney Beauchamp died at Birmingham in summer 1976, aged 63 years. Could it be that Sidney senior had a third child?