• Christina Drummond

Lance Corporal Sydney Sysum, D Company, 5th Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment


Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Lance Corporal Sydney Sysum, D Company, 5th Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, was killed in action on the Somme.

One of a family of twelve children, he left school in 1909 and worked as a marble polisher and then later for the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd. He was a keen rugby player, so good that the Gloucester Rugby Football Club were afraid he’d be lured away from them into professionalism. The war intervened and, along with the majority of his fellow players, he enlisted and arrived in France in March of 1915.

After being stationed south of the Ypres Salient, the battalion became part of the Somme Offensive in July of 1916, taking charge of captured German trenches near Ovillers-La-Boiselle and Pozieres. In the few days prior to the day of Lance Corporal Sysum’s death, they had made several unsuccessful attacks, and in the early morning light of the 23rd, as part of the 48th Division, they were sent out in a pincer movement on the fortified village of Pozieres, attacking from the northwest, while the 1st Australian Division moved in from the southeast. The writer Stephen Cooper described their losses as being “mown down like summer corn by scything German machine guns.” After the devastation of A and C Companies, B Company along with Lance Corporal Sysum's D Company were ordered to attack. They were moving uphill towards the German trenches and as reported “failed disastrously” as they were cut down by machine gun fire. Four soldiers from his battalion made it to the German trenches but were killed, and he reached the parapet of the foremost trench before being cut down. Those who fell were recovered and buried, but during the battles of 1918 their graves were lost. Lance Corporal Sysum is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, near the village of Thiepval in Picardy, France.

Sydney, from Gloucester, was 21 years old.

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