For King and Country

Person Details



Name: Cookham School Lane, Cookham
NIWM Ref: 7925
RBWM Ref: WM151

Person Details

Date of birth: 04/10/1888
Place of birth: Cookham
Gender: Male
Date of death: 24/09/1918
Place of death: Epehy, France
Manner of death: Killed in action
Age at death: 29
CWGC Ref: 541549
TWGPP Ref: 2801148
Address: Fernlea Villa High Street Cookham

Military details

Military Organisation: Army
Military Unit/Group: 5th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment
Rank: Lieutenant
Decoration: Military Cross (MC)
Citation:On 6th August 1918, West of Morlancourt, when the enemy captured the front line on his immediate right, this officer by a daring reconnaissance got in touch with the battalion on his right, and established a defensive flank to his company. On 8th August, though the battalion on his right was held up, he led his platoon forward and gained his objective, and then went out under very heavy fire and obtained information which was of the greatest value to his company commander in safeguarding his right flank. Throughout the operations he showed exceptional gallantry and resource.


Father William SPENCER
Mother Anna SPENCER
Brother William G (G) SPENCER
Sister Annie SPENCER
Brother Harold SPENCER
Sister Florence SPENCER
Brother Percy SPENCER
Brother Horace SPENCER
Brother Stanley SPENCER
Brother Gilbert SPENCER

Additional information

Sydney was born in Cookham in 1888, the seventh of nine children born to William and Anna Spencer. In the 1891 census the family had two 15 year old female servants living in, and in 1901, one 20 year old, Mildred Gutteridge. The family lived in Fernlea in Cookham High Street. His father William was well known in Cookham, being a church organist and music teacher as noted in the 1891 census. He was described as Professor of music by 1901. He had rather eccentric views and the younger children were home educated by their older sisters. Despite, or perhaps because of this, Sydney studied at Oxford University and obtained his B.A. in 1914 with the aim of becoming a vicar. He was also an assistant master at a school in Epsom, and while there, played the organ in the local church. Stanley, his brother who was two years younger, went to the Slade School of Art and was later a famous artist, and his youngest brother Gilbert was also an artist.
Sydney joined the Officers Training Corps at the outbreak of war, presumably while at Oxford, and later served as a Lieutenant in the Norfolk Regiment. He was appointed as a "Bombing and Gas Officer" and fitted 1500 men with gas masks shortly before finally persuading the War Office to agree to his demand to be allowed to serve in France. He wrote home "I am happy at last, I am no longer playing at soldiers, but feel at length I am a real soldier". He was wounded in action on 8th of August 1918 during the battle of Amiens. He spent several weeks in hospital before returning to his unit. The Battle of Amiens was a turning point in the war but 60,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers died. Sydney was killed shortly after in the Battle of Epehy, in the final stages of the war shortly after being awarded the Military Cross for bravery. The village of Epehy, between Amiens and the Belgian border, was captured at the beginning of April 1917, lost again on 22nd March 1918 and was retaken in the Battle of Epehy on 18th September 1918, by the 7th Norfolks, 9th Essex and 1st Cambridgeshire Regiments. Sydney died six days later and was buried in Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery. The cemetery now contains 997 burials and commemorations from WW1. 225 of the burials are of unidentified men.


NPG photo of Sydney and Sir Stanley Spencer at Garden Party

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