Private Sidney Humphris.
Sidney’s parent Regiment was formed in 1865 and became the Devonshire regiment in 1881. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought mass mobilization of army units. The Devonshire Regiment formed up in Exeter on 25th March 1915 and moved to Bournemouth in August 1915. They became a reserve unit in April 1916, and the Regiment absorbed the 5th and 6th Battalions in September 1916, at Hursley Park, Winchester.
The Regiment then moved to Bournemouth in October 1916, Sutton Veny in March 1917, Larkhill in early 1918, and then on to Ireland in April 1918. The Regiment was stationed first in Belfast, then moved to Londonderry and on to Glenfield Barracks, Clonmany, before shipping out to Mesopotamia in October 1918.
Private Sidney Humphris (81229) 4th (Reserve) Regiment, Devonshire Regiment, was the youngest child of James and Eva Humphris, Woodgreen, Witney, Oxfordshire. He was born in the family home in the early summer of 1901.
The 1911 Census records his family as follows:
James, aged 44, Blanket Weaver.
Eva, aged 43, Housewife.
Albert, aged 23, Leather Duster at Glove Factory.
Elsie, aged 19, Dressmaker.
<span”>Walter, aged 16, Plumber.
Herbert, aged 11, attending School.
Sidney, aged 9, no occupation/school noted.
There is very little information available concerning Sidney’s early years. His mother Eva died when Sidney was only 14 years old. He later left school and obtained work as a Shop Assistant in G. Osborn Tites Drapers in Witney High Street.
Sidney was reportedly very keen to join the Army as soon as possible, and soon resigned from his job, in 1918, and enlisted in the 4th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, which at that time was stationed in Ireland. By all accounts, Sidney was not a robust young man and soon after travelling to Ireland to join up with his unit he became ill. Influenza and Spanish Flu was quite common at that time, and Sidney soon contracted influenza. This very quickly developed into pneumonia, and Sidney was admitted to the Battalion Hospital. His condition worsened and the young soldier passed away on 3rd October 1918, without ever getting the chance to serve his country in battle.
Letters of condolence were sent to his family, including one from the Army Chaplain in Clonmany, who reassured the family that Sidney had received good medical care, and said he was a bright and cheerful young man who was popular with his colleagues.
There is a happy footnote to Sidney’s sad tale. In 1920, Sidney’s older brother, Walter, married Rose Langford. Just over a year later Rose gave birth to the happy couple’s first child, a boy, who they named Sidney.
Jenny McBride (U3A).
William Spencer, National Archives.
Tom Jennings, Witney Gazette.
Royal British Legion, Devon Branch.
Devonshire Regiment Archives.
The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester.
The West Country Studies Library, Essex.
National Archives, Kew.