9 July 2016

Sleeping companions: 32866 Pte F Siddall, 16th Sherwood Foresters & R/16458 Rfm J Connor, 17th KRRC

32866 Private Fred Siddall, 16th Sherwood Foresters & 
R/16458 Rifleman James Connor, 17th KRRC

I was in France recently to mark the 100th anniversary of the Somme offensive and also the fateful attack the previous day on the Boar's Head at Richebourg L'Avoue. The two men above both fell on the 30th June 1916 and rest side by side at Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg. I took the photo 100 years to the day since they died and decided to see what I could find out about them. Service records no longer survive for either man.

James Connor was born in central London: The Strand, Middlesex, and was living in West Kensington when he enlisted for wartime service only, at Holborn, in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. His regimental number indicates that he must have been issued with his number - at Winchester - in the second week of November 1915. He probably arrived in France by the end of April 1916 and thus had been overseas for barely two months when he was killed in action. At the time of his death, James was unmarried and both parents had pre-deceased him, His sister Margaret is recorded as his sole legatee and she would have been sent the memorial plaque and scroll as well as money owing to him at the time of his death.

Fred Siddall was also unmarried when he died of wounds on the 30th June 1916. He was the second oldest of four sons of Arthur and Annie Siddall, and one of seven children still living when the 1911 census was taken; four having already died, presumably in infancy. Fred is recorded on that census return as a fourteen-year-old coal miner's driver and was presumably working at the same pit as his nineteen-year-old brother, Albert and his 45-year-old father who are both indicated on the census as coal miner's driver and coal miner, respectively.

Fred initially joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers, his regimental number 20083 indicating that this must have been in August 1915. His regimental number for the Sherwood Foresters - 32866 - dates to a little later in the year, around mid-December 1915. Fred would have been about nineteen when he died of his wounds, his father Arthur noted as his next of kin.

Fred's elder brother Albert Siddall would be killed in action on the 31st March 1918 whilst serving with the same battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. His number, 25985, indicates that he joined the regiment in May 1915 and it remains a possibility, I suppose, that Fred later requested a transfer into the Sherwood Foresters so that he could be with his brother. Albert has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres memorial.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

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