Rank: Private
Number: 7776
Unit: 2nd Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 31 October 1914
Age: 29
Cemetery: Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Eli was one of five sons of Joseph and Hannah Sykes, 1 Orphanage Street, Stockport. His mother's name is not known. In 1907, Eli married Annie Holland at All Saints Church, Heaton Norris and they are thought to have lived at 47 York Street, Edgeley. Annie later moved to 38 Croyden Street, South Reddish.

At some point, Eli joined the army as a regular soldier. When War was declared in August 1914, he was either still in the army or was on the reserve and was recalled to the colours. At the time, the 2nd Battalion was in barracks in Ireland but was one of the first to be rushed to the front. Eli probably first saw action on 23 August at the Battle of Mons (although, if he was a reservist, it is possible he was one a draft of replacements who arrived at the end of September).

By 31 October, the Battalion had been in almost constant action for two months. The Germans were having considerable success at the First Battle of Ypres and, in the early morning of that day, the Battalion was taken by bus to Neuve Eglise and then further to Messines, to re-enforce the 2nd Cavalry Division.

At 10am, the Battalion was sent into the attack to try to re-take some trenches east of Messines. The western end of the village was in enemy hands and the Germans had concentrated their machine guns there. "B" and "C" Companies, leading the attack, could make no headway towards the objective and had to dig-in to await supporting artillery fire.

By 2pm, these two companies and the two support companies were entrenched and holding a line running along the road that ran through the village. Casualties were very heavy and, by 6pm, the Battalion was being commanded by Capt. Carter and he was the only officer at duty.

The Battalion had suffered 155 casualties during the day - dead, wounded and missing - but would hold on until the next day when they were forced to withdraw.

Eli was one of those posted as being missing. His body was never found and identified and it was not until February 1916 that the War Office made an official presumption that he must have been killed.

Hannah Sykes had died in 1908 but Joseph Sykes survived his son for three years. Reporting his death, the local newspaper recorded that all five of Joseph Sykes' sons were serving with the army. As well as Eli, J Sykes was with the 1st Garrison Battalion of the Welsh Fusiliers; G  and W Sykes with 12th Cheshires. Samuel Sykes served with the 11th Cheshires and was the grandfather of a descendent who contacted this website with family information (with thanks - J Hartley, February 2008).

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