Sydney CAMPFIELD
Rank: Private
Number: 5487
Unit: 87th Company MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 21 October 1916
Age: 25
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

When the 1901 Census was taken, Thomas and Esther Campfield were living at 29 Newton Street in the Shaw Heath area of Stockport. They had married in a civil ceremony in the June quarter of 1890. In the same quarter, they registered the birth of their first child, Sydney. In the years to 1901, three more sons were born - James, John and Tom. Nothing else is known of the family, except that the family history website, CheshireBMD, records the death of Thomas in 1911 aged 44 and that of John in 1918, aged 24. None of Sydney's brothers appear to have served in the War.

When Sydney enlisted into the army at Stockport, he was assigned to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was given the service number of 31981. His medal entitlement records at the National Archives show he served abroad with the Regiment, but it is not known with which battalion. The 87th Company of the Machine Gun Corps was formed in February 1916 and Sydney's low service number with them suggests he was probably an original member, so he is unlikely to have been serving for very long with the Fusiliers before his transfer.

Although the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show Sydney's date of death as being 21 October, an examination of the Company's War Diary, written up at the time show no casualties for that day. It does, however, note the deaths of two men on the 22nd. Private W Vickery is also recorded by the commission as dying on the 21st.

After several days in reserve, Sydney and his mates returned to the trenches on the night of 20/21 October. These were in the forward area at Bernafray Wood in the south of the Somme battlefield. The eight heavy Vickers guns of No. 1 and No. 3 Sections deployed in the front line Grease Trench during the evening of the 20th. The remaining eight teams (each of seven men) had to wait until dawn the next morning for their equipment to arrive by horse drawn limbers. No. 2 Section then went into close support of the front line in Hilt Trench and No. 4 Section some way to the rear, in reserve, in Gird Trench.

This was a new sector for the Company and the officers reconnoitred the trench system with a view to selecting positions from which the Company could support a forthcoming infantry attack. At such times, the guns would fire a barrage over the heads of the attacking infantry, raking the enemy trenches hundreds of yards away.

The Diary entry for the 22nd reads "No. 2 & 4 Sections relieved No 1 & 3 in Grease and Hilt Trenches, the latter going back to Gird Trench. 2 O.R. killed in action." Sydney will have been one of the Other Ranks who had been killed, most probably by shellfire. He has no known grave.

   
           
   
     
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