Sydney DOWNS
Rank: Private
Number: 51830
Unit: 1/6th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 6 November 1917
Age: 27
Cemetery: Beersheba War Cemetery, Israel

Enoch Downs and Margaret Souter married in the early 1870s at St Mary's Church, Cheadle. They spent their married life in Bramhall and had seven children together, of whom Syd was the fifth. He was born on 1 November 1890. Enoch died in 1898, aged 40, and the family moved to 10 Cherry Tree Lane, Heaviley. Locally, they worshipped at St Saviours Church.

Nothing else is known of Syd's early life except for one event in 1909. That year, his eldest brother, George, got married and Syd was his best man. George and his wife later called their first son after him.

It was not until early 1916 that Syd joined the army at Stockport. He was assigned to the Cheshire Regiment and given 35547 as his service number. However, this was only for his training and, before going overseas on active service, he was transferred to the Fusiliers. All of his service was in Palestine, where the British and Turkish armies faced each other.

Five days after his 27th birthday, Syd and his comrades left their bivouacs to be part of an attack on Turkish positions at Tel el Khuweilfeyi - north of the town of Beersheba. They left about 2.30am and took up assembly positions in a wadi, well before the artillery bombardment of the enemy started at 4am. They advanced immediately and had gained their objectives by 4.55. There had been little opposition except from a couple of isolated pockets of resistance of Turkish grenadiers.

The Turks immediately counter-attacked in strength forcing the British back some 200 yards. Their light machine gun crews were deploying to the flanks of the Fusiliers and they covered an attack from both flanks. The Battalion's War Diary records "They were immediately attacked with the bayonet, three successive charges being made, enabling the Battalion to regain the ground originally occupied. Owing, however, to the enemy machine guns which were now in position on our right rear, it was found necessary to withdraw again to the second position. This position was consolidated under heavy fire and held for the remainder of the day in spite of very heavy casualties - over 50% of the officers and about 30% of the men being killed or wounded." Sydney and another local man, Ernest Maiden, were amongst the dead.

As well as his commemoration on the Stockport War Memorial, Syd is also remembered on the Memorial at St George's Church.

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