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Sidney Wilfred Crew

name mis-spelt 'Crewe' on memorial 

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Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
7th Battalion
Private 29679
Died as POW, 29th September 1918

Sidney Crew's Parents

Sidney Crew was the son of James Crew and Isabella (née Green). Both parents lived in Englishcombe in their childhood, so would have known each other growing up.

James Crew

James’ father was an agricultural labourer (as were James’ two eldest brothers in the 1861 census) and the family of eight lived very near to Manor Farm in Englishcombe, so it is very likely that he worked there. In 1871, James was sixteen and worked as a gardener, whereas two of his younger brothers were also working as farm labourers at the ages of twelve and ten. In 1881, James was to be found, aged 26, lodging in Stapleton Road, Bristol, and working as a malthouse labourer.

Isabella Green

Sidney’s mother Isabella was born in the hamlet of Nailwell, between Englishcombe and Priston. Her father was also an agricultural labourer. They lived in Priston in 1861, but in Englishcombe in 1871. In 1881, at the age of 22, she had moved into Bath and was a domestic servant with the Hornby household at 10 Devonshire Buildings, off Wellsway. Caleb Hornby had founded the business that became Colmer’s in Union Street; a department store that continued as a fixture in the city’s shopping scene for well over a hundred years. He died in the 1860s and Isabella was servant to his widow and son.



The Crew Family

James and Isabella married at Englishcombe Church in 1883.

Crew family tree

James & Isabella are listed by Bath directories of 1884-1893 as living in ‘Englishcombe’, but the 1891 census shows them living at Fair View Cottages, Rush Hill. This was at a time when Rush Hill and parts of Odd Down were still considered outposts of Englishcombe, reached from Bath via Englishcombe Lane. Fair View Cottages were three pairs of semi-detached cottages in the lane behind the former Rose & Laurel public house; they are still there, numbered 136-128 Rush Hill (No 1 Fair View Cottages became No 136 Rush Hill). James was listed as ‘gardener not domestic’, usually meaning that he was employed tending some larger gardens belonging to a municipal or private property. Children Mabel, Minnie, Rose & Albert were already on the scene.

Sidney was born in 1898, shortly before the family moved down the slopes into the ever-expanding southern suburbs of Bath.

In 1900, the Bath directory lists the family at ‘3 Lymore Lane’, which was later known as ‘Lymore Avenue West’ and then became part of Lymore Avenue itself. We can assume that Lymore Lane was the portion of Lymore Avenue in the vicinity of the Rising Sun public house, where there is a terrace of cottages that predates most of the other buildings on Lymore Avenue.  Father James had by now specialised in spadework; his occupation; ‘gravedigger’.

In 1901, the census again shows the family’s address as Fair View Cottages, but the location this time seems to be in Lymore Avenue and could have been an alternative name for the old row of cottages in Lymore Lane. The census further confirms James as gravedigger in the employment of the church. Living in the parish of Twerton, it is very likely that James was the gravedigger for the parish; the graveyard at that time was the cemetery in Bellotts Road, alongside the main London-Bristol railway line. (We know that James’ brother Charles Crew was for many years superintendent of the Twerton cemetery and is himself buried there).

The family’s address in the following years, according to the Bath directories, was 6 Lymore Cottages (1903), then from 1904 they lived at 4 Lymore Avenue, which is the house that still bears this address today.  Sidney would have had an extremely short walk to school from this latter address, hence it is no surprise that the report of the school’s 1910 prize-giving mentions his receipt of a prize for perfect attendance.

4 Lymore Avenue
4 Lymore Avenue; the name Lymore is unusual, but there was a field called 'Lymores' or 'Limers' in this vicinity prior to extensive housing being built. The lane was sometimes also referred to as 'Limers Lane'.

The 1911 census tells us that Sidney’s three sisters were all working in tailoring. His brother Albert was also sewing, but working for a bookbinder. Sidney, at age 12, was finishing his schooling at South Twerton but we know that he, too, went into the book production business as he is listed on the memorial at Pitman Press. 


Sidney Crew in WW1

Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 7th Bn.

We need to conduct more research on the details of Sidney Crew's service with the DCLI 7th. If the unit sounds familiar, then it is because this was the unit with which Harry Patch served. His biography 'The Last Fighting Tommy' will be our first port of call for information on movements of the 7th Bn; Harry Patch's serial number 29295 was just 400 or so below that of Sidney Crew, so they probably joined the unit within days of each other.

Harry Patch
Harry Patch and (below) his biography 'The Last Fighting Tommy'
Last Fighting Tommy book photo

It seems that the 6th and 7th (Service) Battalions were formed of volunteers quite soon after the outbreak of war, augmenting the two regular battalions, a Militia battalion and two battalions of territorials that existed prior to the war. The 7th Bn saw service on the Western Front from 1915.  

From http://hubpages.com/hub/Duke-of-Cornwalls-Light-Infantry-in-World-War-1:

7th Battalion DCLI

The men of the 7th DCLI were largely volunteers and according to the Battalion diary many were "young and immature townsmen" yet goes on to note that they "behaved exceedingly well". These young men were put to the test during the Battles of the Somme in 1916.

At the Battle of Guillemont they were shelled heavily on 23rd August and on the following two days. Nevertheless they kept the enemy at bay until they were relieved on the afternoon of the 25th. There was no rest; the men were set to work clearing trenches and then marched back to the front line on the 30th. There they had only one dug-out for the entire Battalion and they endured a miserable time knee deep in mud, surrounded by dead bodies and under attack with shells and gas. On 1st September the Battalion notes that the tour was "the most trying we have experienced".

Sadly, the Somme was not the last battle the 7th Cornwalls took part in and there was more of the same mud and misery to come at Passchendaele, 3rd Ypres the following year.




Sidney Crew's Death

Sidney Crew died in captivity as a prisoner of war in Poland. This record survives:

Sidney Crwe POW record

It appears to give us the following information (although I am open to other suggestions on how to interpret!):
  • Sidney Crew (Private 29679) was serving with 13th Platoon, 7th DCLI when declared 'Missing' on 2nd April 1918
  • Born 26th November 1898 in Bath
  • Taken prisoner 24th March 1918, unwounded, at Chauny
  • Arrived from La Fère to Friedrichsfeld (near Wesel, Germany)
  • 'Negative' (of what?) sent 3rd June 1918
  • Family informed (of capture) 15th October 1918
  • Died 29th September 1918 of heart failure at Skalmierschütz (now Skalmierzyce, Poland)
  • Family informed 26th November 1918.
So there must have been an emotional rollercoaster for Sidney's parents during 1918. Although his mother is listed as point of contact on the POW record, his father James lived until well after the war. First they would probably have noticed a lack of correspondence from their son from the beginning of April, until in October they received  the relatively good news of his having been taken prisoner. When the war ended just a few weeks later, their hopes must have been high that he would soon return, but instead, on their son's 20th birthday, they learned of his death.

Decoration

Private Sidney Crew would have been in receipt - posthumously - of the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. 

British War Medal 1914-18Allied Victory Medal
British War Medal 1914-18Allied Victory Medal


Burial

Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery

Sidney Crew is buried at Poznan. 

From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

After the First World War, the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died in Poland as prisoners of war were gathered together in this cemetery.

There are now 174 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. One of the burials is unidentified. Special memorials commemorate one casualty known to have been buried in Czersk Prisoners of War Cemetery, 29 known to have been buried at Szczypiorno Prisoners of War Cemetery and 18 known to have been buried at Pila (formerly Schneidemuhl) Prisoners of War Cemetery, all of whose graves could not be identified. 

Poznan Old Garrison cemetery


Commemoration

Crew on S Twerton Memorial

In addition to his (mis-spelled) commemoration on the South Twerton School memorial (above), Private Sidney Crew is commemorated as follows:

Bath War Memorial

See separate page for details of the Bath War Memorial. Sidney Crew's inscription:

Crew on Bath Memorial

Ascension Church Memorial

Sidney Crew's name is inscribed on the oak tablet in the Ascension Church (see separate page for details of the Ascension Church Memorial):

Crew on Ascension memorial

Pitman Press Memorial

The Pitman Press works on the Lower Bristol Road also created a memorial in 1924 that carried the names of workers from the company who gave their lives. It includes four South Twertonians - including Sidney Crew - plus the brother of George Strong. It lists Sidney Crew as having belonged to the Devon Regiment but we believe this to be one of a number of inaccuracies of detail on this memorial. 

See the additional page on the Pitman Press memorial.

Pitman Press memorial

7th DCLI Memorial

The last surviving veteran of the Western Front in WW1 was Harry Patch, from Combe Down (edge of Bath) who died in 2009 aged 111. In his final years, Harry Patch supplied and dedicated a memorial in Langemarck to his comrades in 7th DCLI, of whom Sidney Crew was one.

7th DCLI memorial

Photo: www.ww1cemeteries.com

A more detailed photograph of the memorial's inscription can be seen here.


Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Memorial

The regimental museum at Bodmin is home to a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the DCLI. 

Details of the museum and a photograph of the memorial can be seen here.


The Light Infantry Memorial

All those who died while serving with battalions of the Light Infantry are commemorated by a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield in Staffordshire. Details of the memorial can be found here.  

Further Information

Living relatives

It would be great to hear from any living relatives of Sidney Crew

  • Eldest sister Mabel Elsie Crew married and became Mabel Crossey, with descendants bearing the names of Crossey and May.
  • Minnie Gertrude Crew became Minnie Roddy on marriage. 
  • Rosina Mary Crew became Rosina Rabone on marriage.
  • Albert Crew married Hilda Tucker.

Please get in touch!

If you have any further information on Sidney Crew, or want to suggest corrections  / improvements for this page, please use the Contact page to get in touch.