Sidney Pocock’s War

Sidney Pocock’s death is recorded on both the Leigh and Chiddingstone Causeway war memorials.  His relatives, Paula and Alan Pocock, have been researching his history and this article is based on their work.

Sidney was born in 1897 and lived in a cottage next to the Greyhound pub in Charcott, a place which was so small that his father’s address was just ‘Charles Pocock, Charcott, Leigh, near Tonbridge Kent’ and Sidney gave this address when he enlisted to fight in the Great War.  His grandfather worked at Wickhurst Farm when it was owned by Mr Walter Lasseter in 1901.  His father, Charles, was a cricket ball packer and Sidney was a cricket ball maker at Duke and Sons.  It was a large family with six sons and three daughters and Sidney was the second son.  The older son, Ernest, also enlisted but the four younger boys were too young.

Sidney initially enlisted on 9 August 1914 in Tonbridge with the Royal West Kent Regiment at the age of 16 but gave his age as 17 and 6 months.  He was accepted and given a full uniform and other equipment including a rifle.  He was told to go home and await his call up.  His elder brother, Ernest, who was a railway worker, and 23 years old, enlisted a week later and by 28 October 1914 was on his way to Quetta, India with the Royal West Kents.

There is nothing in the records to show Sidney’s activities during his time with the Royal West Kent Regiment or that he had been posted to France or Belgium and possibly this is the reason that he, although having enlisted with the Royal West Kent Regiment, appears to have then signed up with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (the Arts and Crafts Battalion) on 20 July 1915, where on his attestation he had ‘aged’ by two years, stating he was 19. He is noted as 5ft 6 inches tall with a chest measurement of 35 inches.

The Army, however, caught up with him. Firstly, on 7 September 1915 – at Sevenoaks – he was investigated for absence without leave from his Royal West Kent Regiment as well as being deficient in various articles – such as various equipment, arms, ammunition, instruments and clothing.  He had also not responded to their request to join his regiment.  And by 29 September 1915, according to his records, the West Kents had discovered that he had fraudulently enlisted with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps to which he confessed and sought to court martial him for desertion.  However, the trial was dispensed with and ruled that he could serve his present attestation, i.e. the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

On 2 May 1916 Sydney seems to have arrived in Belgium with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.  A year later, on 30 May 1917, he was promoted to Corporal and on 14 June 1917 to Serjeant [the traditional form of spelling used by the Regiment].  He was granted leave from 22 July 1917 until 1 August 1917 and he went home to his family.  Whilst serving with the King’s Royal Rifles he was killed on 20 September 1917 in Shrewsbury Forest – part of the Passchendaele Front – at the age of 20.  It seems likely that it was ‘friendly fire’ that killed him when British artillery shells fell short.  His body and the bodies of those with him were never found.  He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Ypres in Belgium.

His parents were informed and sent his personal effects, together with £1 0s 1d.  (7s 2d was in his kit and there was 12s. 11d back pay).  His parents also received what was called a ‘Deadman’s Penny’, a largish medal adorned with the figure of Britannia.

Joyce Field (Jan 2017)