Private Sidney Hayward
Died 12th November, 1914
Sidney Hayward was born in the summer of 1895 into a family whose roots were firmly in Little Stretton. His grandparents, Thomas Staley and Miriam, are recorded on the 1851 census for Little Stretton where Thomas is an agricultural labourer. They have two children, John age 3 and Thomas 1 but ten years later John is not recorded. In 1861 the family are still in Little Stretton but unfortunately the enumerator did not record the addresses of returnees. In 1871 Sidney Hayward’s mother, Mary Stayley, was living with her parents and three brothers in the village and was 9. In the summer of 1880 when she was 18 a marriage is recorded on Family Search between Mary Staley and John Hayward in Wellington, Shropshire but it has proved impossible to confirm beyond doubt that this is the Little Stretton Mary. Family Search is a website with a reputation for inaccuracy. It has also proved impossible to trace the family through census returns before 1901.
However, in the 1901 census Mary is recorded as a widow living with her father, Thomas, and her six children at The Ashes. This building accommodated three families totalling 16 people so there would never be a shortage of company. The first 4 of Mary’s children are recorded as having been born in Church Stretton and then Sidney and his sister, Flora, were born in Little Stretton. The places of birth indicate that The Hayward family had lived in the area for a considerable time and throws doubt on the idea that Mary and John married in Wellington.
In 1911 Sidney was 16, was working at Old Hall Farm in Little Stretton and on the census of that year is recorded as being a ‘cowboy on farm’. The head of the Andrews family, who owned the farm, was Edward aged 85 by then a widower as his wife, Elizabeth, had died on 10 March 1898 aged 66. The couple had both lived in the Wentnor area and a farm at Medlicott came their way through Elizabeth. Together they had 9 children with the eldest three being born at Adstone in 1858 or before and the remainder being born in Little Stretton in 1866 and after. In addition to the Medlicott farm the couple acquired Old Hall Farm presumably sometime between 1858 and 1866.
When Sidney joined the workforce and was recorded on the in 1911 census the members of the Andrews family still living on the farm were Edward aged 85, Susan, 54, Priscilla, 45 and Sarah, 42. In addition there was Alice, the 25 year old daughter of Priscilla although on the census return Alice is recorded as a daughter of Edward but in his will he refers to her as his grand-daughter and the daughter of Priscilla. Also recorded is Albert Lewis who was born in Little Stretton. He was aged 25 and worked as a waggoner.
Edward died on March 10 1913 aged 87 and is buried with Elizabeth in Cunnery Road Cemetery, Church Stretton. In his will the farm at Medlicott was left to his son John and bequests were made to his surviving children. A pony and trap was bequeathed to his grand-daughter Alice. On May 7 1913 the farm and contents of the house were sold and the proceeds shared amongst the family.
Image from the Dorothy Landers photograph collection.
The above picture shows Edward sitting with John standing behind him and Alice is on the right hand end of the group. The three unmarried daughters of Edward, who are recorded as ‘workers’ on the census return, are on the left of the photograph.
The sale of the farm would have had dire consequences for Sidney and Albert Lewis as they would probably have been unemployed but Sidney became 18 in the summer of 1913 and could then enlist in the army.
Ancestry on their UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 site records that Sidney’s place of residence was Meole Brace. When the Wellington Journal listed Sidney’s death in the 7 August 1915 edition, a full nine months after his death, their report suggests he may have been staying at his brother Robert’s house at Meole Brace before joining the army and he gave this address as his civilian home. Robert, who was ten years older, appears to have been a farm worker like Sidney but on a totally different kind of farm. The Wellington Journal report reads:
‘Hayward Pte Sidney, 1st KSLI brother to R.Hayward , Sewage Farm, Sutton Lane, Meole Brace,
Shrewsbury. November 12.’
One factor which suggests that Sidney enlisted in 1913 is the date of his death. He was killed on 12 November 1914 and therefore he must have joined the army a considerable time before the outbreak of the war in August 1914 to allow for the time needed to train him.
Another factor is Sidney joined the 1st Battalion of The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry which was a regular army unit that had been based in Ireland from 1903 until 1914 when it was in Tipperary. It was then moved to England, joined the 16th Brigade, 6th Division and sent to France landing In St Nazaire on September 10 1914. It took part in the early battles of the Aisne and Marne as well as the First Battle of Ypres. Such regular army units were made up of career soldiers and not the men who rushed to the recruiting offices at the outbreak of the war.
The First Battle of Ypres started on 19 October 1914 and ended on 22 November and was made up of many sub battles when each side launched attacks and at other times mounted defensive actions. The loss of life was prodigious with 70% casualty rates occurring in some units. By the end of the battle both sides were exhausted and had shortages of ammunition. They had fought themselves to a standstill and trench warfare was established.
Sidney died near the end of this battle on 12 November when the KSLI 1st Battalion was at a tiny hamlet called Rue du Bois which is very near the French border with Belgium, directly south of Armentieres and west of Lille which was under German control throughout the war. The Battalion war diary for that day records:
‘A quiet morning but at 10 PM our lines are again shelled. Six casualties.’
Presumably Sidney was one of the six. He was not killed in a mass charge towards the German trenches in some set piece engagement but was the victim of a random shell sent from guns he could not see. He is buried at Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium and he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Maybe if Edward Andrews had lived another 5 years and Old Hall Farm had not been sold Sidney would not have joined the army and been killed when only nineteen.