GS/69614 Private Sidney Edward Impey, Royal Fusiliers
Born on 18th December 1897 in Ringshall
Died on 10th March 1970 in Bishop’s Stortford
Sidney Edward Impey was born in Ringshall, Buckinghamshire, the youngest of the 6 children of Owen Impey and Susan née Cutler. He was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 6th March 1898.
His siblings were:
- Sister: Lizzie, born in 1875
- Brother: Ernest, born 20th September 1879
- Sister: Daisy, born 27th April 1887
- Sister: Margaret May, born in 1892
- Brother: Herbert Impey, born 3rd January 1896
The 1901 Census shows the family living at 25 Ringshall and shows that Sidney’s father was a Bricklayer’s Labourer.
On 29th November 1901, the entry in the School Log Book records: “Measles have appeared at Mrs. Impey’s house at Ringshall. Her three children will be kept away in consequence.” The three children would have been May, Herbert and Sidney.
Further illness and absence then followed as, on 6th June 1902, the Headmaster wrote: “Am sorry to say that Impeys & Maylings of Ringshall have Chicken Pox.“
It was quite usual for children who were going out of the village to attend school elsewhere while they were away. In 1906, this happened to Herbert and Sidney Impey.
12th March 1906:
Herbert and Sidney Impey have gone away for a little time to their Aunt’s. Their mother went this morning to the West Herts Infirmary to undergo an operation. They will attend Eddlesborough School.
2nd April 1906:
Herbert and Sidney Impey at School again. I received a Memorandum from the Head Teacher of Eddlesbro’ saying they had each attended full time i.e. 30 out of 30 times. Each day then counted as 2 attendances – morning and afternoon.
In the 1911 Census, Sidney was a 13 year old Schoolboy living at 25 Ringshall with his parents and his brother Herbert Impey. However, on January 12th 1912, shortly after his 14th Birthday, Sidney left Little Gaddesden School.
Sidney was not 18 years old until December 1915. We do not know whether he volunteered as an 18 year old or whether he was called up under the Military Service Act after the age of conscription was lowered from 19 to 18 on 25th May 1916. From the age of 19 and after training, he would have been able to serve overseas.
Sidney’s Medal and Award Roll entry shows that, between 6th January and 23rd March 1918, GS/69614 Private Sidney Edward Impey served overseas in France and Flanders as a Private in the 17th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. This was the final winter of the War and the Battalion was initially at Beaulencourt on the Somme, with the ground frozen to a depth of up to 30 centimetres. Sidney had been there a week when the thaw came, with the attendant water and mud. By 22nd January, the Battalion occupied front line support trenches at La Vacquerie, where conditions in the thaw were horrible. Overlooked by the enemy, they could do nothing in daylight. However, after dark they were employed carrying ammunition and supplies to the front line battalions. The Fusiliers took over the front line trenches on 25th January and began to improve the trenches, before being moved back to Metz.
However, on 3rd February, the 17th Battalion was transferred from the 5th to the 6th Brigade under Brigadier-General R.K. Walsh. Then, on 17th February, they moved back to the La Vacquerie sector and started to suffer bombing and mustard gas shelling attacks, which continued for several weeks in preparation, we now know, for the German Spring Offensive. The gas shelling had particularly disastrous effects on the Brigade, causing the affected men temporary blindness, sickness and considerable pain.
Then, on 20th March 1918, the Battalion diary noted abnormal movement in the enemy lines with several hundred German soldiers seen entering and leaving their trenches in full packs and several machine guns taken into their front and support lines. That night, the 17th Battalion were relieved in the front line trenches and marched back to Metz, where they entrained for Rocquigny. By 6am the German Spring Offensive had begun. However, although the 17th Battalion were in reserve in the rear zone that day and had no contact with the enemy, they were subject to high velocity shellfire. On 22nd they received orders to move to Tank Camp and then to the Green Line astride the Haplincourt-Lebucquière Road.
23rd March 1918 is recorded as the final day of Sidney’s service with the 17th Battalion. It is likely, therefore, that he was either gassed in the lead up to the Spring Offensive or wounded in action between 20th and 23rd March. The Battalion’s position was shelled very heavily that day and they continued to be involved in fierce fighting. By 25th March the 17th Battalion was reduced to just 3 officers and 81 other ranks.
From 26th August 1918 Sidney again served on the Western Front, joining the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers during the Hundred Days Offensive. He joined them just after the Battle of Albert, the first phase of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918. Sidney fought with that Battalion at Bapaume, between 31st August and 3 September 1918 and at the Canal du Nord from 27th September. However, on 28th September he was admitted to No 3 Casualty Clearing Station at Beaulencourt, having suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. He remained overseas until 2nd October 1918 and then returned to England. His final date of discharge is not known but he was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his War Service.
An Addition to the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour 13
The original, pre-Second World War, wording on the left hand panel of the Little Gaddesden War Memorial on the village green, read:
“This memorial is erected in honour of the one hundred and thirty six men who went from the villages of Little Gaddesden, Hudnall and Ringshall and served in the war of 1914 = 1918. The names of those who gave their lives for their country are cut on the stones here. The names of those who returned to England are preserved in the Church.”
However, the Church Roll of Honour lists only 119 men and one of those omitted is Sidney Impey, possibly because he was aged only 16 at the start of the War and did not serve overseas until 1918. His War Service was only confirmed after the compilation of the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll of Honour. His older brother Herbert Impey, Hertfordshire Regiment was named on the original Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Sidney worked for the Brownlows at Ashridge House, Hertfordshire and Belton House near Grantham. In the Spring 1921 Electoral Register, his address is given as Ashridge House and in Autumn 1921, Belton House near Grantham. The 1921 Census confirms that, by June that year, Sydney Impey, born in Ringshall, Herts, was employed by Adelbert Salusbury Cockayne Cust, 5th Baron Brownlow at Belton as a Steward Room Boy. However, while we do not know for how long Sidney worked for the 3rd Earl Brownlow before the War, he is named among those who, having served, were welcomed back to Belton in June 1919.
“Belton. Welcome Home” 15
A report in the Grantham Journal of 7th June 1919, describes the celebration to welcome men back to Belton:
It was desired, while Lord Brownlow was still in residence, at Belton, to show, on behalf of the whole village and parish, some mark of public welcome to all the brave men in any way connected with Belton, on their safe return from the war, and of united thanks to them and appreciation of their gallant services.
A delightful Social Evening Party was accordingly organised and held in the Schoolroom, on Thursday June 5th, attended by Lord Brownlow and all parishioners, and to which special cards of invitation were issued to our heroes.
The entertainment was in the hands of Mr Pither, who arranged an admirable variety performance of fun and music, in which local talent took part, powerfully aided by Messers. Matt Broughton and Thompson of Grantham.Quoted extract courtesy of the Grantham Journal
Proceedings began at 8 o’clock with a short opening speech by Lord Brownlow, in which he touched upon the main purpose of the gathering and spoke feelingly of those who had fallen and of those who mourned their loss. The names of the invited men who have returned were then read out and each, in turn, amid welcoming hand claps, came forward and shook hands with Lord Brownlow.
Abundant refreshments provided by his Lordship were spread in the open air in the Schoolyard. Dancing followed and the happy gathering was kept up until 1 o’clock, when the proceedings were brought to an end with three cheers for Lord Brownlow and the singing of God Save the King.
Return to Little Gaddesden 14
No records have been found for Sidney at Belton or in Little Gaddesden for much of the 1920s. However, Electoral Registers for 1929 and 1930 show Sidney back in Little Gaddesden. We do not know what work he did but, during the 1920s, the Ashridge Estate had been sold to pay death duties after the death of the 3rd Earl Brownlow. In 1929 he was at 12 Little Gaddesden, lodging with Reginald Purton and his wife Kate then, in 1930, he lodged at 29 Ringshall with William Johnson and his wife Elizabeth. We do not know how long Sidney remained in Little Gaddesden, but, by the late 1930s, he had moved to Bishop’s Stortford.
In the 4th Quarter of 1938, the marriage of Sidney Edward Impey and Ivy Myrtle Sanders was registered in Bishop’s Stortford. The birth of their son, John Owen Impey, was registered there in 1939. The 1939 Register shows them living at 18 Chapel Row, Bishop’s Stortford, by which time Sidney was working in Glasshouse Nursery Food Production while Ivy had Unpaid Domestic Duties.
72 year old Sidney Impey died in the Herts and Essex General Hospital, Bishop’s Stortford on 10th March 1970 as the result of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. He was a retired Nurseryhand and his home address was then 2 Benhooks Place, Bishop’s Stortford. His widow Ivy then remained in Bishop’s Stortford until her death in 1978.
Sidney’s Death Certificate gives his year of birth as 1896. However his Birth transcription, Baptism record, Census returns and 1939 Register entry all confirm that it was 1897.
2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
13. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
18. Copy (pdf) of the Death Certificate of Sidney Edward Impey
Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at email@example.com.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson