Private Sidney Clewlow Potterton
204392, 12th Bn., Norfolk Regiment
who died on 29 September 1918
Sidney Potterton was born in 1894 in Clarendon Park, Leicester. In 1911 he lived at 16 Regent Street, Oadby with his parents, James and Catherine (nee Clewlow) and his younger brother Wilfred George (b 1/6/1905). Sidney was working as a cellar man for a wine and spirit merchant. However at the time of his enlistment he was a labourer. Sidney was the cousin of Ted Potterton, who had emigrated to Canada, fought with the Canadian forces and was accidentally killed at Purfleet Station, Essex in November 1917.
At the age of twenty one Sidney enlisted in the Leicestershire Regiment on 1 April 1915. He was passed fit for military service (subject to dental treatment) and at five feet five and a half inches tall and weighing 120lbs (8st.8lbs) he was the average height and build of the First World War soldier. Sidney was allocated service number 4591 and posted to the 3/4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Leicester territorials for basic training. On 2 March 1916 he transferred to B Company 6th Platoon of the 1/4th Battalion and embarked for active service in France on 4 March 1916.
Troops behind the front line in spring 1916
Sidney spent the Spring of 1916 out of the front line undertaking musketry training, bomb (grenade) drill and route marching. Some of the time was spent on ‘wood fatigues’ in the woods at Lucheux cutting wood for duck boards and branches to make wattle trench revetments. The men built gun emplacements and dug communication trenches in preparation for the ‘big push’ to take place on the Somme battlefield. On 26 May the battalion was inspected by General Sir Douglas Hague, Commander in Chief of the British forces in France. He complimented the commanding officer on the ‘smart turn out and soldierly appearance of the men’(War Diary of 1/4th Leicesters).
In June the battalion relieved the 8th Sherwood Foresters in front line trenches at Foncquevilliers and whilst the ‘enemy (was) quiet’ the men worked ‘very hard on front line, making saps, cleaning disused front line and rebuilding throughout. Amunition bomb stores, RE dumps made the length of the trench’(ibid).
Photos, taken by a German soldier, of the Monchy au Bois region in 1916
From July to October 1916 the 1/4th Leicesters were in divisional reserve in the Monchy au Bois region just north of the Somme battlefield. John Milne, the battalion’s official historian, recalled that there was ‘a lot of shelling, and trench mortaring. An occasional raid. And every now and then a gas attack’. Between raids and gas attacks the men were kept busy repairing their trenches damaged by shell fire and the atrocious wet weather. In early October the battalion was billeted at La Cauchie. The men spent an uncomfortable winter in and out of the front line and next saw action at Gommecourt on 27 February 1917. Sidney was awarded the Good Conduct Badge in April 1917.
On 2 April 1918 Sidney suffered gunshot wounds to his nose and upper jaw. He was treated first at a casualty clearing station and then transferred ‘back to Blighty’ on the Jan Breydell hospital ship to receive treatment at the Military Hospital, Sycamore Road, Nottingham. Once he was sufficiently recovered he moved to Brackenhurst Convalescent Hospital in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Brackenhurst Hall, now owned by Nottingham Trent University was, like many stately homes, offered to the military authorities by its owner William Hicking, a successful wine merchant, as a convalescent hospital. Brackenhust Hall could accommodate 36 recovering servicemen. It was also, incidentally, the birthplace of First World War general, Field Marshall Viscount Allenby.
Brackenhurst Hall, Southwell, Nottinghamshire
Convalescent ward in the drawing room at Brackenhurst Hall
After a period of convalescence Sidney was granted leave from the 4 to 13 May. Following his 8 day furlough in May, Sidney was posted to ‘B’ Company 1/4th Leicesters, stationed at North Somercoats. He must have been able to travel back to Leicester on other occasions as his service record indicates that he lost 7 days’ pay when he was arrested on 10 August by the military police in Leicester for overstaying his leave by 2 days.
Sydney was posted overseas once again on 21 August 1918. By this time the British Expeditionary Force was advancing in a determined push to drive the German army out of France and back behind the Hindenburg Line. Sidney was transferred to 12th Battalion Norfolk Regiment and given service number 204392, on 25 August 1918. The 12th Norfolks were part of the 94th Brigade, 31st Division. These units were involved in fighting during the Battle of Hazebrouck. Sadly, on 29 August 1918, Sydney died at Number 17 Casualty Clearing Station of wounds received in action. He had served with the army for three years and one hundred and eighty two days.
Sidney Potterton is Buried with Honour at La Kreule British Cemetery near Hazebrouck. He is also commemorated on the Oadby War Memorial, the Oadby Senior School Memorial and the Adult School Memorial in Oadby Baptist Church.
Sidney’s headstone at La Kreule British Cemetery near Hazebrouk
The Adult School Memorial Tablet in Oadby Baptist Church
Other Family Members
On 5 October 1918 Sidney’s mother Catherine Potterton received a telegram informing her of her son’s death.
In 1939 she was living with her son Wilfred, a shoe preparer and his wife Grace (nee Bassett), a hosiery hand at 68 Regent Street, Oadby. It is possible that this was the same house she had always lived in as the numbering system of Oadby houses was changed during the 1920s.
Sidney’s father James had died in 1931.
The telegram received by Catherine Potterton
In addition to the Oadby War Memorial Sidney is also honoured on the memorial tablet in Oadby Baptist Church