FREDERICK SYLVESTER EDWARDS

Private, G/1302, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action near Béthune, Pas-de-Calais, France, 9 May 2015, aged 21
No known grave. Commemorated on Le Touret Memorial, Panel 20 and 21.

Le Touret Memorial
(Click to enlarge)

Frederick Sylvester Edwards was born in Hartfield on 8 May 1894, the son of Sylvester (b.1859) and Sarah Ann (née Weeding) (b.1865) Edwards. Sarah Ann Weeding was listed as a servant in the 1881 census. In 1884 she married Sylvester Edwards at Withyham parish church. In 1881 Sylvester was recorded as a labourer and in 1891 as a railway platelayer, when he was working on the track as part of a gang of four as a labourer paid 3 shillings a day. By 1911 he was a farmer at Little Reeds Farm, Hartfield. Little Reeds Farm was near Chuck Hatch and part of the Buckhurst Estate. When he enlisted he was still living at Little Reeds Farm, but his pre-war occupation was recorded as gardener.

Frederick had six siblings in 1911. His younger sister, Ellen Amelia, served as a nurse at the City of London Union Infirmary Military Hospital in London E5 from 1914 to 1919. She became a Registered Nurse in 1922, and was still nursing in South London in 1934. She died aged 92 in 1989. She does not appear to have married.

The City of London Union workhouse in Clifden Road, Clapton, E5, was requisitioned in 1914 by the War Office for use as a military hospital. The City of London Military Hospital had 713 beds for wounded and sick servicemen, and 14 beds for officers with venereal disease. German prisoners of war were also treated at the hospital. The hospital closed in 1919.

Frederick's brother, Harry, served on with the Royal Navy initially HMS Victory (which was a training ship at Portsmouth) and later on the Zaria, from 21 September 1916 to 1919 as a Boy Servant. HMS Zaria spent most of the war in Scapa Flow and Longhope (both on Orkney). She was requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as a Stores Carrier in 1914. He would have been 17 when he joined up.

HMS Zaria, on which Frederick's brother Harry served
(Click to enlarge)

Frederick's younger siblings were Annie, Alice, Stanley and George.

Frederick enlisted in September 1914 at Tunbridge Wells. He was killed in action on Sunday, 9 May 1915, near Le Touret, Béthune, in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, the day after his 21st birthday.

The 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment was involved in the attack at Richebourg L'Avoué, which lies beyond Le Touret seven miles north-east of Béthune, on 8 May 1915. The bombardment commenced at 5 am. It is not known which company or platoon Frederick Edwards was assigned to but 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' Companies all went "over the top" that morning.

The assault had commenced at 5.30 a.m. but the regiment was unable to make any progress and was halted by the unbroken German wire. The order to withdraw was given at 6.30 a.m., but many dead and wounded still lay out in the open. The 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment lost 14 officers and 548 other ranks killed, wounded and missing.

Fredrick Sylvester Edwards has no known grave and is listed on Le Touret Memorial, Panel 20 and 21, and on Hartfield war memorial.

Carol O'Driscoll