25/1016 Rifleman Sydney Stephens
C Company 3rd Battalion
3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade
6th December 1917
Sydney was born with his twin sister Emily May on 21/08/1890 in Dunsandel, South Island,
New Zealand. His parents were
William Stephens (1855-22/02/1902) and Caroline Dyer (1858-03/04/1935). They were married on 21/09/1878.
Sydney had 5 brothers, William John (09/10/1881-08/10/1922), Thomas Henry (14/09/1883-12/05/1895),
Richard (24/10/1887-04/06/1971), Frederick (03/08/1896-09/12/1916) and Percy (22/06/1889-1963).
He also had 2 sisters, Emily May ,who I've already mentioned(she died on 16/02/1964) and Caroline (25/01/1893-1975).
Before he enlisted in Trentham on 13/10/1915, Sydney was working as a labourer for W McMillan in Dunsandel.
He had previously had a medical on 30/08/1915, details of which follow;
Apparent Age - 25 years
Height - 5ft 7 inches, Weight - 168lbs
Chest Measurement - Minimum - 35 inches,
Maximum - 381/2 inches
Complexion - Fair, Colour of Eyes - Blue, Colour of Hair - Fair
Religious Profession - Wesleyan
Sydney was posted to C Company of 3rd Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 13/10/1915, having been marched into Trentham Camp either a day or two before. On the 15/10/1915, the battalion was sent to Maymorn, about 6 miles north of Trentham, where a tented camp was being occupied and general training commenced at once. Owing to continued bad weather, it became impossible to carry on to use Maymorn and so at the beginning of December, the battalion moved to the site of the old Rifle Brigade camp at Rangiotu.*
*"The Official History of the NZRB , pages 59 & 60".
It was from Rangiotu that Sydney embarked for Egypt, having left the camp on 04/02/1916, they marched through
Wellington, before boarding the "Ulimaroa" (Transport No.42) and sailing at midnight on 05/02/1916.
They dis-embarked in Suez on 13/03/1916, then were taken by rail to Ismailia and marched to Brigade camp across the Canal at Ferry Post, marching into camp on 13/03/1916. A week later on 20/03/1916, the Battalion moved to Moascar camp,
where they remained to complete their training.
It was on 07/04/1916 that Sydney embarked for Marseilles, France from Alexandria aboard the "Alaunia"(the ship was torpedoed on its return journey from Marseilles), arriving at its destination on either 12th,13th or 14th of April.
Sydney had his first experience of life in the trenches when the NZRB took over part of the sector due east to the town of Armentieres on the night of 22/05/1916 and staying there until relieved on the night on 01/06/1916.
On 09/09/1916, Sydney and his Battalion arrived at Fricourt in France, where on the following day and night proceeded to take over the manning of Carlton and Check trenches. They were relieved on 12/09/1916 and sent back for a short rest period at Fricourt Wood.
On 15/09/1916, the NZRB attacked the village of Flers. Sydney would have taken part as the 3rd Battalion were in the 2nd wave, ands appears to have come through it unscathed despite the many casualties the New Zealanders endured that day.
He was not to be so lucky in his next battle, when the NZRB were charged with taking the village of Messines on 07/06/1917, he received a gunshot wound to his left arm and was admitted to the 77th Field Ambulance, before being admitted to No.1 Field Ambulance the same day. 2 days later on 09/06/1917, he was admitted to No.11 Casualty Clearing Station, which at that time was situated in Bailleul, France. The next day he was transferred and admitted to No.1 South African General Hospital in Abbeville, France.
Ellesmere Guardian Volume XXIII issue 3884 4 July 1917 page 1
Word has been received in Dunsandel to the effect that Sydney Stephens has been wounded in the left arm. S. Stephens is the 3rd son of Mrs Caroline Stephens and is a member of 3rd battalion of the Rifle Brigade and left New Zealand for the front about
17 months ago. He was educated at the Dunsandel School, and afterwards was engaged in farm work. He was also a member of the Dunsandel Football Club.
After spending nearly a month in hospital, Sydney was transferred to No.5 Convalescent Depot at Cayeux Sur Mer
on 04/07/1917, before being marched into Etaples camp on 25/07/1917. He was to re-join his unit on 25/08/1917.
He was given leave to the UK on 02/09/1917 until he re-joined his unit on 20/09/1917. He would have been back in time to take part in the battalions attack in the battle of Passchendaele. He survived this battle, but his luck was to run out a few months later when he was killed in action on 06/12/1917.
Sydney was awarded the 1914-1918 British War and Allied Victory medals.
Lyttelton Times volume CXVII issue 17674, 29 December 1917 page 1
Roll of Honour
Stephens – December 6, 1917, killed in action in France, Rifleman Sydney Stephens, 25/1016, Third Rifle Brigade, beloved third son of Caroline and the late William Stephens, Dunsandel; aged twenty-seven years.
Somewhere in France he is laid to rest,
His life’s work nobly done.
T’was a sacrifice for liberty
Ere life had scarce begun.
Gods call for this was sudden
And pierced our hearts with pain.
But our present loss and sorrow
Are thy eternal gain.
Inserted by his sorrowing mother, sisters and brothers.
Lyttelton Times Volume CXVII issue 17686 12 January 1918 page 1
Mrs C. Stephens and family wish to thank all kind friends for telegrams and letters, also personal expressions of sympathy, in their sad loss of their son and brother Sydney, killed in action.
Lyttleton Times Volume CXVII issue 17967 7 December 1918 page 1
Roll of Honour
Stephens – In loving memory of Private Fred. Stephens, who died at Trentham Camp, December 9th, 1916;
also, Private Sydney Stephens, killed in action December 6th, 1917.
They proudly answered their country’s call,
And gave their young lives to save us all.
Their hearts were good, their spirit brave
Their resting places – heroes’ graves.
Our hearts still cling to memory dear.
Of the two that are called to rest.
And those that think of them to-night
Are the ones who loved them best.
-Inserted by their mother, sisters, and brothers.