1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.

Born Thursday 18th April 1895  Died Wednesday 10 October 1917. Aged 22.

Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Panel 79, and on the Newington and Peene, Shepway, Kent civic war memorial, also commemorated in the regimental chapel of the East Surrey Regiment, at the parish church of All Saint’s, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.

Only son of John Frederick Chittenden and Alice Susannah Chittenden (née Wood) of 9, Red Brick House, Newington Street, Shorncliffe, Folkestone, Kent.

Sidney was born at Clap Hill, Aldington, Ashford, Kent on Thursday 18 April 1895, at which time his father John Chittenden, who was a native of Elmstead, Kent was employed as a Labourer. Prior to moving the mile or so to live at Clap Hill, Aldington, John and Alice Chittenden had resided at Black Cottages, Mill Road, Aldington. Black Cottages were later renamed ‘The Cot,’ and at the time of the 1891 census, it being prior to the birth of their children, John and Alice Chittenden had resided at Black Cottages with Alice’s 60 year old father John Wood, who was a native of Aldington.

Sidney was baptised at the parish church of St. Martin, Aldington on Sunday 2 June 1895,  the same church at which his 56 year old grandfather’s funeral had taken place prior to his interment in the churchyard on Friday 15 March the same year. Whilst checking the various Aldington parish records, it was noted that Laura Elizabeth Chittenden, the first of John and Alice’s children, was also baptised at St. Martin’s, Aldington ( Sunday14 August 1892), but sadly her death was recorded in the East Ashford Registration District during the third quarter of the same year, it being before her first birthday which was not uncommon at the time.

Sidney attended Aldington village school, where he inscribed his name on the underside of a desk lid, which the transcriber of these brief commemorations later sat at in the 1940s!

At the time of the 1901 census with the family still in resident at Clap Hill, Sidney’s father John was recorded by the census enumerator as being employed as a Quarryman, which was probably at the Kent Ragstone quarry in Aldington, owned by the Earl family, at which time the family was the largest employer in the village.

When the 1911 census was conducted, the census enumerator recorded the Chittenden family as residing at the Red House, Stone, Saltwood, Hythe, Kent, but which might in fact have been the Newington address. His father, John Chittenden, 41 years old, who was employed as a Gardener, and Sidney, then 15, was employed as a Labourer.

Following his enlistment in the army at Sevenoaks, Kent, Sidney was attested to serve in the Middlesex Regiment (The Duke of Cambridge’s Own), in which he initially saw active service as Private 6215, in the 1/8th (Territorial Force) Battalion, prior to being transferred to the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, and serving in the battalion as Private 28505, and remained in the battalion until his death.

During the days leading up to Sidney’s death his battalion had suffered a high number of casualties, both in numbers killed and wounded. The following details are shown as they are set out in the Regimental History of the East Surrey Regiment during the Great War, which records the events appertaining to the 1st Battalion on 9/10 October 1917 as follows:-

“As part of an operation subsidiary to the Battle of Poelcapelle, which was fought some distance to the north of Polygon Wood, the 5th Division was ordered to complete the capture of the Polderhoek Spur on the 9th October. Certain changes of position took place, therefore, during the night of the 8th. The 1st Battn. East Surrey was ordered to move back to Bedford House on the canal bank, but at the last moment its destination was changed to Sanctuary Wood, where it was to be held in reserve. This change made the task of the guides very difficult, but eventually the Battalion found its way to the remains of the wood and settled down in such cover as could be found, again chiefly shell holes.

The 9th was a fine day, but rain came on again at night. The renewed attack was launched by the 15th Brigade at 5.20 am. and was unsuccessful, Polderhoek Château again holding up the Division. At 11.30 am., when the artillery fire had slackened somewhat, the 1st Battalion East Surrey moved back by companies to the canal bank, where dinners were issued, and at 4p.m. marched to huts in Ridge Wood, where it passed the night.”

In addition to the enemy defences which were located at the ruins of the Polderhoek Château itself, and their adjacent trench complexes, the Germans also had a significant number of pill boxes in the area that was attacked by Sydney’s battalion on the Polderhoek spur. As was the case with the other battalions of the 5th Division, the attack by Sidney’s battalion was checked primarily as the result of well placed enemy machine guns. Sidney was numbered amongst the 56 other ranks deaths suffered by his battalion on the day that he was killed. As was the case with many of his comrades who fell, Sidney was initially posted as ‘missing,’ but later the Army Council at the War Office made the decision that for official purposes, he had died on or after 10 October 1917.

Although Sidney’s remains have never been found, it would seem likely that he and several of his comrades are at rest somewhere in the fields of sugar beet to the north of Geluveld which are adjacent to the A19 motorway, close to where the Polderhoek Château once stood.