yeovil at War
Sidney Charles masters
Died from wounds received on the Western Front
Sidney Charles Masters was born on 11 June 1895 at 25 South Street, Yeovil. He was the son of glove cutter Frederick George Masters (1866-1935) of Yeovil and Emily Delamont née Gillingham (1862-1937), originally from Bridgwater. In the 1901 census Frederick and Emily were listed at 25 South Street with their children; Emily Mildred (b1890), George (b1892), five-year old Sidney and Nellie (b1898).
By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved to 62 Queen Street. With Frederick and Emily were Mildred, George, Sidney and Nellie as well as three new children; Rose Annie (b1901), Minnie (b1904) and Arthur (b1905). 15-year old Sidney gave his occupation as a house boy on a farm - which was Newton Farm run by Mr James. Sidney later worked at the Yeovil Gas Works until his enlistment. The family later moved to Park Street.
Although it is not known when Sidney enlisted, he enlisted in Yeovil joining 8th (Service) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. His Service Number, 17688, suggesting he enlisted during the early part of 1915.
The 8th (Service) Battalion was formed at Taunton on 20 October 1914 and came under command of 63rd Brigade, 21st Division. The battalion went to France on 10 September 1915, landing at Le Havre. It is most likely that Sidney went with his battalion at this time.
On 25 September 1915, the 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions of the Somersets became embroiled in the Battle of Loos - the British Army's contribution to the major Allied offensive launched simultaneously with the main French offensive in Champagne. It was the biggest British attack of 1915.
A continuous preliminary bombardment, which showered 250,000 shells on to the German defences over four days, had little real effect. Before sending in the infantry on the morning of 25 September 1915, the British released 140 tons of chlorine gas from 5,000 cylinders placed on the front line to make up for the ineffective artillery barrage. This was the first time the Allies had used the weapon, coming after the Germans employed gas to terrible effect at Ypres in April earlier in the year, and it was hoped it would annihilate the Germans at Loos. However a change in the direction of the wind at several points along the front blew the gas back into the British trenches, causing seven deaths and injuring 2,600 soldiers who had to be withdrawn from the front line. Initially the gas attack created panic among the Germans and close to 600 men were gassed. Despite the setbacks caused by the wind 75,000 British infantrymen still flowed out from the trenches when the order came. British losses at Loos were exceptionally high with 50,000 casualties, including at least 20,000 deaths.
During the Battle of Loos, the 21st Division suffered over 3,800 casualties and took the rest of the year to rebuild. Although the battalion was not directly engaged in any distinct battles until July 1916, the intervening period was one of sustained day-to-day fighting. On 13 March 1916, during such fighting, Sidney was shot and seriously wounded. He died from his wounds on 6 April 1916, aged just 20 years.
In its edition of 6 April 1916 the Western Gazette reported "The parents of Private S Masters, Somerset Light Infantry, who live in Park Street, Yeovil, received news on Monday that he had died from gunshot wounds received in action on March 13th. Private Masters, before joining the Army, was employed on the farm of Mr James, Newton, and also at the Gas Works, leaving the works to join the Army".
British infantry advancing through gas at Loos, 25 September 1915.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Sidney Masters.
Sidney Masters' headstone.
Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
During the First World War, the area around Etaples was the scene of immense concentrations of Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals. It was remote from attack, except from aircraft, and accessible by railway from both the northern or the southern battlefields. In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes and the hospitals, which included eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot, could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick. In September 1919, ten months after the Armistice, three hospitals and the Q.M.A.A.C. convalescent depot remained. The cemetery contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the earliest dating from May 1915. 35 of these burials are unidentified. The cemetery, the largest Commission cemetery in France, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.