2nd Lieutenant Sydney Moir-Byers HILL


Regiment/Service:
Gordon Highlanders
(Attached: Cameron Highlanders)
Unit:
3rd Battalion
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
25 September 1915 - Killed in Action
Age:
30
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 115


Personal History:

Sydney was born in January 1885 (baptised on 11th January, at St James Church, Birkdale, Lancashire) the son of John (Brazil Merchant) and Jessie Caroline Hill. He had an older sister, Florence, and four older brothers, Harold J., Claude, Cyril P. and Francis (1891 Census RG 11/3918, when the family was living at 3 Stanley Grove, Chorlton on Medlock, Lancashire).

In 1901 (Census RG 12/3036) Sydney and his siblings, Florence, Harold and Cyril, were lodging at the Giles family Lodging House, 50 The Promenade, Southport, Lancashire. Their parents, John and Jessie, were also visiting, staying with the Blatherwicks at 4 Queens Mead Road, Bromley, Kent (Census RG 12/628).
Ten years later 16 year old Sydney was in school, boarding at 'The College', Bowden, Cheshire. (1901 Census RG 13/3323) Sydney's father, John, had died in 1892 and his mother, Jessie, was living with Florence, Harold and Claude at 'Thornlea', Woodland Bank, Timperley, Cheshire. (Census RG 13/3326) In 1911 (Census RG 14/21243) Sydney was employed as a "Chartered Accountant" and living with his widowed mother at 18 Broad Walk, Buxton. Later she moved to 111 Barrowmead, Buxton.


Military History:
Second Lieutenant Sydney Moir-Byres Hill, served during the Great War with the 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant ("on probation") on 7th May 1915 (London Gazette, 6 May 1915) which was confirmed on 14th July 1915 (London Gazette, 13 July 1915).

This commission occurred whilst with the 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. The 3rd (Reserve) Battalion had been formed in August 1914 at Aberdeen. It was a depot/training unit and remained there throughout the war. For this reason no doubt Sydney sought to transfer to another unit (in his case The Cameron Highlanders) to see active service at the Front.

This he achieved, but was killed in action only two months after receiving his Commission, whilst attached to the Cameron Highlanders, on the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25th September 1915, and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, France.

An account of the day was given in the diary of James Campbell. The 15th (Scottish) Division, which included the Camerons, were given a final objective of some high ground nearly five miles (8 kms.) away. The distance to be covered included two villages, Hill 70 and three well fortified German trench systems. The Camerons were in the second line of attack. On the 24th they had spent an uncomfortable and sleepless night in a communication trench, with shells 'screaming on all sides'.

At 5.50 a.m. the following morning, the 25th, they moved towards the firing line. 'We were all keyed up with excitement at the prospect'. Campbell's section reached the front line at 8.00 a.m. By this time, the first of the wounded were already making their way back and the 'dressing stations were packed'. Up to this point the attack appeard to have gone quite well, with the German front line captured, and the village and hill behind being taken. The Camerons were at first engaged in digging new communication trenches but were then sent over the top to help defend the left flank of the Division.

By now, those in the first line of attack were being forced to fall back. According to Campbell, 'by the time we got out they had had to retire to this side of the crest, having been well over it. It was hard lines'. Many of Sydney's Battalion were killed and wounded attempting to form new positions, having to traverse open ground at the mercy of heavy machine gun fire from higher ground around Hill 70.

The Cameron Highlanders lost 527 Officers and men on the 25th September 1915, 253 from the 5th Battalion and 216 from the 7th. Of the total killed 491 have no known grave and, like Sydney, are commemorated on the Loos Memorial.



                                    


Sources:
· I am grateful to Robert (via the 'Great War Forum') for the photo of Sydney from 'The Sphere' magazine.
· I am also grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of Sydney's name on the Loos Memorial.
· "The Sixth Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders" - Glasgow University Library - Special Collections Department.



Link to CWGC Record
2/Lt Sydney Moir-Byers Hill
poppy
... about the Camerons at the Battle of Loos
The Loos Memorial
Sydney's name on the Memorial