Sydney Clowes was born in 1877 at Heaton, near Rushton Spencer in Staffordshire, the son of Martha and Thomas Clowes, a banksman at a coal pit. By 1881, the family had moved to 5 Bridge Street, Macclesfield, where four year old Sydney lived with his parents and siblings George (12), John (9), Jessie (8), Wilfred (6), Arthur (3) and Mary Alice (2).
Ten years later, Sydney was living in Pexhill Road, Macclesfield, with farmer Jane Brown and her family, employed as a farm labourer.
On 30th January 1894, aged 18 years 3 months, Sydney enlisted in Manchester with the York and Lancaster Regiment for 7 years service plus 5 years in the reserve, (service number 3835). He was described as 5 feet 3⅝ inches tall, weighed 121 pounds, with a 33½ inch chest, a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and light red hair, with a scar on the back of his right hand and a V shaped scar in the palm of his left hand. At the time of enlistment his parents were living at 7 West Street, Macclesfield. He joined the Regiment at Pontefract the next day.
Sydney was promoted to Lance Corporal on 21st September 1898 and to Corporal on 24th December 1901. He served in the Second Boer War, and qualified for the Queen's South Africa Medal with the Orange Free State and South Africa 1902 clasps.
After completing his term of service, he was re-engaged on 26th January 1906 for a further four years, and was finally discharged from the army on 29th January 1910.
Sydney married Sarah Eccles on 23rd July 1904 at the Macclesfield Register Office, and in 1911 the couple lived at 36 Fence Street; Sarah was employed as a cotton weaver for the Globe Spinning Company and Sydney was a coal carter for the Macclesfield Co-operative Society. Before re-enlisting in 1914, Sydney was a member of the Volunteer Fire Brigade and The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, and he was also formerly the Secretary of the Carter’s Union.
Sydney was still working as a coal carter when he attested at Chester on 20th August 1914. Since he had previously served for 16 years with the York and Lancaster Regiment, this probably had some influence on his rapid promotion to Sergeant within nine days of re-joining the army. He was described as 5 feet 5½ inches tall, weighing 152 pounds with a ruddy complexion, grey eyes, and fair hair.
On 26th June 1915 the Battalion left Avonmouth on HMT Ivernia, sailing via Malta and Alexandria to Mudros, arriving on 10th July. They left Mudros on July 16th aboard HMT Whitby Abbey and landed at 'River Clyde Pier' on V Beach at Helles, Gallipoli.
Between 15th and 24th August the Battalion was on the east ridge of Chalak Dere, where they dug trenches and established defences; during this period some casualties were caused by enemy snipers. Sydney was killed in action on 18 August 1915, aged 38 years.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Courier of 4th September 1915:
Information has been received by Mrs. Clowes, of 36, Fence Street, that her husband, Sergeant S. Clowes, of the 8th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, has been killed in action in the Dardanelles. Having served throughout the South African War he was on reserve, and when the present war broke out he was called up on the mobilisation of the troops... The following is a letter received by his wife from Captain W. Henry Williams, Officer Commanding 'C' Company of the 8th Cheshires:-
"You will have heard before this of the death of your dear husband. Only a few minutes previous to being killed he was with me making arrangements to have a place made for the safety of his men, and it was while carrying out this duty that he was killed. He died without any pain, and we buried him with full military honours in a nice grave, where he is now free from anxiety and awaiting his call to a greater reward than we could give him. He was a fine soldier and a well-liked comrade, and his men feel his loss."
Sgt Sydney Clowes has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. 76 to 78 on the Helles Memorial in Turkey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Sgt Sydney Clowes, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Sgt Sydney Clowes is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St Michael's Church war memorials.
The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included one with the words “In loving memory of Fireman Sydney Clowes, from the Macclesfield Volunteer Fire Brigade; also in memory of Corporal Collins and members of the Corporation Fire Brigade.”
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.