Sidney Mitchell was probably born in Rushton James in 1894. There is a birth registered (Staffordshire BMD) for a Sidney Mitchell born in the Leek Frith sub district in this year. In 1901 he was living with his family at Fir-Tree, a farm or small holding at Rushton James. His father, Alfred, was a forge labourer. By 1911 the family had moved from the countryside to 53, Bourne Street, Brindley Ford. His mother, Jane, had by now re-married and was Mrs. Jane Odey and Sidney was described as a pony driver in the pit in the census of 1911. He was already serving in the army at the start of the Great War, as he enlisted, according to local reports, in Tunstall in April 1914.
There is confusion over the spelling of his first name. The 1894 entry in the local birth register spells his name with an ‘i’, and his name appears in the 1901 and 1911 census also spelt as Sidney. However, on the Brindley Ford memorial and in a local newspaper article, it appears as Sydney. The confusion probably stems from the existence of another Mitchell, sharing the same first name but spelt as ‘Sydney’ on his service records. This Sydney Mitchell enlisted on November 8th 1915 at Tunstall. His address was given as 3, New Buildings, Black Bull and his father was named as Thomas Mitchell of the same address.
Service records do not appear to have survived for Sidney, but we know that his overseas service was with the 1st Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment who trained at Cambridge and Newmarket before moving to France in October 1914, attached initially to 6th Division.
Here they fought in the Battle of the Aisne and in the following year Sidney was to serve in the 2nd Battle of Ypres. The brave 1st Battalion were in trenches at Hooge and it was here that Private Mitchell was promoted to Lance Corporal. During this action he was wounded when an enemy sniper shot both Sidney and his sergeant and sadly he died of his wounds on the June 1st 1915. This account was taken from a letter sent to Sidney’s mother and published in the Sentinel:
Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel: June 19th 1915
Lance-Corporal S. Mitchell of Biddulph
“Information was received by Mrs. Mitchell of Fan Row, Black Bull on Saturday last that her son, Lance Corporal Sydney Mitchell, 1st North Staffords, had been shot by a German sniper.”
The news was conveyed to Mrs Mitchell “in a letter from a sergeant in Mitchell’s company.” Her son was apparently “conversing with two sergeants and as they separated one of the sergeants and Mitchell were bowled over by a sniper.” Lance Corporal Mitchell was 20 years of age and was a son of Mr Alfred Mitchell, Newtown, Biddulph Park. He was educated at Biddulph Church schools and previous to enlisting was employed in the Forge Works at Black Bull. He enlisted at Tunstall in April last year in the special Reserves of the 1st North Staffords. He left for the front in October and while there he received his promotion.”
Lance Corporal Mitchell now rests in the Erquinghem-Lys churchyard cemetery extension near Armentieres. At home Sidney Mitchell is commemorated on the additional 1990’s plaque on the cenotaph at Biddulph and on the Brindley Ford Memorial.
Mike Turnock & Elaine Heathcote.