Sydney William Medlock Bruce was born on the 10th May 1899 and Baptised on the 24th May 1900, the son of James Edward and Caroline Bruce (nee Medlock), who had married in the September quarter of 1886 (Caxton Vol. 3b Page 772 – The district Caxton spans the boundaries of the counties of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire.)
The baptism information was on the Glinton Church Parish Registers which also recorded the baptism of Sydney’s brother Jim Harry, who had been born on the 24th July 1895 and baptised on the same day. This source also tells us that James Edward was a Labourer and the family lived in Glinton.
On the 1891 census James & Caroline were living in Great Gransden, Huntingdonshire. Head of the household was James Bruce, 29, an Agricultural Labourer born in Little Gransden, Cambridgeshire. His wife Caroline, 32 had been born in Great Gransden, Huntingdonshire, also born there was a niece, Rose Crane,age 19, single and a Domestic Servant – unemployed. (The relationship is always to the head of the household as a rule.)
The 1901 census see that the family had grown, and now living at New Row, Glinton, Peterborough, Northamptonshire. James E. Bruce, now 39 was an Ordinary Agricultural Labourer, Caroline, was now 45 and Frederick O., 9 had been born in Great Gransden, Jim H.,5, born in Stackstead, Lancashire and Sydney W.M., was age1 born in Glinton, Northants. So you can see they had travelled quite a lot in their search for work.
By 1911 the family had moved again, this time up into Wales, on the border of Cheshire, at No. 4 , Marsh Cottages, Sealand, Nr. Chester. (5 rooms). The 1911 census was the first census where the Householder filled it in, so James Edward Bruce’s signature is on this.
Jamed Edward Bruce, 46, a Horse man on a Farm, and Caroline, tell us that they had been married for 25 years and 4 children had been born and were still living. Sons Frederick, 19 and Jim Harry, 16 were both single and described as Sheephards(sic), they had been joined by a sister Mary Ellen, age 9, (Mary Helen on her Baptism, who had been born in Keebles Cottages, Sealand, on the 14th February 1902 and baptised on the 10th August that year, which meant that they had been here for nearly a decade.)
The family were to suffer the loss of Sydney’s sister Mary Ellen, as I found her burial in the Hawarden Parish Registers, she was buried on the 14th November 1917 age 15 years. The family would become familiar with bereavement in the coming years.
1919 sees the marriage at St Bartholomew’s Church, Sealand on the 4th August of Sydney Bruce, 21, a bachelor and Farm Worker, living a Green Lane Cottages, Sealand, his father was Edward Bruce, Farm worker, so it can be seen that they dropped some of their Christian names. Sydney’s bride was Martha Leach, 21, a spinster from Welsh Road, Sealand, and who’s father Henry Leach was also a Farm worker. Their witnesses were Thomas Leach, Henry Leach & Mabel Smith.
The 1921 census see the newlyweds living at Welsh Road, Sealand, Nr. Chester. They were living in the household of Martha’s parents, Henry Leach, 61 years and 10 months old, born in Dutgon (sic), Cheshire, an agricultural Worker for J. Ledson, Marsh Farm, Sealand. His wife Emily Leach was 60 years old, born in Ashton, Cheshire. Their daughter, Maggie Leach was 19 years old, single and had been born in Backford, Cheshire. Sidney Bruce, their son-in-law was now 22 years and 1 month old, born in Clinton, Crowland (sic), he too was an Agricultural Worker for the same farmer. Martha Bruce, Henry & Emily’s daughter, was 22 years and 2 months old, she had been born in Moss Side, Manchester. Sidney Bruce (Jnr.) was 11 months old and had been born in Sealand, Flintshire.
Their son Sydney William Medlock Bruce was born in the Registration District of Hawarden in 1920, (Volume 11b Page 394). However their joy was not to last as a newspaper cutting tells us that little Sydney was to suffer a grievous accident age 3 and ½ years:-
Cheshire Observer Saturday 8th December `1923
A MOTHERS ORDEAL- Child Kicked to Death
How a mother watched her three-year-old son being kicked to death was told to Mr. F. Llewellyn JONES, the Flint Coroner, at an enquiry into the death of Sydney William BRUCE, who lived with his parents in a caravan on a field near the Marsh Farm, Sealand.
The boy went out to play in a field in which three carthorses were grazing. The horse approached the boy, and one of them kicked him violently. The mother saw the incident from the caravan window, and when she got to her son he was dying.
The Coroner recorded a verdict of “Accidental death.”
The whole Bruce family can be seen on the 1939 National Register which was taken on the 29th September 1939, so Sydney was still with them, but as an ex-soldier, he would have been mobilized early I would think, and in any case was in the thick of things to be in the Dunkirk evacuation, but sadly the family have no knowledge of his Regimental number, any help would be appreciated.
Another newspaper cutting, sadly Sydney William Medlock Senior’s funeral in 1941, tells us more about him, that he had volunteered at the outbreak of the war, he had been in the Royal Engineers and was in the evacuation of Dunkirk whilst in that Regiment and during which he was badly wounded. Previously the family believed that he had been involved in WW1, but didn’t know anything about his time during the war, but this newspaper casts light on the fact that he was in the Durham Light Infantry then. I have researched on behalf of the family and liaised with the daughter-in-law of the youngest son, born in 1934 into a large family, and she told me that he cannot really add any details,, so if anyone can help in any way to find out more about Sydney’s time in WW1, it would be gratefully received.
According to the newspaper cutting, after he was wounded in France, he spent some weeks in a London Hospital and then was at Penyffordd Sanatorium. He worked at the Hawarden Bridge Steelworks. He was a member of the Queensferry Branch of the British Legion and worshipped at St. Ethelwold’s Church, he left a widow and eight children, six of whom were under 14.
He was obviously wounded between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during the evacuation, and he died in the February 1941, whilst living at 13, King Edward Street, Shotton, so he must have been in bad health. He was buried at Hawarden on the 13th February 1941. However, I cannot find him on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database and I have enquired to see if they can find him.
If it can be proved that he died through his war service, we can try and get in “In from the Cold” as they say and get his name added later, but we need more information, so any help would be gratefully received as I said before.
I have found a William Bruce was a pupil at St. Ethelwold’s Church School in Shotton as his name is recorded on their “Roll of Honour,“ was this Sydney? (See below)
I do not know why his name was not put forward to be added to the WW2 War Memorial, perhaps because by the time it was mooted and actually erected, many years had passed, in any case he should be remembered all the more because of the fact that he was in two World Wars and obviously his death had probably been accentuated by his injuries in WW2.