Dear Sidney George Andrews
As I write this letter to you I have your photograph in front of me. I can see the resemblance, especially the nose, to both my father and your sister Emily, my grandmother. You never met me, of course, as I was born in the middle of the next war, after the war that ended your life, that first world war meant to end all wars. I find it strange and a little unnerving that I am writing this on the 2nd August, on the very day you were killed in action, nearly one hundred years ago.
You look pensive and serious in your photo, perhaps apprehensive, at what you are about to face. You were only 22 when your regiment landed at Le Havre on 6 November 1914. I know that in 1911 when you enlisted you were living with your mother, Eliza and working as a blacksmith’s striker. Were you training to be a blacksmith? Your father William, was a drayman so you must have been familiar with horses. I remember my grandmother telling me she used to sit next to her father and travel with him on the cart. I expect you did as well?
You were the youngest, her little brother and I have to tell you how much she grieved when you were killed. Even forty years later I could see how sad she was when she talked of you. I know now from the history of the Hertfordshire Regiment that there was no respite, no visit home and you were in France right until the end.
We have your photo and the big metal memorial plaque with your name on it and the pretty embroidered cards you sent home. There were the medals too, ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’, (the Victory, the British War and the Star Medals), but I don’t know what happened to them or for what action you received them. But I do know there was a final battle near Ypres on 31st July 1917 two days before you were killed.They say the trenches were in terrible condition because of the continuous rain. I don’t suppose it felt much like summer.
I think you would be pleased to know they are trying to raise money to erect a memorial for the Regiment in 2017. It will be placed next to the River Steen, near St. Julien where the last attack took place on 31 July 1917 and where so many of you died.
I wish we could have met but we will never forget you or your sacrifice. We are here because of you.
Your loving great-niece