Baines S

SYDNEY BAINES (1899-1918)

53369, Private Sydney Baines, 15th/17th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) was killed in action 12 April 1918 and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium [1] and St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages.  He was 19 years old, the son of John and Elizabeth Baines.

Family Details

Sydney Baines was born c.1899 at Bishop Auckland, the son of John and Elizabeth Baines.  There were at least 7 children:

  • James born c.1878
  • Ada born c.1883
  • William born c.1885
  • Fred born c.1889
  • Ethel born c.1892
  • Hilton born c.1897
  • Sydney born c.1899

All children were born at Auckland, St. Andrews (Bishop Auckland) except James who was born at West Auckland.  The family lived at Tindale Crescent, Bishop Auckland.[2] By 1911, John was a widower and James, Ada, William, Ethel, Hilton and Sydney lived with him at Woodbine House, Tindale Crescent. [3]  Sydney Baines’ service details indicate that he had another brother, Albert and 2 other sisters, Jane and Mary.  Their then address was 12 Brentwood Terrace, Tindale Crescent. [4]

Service Record

Sydney Baines enlisted 2 April 1917 at the age of 18 years 2 months. He stood 5ft.5¼” tall and weighed 120lbs and worked as a labourer.[5] His service reckoned from 22 June 1917.  He was posted to the 277th Infantry Battalion 24 September 1917, transferred to the 52nd Battalion, West Riding Regiment 4 November 1917 then to  15/17th Battalion West Yorkshires 2 April 1918.  He entered France 1 April 1918. [6]

The 277th and 52nd Battalions were training battalions.  The 15th and 17th (Service) Battalions (1st and 2nd Leeds) amalgamated in December 1917.[7]  The 15th Battalion, known as the Leeds Pals came under the command of the 93rd Brigade, 31st Division. [8]  The 17th Battalion came under the command of 106th Brigade, 35th Division and left November 1917. [9]  It is therefore assumed that the 17th Battalion joined the 15th in the 31st Division.

The German Spring Offensive: The Battle of Lys 9-29 April 1918: a summary

The German Spring Offensive entered its second phase and the Battle of Lys raged 9 -29 April 1918.  The phase known as the Battle of Estaires took place 9-11 April and the 31st Division was involved.  The Battle of Hazelbrouck 12-15 April followed and the defence of Nieppe Forest saw the 31st Division in action.[10]  The 31st Division was bussed up to the Outtersteene area from billets near Arras.  It was placed at the disposal of the First Army.  The 93rd Brigade was positioned to the east of Outtersteene, to the west of Bailleul.  During the morning of 12 April the 92nd Brigade moved forward behind the village of Doulieu and the 93rd was in support.  But, the remnants of the 40th Division were being scattered by the German onslaught therefore GOC 31st Division Major-General Bridgford decided to use his support, the 93rd Brigade in a counter-attack to stem the German advance.  Covered by only one 18-pounder, the advance was successful and a dangerous situation was averted.

12 April: Reinforcements began to arrive.  The 5th Division detrained west of Nieppe and the 1st Australian Division arrived at Hazebrouck.  The main German attack was directed against the 31st and 29th Divisions defending the line between the forest and Bailleul.  During the day the line was forced back. [11]

15/17 West Yorkshire Regiment: in action [12]

11 April: in billets at Merris and in the Brigade Reserve.  The battalion was ordered into the line in support of the 13/York & Lancaster Regiment and 18/DLI and these 2 battalions carried out an attack on La Becque.  The Battalion HQ was established at Noote Boom.

12 April: 7.30pm 4 officers and 100 other ranks formed part of a composite battalion with personnel from other units in the Brigade and took up a defensive position in front of Merris.

8.30pm: The remainder moved to Hondegheim then ordered to retire to the railway and hold the position together with 2 battalions of the brigade.  Very heavy machine gun fire was directed against the battalion.

“The enemy tried to work round our right flank and the Commanding Officer formed a defensive flank to guard against attack.  This party engaged the enemy and enabled the main part of the other two battalions and some of our own to fall back on the road in front of METEREN and there all three Battalion Commanders decided to march their men through the outposts of the 33rd Division and to reorganise behind the lines held by the latter.  This was done and the defence of METEREN orgainised.  The battalion entrenched themselves in a line from the high ground South of METEREN to a point half way down the road between METEREN and BAILLEUL.

15th:   This position was held until the morning of the 15th when they were relieved by the Tank Corps and proceeded to BORRE.  In the meantime “B” “C” & “D” Companies had held the Farm House behind the position A.8.d.8.8. and had put themselves under the command of the 11th Suffolk Regiment.  After very hard fighting these three Companies then took up a position at about the two “L.Ls” in BAILLEUL (Ref. Sheet HAZEBROUCK 5.A.) and on the position becoming untenable they occupied a line from St. JANS CAPPEL to MT. NOIRE on the evening of the 14th and remained there during the 15th and 16th April.” [13]

Orders were received to rejoin their own Battalion at Borre, which had actually moved to Hondeghem but the party joined them there 17 April.  During these operations there were many casualties including Lieut. Colonel C.W. Tilly killed in action 14 April.

“The total casualties were:

  • Killed in Action: 3 Officers and 23 Other Ranks
  • Wounded: …….6 Officers and 153 Other Ranks
  • Missing: ………..2 Officers and 143 Other Ranks
  • …………………..11 Officers and 319 Other Ranks”[14]

Later research records that between 12 and 17 April, the 15/17th Battalion lost 77 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds.  69 other ranks died 12 April 1918 including Private S. Baines.[15]

Private Sydney Baines served a total of 295 days, 282 at home and 13 in France.[16]   He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[17]


The Ploegstreert Memorial, Belgium – Private Sydney Baines has no known grave and is commemorated on this memorial which pays tribute to more than 11,000 servicemen of the UK and South African forces who similarly have no known grave.  The sector covered the line from Caestre-Dranoutre-Warneton in the north to Haverskerque-Estaires-Fournes to the south including the towns of Hazebrouck, Merville, Bailleul and Armentieres, the Forest of Nieppe and Ploesteert Wood.  Many did not die in major offensives but were killed in the course of day-to-day trench warfare which characterised this part of the line – small scale set engagements usually carried out to support major attacks elsewhere. [18]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1901 census

[3] 1911 census

[4] Army Form

[5] Army Form Medical History

[6] Army Form Casualty





[11] “The Battle of the Lys: the British Army on the Defensive in April 1918” Geoffrey David Blades 2012 thesis King’s College

[12] 15 & 15/17 (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment War Diary

[13] War Diary

[14] War Diary

[15] Soldiers Died in the Great War Note: ODGW carry no details for 15/17 Bn., WYR

[16] Army Form

[17] Medal Roll

[18] Commonwealth War Graves Commission






BAINES S. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

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