Riley S.

SIDNEY RILEY (1886-1918)

97087 Corporal Sidney Riley, 1st Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) was killed in action 6 June 1918 and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.[1]  He was 32 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour in the Memorial Hall, West Auckland.

Family Details

Sidney was born 1886[2] at West Auckland the son of Richard and Amelia Riley.  There were at least 7 children, all born at West Auckland:[3]

  • Mabel bc.1879
  • Ethel bc.1881
  • Nora bc.1882
  • Sidney born 1886
  • Percy bc.1888
  • Stanley bc.1890
  • Charles bc.1892

In 1891, the family lived at Front Street.  Richard worked as grocer/draper and employed 20 year old Sarah Scott as a domestic servant.[4]  By 1901, Richard is recorded as a “draper own account” (i.e. a self-employed draper).  Sidney now 15 years old was not recorded as having a profession or occupation.[5]  Sidney married Daisy Kathleen Templeton 10 November 1907 [6] and they had 4 children, all born at West Auckland:

  • Harry Templeton born 22 October 1908
  • Gwendalyn Forsythe born 21 July 1910
  • Nora[7] born 30 July 1912
  • Eileen born 31 October 1916[8]

In 1911, Sidney and Daisy and their young family lived at Auckland House, West Auckland.  Sidney was described as a “draper (master)” who worked for another “at home.” Daisy was born at Wetherby, Yorkshire.[9]

 Service Details [10]

Sidney Riley served 3 years with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Durham Light Infantry.  He was a bugler.  He was described as “time expired” so it is understood that he served with the Territorial Force for this 3 year term prior to the Haldene Reforms of 1908.  His regimental number may have been 5/41911.

7 December 1915: Sidney Riley attested for general service and was placed on the Army Reserve.

2 January 1916: mobilized and posted to 80th Training Reserve Battalion

13 October 1916: Medical Examination at Durham[11]

  • Age: 30 years
  • Height: 5ft 5½”
  • Weight: 126 lbs
  • Considered fit for service

17 March 1917: acting Lance Corporal

17 November 1917: transferred to Sherwood Foresters as a Private.  3rd Battalion [12]  Regimental number 97087 [13]

9 January 1918: France: posted to base

14 January 1918: posted to 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters

24 March 1918: promoted to Corporal

Qualification: Bomber and Rifle Bomber [14]

6 June 1918: Killed in Action

Corporal S. Riley served a total of 2 years 182 days:[15]

  • Home: 7 December 1915 to 8 January 1918………………2 years 33 days
  • France: 9 January 1918 to 6 June 1918…………………………………149 days

Corporal S. Riley was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[16]

The 1st Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) was a Regular Army battalion serving in India when war was declared.  By October 1914 it landed at Plymouth and 5 November 1914 it was in France and came under the orders of 24th Brigade 8th Division.[17]

The 24 Brigade comprised the following battalions and units: [18]

  • 1st, Worcestershire Regiment
  • 2nd, East Lancs Regiment left February 1918
  • 1st, Sherwood Foresters
  • 2nd, Northampton Regiment
  • 1/5 Bn., Black Watch
  • 1/4 Cameron Highlanders Feb.1915 – April 1915
  • 24 MGC left to join 8 MG Battalion
  • 24 Trench Mortar Battery

The Division saw action at the following battles:[19]


  • Neuve Chapelle
  • Aubers
  • Bois Grenier


  • Albert


  • German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line
  • Pilkem
  • Langemarck


  • 21-23 March: St. Quentin
  • 24-25 March: Somme Crossings
  • 26-27 March: Rosieres
  • 24-25 April: Villers-Bretonneux
  • 27 May-6 June: Aisne
  • 26-30 August: Scarpe
  • 2 October-11 November: Final Advance in Artois [20]

The German Offensive, Spring 1918: an overview

 3 March, Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jagers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions. [21]  A single division numbered about 19,000 men. [22]  Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.

The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, Pershing General of the Armies of the United States asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.[23] The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.[24]

Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendale and Cambrai.[25]  The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.[26]

21 March 1918:  the German Offensive was launched.  There were 5 phases: [27]

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, against the British, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918)
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, against the British, the Battle of Lys sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, against the French sector along Chemin des Dames, the Third Battle of Aisne
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider, the Battle of the Matz
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive.  23 March, the Kaiser declared a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren.

The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 303,450 men – 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000.[28]

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required. [29]

To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world.[30]

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918. [31]

The Third Battle of the Aisne: 27 May – 6 June 1918

The German attack was launched by 4,000 guns across a 40km front against 4 Divisions of the IX Corps.  There was a heavy concentration of British troops in the front line trenches and casualties from this bombardment were severe.  In fact the IX Corps was virtually wiped out.  The bombardment was accompanied by a gas attack after which 17 German infantry divisions advanced through the gaps in the line.  Rapid progress was made and the Germans broke though the reserve troops (8 Allied Divisions – 4 British and 4 French) between Soissons and Rheims.  By the end of the first day, the Germans had passed the Aisne and reached the river Vesle gaining 15km of territory.  3 June, they had come within 90km of Paris and captured 50,000 Allied soldiers and 800 guns.  French casualties were heavy, with 98,000 losses.  The British suffered 29,000 casualties.  6 June, the German advance had run out of steam.[32]

Corporal S. Riley was killed in action 6 June 1918[33] during the Battle of the Aisne.  The 8th Division served with 9th British Corps as part of the Sixth French Army. [34] During the battle between 27 May and 8 June 1918, 1st Sherwood Foresters lost 2 officers and 133 other ranks.  27 May 1918 was a bad day with 111 other ranks killed in action or died of wounds.  4 other ranks including Corporal S. Riley died 6 June 1918.[35] The circumstances of their deaths are unknown since the Battalion War Diary has not yet been researched.


Corporal S. Riley has no known grave and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.  Almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave are commemorated on the Memorial. [36]

Family Headstone in West Auckland Cemetery: [37]

The headstone reads:

“Sacred to the memory of Richard B. Riley of Coniscliffe House died 28 April 1902 aged 49 yrs.  Also Amelia wife of the above died 18 April 1904 aged 51 yrs.  Also Henry E.F. Riley son of the above died 24 Dec. 1898 aged 21 yrs.  Also Sidney Herbert beloved husband of Daisy Kathlenn Riley and second son of the above who fell in action in France 6 Jun 1918 aged 33 yrs.  Mary Adelaide died 3 Jan 1895 aged 10 mths Maude Adelaide died 10 Aug 1895 aged 4 mth daughters of the above.” 


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.221 Auckland 1886 Q1

[3] 1891 & 1901 census

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.330 Auckland 1907 Q4 and Army Form Descriptive Report on Enlistment

[7] Note: she has a second name but it is undecipherable

[8] Army Form Descriptive Report on Enlistment

[9] 1911 census

[10] Army Form B.2512 unless stated otherwise

[11] Army Form B.178 Medical History

[12] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form-Active Service

[13] Ministry of Pensions Widows Form 3 & CWGC & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[14] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form-Active Service

[15] Statement of the Services

[16] Medal Roll card index






Many references have been quoted including some from “The First World War” 1998 John Keegan, “The Imperial War Museum Book of 1918 Year of Victory” 1998 Malcolm Brown, and “The Unknown Soldier” 2005 Neil Hanson.

[22] CWGC


[24] SEE 21


[26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] SEE 21


[33] CWGC


[35] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[36] CWGC

[37] “West Auckland Cemetery: Monumental Inscriptions” Cleveland, N. Yorks. & S. Durham Family History Society compiled by Carol A. McLee


RILEY S. Photo 2/V.B. D.L.I


Soissons Memorial

Soissons Memorial

RILEY S. Inscription


RILEY S Commemorative Bronze Plaque

Bronze Plaque

RILEY S Medal Roll

Medal Roll

Map to show the Aisne 1918

Map to show
the Aisne 1918

RILEY S Family Headstone

Family Headstone

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