131500 Pioneer Sidney Roe Rutter, “Z” Special Company, Royal Engineers was killed in action 6 May 1917 and is buried at Beaulencourt British Cemetery, Ligny-Thilloy, France.[1]  He was 22 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.

Family Details

 Sidney Roe Rutter was born 1894 [2] the son of Thomas and Sarah Rutter. There were 3 children, all born at Evenwood: [3]

  • Thomas Roe born 1894
  • Samuel Marshall bc.1899
  • Beatrice Annie Eva bc.1900
  • William Henry bc.1903

In 1901, the family lived at Alpine Terrace where 31 year old Thomas worked as a colliery engineman.  By 1911, Thomas and Sarah lived at Stones End.  Thomas worked as the colliery stationary engineman.  Sidney aged 16 worked as a coal miner (a pony driver). [4]  Later, the family moved to Allendale House, 15 Shirley Terrace, Evenwood.[5]

Military Details

 Sidney Rutter enlisted 16 August 1915 aged 21 years 1 month at Darlington.  He worked as a coal miner, was 5’3¾” tall and weighed 121 lbs.[6]  He joined Royal Engineers and was posted to the 234th Field Company, the Royal Engineers at Darlington and was given the regimental number 131500.  He was transferred to Special Brigade 5 May 1916.  Pioneer S.R. Rutter entered France 25 June 1916.[7]  Within 3 days, 28 June 1916, he was wounded, a shell wound to right fore-arm.[8]

A local newspaper reported as follows: [9]

“News of Evenwood Men

Pte. Sidney Rutter, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Rutter, Shirley Terr. is reported wounded.”

 Pioneer T.R. Rutter was treated at hospital at Rouen and returned to his unit 8 August 1916.[10]

Action during April and May 1917 [11]

During April and May 1917, action raged along the front:

  • First Battle of the Scarpe 9 – 14 April,
  • Second Battle 23 – 23 April,
  • Action at La Coulette 28 – 29,
  • Battle of Arleux 23 April
  • Third Battle of the Scarpe including the capture of Fresnoy 3 – 4 May,
  • Capture of Roeux 13 – 14 May
  • the Battle of Arras 11 April – 17 May which involved:
    1. First Attack on Bullecourt 11 April
    2. German attack on Lagnicourt 15 April
    3. Second Battle of Bullecourt 3 – 17 May.

9 – 14 April 1917: The Battle of Vimy Ridge [12]

Vimy Ridge was a vital part of the German defence system.  It was so well fortified that all attempts to take it by Allied forces during the first 3 years of the war had failed.  Superb planning and training ensured that the Canadian Corps achieved its goal.  All four Divisions of the Canadian Corps fighting together for the first time stormed the Ridge.  Preceded by a perfectly timed artillery barrage, the Canadians advanced and by mid-afternoon had taken the whole crest of the Ridge except Hill 145, which they captured 3 days later.  Victory was swift but it did not come without cost.  Out of 10,602 casualties, 3,598 Canadians gave their lives.  The victory at Vimy Ridge was a turning point for Allied forces and in Canada the victory brought honour and pride to the young nation.

11 April 1917:  To the south of Arras, the First Battle of Bullecourt was designed to aid the British Third Army fighting around Arras.

3 May 1917:  The Second Battle of Bullecourt was designed to help the French.

In these 2 battles, 4 Australian Divisions 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th and the British 7th, 62nd (West Riding) and 58th (London) Divisions took part.

The following is an extract from the RE 234 Coy War Diary: [13]

1 May 1917

Strength 18 officers, 259 O.R.’s, 42 Infantry.

Move gas towards Hindenburg Line (for 6th Brigade, 2nd Division ANZAC Corps.)

Corps in front of Noreuil, Lt. Yarwood wounded, O.R.’s gassed.

For the 1st Australian Division wire cutting in Hindenburg Line, some bombs filled with ammonal.

Brigadier White BGGS, 1st ANZAC Corps expressed appreciation of excellent bombing.

Preparations were made for attack on Bullecourt with H.E. Bombs.

 6 May 1917

Preparations made for attack on Bullecourt with H.E. Bombs.

At Biefville les Bapaume a concentration of waggons, some had unloaded but others had not at 250 yards from the crest of a ridge from which projectors were to be fired.  A chance shell struck a waggon containing propellant charges which exploded.  Heavy casualties occurred immediately enemy artillery concentrated on the area.  There were 88 casualties.  Z Company lost 14 killed including Lt. Oakes and 7 were wounded.

 10 May 1917

Lt. General Birdwood Corps Commander ANZAC Corps called on Z Company and expressed his sympathy about heavy casualties among Z and P Companies of the Special Brigade.”

Pioneer Sidney R. Rutter was killed in action 6 May 1917.  There were 49 deaths for that day:[14]

  • 20 – Royal Engineers “P” Company
  • 14 – Royal Engineers “Z” Company
  • 8 – Royal Engineers “G” Company
  • 4 – Royal Field Artillery, 58th Division Ammunition Company
  • 1 – Royal Field Artillery, 59th Division Ammunition Company
  • 2 – 4th Battalion Special Company

Describing the death of Pioneer S.R. Rutter, the following anecdote was received:

“William Holland, my father, was visibly upset when he related this to me, Douglas Holland in the early 1940’s.  He had just left the waggon which had blown up.  The section officer Second Lt. Oakes and the 7 other ranks, including Sidney R. Rutter are all buried together in Beaulencourt Military Cemetery, Ligny-Thilloy.” [15]

Pioneer S.R. Rutter served a total of 1 year 264 days in France:

Home: 16 August 1915 – 24 June 1916

France: 25 June 1915 – 06 May 1917………….1year and 264days

The engagement on the Hindenburg Line around Bullecourt was reported in the national press: [16]

“ANZACS in Hindenburg Line

 HEADQUARTERS (France) Sunday

 The chief feature of the fighting during the past twenty four hours once again has been the continuance of the German counter-attacks in the immediate vicinity of Bullecourt and the wonderful tenacity with which in defiance of these the Anzac troops maintain and steadily extend their hold upon the Hindenburg Line east of that place……”

 In the 2 Battles of Bullecourt, the British suffered in excess of 14,000 casualties.  The ANZAC Corps lost approx. 300 officers and 7,000 other ranks and similar total figures were recorded by the other units of the V Corps.  The battle was reported as follows: [17]


Won after 15 days fighting

Stubbornly defended village

 The following telegraphic dispatches were received from General Headquarters in France yesterday:-

11.48 AM – Fighting again took place during the night in Bullecourt.  Our troops have made further progress through the village and have reached its western edge.

8.42 PM – Today our troops completed the capture of Bullecourt, taking some 60 prisoners.  The whole of the village, for the possession of which constant fighting has taken place since the 3rd inst. is now in our hands….”

Report of his Death

 Rev. G.J. Collis reported in the Church Magazine: [18]

“In regard to personal items of the month, I ought to have mentioned in my July letter that we have had another loss in the person of Sidney Rutter, whose parents live in Shirley Terrace.  I regret the omission but did not know of it when I wrote last month.  I am told on all hands that this is a lad whose good influence and general excellence will be much missed in the place.  He has been described to me on many occasions lately as a very fine lad.  I can believe it.  In fact I am certain of it.  He was found at the post of duty on his great day and although his loved ones will sorely miss him now, they will learn some day that there are great compensations in such sorrow as theirs.  God knows who he takes and He takes them because He wants them.  He has other work for them to do none the less glorious and those whom He chooses are the right men for it.  We are the losers.”  

 Pioneer Sidney Rutter’s personal belongings – a disc and a diary were returned to the family 3 September 1917.

Pioneer S.R. Rutter was awarded the British War and Victory medals. [19]

Burial [20]

 Pioneer S.R. Rutter is buried at grave reference III F 30 Beaulencourt British Cemetery, Liny-Thilloy. The village is located south of Bapaume and about 20 kilometres south of Arras in the region of Pas-de-Calais, France.  The cemetery contains over 700 casualties from the 1914-18 war including 427 identified casualties.

Servicemen from the Royal Engineers “Z” Special Company buried with Pioneer Sidney Rutter are:

  • Sapper J. Collins,
  • Sapper T. G. Evans,
  • Pioneer J. Loates,
  • Second Lieutenant S. Oakes,
  • Sergeant J. Ryan and
  • Sapper James Wemyss.

Others from “Z” Company are commemorated by a special memorial:

  • Sapper C. G. Bunting,
  • Sapper A.E. Burch,
  • Lance Corporal L.C. Gray,
  • Sapper G. H. Hall,
  • Sapper W. Hanson,
  • Sapper H.G. Shurville and
  • Pioneer H.J. Whitehand.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.239 Auckland 1894 Q3

[3] 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] Army Form B.2505

[6] Army Form B.2505 and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[7] Military History Sheet

[8] Army Form B.103

[9] The Auckland Chronicle, 27 July 1916

[10] Army Form B.103

[11] Various sources including “Bullecourt” Graham Keech p144 – 148

[12] Mr. D. Holland formerly of 35 Archery Rise, Durham DH1 4LX correspondence dated 30 August 2006 to Kevin Richardson.  A friend of Pioneer S.R. Rutter confirmed that their company had seen action at Vimy during the battle.

[13] RE 234 Coy War Diary

[14] CWGC

[15] Mr. D. Holland formerly of 35 Archery Rise, Durham DH1 4LX correspondence dated 30 August 2006 to Kevin Richardson

[16] The Daily Telegraph, Monday 7 May 1917

[17] The Times, Friday 18 May 1917

[18] Evenwood Church Magazine August 1917

[19] Medal Roll

[20] CWGC

Note: Thanks to Peter Henney for his contributions




RUTTER S.R. Girlfiend?


Sapper S.R. Rutter & Lee Sams  Sidney was his great great uncle

Sapper S.R. Rutter
& Lee Sams
Sidney was his great great uncle