SYDNEY MONK 1881 – 1976

SYDNEY MONK 1881 – 1976

Family Details

Sydney Monk was born 24 December 1881,[1] the son of Alfred William [2] and Emily Monk.[3]  There were 8 children, all born at Bishop or West Auckland, County Durham: [4]

  • Arthur bc.1881 at Bishop Auckland died 1899 aged 19
  • Sydney born 1881 at Bishop Auckland
  • Nellie bc.1883 at Bishop Auckland
  • Annie born 1884 at Bishop Auckland died 1911 aged 26
  • Fred bc.1886 at West Auckland died 1938 aged 52 in Australia
  • Carrie bc.1887 at West Auckland
  • Harry born.1888 at West Auckland
  • Mabel bc.1893 at West Auckland

In 1891, 36 year-old Alfred Monk (bc.1855 at Dalston, London) was employed at West Auckland Brewery as the “secretary & agent” and the family lived at West Auckland Hall. [5]  By 1901, Alfred was recorded as a “secretary & manager” employed at the brewery.  19 years old Sydney was employed as a “commercial clerk” and 15 year old Fred as an “engineer’s apprentice”.[6]  In 1911, 56 year old Alfred was recorded as “manager of brewery”, 29 year old Sydney as an “accountant’s clerk”, 22 year old Harry as an “architect” and 18 year old Mabel as “studying at cooking”.[7]

Sydney’s 2 brothers both served in the war:

  • 5881 Gunner F. Monk, AEF, 6th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
  • 9931 Sapper Harry Monk, 9th Field Company, Australian Engineers died 21 December 1917 and is buried at Rookwood Necropolis Military Cemetery, Sydney, NSW, Australia.[8] He was 29 years old and is commemorated on the Australian War Memorial, Canberra [9] and a family headstone, West Auckland cemetery.

5 January 1917: Sydney’s father Alfred died.  The 3 brothers Sydney, Fred and Harry were all on active service.  The West Auckland Brewery Company was a concern with which the family had a very close commercial interest.  As a result of Alfred’s ill health, the family business affairs were looked after by his daughter, Carrie. This is another example of the war providing opportunities for capable women hitherto overlooked for such duties.

Military Details

26 November 1915: Sydney attested aged 33 years and 11 months at Bishop Auckland recruiting office and was placed into the Army Reserve, the 28th Royal Fusiliers.  He stood 5ft.9¼” tall, weighed 136lbs.[10]  His religion is recorded as Church of England.[11]

24 April 1916: Mobilized

9 August 1916: Entered France.  Posted to the 7th Bn., Royal Fusiliers

21 August 1916: Transferred to the 4th Bn., Royal Fusiliers

The 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers was a Regular Army battalion under the command of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division which landed in France 13 August 1914 and remained on the Western Front throughout the war.[12]  In August 1916, when Private S. Monk joined the battalion, the Battle of the Somme was underway and at that time other units were:[13]

  • 1st Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 1/10th Bn., the King’s [Liverpool Regiment]
  • 12th Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 13th Bn., the King’s [Liverpool Regiment]
  • 9th Brigade Machine Gun Company
  • 9th Trench Mortar Battery

Private S. Monk served with 4th Bn., Royal Fusiliers until 19 December 1916 when, by then a Lance Corporal, he left for England and Officers Training School [OTS] in Bristol.

During this period, the Division was involved in the following battles:

  • 15 July – 3 September: Battle of Delville Wood
  • 13 – 18 November: Battle of Ancre

Between 9 August and 8 September 1916: For the opening 4 weeks of his war, Private S. Monk recorded his thoughts and observations in his diary,[14] some of which are described below:

10 August 1916: After getting our packs we were all marched to a rest camp on the beach where we met a lot of Australians…a magnificent body of fighting men…we embarked on a large vessel…the scene was most chaotic…the management was splendid…we arrived in Boulogne…met soldiers from all parts of the world, Indians unloading stores, Australians with their slouch hats, Canadians and others too numerous to mention.  Great fun was caused in the ranks by a Lancastrian from Oldham and his attempt to speak French…

12 August: we arrived at Etaples…and proceeded to camp…it is a vast camp which stretched for miles.  I understand 1,000,000 troops are here [the camp stretches 15 miles].

13 August: The organisation is simply marvellous…the canteens are wonderful…hundreds of chaps from all over the country are in the large bar …drink beer…the nearest approach to the scene is a bar in the Wild West of Arizona on a larger scale.  One sees life here and no mistake…the catering is wonderful…The dinners are good.

14 August: The humour among the men here is extremely funny and certainly relieves and lifts a lot…The discipline here is very strict and four men were shot yesterday morning for various offences.

21 – 24 August: We did not leave until about 8.00am. 400 fusiliers paraded with full kit…was a tremendous weight…marched and entrained…we did not know our destination…Great stores of ammunition and oil etc. were passed along the line after leaving Amiens…arrived at…Maricourt…For miles before coming to the station we saw huge transports on the road which seemed endless…we marched through the cornfields till we came to a village called Corly…we could now hear the roar of the guns at Delville Wood…We had to join the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers who the day before had lost nearly half their men at Trones Wood…All night long a continuous procession of motors passed carrying shells to the line 5 miles up…As I sat alone I could not help but think what a terrible mistake this war is…to Maricourt where the whole brigade entrained in trucks, 40 in each…leaving the Somme…Amiens…Candas…The 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers are mostly old soldiers and chiefly Londoners so you hear the pure undiluted cockney lingo here.

25 August: 9.00am full pack.  I shall never forget the day…our feet were sore and backs aching with the pack…at last the village of Barly…I fell down…I was completely knocked up as my feet were very sore.  I am afraid the people at home will never have the remotest idea of the terrible hardship we have to put up with but you never hear men grumbling at all, simply grin and bear it.

26 – 31 August: Wavrans-sur-Ternoise…It is a very fine sight to see the full brigade on the march…First of all the various companies of infantry pass along followed by the bombers then machine gunners with their guns, snipers then ambulances, stretcher bearers, signallers then the field kitchen with their transport.  Royal Engineers with telegraphs and scores of wagons of various materials, picks, shovels, in fact everything that goes to make up an army.  Then the pontoons followed by scores of wagons filled with camp materials then followed by the mounted infantry who bring up the rear… I should think it took quite 1½ or 2 hours to pass…halted at another village called Bours…arrived at our billets at La Pugnoy…

12 – 8 September: served out with steel helmets and new gas helmets…we were now ready for the trenches.

8 September:  We were now under fire…we now reached several towns of fairly large dimensions which were completely wrecked and just the base of walls standing…whole streets completely wrecked…Vermelles…There were many pathetic evidences here of the fearful toll of war.  We passed graves with little crosses erected by the roadside which marked the last resting place of a brave warrior…any poor description of mine cannot convey to you the faintest idea of the terrible hardships one has to put up with.  But notwithstanding this, you seldom hear a soldier grumbling…Modern warfare is a terrible business, in fact it is simply scientific murder when you see all the instruments in the trenches…Also the day before our O.C. died of wounds from a shell and my Officer and myself just turned round into another trench and fortunately missed it.  Of course these are the fortunes of war.

The diary finishes here.  The following notes are taken from Battalion War Diaries.  The Battalion was in the trenches during the following periods:

7 – 14 September:  relieved by the 1/Northumberland Fusiliers

8 – 11 October [Serre?]: took over from 2/Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, under heavy bombardment by shell and mortar fire.  Lost 1 man killed, 2 wounded, 1 officer killed and 1 shell shock.  Relieved by 1/NF.

23 – 25 October: relieved 13/West Yorks, 2 killed, 3 wounded relieved by 12/WY.

4 – 6 November:  relieved 8/East Yorks, 2 men killed by shells, carried out a raid on enemy trenches but found it unoccupied, relieved by 1/NF.

12 – 14 November: failed attack on the village of Serre, 6 wounded, relieved by 17/Middlesex and 2/South Staffs, 1 man wounded.

15 November: heavy shelling, at 13.50, officers and 50 men went to reinforce troops holding the left flank of the Serre sector, 1 officer and 11 other ranks killed.

23 – 26 November: relieved 1/NF, 1 killed, 7 wounded

26 November: Promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal.

Casualties for the month:  Officers – 1 wounded, Other Ranks – 11 killed, 36 wounded, 5 shell shock.

9 – 13 December: Serre, relieved 12/WY and 1/NF, trenches extremely muddy, relieved by 10/Royal Welch Fusiliers.

19 December: Lance Corporal S. Monk left for England to attend OTS at Bristol.

During his time with the battalion, between 24 April and 18 December 1916, 4th Bn., Royal Fusiliers lost 6 officers and 172 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds.[15]  Lance Corporal S. Monk survived and exhibited qualities considered worthy of officer status.  A note on his file states:

In my opinion No.10434 Lc. Cpl. Monk S., although 35 years of age, would make a good officer.  He is well educated & has had 13 months experience in the ranks of which 4 months have been spent at the front.[16]

Sydney offered the names of Major W. Wilkinson, Albion Cottage, Bishop Auckland and Alderman William House JP, Bishop Auckland for character references.

29 May 1917: Second Lieutenant S. Monk returned to France and was attached to 10th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry [10/DLI].  He joined the battalion the next day at Neuville Vitasse.

The 10th [Service] Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry had been formed at Newcastle 22 August 1914 as part of K1 [Kitchener’s New Army] and came under the orders of 43rd Brigade, in 14th [Light] Division.  It landed in France 21 May 1915 and remained on the Western Front until being disbanded in early 1918 having suffered heavy casualties.[17]  In May 1917, the 43rd Brigade comprised:

  • 6th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry
  • 6th Bn., Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
  • 6th Bn., Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 10th Bn., DLI
  • 43rd Machine Gun Company
  • 43rd Trench Mortar Battery

When Second Lieutenant S. Monk joined the battalion, it was about to get involved with action as part of the Arras Offensive:

  • 3 – 4 May 1917: The Third Battle of the Scarpe

Following training, the 14th Division moved to the Ypres Salient to take part in the Battle of Langemarck 16 – 18 August, an opening phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly called Passchendaele.[18]  It was in this area where Second Lieutenant S. Monk received wounds which incapacitated him.  A summary of extracts from the 10/DLI War Diary is provided below:[19]

3 – 6 June:  10/DLI relieved 9th Bn., Rifle Brigade in the front line, left sector and endured heavy fire overnight with 5 men wounded then on the 4th Jackdaw trench was attacked by an enemy patrol.  1 man was killed, others escaped.  The line was attacked by aeroplanes and further shelling took place resulting in 1 man being killed and 4 wounded.

During the rest of the month of June and July into August, the battalion was removed from the front line and subject to training and instruction.  It moved north to the Ypres Salient.

19 August: At Dickebusch and under attack from enemy planes. 19 horses killed and 9 men wounded.

21 – 24 August: Ordered to hold the front line.  Before marching off from Zillebeke Bund, there were several casualties through heavy shelling.  Due to a bombardment of gas shells, the march to battalion HQ took pace in box respirators.  Later in Sanctuary Wood, a heavy barrage resulted in further casualties.

21 August 1917:  Second Lieutenant S. Monk received shrapnel wounds to the head and neck.

The battle raged around the Menin Road and between 22 and 24 August and 10/DLI suffered the following casualties:

Officers             Other Ranks

Killed              7                           46

Wounded       7                           198

Gassed           0                            57

Missing          0                           54

Total              14                         355

The strength going into action was 20 officers and 608 other ranks, thus approx. 60% casualties had been suffered.  During his time with the battalion, 10/DLI, 5 officers and 132 Other Ranks were killed in action or died of wounds.[20] The battalion war diary records a greater number of officers killed than the ODGW statistics.  This can be reconciled due to some officers from other regiments or DLI battalions could have been “attached” to 10/DLI and were subsequently recorded as a casualty in their “home” unit.

Second Lieutenant S. Monk was taken to 11th Casualty Clearing Station with dangerous wounds to the head then to the 2nd Stationary Hospital.  His condition had improved slightly by 26 August and by the 29th was considered to be satisfactory.  He was admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Highgate, London 1 September, treated there until 6 October whereupon he was transferred to the Red Cross Officers’ Hospital, Slindon House, Arundel.[21]  He was treated there until he was discharged 30 March 1918.

Second Lieutenant S. Monk served a total of 2 year 3 months, 1 year 7 months at home and 8 months abroad.[22]  He was awarded the British War and Victory medals and received the silver War Badge [no.384214][23] which was awarded to servicemen who were discharged as a result of wounds received in action.  He relinquished his commission on account of ill health and was granted the honourable rank of Second Lieutenant in the Army 14th April 1918.[24]  He was 36 years old.

Post War

8 November 1918 to 7 February 1925: Sydney Monk was an active member of the West Auckland War Heroes’ Fund which organised fund raising for the West Auckland Memorial Hall.  The name S. Monk appears on one of the foundation stones.

1938: Sydney Monk married Doris Patricia Cummins,[25] always known as Patricia.

1939: Sydney Monk is recorded as the Managing Director of West Auckland Brewery. [26]

31 October 1976: Sydney Monk died aged 95. [27]





[1] England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.238 Auckland 1888 Q3

[2] Died 5 January 1917 aged 62

[3] Died 12 June 1937 aged 79

[4] 1891, 1901 & 1911 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] 1901 census

[7] 1911 census

[8] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[9] Australian War Memorial – panel 24

[10] Army Form B.178 Medial History, Examined 7 April 1916

[11] Descriptive Report on Enlistment



[14] Diary kindly provided by Peter Monk, Sydney’s son.

[15] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[16] Major Commanding 4th Bn., Royal Fusiliers [name unknown, signature undecipherable] dated 10 December 1916



[19] Diary summary kindly provided by Peter Monk, Sydney’s son

[20] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[21] War Office telegraphs, Army Form W.3309 dated 31 August 1917 and S. Monk letter dated 28 July 1918

[22] Army Form A45?  Medical Board Report on a Disabled Officer

[23] Medal Card Index

[24] Email dated 18 February 2003

[25] England & Wales Marriage Index 1938 Q4 Vol.5b p.509 Totnes Devon

[26] 1939 Register

[27] England & Wales Death Index 2016 – 2007 Vol.1 p.1680 Dec.1976