RAYNER, Sydney John

No.31490, Private, Sydney John RAYNER
Aged 33

"D" Coy., 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Friday, 30th August 1918

Sydney John Rayner was born in 1885 in Fornham All Saints (Thingoe Q1-1885 4A:705) baptised in All Saints on 1st March 1885, son of Harry and Mary RAYNER (née LILLEY).

1891 census...Aged 6, he was at Lodge Farm, Fornham All Saints with his father Harry RAYNER [43] farm labourer born Hengrave; his mother Mary [37]; sisters Elizabeth Mary [13], Lilley Caroline [12] and Kate Harriet [8]; brothers George Henry [10], Frederick William [3] and Ernest James [1]. All except his father were born in Fornham All Saints. Also there was his grandfather George.

1901 census...Aged 16, a gardener's labourer, he was at 16 Westley Road, Fornham All Saints with his parents, sister Kate and brothers Frederick, Ernest, Charles [9] and Victor [5], the two new brothers born in Fornham All Saints'

He married Ellen Kate CAWSTON [7-7-1883] in 1909, who in 1921 married William D.LONG and moved to Sprotts Cottage, Polstead.

1911 census...Aged 26, a domestic gardener, he was at The Street, Pakenham with his wife Ellen Kate [27] born Whepstead. His widowed mother was still in Fornham All Saints with his brothers Frederick (domestic gardener), Ernest (now married, a domestic gardener), Charles (maltster) and Edward (stable boy). His father had died in 1910.

His son Archibald Walter was born on 22-5-1912, and daughter Alice Mary on 26-9-1913.

He enlisted in Thurston.
On 30th August 1918 the 2nd Suffolk were attempting to take Ecoust St Mein. The report on the operations went :-
"2 am- Coys moved off to assembly area and Battn HQ was established at cross road in B.5.d.
4 am - Reports were received from all Coys that they were in positions ordered and in touch.
4:45 - Tank Officer reported that he was taking back his tanks as he was too late to get up.
7 am - Written report received from Captain Wainwright was that they were on objective, but both flanks were un-protected and nothing could be seen of 56th Div.on the left though a section had been sent 300 yards up BULLECOURT AVENUE.
All Coys appear to have assembled too far forward or barrage line was too far back as their only casualties had been from our own barrage and the right Coy had suffered rather severely.
Over 130 prisoners had come in and it was decided to move Battn HQ to about B.12.b.9.1. so as to get closer touch with 1st Gordon Highlanders when message was received that a counter attack had been delivered on my left between STATION REDOUBT and BULLECOURT AVENUE and battalion was fighting through ECOUST.
This counter attack was delivered under cover of T.M (trench mortar) fire from SUNKEN ROAD in c.9.a. and machine gun fire which was very heavy from the right flank where there was a gap between my right and Gordon left. The Battn fell back very disorganized and with about 50% casualties on to the line of ECOUST SUPPORT.
Difficulties met with:-
1..Darkness of night of assembly
2..Broad front of 1500 yards to be covered
3..Only 1 Coy available for reserve and mopping up of ECOUST
4..Insufficiency of MAPS. An absolute necessity of 1 per Platoon Commander i.e. a minimum of 30 per Battalion. Maps also wear out.

CWGC have recorded 50 of the 2nd Suffolk killed.

The Bury Free Press of 19th October 1918 reported:-

Much sympathy is felt for Mrs. Rayner, who has been informed that her husband, Signaller S.J.Rayner, was killed in action on August 30th. Before the war he was employed as head gardener by Col.Hervey of Thurston Cottage, and prior to that he served in a similar capacity to the late Lady Compton Thornhill of The Lodge, Pakenham
Responding to the call of his country, Prvt Rayner enlisted under the Derby scheme in December 1915, and was called to the colours on June 6th 1916. He joined the signalling section, and passed out as a first class signaller. He went out to France in March 1917 and was wounded in November of that year near Cambrai. Up to the time of his death he was looking forward to a well earned leave to be spent with his wife and two children.
. The deceased soldier was proficient in first aid work. He joined the Livermere Voluntary Aid Detachment when it was first formed, and held the proficiency medal for first aid. In all Red Cross county championships he formed one of the squad chosen to represent his detachment, and he was a regular attendant at Ampton Hospital on the arrival of convoys of the wounded. His cheery disposition, devotion to duty,and noble character endeared him to all who knew him, and his loss is keenly felt by his comrades at Pakenham, Thurston and Fornham All Saints.
Mrs. Rayner has received the following letter from an officer of her husband's battalion:-"I very much regret to inform you that your husband, Prvt Rayner, of my company, who was reported missing on 30/8/18 is known now to have been killed in action on that date. His body has been discovered and has been decently interred and a cross erected to his memory. Please accept my sincerest sympathy with you and yours."

photo: Rodney Gibson

Sydney Rayner is buried in Ecoust St Mein British Cemetery, grave D:45
and also commemorated at Thurston

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details