17616, 9th Bn., Welsh Regiment
Died 2nd July 1917 Aged 23
Son of Harry and Elizabeth Crichley, 41 Coed Saeson Crescent, Sketty, Swansea

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Remembered with Honour

Irish House Cemetery
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The youngest son of nine children, Sydney was born in Swansea in the summer of 1894. His Swansea born parents were Harry and Elizabeth Critchley, born in 1852 and 1853 respectively and married in 1874. Harry worked as a house painter and decorator in 1901 and for Swansea Corporation by 1911.

He lived at home in 41 Coed Saeson Crescent, Sketty and was shown as still at school in 1911, aged 17.

Sydney enlisted in the Swansea Battalion, Welsh Regiment early on in the war on 26th October 1914, no. 17616.

Private Sydney Critchley died on 2nd July 1917 near Ypres in Belgium, while serving with the 9th Battalion Welsh Regiment.

Sydney is commemorated with a grave in the Irish House Cemetery at Heuvelland, about 5 miles south of Ypres. The cemetery owes its name to a small farmhouse 90 metres to the west, known to the troops as “Irish House’. It was begun in June 1917 by the 16th (Irish) Division, and used at intervals until September 1918. The cemetery contains 117 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War.

Battle of Messines Ridge

It has been argued that the Battle of Messines was the most successful local operation of the war, certainly of the Western Front. Carried out by General Herbert Plumer’s Second Army, it was launched on 7 June 1917 with the detonation of 19 underground mines underneath the German lines.

The target of the offensive was the Messines Ridge, a natural stronghold southeast of Ypres, and a small German salient since late 1914. The attack was also a precursor to the much larger Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele.

In the face of active German counter-mining, 8,000 metres of tunnel were constructed under German lines. Occasionally the tunnellers would encounter German counterparts engaged in the same task: underground hand to hand fighting would ensure.

The invariable loss of surprise in the use of a preliminary bombardment was entirely offset by the effect of the mines, which blew the crest off the Messines-Wytschaete ridge. Audible in Dublin and by Lloyd George in his Downing Street study, the combined sound of the simultaneous mine explosions comprised the loudest man-made explosion until that point. The lighting up of the sky as the detonations ran across the ridge was likened to a ‘pillar of fire’.

The effect of the mine explosions upon the German defenders was devastating. Some 10,000 men were killed during the explosion alone. In its wake nine divisions of infantry advanced under protection of a creeping artillery barrage, tanks and gas attacks from the new Livens projectors which were designed to throw gas canisters directly into the enemy trenches.

The Messines battle, which greatly boosted morale among the Allies, signified the first time on the Western Front that defensive casualties actually exceeded attacking losses: 25,000 against 17,000.

Sydney may have received wounds during this battle from which he later died. Alternatively, he may have been killed in a follow up attack, shelled or been shot by a sniper.

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Additional Information

CRITCHLEY Sidney— died on 2nd July, 1917 aged 23. He was a private in the Welsh Regiment (gth Bn). His service number was 17616. He is remembered at the Irish House Cemetery (Heuvelland West – Vlaanderen, Belgium). He was the son of Harry and Elizabeth Critchley (41, Coedsaeson Crescent, Sketty). His name is included on the family grave in St Paul’s churchyard, Sketty.

In the 1911 census Sidney lived with his parents, Harry (1852) and Elizabeth (1853) and sister, Evelyn (1891). Harry was a house painter. Harry and Elizabeth had had 9 children, 8 of whom were living in 1911.

In the 1901 census living with their parents were Emily (1881), Harry (1882), who was a gardener, Frank (1888), Eveline (sic) and Sydney (sic). They were all born in Swansea.

In the 1891 census the family lived at 1, Roseland Terrace, Sketty. With their parents lived Martha (1880), Emily, Harry, Frances (1889) and Eveline. Harry’s (senior) occupation was house painter and decorator.

In the 1881 census they lived at 83, Rodney Street. Living with their parents were Maude (1876), James (1877), Martha and Emily.

Harry James Critchley married Elizabeth Mary Prout on 19th September, 1875, at Swansea’s parish church. His father was James Critchley (deceased) – baker and her father was Thomas Prout – mariner.

In the 1871 census Harry lived with his parents James (1828) and Mary (1829). James was born in Stroud (Gloucs) and Mary came from Truro (Cornwall). Harry was a painter, his siblings Arthur (1857) was an attendant at a boot and shoe shop, Frank (1861), Albert (1863) and Edgar (1869) were scholars (i.e. they attended school). The family lived in Greyhound Street.

In 1861 they also lived in Greyhound Street (No. 26) -James, Mary, Harry J, Sidney C, Arthur and Emily (1859).

In 1851 James had yet to marry. He lived at Parkers Alley, Barton St. Mary (Gloucs), with his widowed mother, Mary (1794 in Newent, Gloucs), William, his nephew (1838, Barton), an errand boy and Hannah Elliott (visitor 1791, nurse born Westbury).

In 1841 James lived at Barton with his parents, William (1786) and Mary. William was a gardener and Mary was a green grocer (sic). His siblings were Elizabeth (1817 — dressmaker), Eliza (1819 — shop worker) and Alice (1826). They were all born in Gloucestershire.