Pte. Sydney Alfred Hollands (1894 – 1915)
Sydney Alfred Hollands was born in Platt on 23 March 1894, the eldest of five children to Frank and Harriet Hollands (née Fuller). At the time of his son’s birth, Frank was working as an agricultural labourer and employed by Mr. Lauser of Beechin Wood Farm.
Sydney attended Platt School, and by 1905 the family were living at Rose Cottage. After a spell resident at Kettle Cottage, the family then moved to No.3 Church Villas, which had been built by Sydney’s maternal grandmother Harriett Fuller, who also ran the Blue Anchor pub. Sydney’s father eventually took over the pub in 1913 and his house was opened as a confectioners’ shop. Sydney could often be seen travelling around the local area with one of his brothers on his father’s horse and trap selling confectionary, soft drinks, tobacco and even haberdashery.
When war broke out in 1914 Sydney had been working as a farm labourer, and on 7 August he became one of the very first from Platt to enlist. He attested in Maidstone and was described in a medical inspection as being 5’ 6” tall, 125lbs in weight and having blue eyes and brown hair. He was passed fit for service and joined The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) and sent to the regimental depot (also in Maidstone) for training.
Four months later on 7 December 1914, 9180 Pte. Sydney Hollands was posted to the 1st Battalion, who were already fighting on the Western Front, and was either among the draft of 236 NCOs and men who arrived at billets in Dranoutre, Belgium on the 12th or the 50 who joined on the 18th. Either way Sydney probably spent Christmas in St Jans Capelle, and like everyone else would have received a Christmas card from the King and Queen along with Princess Mary’s gift of cigarettes, tobacco and a pipe. The battalion had been holding the line south of Ypres at Wulverghem throughout much of the second half of December and Sydney would likely have had his first taste of trench life in this period. Owing to extremely wet weather at the start of the month, the trenches in this part of the line were described as being in a ‘shocking state’.
The battalion remained in the sector until 19 February 1915 when, after ten days in Bailleul ‘standing by’ in readiness to move at short notice, orders were received to return to the Ypres Salient. By nightfall on the 19th the West Kents had reached accommodation in Vlamertynghe, which comprised of a series of wooden huts, before moving up to the trenches at Zillebeke the following day. The opposing enemy trenches were much closer together than those in Wulverghem, and the Prussians based in them were noted as being particularly aggressive, so the battalion did their best to return the ‘hate’ and kept them occupied by firing over ‘jam tin’ bombs and rifle grenades.
Over the next few weeks Sydney’s unit were on rotation between the front line and various support positions, and by 20 March were holding the line at Kruisstraat where they were subject to regular enemy artillery fire and mortar bombing. Two days later, which happened to be the eve of Sydney’s 21st birthday, the section of the line in which he was occupying suffered a direct hit from a German trench mortar bomb. The damage was severe and very little trace of the occupants was found, with only the remains of a sergeant and a corporal being identified by their chevrons.
Sydney’s body was among those that could not be identified, and consequently he has no known grave. He was later commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium and also on his parents grave in the Platt churchyard.
He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War and Victory Medals.