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Village History

Brave Sid saved horses and men

Posted on July 25 2014 at 12:26:12 0 comments

Sidney

The full story behind a local man’s act of heroism in the First World War.

In our May edition we featured the story of Sidney Vaines, a Hopwood man who won the Military Medal for gallantry in the First World War.

We asked if any readers could tell us more about Sidney’s story, as we particularly wanted to find out the circumstances in which he was awarded the medal (inset, below) – and several readers got in touch.

Terry Louch (who also brought us the story of Bert Hartells for our July magazine) told us that the “Ivy” whose name appears on the headstone of Sidney and his wife Eva in St Laurence churchyard in Alvechurch, was Eva’s sister, who had lived in Droitwich.

Then we had a phone call from Ann Beavis, who is Eva and Ivy’s niece. She had come across our article on Sidney on our website, and was able to fill in many of the gaps for us.
Ann’s mother, Dora, was the sister of Eva and Ivy, who were twins.

The girls’ father, Joseph Bartik, was a Russian Jew (from an area which is now part of Ukraine) and he and his family were forced to flee during the pogroms of the 1880s.

They went first to South Africa and then to England, although one brother went to New York. Joseph met his future wife in London and they went on to have Eva, Ivy and Dora.

Ann doesn’t know how Eva met Sidney, but the pair were married in his home town of Kidderminster in 1924, and went to live in Hopwood – where they stayed, rarely venturing out of the village, until their deaths in the 1980s.

Ann says that “Uncle Sid” never spoke much about his wartime experiences, like many of his generation, but Eva told the story of his act of bravery.

As we know, Sidney was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery, so he would have been responsible for a gun carriage pulled by horses. During a battle, his gun carriage became stuck in the deep mud, putting the horses and men in danger.

Sidney – despite his slight build – managed to save the horses and also his commanding officer by dragging him behind the wheel of the carriage, out of the firing line.

This photo of Sidney in his uniform (right), taken before he set off to war, hung in the Vaines’ cottage, with his medals below it. After Eva died, Ivy gave the medals to the young boy next door who was fascinated by them, and Ann ended up with the photo.

Ann also told us that after Sidney’s death, a man from the local British Legion turned up at the cottage and told Eva that Sidney ought to have a military funeral – he made sure that the coffin was draped in a Union flag and poppy wreaths, and that a bugler was in attendance.

A shell case (below left) brought back by Sidney, with the date 1917 on the bottom. His sister-in-law Dora used it as a flower vase.

Sidney also brought back a bullet and some French coins – which were turned into this unusual ornament (below right) by his father-in-law Joseph Bartik, using the metal-work skills he had learned in the gold mines of South Africa.

The coins on the top and base are dated 1913, and two buttons from Sidney’s army uniform have also been incorporated on the base and stem.

Shell case and ornament


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