George Thomas Sydney Rumball was born in Colchester on 18th February 1896.
As his father’s first name was also George, he was known as Sydney. His was a military family; George in 1896 being a Sergeant in the 1st Battalion Kings Dragoon Guards, later also winning an M.C. and rising to the rank of “Quarter Master & Honorary Captain” in the 24th Battalion The Welsh Regiment before the war ended.
During his early teenage years the family lived in Earls Court, London. Sydney worked as a clerk for the newly nationalised General Post Office’s telephone engineering and manufacturing facility at the Mount Pleasant factory. Initially, he joined the Civil Service Army Cadets (March to July 1914), but left due to “lack of time for drills due to studies”. The studies took the form of working to successfully obtain a “Certificate Of Civil Service Commission”; something roughly equivalent to today’s secondary education.
In March 1915 aged 19 Sydney enlisted as a private in the RAMC, serving in France from August 1915 based at the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station in France.
A year later in August 1916 he applied for a regular army commission; being accepted as an officer cadet in October 1916; passing-out and being gazetted as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant on 2nd April 1917.
Aged 21, he joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers near Arras on 26th May 1917. He would probably have been drafted in as a part of a batch of replacements to cover recent losses; in April 1917 the 29th Division had fought in the Battle of Arras; in particular at Monchy le Preux on 14th April 1917.
In early August 1917 within three months of joining his battalion and still aged only 21, he was awarded a Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led patrols on four consecutive nights, returning on each occasion with valuable and accurate information. The consistent example of courage and determination which he set inspired all his men to exert themselves to the utmost. Boesinghe sector (Belgium) 7th to 10th August 1917”.
The site of this action was a small salient in the German lines to the north west of Ypres; a feature clearly visible on trench maps and marked as Caesar’s Nose. The site is next to the present day small 68-grave CWWG “Welsh Cemetery (Caesar’s Nose)”. Nowadays there is a useful map orientation board at the site, on the track that leads to the Welsh Cemetery. This orientation board points out the location of the Caesar’s Nose salient.
During the next eight months leading up to his death on 13th April 1918, Sydney took part in the following major actions:
- Third Ypres: Battle Of Langemarck – 15th & 16th August 1917.
- Third Ypres: Battle Of Poelcapelle – 9th & 10th October 1917.
- Cambrai – 20th & 21st November 1917. Sydney was “seconded to brigade HQ” for this action; he was a part of the “10% left out of battle” to be used as a nucleus for rebuilding the battalion should it suffer large loss.
- Forth Ypres: The Lys – 11th to 13th April 1918.
(Photograph: Vieux Berquin towards Labis Farm. October 2006.)