b. 03/07/1891 Norwich, Norfolk. d. 17/07/1959 Portsmouth, Hampshire.
Sidney James Day (1891-1959) was born at 4 St Anne’s Lane, off King Street, Conisford, Norwich, Norfolk on 3rd July 1891. His father, William, was a labourer and later a head cellarman at Morgan’s Brewery in Norwich. He married Elizabeth Plowman in 1877 and they lived in various places across Norwich. Sidney was the youngest child of eight, having two brothers and five sisters.
Sidney was educated at St Mark’s School, Lakenham and was also a member of St Mark’s Company, Church Lads’ Brigade. He was employed as an apprentice butcher with Mr Miller of St Catherine’s Plain and later at Saxmundham, Suffolk. He enlisted on 19th September 1914 and was allocated to 9th Suffolk at Shoreham on 21st September. He was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on 14th August 1915 and went to France with the Battalion on 31st August.
At Loos on 26th September he rescued Lieutenant Thomas Tearle Stevens, but the officer was shot dead in his arms as he was being carried to safety. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 1st December. On 18th September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, he was shot four times in the left chest, side, thigh and buttock. He was evacuated to Britain the following day, and was treated at Norfolk War Hospital, Norwich. He was transferred to the 3rd Battalion on 19th March 1917 and when fully recovered, returned to France on 9th June. He transferred to 11th Battalion the following month and was promoted to Corporal on 17th August.
On 26th August 1917 east of Hargicourt, France, Corporal Day was in command of a bombing section detailed to clear a maze of trenches still held by the enemy; this he did, killing two machine gunners and taking four prisoners. Immediately after he returned to his section a stick bomb fell into a trench occupied by five men, one badly wounded. The corporal seized the bomb and threw it over the trench where it immediately exploded. He afterwards completed the clearing of the trench and established himself in an advanced position, remaining for 66 hours at his post which came under intense fire.
Sidney was granted leave in December, which was extended by the War Office to 11th January 1918 due to his wounds and to be able to attend his investiture. He was given a hero’s welcome and civic reception in Norwich. He was a guest at his old school, accompanied by his sister, and presented with a clock. The VC was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 9th January 1918. The following day, he was admitted to Lakenham Military Hospital, Norwich, and then on to Bury St Edmunds Military Hospital on 26th January.
He was returned to 11th Battalion on 7th April, and went missing in action on 10th April, having been wounded by a bullet through the right thumb at Erquinghem, France. His next of kin was informed that he was missing, and then a POW on 7th June. He was held at a camp at Langensalza, having been in hospital initially after capture. He was repatriated through Hull on 23rd December and held on the strength of the Depot.
He was demobilised to the Class Z Reserve on 19th April. He was assessed as 30% disabled and was awarded a pension. Sidney was a member of the VC Guard at the Interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. He returned to butchery and was later employed by the Norwich Electricity Department. In the early 1930s he moved to Portsmouth, Hampshire and took out a lease on the Arcade Restaurant in Portsea. He renamed it the Sidney Day VC Tearoom. On 21st June 1939 he married Doris Edna Gray nee Ellis at Portsmouth. She had been previously married in 1929. She and Sidney had a son, Michael, born on 24th February 1943.
They lived above the Tearoom until 1941 when it was destroyed in the Blitz. They moved to a rented house in Kirby Road before moving to a prefabricated house at 37 Penhale Road, Fratton.
Following the loss of the tearoom, Sidney worked as a dockyard messenger until suffering from tuberculosis and retired on 9th March 1956. He died at Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, Cosham, Hampshire on 17th July 1959 and was buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth. Doris was later buried with him following her death in 1982. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. It is understood that his VC passed to Norman “Norrie” Day (born in 1930 in Norwich, son of Sidney Frank and Mabel Day) who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1950s. Norrie’s relationship to Sidney Day VC is not known. The current whereabouts of the medals is unknown.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT COLLECTION, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: MILTON CEMETERY, PORTSMOUTH, HAMPSHIRE.
The newly renovated grave to
Sidney Day VC (picture: John Sharrock).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT R, ROW 11, GRAVE 6
Picture to the right and below both come from War Illustrated, 10th November 1917.
Memorial Stone in Norwich (26th August 2017) - courtesy of Phil Curme
Replica medals at Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmonds (Memorials to Valour)