Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Sidney Ray

Sidney Ray : Photograph of Sidney in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: Acc3435

Photograph of Sidney in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc3435

Sidney Ray : (L to R) General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Palestine'; Africa Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaf

(L to R) General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Palestine'; Africa Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaf

Sidney was born on the 17th November 1912 in Glodwick, Oldham. His mother was called Ada. We don't know anything about his early life or family.

By late 1930 Ada had remarried to Edward Holt. We don't know whether Sidney's father had died or divorced. He already had two sons, named George Edward and John, so Sidney gained two step-brothers. Ada, Edward and George lived at 60 Abbey Hills Road in Oldham. Sidney was working as a cotton operative; we don't know whether he also lived at Abbey Hills Road.

Sidney must have wanted more from life, because on the 14th January 1931 he joined the Army in Manchester. He chose to join the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 3524750.

When he enlisted Sidney was 5 feet 4 1/4 inches tall and weighed 121 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair.

Sidney trained at the Regimental Depot at Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton-under -Lyne. Whilst he was there he obtained the 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education on the 26th February. After almost 7 months he was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Shorncliffe in Kent on the 11th July. He was able to obtain his 2nd Class Certificate of Education here on the 9th October. They moved to Gosport, Hampshire, later that month.

During 1932 Sidney became a Signaller, responsible for maintaining communications between the battalion and higher headquarters. He will have been trained to operate 'wireless', or radio, sets, and been taught Morse code. As a Signaller, he was assigned to the Battalion's Headquarters Wing.

The battalion was based in Gosport until January 1934. At 10pm on the 7th Sidney went absent without leave. We don't know why he did this, although he must have known the 1st Battalion was scheduled to leave the UK later that month. He was 'apprehended by the civil power' at 11:45am on the 22nd, and returned to military custody. He set sail with the rest of the battalion the next day. They were bound for the Caribbean.

Although the battalion was at sea, discipline had to be maintained. Sidney was sentenced to 10 day's detention, and forfeited 15 day's pay.

In the Caribbean the 1st Battalion was split between Jamaica and Bermuda. We believe Sidney was stationed in Jamaica. He had a good reputation as a signaller. He was 'good, keen and intelligent...a capable signaller and reliable'.

The 1st Battalion left the Caribbean for Egypt on the 26th September 1935. The battalion sailed aboard the troopship Dorsetshire. At one point during the voyage the ship's wireless either broke or had to be switched off. Sidney was stationed on the ship's bridge, and it would appear he helped to maintain communications in some form. He was 'highly commended by the Captain of HMT Dorsetshire for his efficiency'.

Tensions between the UK, who ruled Egypt, and Italy, who ruled neighbouring Libya, were rising during this period. After they arrived in Egypt Sidney and the 1st Battalion took part in patrols of the border, and trained to operate from vehicles rather than on foot.

After the situation calmed during early 1936 Sidney returned to barracks in Moascar. He was promoted to Unpaid Lance Corporal on the 21st September 1936.

The next year, in June 1937, Sidney applied to extend his Army service from 7 years to 12. He had been awarded 2 Good Conduct Badges, and his conduct was rated as 'Very Good', so this was allowed.

The 1st Battalion stayed in Egypt until the 14th January 1938, and spent much of this time training to become a mechanised machine gun battalion. This meant soldiers needed to be trained in driving, vehicle maintenance and machine gun shooting as well as maintaining all their other skills.

No sooner was the battalion retrained and reorganised than everything had to be reversed. The 1st Battalion had been ordered to move to Palestine and serve as an infantry unit.

A rebellion had broken out amongst several of the Arab tribes living in Palestine, and the British needed more soldiers to bring it under control. The 1st Battalion was based in the area around the city of Acre. Their roles were to search for gangs of rebels, to patrol the countryside and to guard important areas against attack.

Sidney did not move to Palestine with his comrades. He had returned to the UK to attend Number 123 Regimental Signalling Instructor's Course at the Army School of Signals at Catterick in Yorkshire. This ran between the 6th January and the 1st April. He qualified with a first class pass (a Q1) and was qualified as an Assistant Instructor of Signalling (Infantry).

Sidney 'benefitted greatly from his course and is an excellent instructor'. He was 'of a quiet disposition' but 'intelligent and with plenty of imagination'.

On the 27th January Sidney began to be paid as a Lance Corporal. Three weeks after he rejoined the battalion he was promoted to Signal Corporal.

The 1st Battalion left Palestine on the 24th September 1938. They moved to Singapore. They began to build defences and train to resist an invasion. Their main role was to man pillboxes on the beaches of the island. Sidney was appointed Unpaid Lance Sergeant between the 14th July and the 29th December 1939. The same day he gave up this rank, he left the job of Signal Corporal.

Britain was now at war with Germany and Italy. We don't know whether this had anything to do with Sidney's next move. On the 5th June 1940 he was attached to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. This was also a machine gun battalion. It was based in Egypt.

Sidney spent just 4 months with his new regiment. During August he was promoted to Lance Sergeant and then to Acting Sergeant, but he returned to the rank of Corporal in early October.

On the 20th October 1940 Sidney set sail for Aden. Officially he had returned to the Manchester Regiment, but he was not rejoining one of its units. Instead he was sent to Aden on secondment to the Aden Protectorate Levies (APL).

The Aden Protectorate was a British colony. It now forms part of Yemen. The Levies were an armed unit that recruited local tribesmen to protect the colony. Its Officers and some Non Commissioned Officers were British. The force was being more than doubled in size because of the war.

On the 27th February 1941 Sidney fell ill. He spent a week at the RAF Hospital near Khormaksar. We don't know what was wrong with him.

We don't know much about what Sidney did in Aden. He was assigned to HQ Company, and heavily involved in leading and training the unit in many different areas, such as signalling and anti-gas warfare.

Sidney left Aden for Tewfik in Egypt on the 30th June. After an 8 day voyage he spent 2 weeks there. We don't know why. On the 11th December of that year Sidney was promoted to Company Sergeant Major (CSM).

The soldiers in the APL spoke mainly Arabic. In order to effectively communicate with them Sidney needed to be able to speak this language as well. On the 30th January 1943 he passed an examination in Colloquial Arabic.

A year after he became a CSM, Sidney was promoted again. He became a Local Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) on the 8th December 1943. This gave him that rank in Aden, but not elsewhere in the world.

On the 13th January 1944 Sidney was Mentioned in Despatches. This recognised his distinguished service during the war.

Sidney's time in Aden came to an end in February 1945. He was 'beloved' by his soldiers, and had 'a hand in the improvement of everything in this Regiment'. He 'does not know what is fatigue or disgust'. He deserved 'promotion and advancement and this what has happened'. His men wished him 'long life, happy and prosperous'.

Sidney returned to the UK and was posted to the 24th Machine Gun Training Centre in Chester. This was where recruits for the Manchester Regiment, the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and the Army's other machine gun units were trained. His rank of RSM was confirmed at the same time.

Although we don't know why, Sidney had to be admitted to hospital when he arrived in the UK. He was treated at the Military Hospital on Liverpool Road until the 3rd March. This later became the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Three weeks after he left hospital Sidney was posted to the 2/6th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. He served with this unit until the 6th May. We don't know anything about its role, but it was based at Farmley Park in Otley, Yorkshire.

On the 6th Sidney was sent to the Regimental Duties Wing of the Infantry Non Commissioned Officer's School. He attended a short course, which lasted until the 28th. After this he was posted to Number 6 Selection and Training Infantry Battalion. This unit appears to have been based in or near Chester, because Sidney was sent to hospital there on the 7th July.

Sidney was suffering from a duodenal ulcer. By the 15th August he had still not recovered. The war had ended by this time, so the Army decided to release Sidney. He was sent on leave for 121 days before he was finally discharged as 'permanently unfit for any form of military service' on the 13th December 1945. He returned to his family, who still lived at 60 Abbey Hills Road.

Sidney's military conduct had been 'exemplary'. He was 'A good type. He has rendered valuable service throughout his army career. He is honest, reliable, sober, used to responsibility and fitted in every way to fill any position of trust in civilian employment'.

We don't know much about Sidney's life after he left the Army. Between October and December 1947 Sidney married Joan Ray in Oldham. They had no children.

On the 10th January 1956 Sidney rejoined the Army. He enlisted in the Royal Armoured Corps of the Territorial Army in Oldham. This suggests he joined the 41st Royal Tank Regiment, which was based there. He was given the service number 23222535, but only served for 146 days. He was discharged 'at his own request' on the 4th June.

By 1960 Sidney had returned to Ladysmith Barracks. He worked as the Sergeant's Mess Caterer for the Royal Army Pay Corps unit based here. Later he worked as a labourer until he retired.

At the end of his life Sidney and Joan lived at 167 Horsedge Street in Oldham. Sidney died here on the 8th May 1979. He was 66 years old. We believe Joan died in March 2000 aged 74.

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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council