b. 14/06/1921 Camberwell, London. d. 08/08/1944 Sourdeval, France.
Sidney Bates (1921-1944) was born in Camberwell, London on 14th June 1921, the son of Frederick Bates, a rag and bone man, and his wife Gladys May (nee Doughty). He had a younger brother, Albert, born in 1923. The family were from a working class background, and after being educated locally, Sidney became a carpenter’s labourer just prior to the outbreak of World War II.
On the outbreak of war, Sidney enlisted with the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment shortly after it had returned from a tour of duty in India in 1940. By the time of the Allied invasion of Normandy following D-Day on 6th June 1944, Sidney had attained the rank of Corporal.
On 6th August 1944 near Sourdeval, France, Bates was commanding a Section. Upon discovering that the enemy had penetrated deeply in the area occupied by his section, Bates seized a light machine-gun and charged, moving forward through a hail of bullets. Although twice wounded, he was undaunted and continued firing until the enemy started to withdraw away from his fire. At that moment he was wounded for a third time — mortally. He still however continued to fire until his strength failed him. By this time the enemy had withdrawn and the situation had been restored, and the immediate threat to his platoon subsided. He died in a nearby field hospital two days later.
The Norfolks’ position was under attack by the 10th SS Panzer Division. The final costs of fighting around Sourdeval for the Norfolks was 160 casualties out of 550. The recommendation for the award was made by Major Cooper-Key, the commanding officer of B Company of the 1st Battalion. The recommendation was turned down initially but Cooper-Key persevered. According to Sergeant George Smith the battalion had been on the march when they had come under fire. A Bren gunner had been killed next to Corporal Bates, who had immediately seized the machine gun and started firing on the enemy.
Although the VC citation (dated 2nd November 1944) gives the hamlet Sourdeval as the location (not to be confused with the market town of Sourdeval about 20 km (12 miles away), it is actually at Pavée. There is a fitting memorial to Bates at Pavée. Bates was laid to rest in the Bayeux War Cemetery. His VC medal group was held privately until the 1980s when the Royal Norfolk Regiment purchased it for £20,000. It is displayed at the Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum, Norwich.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL NORFOLK REGIMENT MUSEUM, NORWICH,, NORFOLK.
BURIAL PLACE: BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY, CALVADOS, FRANCE.
PLOT XX, ROW E, GRAVE 19
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map