b. 17/12/1895 Lewes, Sussex. d. 30/07/1915 Hooge, Belgium.
Sidney Clayton Woodroffe (1895-1915) was born at High Field, St Johns, Lewes, East Sussex on 7th December 1895. His father, Henry Long Woodroffe, was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1st Sussex Volunteer Corps on 27th June 1883. He was a wine merchant in partnership with Frederick Browning in the firm Browning & Woodroffe, trading from the Corn Exchange Buildings in Lewes. In 1884, Henry dissolved the partnership and entered another with George Norman as brewers and maltsters at Cooksbridge, near Lewes, trading as George Norman & Co. Sydney’s mother was Clara Eliza Alice nee Clayton, and she married Henry in Paddington, London in 1883. Sidney had four siblings, three brothers and a sister. Sadly, the sister died as an infant.
Sidney was educated at Rose Hill School, Banstead then at Marlborough College, where he was Senior Prefect, Captain of the OTC and winner of the Curzon-Wyllie Medal awarded annually to the most efficient member of the OTC. He was also a member of the Rugby XV 1912-1914, Hockey XI and Cricket XI. He was accepted for a classical scholarship at Pembroke College, Cambridge but did not take the place due to the war.
He was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade on 23rd December 1914. He went to France on 25th May 1915. On 30th July 1915 at Hooge, Belgium, when the enemy had broken through the centre of our front trenches, Second Lieutenant Woodroffe’s position was heavily attacked with bombs from the flank and subsequently from the rear, but he managed to defend his post until all his bombs were exhausted. He then skillfully withdrew his remaining men and immediately led them forward in a counter-attack under intense rifle and machine-gun fire, and was killed whilst in the act of cutting the wire obstacles in the open.
Sidney was the first VC awarded to a unit of the New Armies. At the same time, Sidney was killed, another casualty was Lieutenant Gilbert Talbot, after whom Talbot House in Poperinghe was named. Two days later his brother, Neville Talbot crawled into no mans land and identified his brother’s and Sidney’s bodies. Neville managed to recover his brother’s body a week later, but Sidney’s body was not found after the war and he is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He never married and left an estate valued at £968 16s 10d.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC was sent to his father by post on 16th October 1916, but was presented formally to his parents by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916. The family sold his VC in the 1970s to a private collector. It was purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft in 2001 and is displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ON MENIN GATE MEMORIAL, YPRES, BELGIUM. PANEL 46/48/50.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Woodroffe VC Brass Plaque at Lochnagar Crater, The Somme.