War veteran who campaigned to give former comrade a military funeral has died at the age of 95

Soldier Sidney Swift

Soldier Sidney Swift - Credit: Archant

A WISBECH war veteran who campaigned to give a former comrade a military funeral has died at the age of 95. Sidney Swift buried his friend in Sicily in 1943 - but was upset to discover almost 70 years later that the soldier had no official military grave.

Sid campaigned to give a former comrade a military funeral

Sid campaigned to give a former comrade a military funeral - Credit: Archant

Sid lived almost his entire post-war life in Wisbech. Here he married Mary (née Sheppard), whom he had met in the dancing school in the The Crescent. Until his retirement in 1979, he worked as a compositor for the printing firm of Balding & Mansell.

He and Mary raised their two children in wisbech. Yet his first memories were of London. He was born at Brixton. Sid frequently visited Jack Massey, his paternal grandfather, who has been described as 'the last of the great bare-knuckle boxers'.

After attending Tenison's School in Leicester Square, he moved with it to a new site by the Oval. The location afforded tantalising half-views of test matches. Once the library had closed, Sid and his schoolmates irritated bus conductors by hopping on and off their vehicles as they passed along the ground, in the hope of glimpsing a wicket from the upper deck. Sid's lifelong love of cricket was only slightly tempered by regrets that he once casually turned down special training sessions from the England bowler, Alf Gover.

Sid's father, who had been injured at the Somme, moved his family to the peaceful Buckinghamshire village of Monks Risborough. But the rural idyll was soon interrupted by the outbreak of a second war.

You may also want to watch:

Sid signed up and disembarked from Liverpool on a troop ship which would pass by South Africa and Madagascar, en route to Bombay and then Iraq, as the soldiers arrived to quell rebellions and fight armies which were not there.

In 1943, Sid and the London Irish regiment left Egypt and landed at Sicily. In bitter fighting outside Catania, Sid lost many of his friends and colleagues.

Most Read

He buried comrade Rifleman Horace Savage in a ditch, but later discovered he had official grave, althought his name does appear at the Cassino war cemtery.

At Anzio, Sid was taken prisoner. He was transported on the back of a lorry to Rome, before being transferred by rail to the Stalag camp at Torun, now in Poland. Sid would say that the hardships and privations he experienced helped him to get through life at its difficult moments, and indeed he bore the indignities of old age with great courage.

In recent years, Sid's shock of white hair was easily spotted, as he travelled acoss the market place on his buggy. He could be found at home sipping a sherry and listening to band leader Bert Ambrose, or devising some homespun contraption in his shed.

The embodiment of the polite values of a bygone age, Sid was loved and respected by all who knew him. His wife and son predeceased him. He leaves behind a daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His funeral takes place at Peterborough Crematorium on Tuesday August 20 at 2pm.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter