Bryan Diamond has researched his family's history in London from the 1850s. In this lecture he explains how he went about tracing the career of an uncle, Lieutenant Sidney Diamond DCM, using a variety of online, paper and oral sources.
I'm going to tell you the story of my uncle who started in from East London, didn't attend any prestigious school, at the age of 24 joined the infantry in Australia, was in two major battles, Gallipoli (1915) and the 3rd Battle of Ypres - or Passchendaele (1917). He fought at times beside British soldiers, was wounded twice - but not seriously, fortunately - promoted first as a sergeant and then commissioned as an officer.
This may be a somewhat similar story to that of many others in the Imperial Forces, although his Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for conspicuous gallantry and his founding of an association for ex-servicemen in London were not so ordinary.
I hope my talk will illustrate the manner in which numerous details of a World War One ancestor can now be found, especially from the internet - the Australian National Archive being especially good - but also from older printed sources of books and archives which can give background information and some personal reminiscences if one is lucky.
So that summarises... gives you what I'm going to talk about.
Here, if you want to glance at that, is a chronology of the main dates in Sidney's varied career, notably in the Australian Army.
So, to begin. Sidney, I may call him Sid for brevity, was born January 1890, the third child of Isaac Diamond, a timber merchant then in Bethnal Green. By 1894 his family was in a decent semi-detached villa in Dalston, Borough of Hackney. See here his parents and the home they were living in.
In 1908 the family moved to Westcliffe, but in May Sidney emigrated to New Zealand. I have not found about Sid's schooling although I do know his next youngest sibling born a few years later attended a private school in Kew, so there was money for that.
Sid while in Dalston attended the Jewish Lads' Brigade, or JLB, the Hackney Company - of which there's a picture here - which was founded December 1901 as the 31st JLB company. They met for drill in the South Hackney Synagogue, Devonshire Road on Wednesdays from 7.30pm to 9.00pm or in the hall of the 4th Essex Volunteers. Sid was a member for over six years, gaining several distinctions and leaving as a sergeant at the end of 1906, then aged nearly 17.
The JLB was founded in the East End of London in 1895 when the first company was enrolled. It was modelled on the Church Lads' Brigade [CLB]. The founder, Colonel Goldsmid wanted to 'iron out the ghetto bend' of the immigrant Jews with an organisation that would instil discipline and patriotism and which encouraged physical activities and camping. The idea became popular and membership by 1904 was about 3,500.
The JLB emphasised organisation and discipline. Members were ranked by ability. There were army-style drill and uniforms. Shooting practice with live ammunition took place, for example, from 1903 by sharing the range of a rifle club. An interviewee said, 'Drilling was very important, more than anything else, and every Sunday morning we used to have parades and finish up with marches around the streets of Hackney.'
An aim of such youth movements was to produce patriotic fit men ready to carry the imperial mission abroad. So, I wonder, did this inspire Sidney to go?
So it seems natural that on leaving the JLB he joined a volunteer force. His application to enlist in the Australian infantry in 1914, which I will show you, mentions under 'previous service': London Rifle Brigade, three years, discharged. So I hadn't heard of this and I had to find out about the London Rifle Brigade which Sid declared that he had joined.
It began in 1859 as a volunteer rifle corps. It owned, from 1893, a large drill hall in Bunhill Row in the City of London. It sent officers and men to South Africa for the Boer War. The brigade was then incorporated in the Territorial Army (TA), in 1908, then training was improved including at weekends, four days in barracks at Easter, together with some regular soldiers and a paid summer camp. Khaki uniforms were now issued free in return for an undertaking to enlist for four years, but Sidney was not there for four years so he must have, I think, broken this pledge.
As to the minimum age at which Sid could have enlisted, this is slightly uncertain. The best I could find was that from 1795, for county militia, each parish was responsible for listing all males aged 18 to 45. Enlistment age for volunteers prior to World War One, I believe, was 18 years old, except for younger boys, such as drummer boys. Regulations for enrolment from 1908 in the TA gives 17 as the minimum. So Sid could have enrolled from 1907 only until May 1908 when he was on ship abroad, which wouldn't allow three years' service. So perhaps he joined for a year and a bit.
Recruits had to pay an admission fee of 25 shillings (the value now about £110) - although half was refunded on passing an exam within a week - and a company fee of 2s 6d. These sums would have excluded the working class. So the LRB was an elite unit in the TA. The middle class were enthusiastic for it. In 1906 enrolment in the LRB was 530, of which 15 per cent were under 21, although by 1908 numbers had fallen to 465.
Patriotism was an important reason for enlistment in view of the likely threat from Germany; naval rivalry from 1905, as you may know. So Sidney joined a select English middle-class group. Regular training would have brought him close to other recruits and there were also social activities. He could have returned in the evenings to Westcliffe - if he lived there at all - by train after the training with the LRB.
There were Jewish members at least from the 1899 Boer War, but his contacts with non-Jews there may have contributed to his later leaving the Jewish community. He married out in 1917.
So, to emigration to New Zealand. That's a picture of him with the family just before he went. I assume that he trained as a piano tuner - yes, piano tuner - in Hackney. There were piano factories there needing tuners and self-teaching books. It was a time of emigration to the Empire. Two of his elder sibs [siblings] had gone to Canada. Perhaps he didn't want to move with his parents to unfamiliar Westcliffe. So, that's before he went.
A shipping record here shows: 'S Diamond, Tuner, Travelling alone.' Leaving London for Wellington in May 1908, third class on a ship, the 'Ruapehu' - a New Zealand term - built in 1901, capacity 90 in the third class, which he was travelling in. The voyage out took 42-50 days via Cape Town then. Fares to Wellington, 3rd class, ranged from £16 to £21. I assume he must have been given passage money by his father.
Sid was in Auckland, New Zealand and at least briefly in a port in the North Island, as a piano tuner. That was poorly paid and he was also a canvasser for insurance policies for two companies from at least 1909 to 1910, as described in several newspaper reports of his being in court. These reports describe him as having a profusion of fair, curly hair and mention his trade as piano tuner, as was stated in the shipping record and in his enlistment.
Now, Sid's career in the Australian infantry is set out in numerous pieces of paper available online at the Australian National Archive, which I have accessed and which really have been the basis for my research into his career, and this paper. And it was previously published in the bulletin of the society which I put up previously. Sid had reached Australia by the date of his enlistment in 1914. Shipping records aren't available for the short journey from New Zealand, so I don't know exactly when he got to Australia.
With his experience in the JLB and LRB he should have been prepared for military life. So, very soon after the outbreak of war in August he enlisted in Melbourne. An all-volunteer expeditionary force - the Australian Imperial Force (or AIF) had been formed from 15 August. Sid enlisted just two days later.
So that's some of the recruiting material and the Rising Sun badge you see at the bottom which is put on the uniforms. You will see bits of the enlistment at the top and the troopship which he later took to Egypt at the bottom of that slide.
In 1908 when he left London he was aged only 18 and could not have completed the three years with the LRB which he stated. He must have falsified this for some reason, as he did his age and next of kin. His height was 5ft 7.5in [1.71m]. As I say, he gave his age as just 21 years 8 months, so evidently no proof of age was then required. His religion he gave as C of E [Church of England], trade as piano tuner, next of kin as John Diamond, 24 Bayswater Street, London. But there was no such street and no 'John' in the family - though he did later name his first child 'Sidney John' - so he did not then intend his family to be informed if he was a casualty.
Out of the 17,000 Jews in Australia there was then an enlistment of 2,000. He was initially in the 6th Infantry Battalion, so-called Victoria Battalion from the state where it was raised, which was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF. The 5th to the 8th Battalions together formed the 2nd AIF Brigade. Each had about 1,000 men including 30 officers.
So, to Egypt. The Embarkation Roll as of 19 October lists him as a lance corporal - paid 5 shillings a day, which was the same as the privates - but he had reverted to a private on arrival in Gallipoli. This was known for other soldiers. After a brief stop in Western Australia he embarked on the troopship 'Hororata', which you can see there, built for the emigrant trade, finished just in 1914 carrying 1,070 passengers, average cruise speed 14 knots, owned by the New Zealand Shipping Company of London.
After the threat of attack by German warships had subsided, a convoy of 36 troopships with officers, men and horses left Melbourne during the period 16-21 October, escorted by four battleships travelling via Colombo, Aden and the Suez Canal to disembark at Alexandria on 2 December 1914.
The AIF was sent first to British-controlled Egypt to pre-empt any attack by the Ottoman Empire and protect the canal with a view to opening another front against Germany and the other Central Powers. The battalion was stationed at Mena in the desert near the pyramids. Facilities were, initially, poor. Leave was allowed in Cairo, as you can see from a picture of those troops by the Sphinx. In February some of the other battalions were amongst those defending the canal against an attack by the Ottomans.
Now, to Gallipoli. Winston Churchill had the idea of seizing the Dardanelles, to be able to get supplies to the Russians and to encourage Bulgaria and Romania to join the Allies. A Russian plea for assistance, coupled with a perception of the Ottoman Empire as a weak enemy made the prospect of a campaign in the Dardanelles seem appealing, but a delay in the attack allowed the Turks to reinforce their defences.
Many of you will know more than I do about this campaign, but after an inconclusive naval bombardment of Turkish forts in the Dardanelles straits the British decided on a land invasion.
On 1 April 1915 the 1st and 2nd AIF Brigades, made up of six battalions - including Sidney's, the 6th - sailed from Alexandria to the Greek island of Lemnos. On the 25th Sid arrived at Gallipoli amongst a force of over 30,000 landed that day from boats off the warships. He landed just north of Gaba Tepe, which is arrowed there. So a landing must have been around there, in what became known as Anzac Cove because New Zealand forces were now also involved in this combined force called Anzac [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps], commanded by the British general Lord Birdwood, who I will say more about at the end. So he arrived north of Gaba Tepe.
The battalion took part in the Anzac landing as part of the second wave in the 2nd Brigade. And there's a picture of them landing from the boats of the warships amongst the over 30,000 landed that day.
So British troops took heavy casualties as they landed. A little to the north, the Anzacs fared slightly better, though they missed their intended landing beaches by about a mile and there they had to scale steep cliffs. Units became disorganised but the determined Aussies heroically scaled almost perpendicular rocks clinging to the few supports, which were probably just thorn scrub. Foot by foot they fought their way up, reached more level ground, and rushed the trenches of the Turks. Heroic deeds were done that day, and all ranks fought superbly.
Pushing inland they were able to gain a shallow foothold. When the Turks became aware of the landing - they had been engaged in trying to repulse British troops - they despatched a force to meet the Australians. By that first evening 16,000 men had been landed. Of these over 2,000 Australians were killed or wounded. Two days later Turks attempted to drive the Anzacs back into the sea but were defeated by tenaciously defending Australians and naval gun fire from battleships in the straits.
The Allies had hoped that the Turks would be trapped between two landing grounds and destroyed, but all that was achieved was the establishment of a toehold in Turkey, followed by trench warfare in the steep and rocky terrain. Fighting continued for days. The Australians strove to consolidate the positions they had wrested with such bravery, but they failed to capture the commanding heights. Can you see - those are Australian soldiers making their way up the steep cliff.
This campaign was the first major battle undertaken by the Anzac forces and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both of these countries. And this day, 25 April, was the date originally of the Anzac Day celebrations in those countries.
Sid there, carrying messages, was evidently a signaller, as we hear subsequently. His bravery after the landing led to the award of the DCM medal - as you can see in the citation there:
'For conspicuous gallantry and ability on 25 and 26 April near Gaba Tepe when on one occasion during the operation, most of the officers having been killed or wounded and part of the line having commenced to retire, Private Diamond showed the greatest courage and decision of character in assisting to stop the retirement and in leading the men forward again under a heavy fire. He also frequently carried messages over open ground swept by heavy fire and exhibited a splendid example of devotion to duty.'
And that is the same, but in the handwritten form which it appears in his service record. This citation was also quoted in The Jewish Chronicle [JC] and in the Jewish Book of Honour of Jewish servicemen in 1921.
An Australian paper mentioned the account in conjunction with Sidney and described the action in terms which, I think, are relevant to Sidney. On 27 April a sergeant said,
'The battalion had been having a rough time on the right. We had lost most of our officers and non-coms [non-commissioned officers]. I was with the colonel and a captain; we made a very considerable advance, considering the nature of the country. The losses from shrapnel and rifle fire were very heavy, and some of the men showed a disposition to fall back. That, under the circumstances would have been ruinous. So I tried my best to rally the men sending them back into the firing-line. I got a row together, and kept them at it. We were under very heavy fire, but the men answered every call most gamely, and we hung on til about 10 in the evening, when we had to retire.'
So that sounds fairly similar to Sidney's action from what we can read of the citation. The DCM was second only in value to the VC (the Victoria Cross). Sid was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre according to the Book of Honour, but I haven't found any information about the French citation.
During that battle on 28 April he was promoted to lance corporal, though he still - as you see - was designated as private in the citation. On 5 May the 2nd AIF Brigade, including Sidney, was transferred from Anzac Cove inland to assist in the attack on the village of Krithia. Fortified by 105 pieces of heavy artillery, the Allied forces moved from their beachhead onto Krithia, which was located at the base of the flat-topped hill of Achi Baba. Starting at noon on 6 May, facing superior enemy numbers and suffering from a shortage of ammunition, the Allies were still able to advance some 600 yards [550m], but failed to capture either Krithia or the hill after three attempts in three days.
During the unsuccessful attack, the 6th Battalion - that's Sidney's - suffered heavy casualties, losing 133 men killed or died of wounds. At the final attack, which was prefaced by a preliminary shrapnel bombardment - shrapnel, I assume, rather than conventional shells because they were short of ammunition - which didn't greatly damage the Turkish positions, real gains were still made with the Turkish line pushed back by almost a kilometre.
But the advance was ground to a halt and finally the main Turkish line could be seen about 400m [440 yards] in front, with a 'skirmish line' even closer. I don't know what that was - perhaps some of you may be familiar with it. The Australians then dug in and reinforced their hard-won gains. The 2nd Brigade suffered over 1,000 casualties out of a complement of 2,900 men. So that was taking place on 6 May.
On 12 May Sidney suffered a shrapnel wound in his leg after a surprise attack by the Turks when 200 Anzacs were killed. He was evacuated and taken by the hospital ship 'Nevaska' via Alexandria to the Western General Hospital in Manchester where he was in July.
Evacuation of the wounded from Gallipoli was initially chaotic. Eventually proper lines were established to hospital ships and back to base hospitals at the Greek Lemnos, Egypt and Malta and then some of them also in England. Medical care in Egypt was poor, so Sidney was fortunate not to be there. The Manchester hospital became the largest military hospital in the UK.
So Sid had written from Alexandria to his parents, as you will see from this newspaper account. Despite his stating a fictitious next-of-kin he was evidently now in touch with them. He wrote that his wound from shrapnel was at the back of his knee and not bad, but he had expected to get 'another stripe', which is to be promoted. He also asked for papers to be sent to him, presumably English newspapers.
In June he was pictured in the Jewish popular press as 'Wounded in Action'. From 10 August to 16 September he was at the Woodcote, a camp at Epsom which became a convalescent hospital, and from June it received many Anzac troops who had been wounded at Gallipoli. Pictures of the camp show the slouch hats of the Australians. There were also British troops there. Many of the wounded were allowed into Epsom town as they returned to health.
On 1 October he appeared, as you see from this slide, at the main Manchester Synagogue in Cheetham Hill feted as a brilliant hero. This congregation had been catering for the welfare of soldiers stationed in the area. So here he was content to be acknowledged as part of the Jewish community.
In November he was pictured twice in The Jewish Chronicle - I don't know who submitted these photos, it would be interesting to know - designated as DCM. One of them is on leave in Egypt, as you can tell from the camel and the Sphinx. And also he is designated as a signaller there, so that confirms that. And of course the DCM is mentioned in both those pictures. Australian signallers it is known were used to lay telephone cables to the front.
After the December withdrawal from Gallipoli his battalion returned to Egypt and then in 1916 Sid travelled on the troopship 'Ionic' to Tel el Kebir in the Nile Delta, a training centre for the AIF reinforcement in Egypt. In February he transferred to the 58th Battalion. This had been raised in Egypt as part of the expansion of the AIF. Roughly half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans, such as Sidney, the other half were fresh from Australia.
Then on 22 February he moved to the 'School of Instruction, Zeitoun' according to his service record. This must be the Imperial School in Cairo, but he left there on 25 March.
The 5th Cyclist Corps was formed in the third week of April in Egypt from volunteers; cyclists had been used in the Boer War and by all combatants in World War One, as you see from these pictures of examples. Sid transferred there on 12 May. Although no problems were encountered in finding enough NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and privates to fill out the unit establishments, there were not enough officers. The War Diary of the 5th Cyclist Company records that on 14 May four NCOs, including Sergeant S Diamond, were appointed second lieutenant to make up officer deficiencies.
Sid's experience in London may have allowed him to progress rapidly in the AIF, where he had been a sergeant by February 1916 and became a full lieutenant on 13 September. And here you see pictures of him with other officers and also actually with his wife - I'm just coming to his marriage - you see him with his officer's stick.
The 5th Division Company went on to form the Australian Company of the 2nd Anzac Corps Cyclist Battalion; cyclists were mainly used as despatch riders. The photo you see there on the left shows him with the quartermaster and another officer and he is designated on the mount as 'Intelligence Officer', which was a role for him, I think. There: 'Intelligence Officer'.
Then he was moved to France. On 17 June he embarked from Alexandria for France, of course the main battleground of World War One, disembarking on the 25th at Marseille and the unit arrived four days later in Steenwerk in northern France, where training was organised. Many troops from the Empire were stationed nearby.
Parties of eight men on bicycles included one officer. But on 21 September Sid rejoined his original battalion, the 60th, which itself had heavy losses at the Battle of Fromelles in July. Over 5,000 Australians were then causalities or taken prisoner - a decisive defeat. The War Diary simply mentions: 'Lieutenant Diamond attached'.
The next I know is that early in 1917, the battalion participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, but it was spared having to assault it. It did defend gains made during the Second Battle of Bullecourt in July 1916 [sic - 1917]. The battalion was allocated defensive duties for ten months, fortunately for Sid, who had bronchitis in a field hospital from 15 February 1917 for two weeks.
A book by Robin Corfield 'Hold Hard Cobbers' reproduces extracts from a Private Paton's diary. For example, see here: 'Going out with Sid on the night of 5 March, visiting most of the evacuated German trenches'.
On 22 April Private Paton wrote that he was in a Scout or Intelligence platoon, with 'Lieutenant Diamond over us. He is a great character with a propensity for hair-raising expeditions when we are in the line. Some call us "Diamond's Brigands"'.
You can see why at the foot of the extract there: 'from that habit of searching Fritzes and their dugouts for souvenirs, papers, etc.' The book also mentions, 'We advanced in a long open line...' and that they dug a trench for a telephone cable. So that was what he was doing in April.
On 5 May he went with the 15th Battalion to a training unit at the Anzac Hurdcott Camp near Salisbury where many Anzacs passed through. A bombing school was nearby in Lyndhurst. Three days later he was married in a chapel, on the western side of Manchester, on 8 May to Sarah Cooper; her father was then a joiner. I am told that Sarah used to serve Sid with tobacco in a shop in Manchester.
His wife's address he then gave to the Army as that of his next-of-kin, replacing the fictitious one. His wife's address being in Trafford Park, an industrial suburb where there were many munition factories. Perhaps they had a brief honeymoon, and I've shown you the picture of him with his wife.
Later the AIF's involvement switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium. That is a picture of him in September and, you see the red arrow, the group of officers, It's labelled the '60th Battalion officers in France, September 1916' [sic - 1917] and there I've arrowed Sid.
Why Ypres? Well many of you will know why. That's a brief attempt to describe it. The high ground to the east of Ypres was important. The salient held by the Allies jutted into it, but the German-held land allowed the view over the British and Allied lines. In this salient the Brits held the trenches southwards, helped by the Anzacs.
From 31 July to 10 November took place the Third Battle of Ypres - often known as 'Passchendaele', which many of you will be familiar with. After a French disaster, the British tried a breakthrough in Flanders involving crossing the boggy ground of Passchendaele. Sid may have stayed in England until he transferred on 21 September to the 60th Battalion which was one of the four in the 15th Brigade of the 5th AIF Division. Four days later the Australian divisions were part of a renewed Allied offensive and here I show you some maps of the battlefield, various ones.
You can see the front lines on the left, the British and Allies in blue and the red the Germans at various states. And there's another version showing - again, arrowed - the front lines, showing how they did manage to move the Germans back a bit.
Advancing side by side the Anzacs forces formed the centre of the attack in what has since become known as the Battle of Menin Road. The battle proved a success, although a costly one as the Australians suffered approximately 5,000 casualties.
On 20 September, after a massive bombardment, the Allies attacked and managed to hold their objective of about 1,400m, despite heavy counter-attacks. But the Allies suffered 21,000 casualties. The Germans by this time had a semi-permanent front line with very deep dugouts.
And there's yet another map showing... although the red here are German fortifications, and there you can see Polygon Wood which I will mention, and another place so called by the British 'Black Watch Corner', where Sidney was also involved.
Polygon Wood was a forest on the axis of the Australian advance. Shelling had reduced the wood to little more than stumps and broken timber. Here are two pictures showing the scene; the 60th's major battle was here. There is also a painting [Warrington Road, 1917 by Richard Tennant Cooper] on the wall there at the front you may like to look at afterwards, again showing broken stumps near Ypres.
On 26 September the 4th and 5th Divisions, which had been attached to the 1st Anzac Corps for fighting around Polygon Wood, carried out a successful attack in which they managed to capture both the wood and parts of the village of Zonnebeke. The 4th and 5th Divisions of Anzac attacked in the centre of seven divisions; thus they fought beside British troops, as I will show from Frank Richards's account.
The main obstacles were the dozens of German concrete pillboxes which protected the enemy machine gunners. The Aussies had to arrive just as the Allied artillery barrage lifted from them and the occupants were still dazed by explosions. At some pillboxes there was resistance, but many Germans surrendered when they found themselves rapidly surrounded.
The battle is described in the official history: White tapes were laid the previous night to guide the troops. The advance began at 6.00am on the 26th with a barrage. The 4th Division captured its objectives in an hour, but the 15th was less fortunate, due to the German strong points, and the 57th and 60th - that was Sid's battalion - had been badly damaged on the previous day and were replaced at the last moment.
Early on the 26th the 60th was at Polygon Wood. It took part in an advance to recover lost ground; described in the official history. The first company of the 60th had got through with 21 causalities. The second company, advancing in successive so-called 'worm groups' when the shelling was terrific, had a lieutenant and nine men hit en route. In the next two hours, waiting near headquarters, it lost a lieutenant wounded and 53 men. Late in the afternoon it was partly reorganised by Lieutenant S Diamond.
By the evening the men were scattered, unorganised, and without instructions. But on the 27th, after another artillery barrage, the battalion advanced with little opposition and by the end of the day the objectives had been met. So there's a photo and a painting of the attack. The tins I will come to in a moment, tins of Maconochie's.
The Yorkshire [sic - Royal Welsh] Fusilier private soldier Frank Richards, in his well known book about his experience in World War One, mentions Sid. That was pictures of the instruction. Frank Richards mentions that on the 26th he was in a trench near the south-west corner of Polygon Wood. He was soon friendly with an Australian officer. 'Mr Diamond, wearing the ribbon of the DCM, won in Gallipoli.' The annotated version of the book identifies him as Sid.
Richards wrote of reaching Black Watch Corner, 'Ahead was a bank lined with Aussies through whom the Fusiliers charged, the German shells falling on their position.' He wrote of sharing a tin of food - it was Maconochies, as I've just shown you - with Sid. They were lucky to have only two casualties in their part of the strongpoint. 'Mr Diamond expected a counter-attack. He lined us up on the parapet and told us to lie down. Suddenly a German plane swooped low, machine-gunning us. Several were killed.'
Sid was wounded on 27 September, we don't know exactly how, but he remained on duty. Richards wrote of next day going to a casualty station, past wrecked tanks. 'Mr Diamond passed us with his arm in a sling and said, "I'm glad to see you alive". He had been hit in the arm. Shells were bursting here and there and we could smell gas.' They reached the casualty station at twilight. A commotion on the Australian front led an Australian officer to turn his men out of their trench - which I assume, again, was Sid. This gives us some idea of the battle.
Last month I was in the re-grown wood and saw traces of trenches and - as you can see on the left - a German bunker. I also saw the adjacent Aussie cemetery.
In November Sid joined the Anzac School Corps which was near Amiens for six weeks, perhaps as an instructor, his records don't say. The school was formed in France in 1916 for the Australians. It ran advanced courses. In October Sid noticed a hernia and he was operated on in January, but fit only for sedentary duty. He returned to duty at a command depot at Salisbury Plain where a number of AIF units did their training. So perhaps Sid recuperated there. It had a military hospital.
In April he was at a medical board near Salisbury Plain and from 4 August to 12 November, the day after the Armistice, he was at No 3 Overseas Base - perhaps a British base - as adjutant to General Lord Birdwood, who as I have mentioned previously, commanded the troops. Birdwood's biography refers to two senior Australian officers helping his administration at his headquarters. I don't exactly know if that refers to Sid. Birdwood was at a dinner in 1939.
Sid's first child, Sidney John, was born July 1919, so must have been conceived in November 1918.
In December 1918 a woman from Melbourne enquired about Sid because she was holding his luggage since 1914 and expected him to return. But in January 1919 he applied for demob [demobilisation] in England, since his wife - we have a letter from her - did not wish to travel to Australia, and he purchased a business in England. He was discharged as medically unfit without gratuity but got £80 as part of his deferred pay. This must have been useful to help him buy the business. Occupation, again, was given as piano tuner.
So Sid settled and traded in Manchester and - as I've said - his son, John Sidney, was born in Prestwich in 1919. In Didsbury, a suburb of Manchester, he was at the wedding of his son, John, in 1943.
So, jumping forward, Sid was set up in business, but in 1937 he was at the Royal Review in Hyde Park of ex-servicemen and women taken by the King a month after the coronation. An Australian contingent marched 20 abreast 'in lounge suits with medals large', led by the High Commissioner. One of these, the one on the right there... in fact all those three are taken from the archive of this museum, with thanks.
Sid's military involvement continued because in 1937 he founded, and was the first Chairman of, the Diggers Abroad Association, or DAA. Since he then lived in Manchester his involvement over a few years with an association based in London must have required commitment. The DAA was intended as an auxiliary to the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia and to the British Legion in London, and it united AIF men either resident or travelling in Britain.
I found two dinner menus. The second menu from press reports: The 2nd Annual Dinner in April 1939 was attended by 400 men. I've just shown you the press photo with the Duke of Kent and Field Marshal Lord Birdwood, whom I've mentioned before - Sid was his adjutant.
This JC report is quite interesting. It gives the information that he had been mentioned in despatches, which I hadn't found from his service record, and it also states that he went to Australia in 1906, but that does not agree with the shipping record so you can't always of course rely upon newspaper reports for absolute accuracy. So Australian newspapers had reported several of the dinners.
In 1939 three of these reports included: '250 men celebrated the inaugural dinner. A tribute was paid to the organising work of the Chairman, Mr S Diamond,' and 'Sid Diamond DCM of the 6th Battalion Signallers and afterwards intelligence officer of the 15th Brigade, was in the chair,' and 'Mr S Diamond replying said that although they were older they were still Diggers. If the occasion arose they were ready again to stand beside the British Tommy.'
The Duke of Kent said that the Association had proved an excellent way to keep in touch. Sid said - and you can see some of his opening remarks here - that the attendance at the dinner was 360, membership was 500. It had arisen from a meeting of three of them - it must be him and two others - at the Royal Review in Hyde Park two years ago, which I have referred to.
Welcoming Lord Birdwood, the Duke said that all who had been at Gallipoli knew how he was concerned with the welfare of the men. The Honorary Secretary, a Mr Jones, thanked Sid for his untiring efforts and zeal. Lord Birdwood gave a speech surveying the World War One campaign. And finally here is Sid and his wife, Sarah, on the left at the wedding of his daughter in 1946. The groom, as you see, in uniform still.
And finally regarding the selection of officers in the AIF, I show here some remarks. By being the official historian you may note what I have underlined at the bottom, that 'Officers were chosen from the whole force instead of from certain cultural or social layers in it. The field of selection was thus vastly wider and both juniors and seniors were chosen mainly for their known personality and capacity in leadership.' That seems, I hope, somewhat relevant to Sid's story.
So he died in 1951 of a heart attack. His story has given me some insight into the organisation and battles of the AIF. I've enjoyed the research. Any questions I will attempt to answer, though I am not an expert on the AIF. His granddaughter, Kerry, who has given me much material for this, and was really the trigger for my research, I invite also to come forward to try to assist.