Sidney William Alner was born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, in March 1899, one of eleven children to Sidney and Ellen Alner. Sidney Sr was a grocer’s porter, and the family lived on the celebrated Gold Hill in the town.
War was to come when Sidney Jr was only young – he had just turned 15 when it broke out. He saw his older brothers go off to war and was obviously keen to do his bit as well. Until he was old enough, however, he worked as an errand boy for his father’s employers, Stratton Sons and Mead.
His time would come, of course, although dates for Sidney’s enlistment are not clear. A contemporary newspaper record confirms that he arrived in France in January 1918, so it is likely that Private Alner joined up at some point during the previous year.
He joined the Hampshire Regiment, and was assigned to the 1st Battalion. Heavily involved during most of the conflict, the battalion was seen as key to the Final Advance of the autumn of 1918. Private Alner was caught up in the fight to break the Hindenburg Line, fighting on the River Selle and capturing the town of Monchaux.
It was while his battalion was advancing on the village of Préseau on 2nd November, that Private Alner was injured. Shot in the arm, he was evacuated back to England, and admitted to the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot. He would have survived his injuries, had pneumonia not set in, and it was to this that he would succumb on 19th November. He was just 19 years old.
Sidney William Alner’s body was brought back to Dorset. He lies at rest in the Holy Trinity Churchyard in Somerset, within walking distance of his family’s home.
Sidney was the second member of the Alner family to die as a result of the Great War.
His older brother Harry, who had become a chauffeur and went to live in London, joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1915. Private H Alner had served three years in France when he was killed on the front line just three weeks before his brother. He was 32 years old, and left a widow and two children.
When researching Sidney Alner in newspaper articles, an interesting report surfaced.
An unfortunate accident has happened to a little girl, not quite four years old, the daughter of Sidney Alner, who resides in Gold Hill. Heals’ steam hobby horses visited the town on Friday and Saturday in last week, and on the evening of the former day, Alner took his little girl for a ride on the horses.
Whilst they were in motion, the bolt that kept the horse on which Alner sat with his child attached to the connecting rod came out, and he and the little girl were precipitated to the ground.
Alner escaped without injury, but his daughter had one of her legs fractured above the knee. She was taken home, and Dr Evans set the injured limb. Later in the evening she was removed to the Westminster Cottage Hospital.Salisbury and Winchester Journal: Saturday 31st October 1891
This Sidney Alner was Private Alner’s father, and the daughter would have been his older sister Sarah. Nothing more is reported of the incident, and Sarah went on to live until 1945, when she was 57 years old.