Sidney George Towills was born in Soho, London, on 14th May 1900. He was the youngest of two children to Henry and Maria Towills. Both had been born in Dorset, but Henry had found work as a constable for the Metropolitan Police and they had moved to London by the early 1890s.
The 1901 census recorded the family as living in Plaistow, but ten years later the family had moved back to Dorset, and were ensconced back in Maria’s home village of Abbotsbury.
When war broke out, Sidney was only 14 years old. He wanted to play his part, however, and as soon as he was able to enlist, he did so. He joined the Royal Navy on 9th April 1918 and, because of his age, was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.
Sidney’s service records show that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a health complexion. He was assigned to the cruiser HMS Powerful and, on his eighteenth birthday, just over a month after enlisting, he was awarded the rank of Ordinary Seaman.
Tragically, Ordinary Seaman Towills’ service was not destined to be a long one. In June, he was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth with empyema, a lung disease; he passed away from the condition on 2nd July 1918. He was barely 18 years of age and had served in the Royal Navy for 96 days.
Sidney George Towills was brought back to Abbotsbury for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in the heart of the village.