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  • Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France. (www.cwgc.org)
Person Details
Idle Bradford Yorkshire
Claude was the son of Lister and Emily Sykes (née Smith). His father Lister was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 1860 and his mother Emily Smith in Shipley, Yorkshire, on 29 October 1859. They were married at Idle Holy Trinity, Bradford, on 25 September 1886. Lister (27) was a warehouseman and Emily (26) a school teacher. They had three children one of whom died in infancy or childhood. Their surviving children were: Francis Benjamin b. Idle 28 August 1887 bap. Holy Trinity 6 November 1887 and Claude b. September 1895 bap. Holy Trinity on 1 December 1895. At the time of the 1891 Census, Lister, an insurance agent, and Emily, a school mistress, were living on Highfield Road, Idle. Their son Francis (3) was recorded in the home of his maternal grandmother, Hannah Smith, on Highfield Road, Idle. Lister and Emily had moved to 416 Alfreton Road, Nottingham, by 1901 where they lived with their two sons, Francis (13) an office boy (insurance office) and Claude (5). Lister was still working as an insurance agent. By 1911 the family was living at 8 Spring Close, Nottingham, where Lister was a retail grocer on his own account. Francis was a joiner at a horticultural works while Claude was a pupil at Mundella School. His brother Francis Benjamin married Ada Broadley in Nottingham in 1913 but his parents later moved to Westmorland as in March 1922 Claude's medals were sent to his mother at Sea View, Arnside, Westmorland. His father Lister died in 1922; his death was recorded in the Kendal Westmorland registration district (O/N/D). His brother Benjamin was living at Bush Hill, Northampton, in 1939 when the England and Wales Register was compiled. Benjamin was a builder's costing clerk. Also in the household were his wife Ada (b. 24 July 1890) and his widowed mother, Emily Sykes, who was incapacitated. The record of one other member of the household remains closed but may be that of their son, Claude John (b. 1918 J/F/M, Basford registration district), who died in 2004 (reg. Northampton, b. 5 January 1918). Emily died in 1954 (J/F/M Northampton). Francis's death was recorded in 1968 (J/F/M Weltham Forest Essex).
Attended Mundella School, Meadows, Nottingham. Member University College Nottingham OTC.
02 Jul 1916
814533 - CWGC Website
General List attd Trench Mortar Bty and 10th Bn York and Lancaster Regiment
York and Lancaster Regiment attd Trench Mortar Battery. CWGC - first name Charles. Claude Sykes served in France from 3 January 1916. He was killed in action on 2 July 1916, the second day of the Battle of the Somme, while 'leading his men into the enemy's trenches.' He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 4C). He qualifieid for the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Mundella Magazine, Xmas 1916 (No 43) - Obituary, Lieutenant Claude Sykes: I met him nine years ago, when I entered the Mundella Secondary School. For the succeeding years he bestowed on me the great honour of his company and friendship. I now undertake the difficult task, a labour of love and duty, of describing a personality as fascinating as it was great; a task difficult for one whose inexperienced pen can do little justice to an intellect so penetrating and a nature of so universal a sympathy. Perhaps the most striking feature of his mind was the breadth of his knowledge and the truly phenomenal extent of his reading. The secret of this achievement must be attributed to his precocious development which enabled him to understand at twelve what others understood only at twenty. Thus he became familiar with all that was great in literature, when quite a boy. With studied neglect for appearances he would fill his pockets with favourite books, to read when the least occasion presented itself to do so. I remember how he was once reproved for the dilapidated appearance of some of his books. “When I read,” he replied, “I like to read a book to bits.” He was a great admirer of Carlyle, and probably knew many passages from his works by heart. The depth and sincerity of this author appealed to the depth and sincerity of his own nature, while the style made a peculiar appeal to him. His own school compositions and later writings betrayed an original and unique mind. Those who were qualified to judge saw in his work the seeds of a great writer, and thought that when experience had taught him what experience teaches, he would have taken [his] place among the great English essayists. He himself considered essay writing his great calling in life, and knowing the immense labour that mastery of the art would involve, he was ready to work for many years. Till then he cared neither for fame nor position. And then – why then this mastery was ambition enough. He was thorough in everything – even in the smallest things. I remember how he once stood in the school yard, at recreation time, sharpening a pencil. A crowd of small boys gathered round him as he went on with his work oblivious of everything; till the ringing of bell brought him back to his surroundings. Those of us who cared to look, saw this small piece of work thoroughly executed. His handmade cigarettes were perfect. I quote these instances as being typical of almost everything that he did. He possessed a keen insight into things and men, and would seize the gist of a problem or an argument without consciously thinking. On one occasion in an algebra lesson, the teacher gave the class a difficult problem in permutations. After some time the teacher asked those who had solved the problem to show their hands. There was only one hand up. “Show me how you did it,” said the teacher, when the correct answer was given, stretching out his hand for the exercise book. But there was not a figure on the paper. “I guessed it, sir”, the boy replied. Murmurs of disapproval rose from all sides. “That is not mathematics,” many voices cried. “Yes,” said the teacher, “But it was more than you could do. That’s the boy,” he cried, pointing to Sykes. And yet Sykes disliked mathematics. He was wonderfully quick in translating Latin unseens, even after only a short period of study of the language. This is only another illustration of his acute intellect and the extent of his reading. No thought or idea was strange to him and it needed but the stimulus of a few familiar-looking words to unravel the mystery of a complex passage in a foreign language. Some thought him eccentric. Perhaps he was a little, but this sprung from the idea that one must be brave enough to be unconventional and occasionally be ready to meet a little ridicule rather than to submit to an illogical convention. Perhaps he was wrong in his application of this theory, but after all this was a venial fault. He had a great deal of practical common-sense which harmonised well with his idealism. “If a thing is of no use, then what’s the use of it?” was his quaint way of expressing a practical attitude to life. He had a keen sense of humour which rarely had recourse to personal jokes, but was broad and universal, endearing him to the hearts of those who knew him. Once when for the sake of a brilliant retort he unthinkingly wounded someone’s sensibility, he repented it and went a long way to remove the little unkindness. But on those occasions when the situation admitted of no compromise, or when he thought compromise was undesirable, he spoke out boldly regardless of the station of his opponent. When the war broke out he was one of the first to offer his services. “Will the Germans win?” I asked him when that formidable enemy was showering blow upon blow. “Not if all the English feel as I feel,” and he looked far away realising to the full what it meant for him. In the army his qualities placed him high in the opinion of his comrades and superiors, and he received a promotion to a lieutenancy just before his death. “He died while gallantly leading his men into the enemy’s trench,” wrote the commanding officer of his battalion. So ended the brief career of a youth of twenty who might have been a great man. (Author ‘AS’)
Remembered on


  • Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France. (www.cwgc.org)
    Claude Sykes - Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France. (www.cwgc.org)