Private Sydney 'Togo' Bolesworth DCM (1889-1917)

Private Sydney 'Togo' Bolesworth and The Leicestershire Regiment during the First World War 1914-1918.

sydney togo bolesworth leicestershire regiment
Sydney Bolesworth

1889 Sydney Bolesworth was born in a cottage in Spring Gardens in Hinckley which is at the bottom of Holliers Walk (where it meets Council Hill), and was educated at St Peter's School. He came from a large family having ten brothers and sisters (Thomas Henry, Mary, Harriot, John James, Elizabeth, Florence, Rachel Ann, William, Walter).

1902 Aged just 13, Sydney began his working life as a half-timer in a hosiery factory of Moore, Eady, Murcott, Goode, which is now the Concordia Theatre.

Young Sydney liked to box in his spare time, he was a natural fighter so bought a pair of boxing gloves at an early age. He was in the habit of putting the gloves on and challenging anyone at the factory who fancied their chance. He stood 5ft 7ins and would eventually box in the middleweight division.

12th December 1905 He decided to join the army (Army Number: 7832) and served some time at Leicester and Colchester before being posted to the 2nd battalion Leicestershire Regiment in India, Where he found that boxing was looked upon very favourably.

1908 He was a fine boxer and probably the best the Regiment ever had in the welterweight class, he won the All India title at Madras.

1909 He won the all India army boxing cup at Poona in India, as a middleweight.

First army boxing championship
First army boxing championship

1912 He returned home and joined the army reserve, returning home he boxed a number of contests across the Midlands gaining a fearsome reputation. It was around this time that he got the nickname 'Togo', which stayed with him for the rest of his life.

1914 Togo outpointed "Cobb" Allbrighton, a big Baddesley Ensor miner and a fortnight later he boxed a draw with Billy Sherwood at the old Drill Hall, on the corner of New Buildings and Wood Street. Sherwood was at that time considered to be the undisputed champion of the Midlands.

2nd May 1914 The biggest fight of his career came with a rematch with Billy Sherwood at the Olympia Skating Rink on the corner of Mill Hill Road and Cleveland Road, Hinckley, when he fought Billy Sherwood of Walsall for a purse of £100. Sherwood was knocked out on the second round by Togo in front of an enormous crowd who had travelled by train from Leicester, Birmingham and elsewhere to see the spectacle.

5th August 1914 With the outbreak of the First World War, Togo was recalled to the Colours, he re-joined the Army as a Lance-Corporal but would lose the rank due to a disciplinary.

September 1914 He was sent to France with the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.

1915 He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Croix de Guerre for conspicuous gallantry. He was in charge of a picket, and was wounded by a shell in both legs and severely bruised by falling timber. He stuck to his post until relieved and had the presence of mind to deliver a report on the situation to his commanding officer before receiving medical help.

18th August 1915 Togo suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh and was evacuated and sent home to recover. During his time at home he lost pay for 12 days.

sydney togo bolesworth leicestershire regiment
Early army photo - Togo Bolesworth

While recovering from his wounds, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion at Patrington near Hull. Whilst serving in England he was accused of manslaughter at the civil court at York Assizes following a fight with another soldier, knocking him unconscious, he would later die that night from concussion. He was imprisoned for two months whilst awaiting trial, but it is a remarkable testimony to his stature within the Leicestershire Regiment that a group of officers paid for a Barrister to conduct his defence. He was subsequently acquitted after two doctors testified that the fatal injuries could not have been inflicted during the fight. The judge in the case subsequently apologised to him for the fact that a man of his good character should have been detained. Togo would return to his regiment without a stain on his character.

18th March 1916 Hinckley folk got to see their decorated local hero in person. Togo (along with William Buckingham VC) was one of the central figures in a recruitment drive for the Leicestershire Regiment at Hinckley, Barwell and Earl Shilton.

April 1916 Togo was back in France with the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.

While Togo was away, Mrs Bolesworth (Togos mother) who lived alone was receiving relief from the visitors of the Hinckley and District Relief Committee. This was part of the nationally driven initiative by the Prince of Wales to provide relief from distress caused by the war to civilians. 'Being on the parish' or being reliant on "the charity box" was one step away from being in the Hinckley Workhouse.

13th April 1917 Togo had a gunshot in the buttock, he was sent back to England and spent 28 days in hospital.

10th June 1917 Togo returned to the Western Front and joined 9th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment in Belgium. Employed as a sniper, he quickly re-established himself once more as a man whom his officers could rely upon in any situation. As with the 1st Battalion, he refused the offer of a stripe or stripes, despite the positions of responsibility which he often held.

Togo Bolesworth on Barwell recruitment drive 1916
Togo Bolesworth (third left) on Barwell recruitment drive 1916.

1st October 1917 During the early part of the morning near Polygon Wood near Ypres, in Belgium the 9th Battalion Togo and a fellow soldier, Private Joe Paul, were designated battalion snipers, and had crawled into a shell-hole in front of the British lines in order to give them a better view over the German positions. They had taken a few shots at the enemy when the German counter-attack erupted before them. Paul was hit in the leg, but managed to escape, while Togo was shot dead.

After his death, his Officer, Lt Griffiths wrote to tell his mother that Private Bolesworth was "well liked and respected by not only all in the sniping section but in the Battalion and many officers though that he was the best soldier in the regiment."

Due to his body last seen in a muddy shell-hole and his remains were not recovered, he is named on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgium.

Togos name 'S.Bolesworth' is on the Hinckley War Memorial with his two brothers Corporal William Bolesworth and Lance-Corporal James Bolesworth who also lost their lives during the First World War.

tyne cot memorial belgium tyne cot memorial belgium
The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgium.