Defending the Ypres Salient: Sidney Alfred Demant 12 June 2015

This is a post which originally appeared on my Great War at Fairlynch blog, which you can find via Google. I found that Facebook did not like linking to the site because apparently the automatons believed that it contravened 'community guidelines'. ???!!!  Maybe there's some politically incorrect content that I've been oblivious to. Anyway I'm reposting here in the hope that Budleigh & Brewster will be acceptable. 

 War memorials come in all shapes and sizes.

Not many people would associate this drain cover with the Great War. But whenever I see it as I walk down my garden path I think of Alfred and the son that he lost just a few years before he built our 1920s house on Exmouth Road in Budleigh Salterton.

Alfred Demant had moved from Highgate in London to live in the Budleigh area at some time after 1911. He and his wife Amelia Maude Louise had taken up residence in Ivy Cottage – now Yew Tree Cottage – next to the Baptist Chapel in Little Knowle.

Their sons Sidney Alfred and William Harold were born in London in 1891 and 1893 respectively.  Their daughter Winifred Constance was born in 1897. At an early stage in the war Sidney joined the 8th Battalion of The Rifle Brigade. Formed at Winchester on 21 August 1914, the Battalion was made up mostly of volunteers, part of Lord Kitchener’s New Army. It came under the command of 41st Brigade in 14th (Light) Division, moving to Aldershot and going on to Grayshott on the Hampshire/ Surrey border in November before returning to Aldershot in March 1915. Sidney Demant was with the 8th Battalion when it landed in France at Boulogne on 19 May before proceeding to the Belgian town of Ypres.


 Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April to May 1915 by Richard Jack (1866–1952). Image credit Canadian War Museum 19710261-0172

The Second Battle of Ypres was fought from 22 April to 25 May 1915 for control of the strategically important town. The Ypres Salient  – the area around the town projecting into enemy territory – saw some of the major battles of World War One.

The remains of trenches at Sanctuary Wood
©  Mo Sandford FRPS 2014

Two kilometres east of the town is an area known as Sanctuary Wood, so  named by British troops in November 1914 when it was used as shelter. It later became fiercely fought over by troops from both sides, and is popular with visitors today because of the way in which the trenches have been preserved.

On 8 May 1915 the Germans had begun a major attack into the Ypres Salient known as the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, the objective being to smash through the British front line. 

Bailleul cemetery
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Rifleman Demant was killed in action on 12 June, aged 24. He was buried in the communal cemetery in the French town of Bailleul, near  the Belgian border. A fortnight after his death, the 8th Battalion would experience the first use of flamethrowers by the Germans at Hooge, Belgium.

 The Demant family remained in the area. Both Sidney’s brother William Harold and his sister Winifred Constance married local people. William, who also enlisted in the Rifle Brigade, married Gladys Hitt and lived in Chapel Street in Budleigh Salterton.

Winifred married John James Ratcliff; the Steamer Steps were previously known as Ratcliff End. Alfred and Amelia Demant remained in Little Knowle until their deaths in 1923 and 1943 respectively. They are buried in St Peter’s Burial Ground, on Moor Lane in Budleigh Salterton.


St Peter’s Church memorial

Sidney himself is remembered on the town’s war memorial and on the brass memorial in St Peter’s Church, Budleigh Salterton.  But it’s the drain cover on my garden path by which I will remember him.

For more of my observations about Budleigh drain covers go to


Popular posts from this blog

"A woman who knew her own mind": interview with actress Jenny Coverack on her portrayal of Kathleen Scott

People from the Past: 3. Reg Varney (1916-2008)

Would you like to buy an original Reg Varney painting? (1)