On Armistice Day, remembering my great-uncle Lt Col Sidney Rumbold

11th Nov 2022

My great, great uncle was Lt Col Sidney Rumbold.  

Sidney signed up to join the Army at the outbreak of WW1. He rose through the ranks and served with 8th Battalion the York and Lancaster Regiment. Sidney’s first experience of the frontline was at Passchendaele where his commitment to his men, their welfare and his professionalism was recognised by his senior officers. In November 1917 his Battalion arrived in Italy and Sidney took his men into battle at Asiago Plateau and Vittorio Veneto.   His bravery and leadership were described in letters home from one his his soldiers.  He was awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. He is also recorded as a recipient of the Silver Medal of Military Valour, a special award given by the King of Italy.  His picture used to hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

In total, he served from 9 September 1914 to 1 January 1920.

Sidney was also gay, although that part of his life was deeply hidden from the world and his family. His career was brought to a terrible and humiliating end when he was arrested following allegations of what were referred to as ‘scandalous behaviour unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman’.  He was court martialed, pleaded guilty, and dismissed with disgrace.  His medals – the Distinguished Service Order, the Bar to the DSO and the Military Cross – were all taken from him. 

Sidney spent his final years living with his widowed mother in St John’s Wood. The family never talked about what had happened to him. I remember reading a handwritten letter from Sidney in his later years to the War Office asking if he could receive his war medals back. There is no evidence that they ever replied to him.

Lt Col Rumbold’s treatment remains a terrible injustice both to his memory, his family and to the wider service community.  My great uncle served with bravery and great distinction. Sidney’s family are proud of of his bravery. We remain shocked and saddened by his treatment.

These things still matter. In January 2021, my family applied to the MoD Medals Office for Sidney’s medals to be restored to his family. We are still waiting for their decision.

On Armistice Day today I am remembering my great uncle and hoping we can secure some form of delayed justice for him.  

Richard Davidson

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