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Sylvester was born in Wigan on the 22nd November, 1896 and was the eldest son of Frederick Thomas and Ellen Bootle (nee Muggeridge). Sylvester`s mother Ellen was originally from Gravesend in Kent and she married Frederick Bootle in Wigan in the December quarter of 1896.

Frederick and Ellen had two more children while they were living in Wigan, William (1897-1898) and Annie (1899). Not long after Annie was born the couple moved to Preston to live and they set up home at 21 Allen Street West with their two surviving children Sylvester and Annie. Frederick Bootle was a cabinet maker by trade.

By 1911 the family had moved home to 22 Fern Street, Preston and seven more children had arrived, Florence (1902-1903), Edith (1903), Frederick (1905), John (1906), James (1907-1907), May (1910) and then Ellen (1911). Sylvester now aged 15 had a job as a warehouse hand in a cotton mill.

Sylvester`s father Frederick was employed as a Tram car finisher (wood) and as Fern Street was a short walk to the Electric Railway and Tramway Carriage Works on Strand Road this is possibly where his father was working at the time. The company was formed in 1897 to manufacture tram bodies at the East Works on Strand Road in Preston. It was owned by a syndicate of business men headed by the Scottish Engineering firm of Dick Kerr & Co.

Unfortunately Sylvester`s service record does not appear to have survived so we cannot be certain when he actually enlisted. However, he was allocated the service number 3867 and went to France on the 13 October, 1915. The 1/4th Battalion had been in France for some six months so Sylvester would have gone with a batch of reinforcements. After arriving in France he was at some point posted to “C” Coy 1/4th Battalion.

On the 9 August, 1916 Sylvester was one of the many men posted as missing during the Battalion actions around Guillemont and it was later confirmed he had been taken prisoner.

Battalion account of the actions at Guillemont

“After a night in bivouacs, preparations were made to go over the ground prior to an attack on GUILLEMONT on the 8th August. The Battalion returned to the line that night and assembled in trenches east and west of the road which ran south from the east corner of TRONES WOOD, C Company being detailed to consolidate the right of the enemy line and D Company the left on the west side of GUILLEMONT. A and B Companies acted in conjunction with the 1/4th Royal Lancasters and the 1/8th Liverpool Regiments respectively. The attack was not a success. The right was held up from the start by the switch line which had been reported by our patrol on the 6th, such report having been either overlooked or ignored, and the men had to fall back to the original line, thought the 1/8th Liverpools went through the village on the left, and D Company of our Battalion commenced to consolidate but were driven off by the enemy coming behind them and cutting them off from the Liverpools. Considerable confusion was caused owing to the mist and the employment by the enemy of smoke bombs, the four platoons in reserve not being called upon for this reason, though all their officers were killed and they suffered many other casualties. The operation was a costly one. Nine other ranks were killed, 97 wounded and 107 reported missing whilst 2 Officers were killed, 2 missing and others wounded.

Sylvester was eventually able to let his family back in Preston know of his whereabouts and then the following article appeared in the Preston Guardian.


 Sylvester was taken to Dulmen Prisoner of War Camp arriving there on the 16 August, 1916. Dulmen is located in the South part of the Munsterland area between the River Lippe to the south and the Baumberge hills to the north.

Private Sylvester Bootle was eventually repatriated back to England and back to his family in Preston. He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

In the December quarter of 1923 he married Margaret Jane Pye at the Lancaster Road Congregational Church in Preston. Sadly, Margaret Jane died in 1942 aged 44 years and he remarried to Marjorie Dewhurst in 1946. Sylvester passed away in Preston in 1966 at the age of 70.

Janet Davis
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