Topic: Sydney Elliott Skellern (1895-1915)

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Tauranga mill hand Sydney Elliott Skellern died of his wounds during the Battle of Chunuk Bair in Gallipoli on 8 August 1915. One hundred years later his medals were returned to his family after being found in a Wellington home. Story by Debbie McCauley.

Sydney Elliott Skellern was born in Huntly on 7 February 1895 (reg. 1895/17635). His parents were George Elliott and Emma Skellern (nee Hawkins) who married in Hamilton on 25 August 1887 (reg. 1887/327). Emma was the widow of Charles Skellern, brother of George, who drowned in the Waikato River at the age of 26, on 10 November 1886, and was buried in Huntly Cemetery. The Waikato Times reported:

SKELLERN Drowning accident at Huntly. A sad drowning accident occurred at Taupiri yesterday. A man named Charles Skellern employed by the Waikato Coal and Shipping Company was engaged in warping up a barge to the company’s wharf when he lost his footing and fell into the river. Being unable to swim he soon sank but the body was recovered within half an hour, not a hundred yards from the scene of the accident and close to the deceased’s own house. Skellern was a married man and leaves a widow and three children. An inquest will be held today (11 November 1886).

George and Emma ran the postal service at Mamaku in Rotorua.

Sydney worked as a millhand at Gamman's Mill at Omanawa Falls in Tauranga and was also a Hauraki Regiment Volunteer.

On 14 August 1914, at age 19, he enlisted in World War I against his mother's wishesPosted to the Auckland Infantry Battalion, Sydney sailed from Wellington with the main body of troops in October 1914.

Sydney Elliott Skellern (1895-1915)

Sydney became ill in the Mediterranean and was twice treated in hospital, before joining his unit, the 6th Hauraki Company, on 25 June 1914.

Six weeks later he was in the thick of the Battle of Chunuk Bair as the British attempted to seize control of the Gallipoli peninsula. 

On 8 August 1915 Private Sydney Elliott Skellern died on the battlefield from his wounds. He was 20 years old (reg. 1918/70562).

Sydney is remembered on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial in Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.

Sydney Elliott Skellern (1895-1915)

Sydney's parents died in Rotorua and are buried in Rotorua Cemetery.

Many years later two Gallipoli service medals awarded to Sydney (the Victory Medal and the 1914-15 Star) were found in a tin at a home in Wellington. The man who found the medals and the tin (the original expedition container given to soldiers on their departure for the Great War) made contact with an elderly Taranaki woman whose late husband was Skellern's nephew.

In 2015 the medals ended up with Rotorua man Robert Skellern, Sydney's great nephew, who wore them to Chunuk Bair for a memorial service marking the 100th anniversary of the assault.



Archives New Zealand: Military Personnel File.

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record.

Bay of Plenty Times (1937, August 16): Obituary, Mr John Aitchison McKinlay.

Births, Deaths and Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Fiona Kean (Tauranga Heritage Collection).

New Zealand Herald (2015, February 4): Lost medals on way to Gallipoli.

Rotorua Cemetery Records Online.

Waikato Times  (11 November 1886).

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Sydney Elliott Skellern (1895-1915)

Note:Service No. 12/463
First Names:Sydney Elliott
Last Name:Skellern
Date of Birth:7 February 1895
Place of Birth:Huntly
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:8 August 1915
Place of death:Gallipoli, Turkey
Place of burial:Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey
Fathers name:George Elliott Skellern
Fathers date of birth:January 1864
Fathers place of birth:Wolstanton, Staffordshire, England
Fathers date of death:19 July 1920
Fathers place of death:Rotorua, New Zealand
Mothers name:Emma Florence Hawkins
Mothers date of birth:c1863
Mothers place of birth:Gloucestershire, England
Mothers date of death:9 April 1942
Mothers place of death:Rotorua, New Zealand
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)