Topic: Sydney Elliott Skellern (1895-1915)
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.
Sydney Elliott Skellern was born in Huntly on 7 February 1895 (reg. 1895/17635). His parents were George Elliot and Emma Skellern who ran the postal service at Mamaku in Rotorua. They had married in 1887 (reg. 1887/327).
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 wishes. Posted to the Auckland Infantry Battalion, Private Skellern sailed from Wellington with the main body of troops in October 1914.
He 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 Sydney died on the battlefield from his wounds. He was 20 years old (reg. 1918/70562).
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.
Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).
Cenotaph Record (Auckland War Memorial Museum).
Fiona Kean (Tauranga Heritage Collection).
Lost medals on way to Gallipoli (New Zealand Herald, 4 February 2015).
Military Personnel File (Archives New Zealand).