RSM Sherriff, Sydney

RSM Sydney Sherriff

From Arthur Evans, author of Sojourn in Silesia

To the bewildered PoW, shortly after capture and entering Lamsdorf for the first time, the sight of the tall figure of RSM Sydney Sherriff was like a beacon of hope and stability in an otherwise alien and hostile enviroment. There was a man to whom one could turn to for help and advice; someone who represented the comradeship of the unit from which one had been wrenched on being captured.

RSM Sydney SherriffAppointed by the Germans as Camp Leader of the allied PoWs, this Royal Welch Fusilier had a most difficult task. Possessing no executive authority, he could only command, control and persuade by his personality and demeanor. This applied equally to his relations with both the German authorities and his fellow prisoners.

RSM Sherriff was the conduit for raising matters with the Swiss government, the Protecting Authority, and for urging the Committee of the International Red Cross to maintain a reliable and steady flow of food and clothing parcels, and other amenities. He also helped to arrange proper burials (see Photo) for PoWs who passed on in the camp.

The German authorities were content to allow us to administer ourselves inside the camp while they maintained security outside the wire. This was done by a number of Warrant Officers in charge of compounds and barracks, answerable to RSM Sherriff and his immediate assistants. To a lesser extent, this system applied to the dozens of outside working parties, each nominally lead by a Warrant Officer or NCO.

RSM Sydney Sherriff SnowRSM Sydney Sherriff was held in the greatest respect by all the PoWs who had the good fortune to be in his charge for the four years and 99 days he was held in the camp, and he thoroughly deserved the MBE awarded him on his return to the U.K. following liberation.

As the citation in his award reads: “It would be impossible to over-estimate the magnificent work accomplished by Regimental Sergeant Major Sherriff in superintending the welfare of the British prisoners-of-war who came under his aegis. His capacity for organisation, and the scrupulous care with which he attended to the smallest detail of the administration, together with the tenacity he displayed with dealing with the German authorities, won for him the esteem not only of his comrades of all ranks, but also the respect of the enemy.”

After the war, Sydney Sherriff went to live in Rhyl in Wales, where he worked for the Post Office, as well as taking an appointment as Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant to the 384 Light Regiment RA (RWF) TA, which he held up to the time of his death at the age of 58 in 1954. He was survived by his widow, Lily, two sons and three step-children.

Those children went on to have their own children, and now his grandson, Andy, would very much like to hear from anyone who remembers his grandfather. He has also found an album, in Sydney’s possessions, that was presented to him by the Polish PoWs – and he would like to know the story behind this unusual gift.

Received: January 2005
From: Arthur Evans, for Andy Sherriff
On behalf of: Andy’s late grandfather, RSM Sydney Sherriff

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