World War I, Family Hero – Sidney Vincent Vidler

Another blog in my series of family heroes.

Just as everyone’s challenges and experiences in life are different, so are the stories of our soldiers. Some died on the battlefield; some drowned in the water filled trenches and shell- holes; and others survived the terrible carnage, and came back to their families horribly ‘broken’; although few families realized how ‘broken’, as they still had all their limbs. However, they may have been ‘gassed’; or had been prisoners of war and been starved and beaten; or they may have been so traumatized by years of ‘soldiering’ that they could no longer live in the ‘ordinary’ world as their minds would not allow them that peace.

Few ever considered the lives of those young men, who didn’t want to go to war. They were branded as cowards by both friends and family and were often sent ‘white feathers’, most anonymously. They felt coerced or compelled to ‘volunteer’ especially as the war dragged on for yet another year. Some were so desperate they injured themselves, so they would not be accepted into the military.

Then there were others who ‘volunteered’ and genuinely met with an accident whilst training. They were ‘injured’, so they were not accepted into service,and were sent home as medically unfit. Sadly these men were often treated with suspicion and were accused of ‘ducking’ military service, and then were unfairly targeted. Although, I do not know for sure, I believe we had such an case in our family.

Sidney Vincent Vidler was born in 1885, the third son, and fourth child, of Thomas Nathaniel and Margaret Jane Vidler (nee Goodwin). He spent his early childhood on the South Coast of New South Wales near Kiama, and migrated north with the family to northern New South Wales in the early 1890’s. The family settled at Chillingham on the North Arm of the Tweed River.

‘Sid’ as he was known in the family, started assisting on the farm at an early age, and didn’t return to school after the family moved north. He continued to work on the family farm, until his father sold and moved to Queensland in 1916.

Sidney Vincent Vidler enlisted on the 27 October 1916, along with his brother, Bert, (Edward Herbert Vidler). Their younger brother, Harold Frederick Vidler, had enlisted more than twelve months before, and their first cousin, Ashley Haydon Vidler, who lived nearby, had also enlisted the previous year. Ashley’s younger brother, Frederick Cecil Vidler enlisted in November 1916.

See former blogs World War Family Heroes, Harold Frederick and Edward Herbert Vidler posted on 11th and 14th November 2015, respectively, and Frederick Cecil Vidler, posted 25 April 2015..

Many war tales had reached Bert and Sid Vidler, by the time they signed on as volunteers in Brisbane, October 1916.

Military training was going well at the Enoggera Army Camp, when there was an accident at the rifle range on the 18th December, and Sidney Vincent Vidler was shot in the foot. He was admitted to hospital, where it was found that a bullet had entered his left foot and lodged in the bone. The wound healed in a couple of weeks, and he returned to Enoggera, where his brother, Bert and cousin, Fred,(Frederick Cecil Vidler), had nearly completed their basic training, and were preparing to leave by troop-ship for England.

However when Sid resumed training it was found he couldn’t march or undertake further training due to pain in the foot, and he was returned to hospital. It was suggested he undergo surgery for removal of the bullet, but it was explained that it was a very risky procedure at the time, as chloroform could be lethal, and there was no real guarantee that they could extract the bullet anyway. He declined to have the surgery. He was a patient in the hospital for over three months with little progress with his injury, as he still couldn’t walk properly, only limp. By this time his brother, Bert and cousin Fred Vidler, had already sailed for overseas service.

There was a military inquiry in early February 1917, but I have been unable to ascertain any further details of this accident. As he was not dishonourably discharged it certainly was not a self- inflicted wound, and his army records are notated with the comment- “Good Character”, so the mystery remains.

[Ref: Personel File of Sidney Vincent Vidler, Australian Archives,website at http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NameSearch/Interface/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=8398220&isAv=N ]

He was discharged from the Australian Army on 24 April 1917, as medically unfit for duty, and returned home.

Sydney Vincent Vidler married Pearl Hayes later that year. They had several children. Their second son, Vincent Noel, enlisted in the Second World War. He died on 14 September 1944 and is memorialized on the Labuan Memorial in Malaysia.

Although, Sidney Vincent Vidler’s military story is a very brief one compared to that of his brothers’ and cousins’, I believe he should be included in the list of World War I family heroes just the same.

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6 thoughts on “World War I, Family Hero – Sidney Vincent Vidler

  1. I agree, and the men and women who stayed at home often provided necessary and valuable support to the community and country. My grandfather Clifford Albert Newling (of the maternal Bells) was medically unfit for WW2 but instead of staying on the farm at Scone signed up for the Sydney fire brigade and brought my grandmother and baby (Dad) to live in the city at Woollahra for the duration.

    • Yes Dale, There were many people, such as you grandfather, who certainly ‘did their bit’ towards the war effort in no small measure.
      The women did a wonderful job on the farms. My mother was only eighteen and five feet tall, but helped her father, (who was very ill,) run the dairy farm, milking over 100 head by hand twice a day. She was also secretary of local groups such as the Red Cross. Knitted hundreds of pair of socks, and baked cakes for soldiers on the front line, many of whom were her childhood friends.
      My Dad was rejected as medically unfit for service,(due to a motor accident), but talked his way into the army, and served in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands for nearly two years.Never spoke much about the war, until a few months before he died. Absolutely horrific!

    • Hi Beverley,
      Thank you for leaving your comment on my blog.My paternal grandmother,Olive Pearl Vidler (b.1890)was a younger sister of Sydney Vincent Vidler (b 1885). If this is your grandfather, our parents would be first cousins.

  2. Dear Nola – thank you for answering. My grandfather Sydney married Pearl Hayes and the only child of theirs still alive is Raymond. The other children were Elsie Pearl ( my mother). Leslie a boy, with a twin Margaret who died at seven months, Bert and Vincent who was known as ‘Bill’. They all lived in Qld except my mother who married my father and came to live in NSW.

    • Hi Beverly,
      It is lovely to be in touch.I knew your grandfather married Pearl Hayes and had several children, but not al lot more. Good to know that Raymond is still living.
      I believe your mother Elsie Pearl was born the same year as my father,another “Bill” (1921). Dad served in the AIF during WWII and said he heard about Vince’s death after the war. He is memorialized on the Labuan,Borneo War Memorial along with other members of my family.

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