Lieutenant Sydney Beauclerk.
The birth announcement of Sydney Beauclerk.
The Herald and News of Randolph, Vermont, 17 October 1895.

Born on 10 October 1895 at Irasburgh, Vermont, Sydney (or Sidney) Wentworth Beauclerk was the first child and only son of Dr. Wentworth Preston Beauclerk (1875-1921) and Jenny May Hayward (1873-1959), who wed in 1894. Sydney’s father Wentworth Beauclerk was a surgeon and physician; his mother Jenny was a housewife. When he was seventeen, Sydney was joined by a younger sister, Barbara Beauclerk (1913-1985; married Joseph John Betz). 

Lord William Beauclerk, later 8th Duke of St. Albans.
A portrait by George Romney.

Sydney’s paternal great-grandfather was Lord Charles Beauclerk (1813-1861), one of the younger children of William, 8th Duke of St. Albans (1766-1825). 

The military registration of Sydney Beauclerk.

On 5 June 1917, Sydney joined the United States military at the age of twenty-one. He was described as being of medium height and build, with blue eyes and fair hair. A business student in Syracuse, New York, before his enlistment, Sydney became a skilled pilot during his training. On 25 September 1917, Sydney departed New York to fight in World War I. He was killed in action on 29 October 1918 at Champigneulles, France. A fellow serviceman, Lieutenant Holden, wrote to Sydney’s parents in order to give them a more detailed account of their son’s military career:

25 Nov. 1918

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Beauclerk,

Inasmuch as I am a personal friend of your son, Sidney, and having had the pleasure of working with the same squadron to which he as attached and consequently being thoroughly acquainted with his work from the time he left the States up to and including the day he was taken from us, I feel greatly honoured no matter how sad the existing circumstances may be, to be able to inform his parents of his record and the work which he did for you, and the cause which it was his opportunity to represent.

It is not necessary to explain Doc’s work during his period of training, so I shall simply give you the details from the day he joined the Squadron.

A few days previous to the St. Michel attack, Doc. joined the Squadron and his work during this drive was wonderful. He was one of those reliable flyers whom one loves to work with and no matter what the weather conditions might be, and no matter how dangerous a mission had to be carried out, Doc. was always found to be ready. His work in this drive made him one of the most reliable and trustworthy men in the Squadron and everyone considered it a real pleasure to fly with him.

At the conclusion of this drive the Squadron was transferred into the Argonne sector and his work there won him much praise, not only from the members of his Squadron but from the commanding officers of the Squadron, group and corps.

On the 29th of October Doc was sent up with a formation of six planes, whose mission was to take photographs of a certain sector over which our infantry was to advance the following morning. It was a mighty important mission for it was necessary to know just what sort of territory our troops had to contend with, and consequently only the best men of the squadron were chosen to do the work. Our formation was attacked by overwhelming odds but in spite of this and with due thanks to your son, the mission was a success, although the cost was unrepairable. Doc gave his life in the fulfilment of his duty. Rather than have the plan shot down, which was taking the pictures and consequently causing hundreds of deaths which our infantry would have suffered had this mission been a failure, Doc. took the bullets himself, which were meant for our photographic plane and in doing so met his end.

The war is over and in a few months we are coming home, but even so, the 12th Squadron will never forget Doc Beauclerk.

He went down like a true American and even though we cannot bring him back to you, we know as a Squadron that the name of Beauclerk shall ever be an honour to the American nation. May the fact that Doc gave his life for the benefit of others, ever be a comfort to you in time of need. He fought to the end and even though mortally wounded he landed his machine in such a way as to save his observer’s life.

So you see my friends that during it all his thoughts were for others, and in doing so he has acted just as I know you would want him to do. 

May his sacrifice be an inspiration to others.

On the following morning the infantry made their all famous attack which had a direct bearing upon the close of the war and they found the grave of your son from which we gather that the Boche buried Doc with military honours. 

Upon his cross is written these words

Here is an American Flyer

Lt. S. W. Beauclerk, Jr.

Killed Oct. 29, 1918

According to the map his grave is about 200 yards west of the village of Champigneulles. This town is about five miles east of Grandpre and 50 miles north of the city of Bar-le-duc.

Now, in closing let me say that at some future date I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you and then, perhaps I will be able to explain Doc’s work far better than I can under the present circumstances.

May our Father in Heaven comfort you all for in giving your son to the cause of righteousness, you as a Mother and Father are giving to all mankind your very all in all. God bless you both.

Most sincerely,

K. H. Holden,

12th Aero Squadron,

4th Army Corps.

The grave of Sydney Beauclerk.
Photo (c)

At the time of his birth in 1895, Sydney Beauclerk was eighth in the line of succession to the Dukedom of St. Albans. Had he not been killed in action at the age of twenty-three, it is quite likely that 1st Lieutenant Sydney Beauclerk would have become duke. Beauclerk is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France.

For more on the life of Lt. Sydney Beauclerk, please read this article:

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