Family History Story contributed by Cynthia Mills (close family friend)
Sydney Charles Stark was born on 26 November 1894 to Charles John Stark, a wheelwright and carpenter, and Elizabeth Ann Stark (nee Beacon). Both parents were from Devon, ‘Charlie’ from Broadclyst, and ‘Eliza’ from Sidmouth. He was about 14 months younger than his brother Robert (Robbie), and attended Caterham Valley Board School as well. After leaving school, he apprenticed to Knights in Redhill, and he hated it! Unlike his charming brother, serving in a shop, which his parents considered a step up from the manual labour and trades, Syd was more of a “hands-on” man. Before the War he took a job in a piano factory in London. He liked tinkering with motors and helping drive the lorries for deliveries, much to his mother’s chagrin, who had great hopes that her sons would move up in the class system.
When the War came, Charlie Stark never believed there would ever be conscription, so he advised his sons to not join up. Sydney complied until he was conscripted in March 2016. He was still allowed to choose his branch of service so, with his interest in motors, he joined the Army Service Corps (ASC). His father encouraged him to do that as well, citing that he would be well out of the trenches. That he was, but it was also extremely dangerous going back and forth to the front lines with ammunition, supplies and other materials. Many times he was blown out of his vehicle from the shellfire. He said he carried a heavy chain just in case he was attacked.
He served with the 69th Steam Company, Army Service Corps, driving a Peerless wagon. After the War he was sent to Germany where he drove Thornycrofts. He was finally demobilised in about 1920. He had met a young German woman and fell in love, but he knew his parents would not countenance her being his wife, so broke it off before he came home.
When he came home, there was no work to be had, and he said he hated “living off my parents.” Robbie had been their “blue-eyed boy,” literally, as he had blue-grey eyes, while Syd’s were brown, and figuratively, as they pinned all their hopes on his success. Sadly, his brother had been killed in action in September 1916. Those long nights sitting at the table and feeling his mother’s eyes on him really got to him, wondering if she wished he had been killed instead of his brother. He had a tremendous relationship with his father Charlie that saved him from total depression. So it was very sad when his father was hit with a large board while on the job in 1926, smashing his kidneys and killing him a few days later. Syd was inconsolable, and Charlie never got to see his only grandchild.
Syd eventually became a bus driver with the East Surrey Transport Company, where he worked for over forty years and served as the Union secretary for many years. His conductor, Teddy Ticknor, loved to dance, as did Margery, his deceased brother’s fiancée. Syd was never much of a dancer, unlike his brother, so he asked Teddy to take Margery dancing to make her happy. Not sure if it did make her happy, but Syd would do anything for her, it seemed, no matter what.
Sydney and Margery married on October 30, 1924 at St. Nicholas Church and remained married for 44 years until her death in April 1968. Sydney told his new wife that he loved her enough “for both of them.” While she cared for him, she never stopped loving his brother, even 52 years after he died. He often remarked to his son after her death, “There was always a ghost between us.” In fact, Margery refused to marry Sydney until 1924, when she told him, “I’ll cook and clean and wash and have just one child, but I will never love you. I will only love Robbie for the rest of my life. The engagement ring he gave me will serve as my wedding ring.” Margery was quite a figure in the village. Her son David described her as “when she snapped her fingers the whole village jumped.” Robbie had been quite musical but not musically educated, so Margery made sure David had music lessons at an early age. He later graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and was a professional musician for most of his life.
Sydney’s good nature was often remarked upon in later life. People who knew Syd called him the “Bank of England” because he was so reliable and dependable, and that you could set your watch by his punctuality and dependability. His daughter-in-law said that no matter what she cooked, no matter how bad it was, Syd would always find something good to say about it and make her feel very appreciated. He spent the last 25 years of his life after his wife died living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with his son David and his family. He died at the age of 98 years old in March 1993 (I don’t know the exact date) where he is buried