A FORGOTTEN First World War soldier with a heartbreaking backstory was honoured in a poignant ceremony.

The grave of Witney-born Sidney Humphris, who was 17 when he died of an illness contracted before entering the battlefield, had stood alone in an Irish churchyard for almost a century.

Sidney joined the 4th Battallion, Devonshire Regiment, which was stationed in Ireland, just weeks before the end of hostilities, but tragically passed away in hospital on October 3, 1918.

Over the decades his grave had stood uncared for, but the efforts of a dedicated group culminated in last month's service attended by military and community groups to mark the centenary of his death.

Hugh Farren, 59, was born 200 yards from St Columba's Church, Co Doneghal, where Sidney is buried and became interested in the soldier's story at a young age.

He said: “When we were small children we used the graveyard as a playground.

“One headstone stood out from the rest - Sidney’s war grave.

“While I was growing up I had thought he was a mystical figure but after doing some research I found out he was only 17 when he died.

“He never picked up a weapon in anger and was just a small boy who came across to do his duty and never went home.”

Private Sidney Humphris was born in 1901 to James and Eva Humphris, who lived in Woodgreen, Witney.

While there is limited information on his early years, the 1911 Census says he was the youngest child of five and his father was a blanket weaver.

Eva died when Sidney was just 14, before the teenager left school and worked as a shop assistant in G.Osborn Tites Drapers on Witney High Street.

Sidney is believed to have been very keen to join the army and in 1918 enlisted in The Devonshire Regiment.

But soon after arriving in Ireland he contracted influenza, which quickly developed into pneumonia and the soldier was admitted to a fever hospital in Carndonagh, a nearby town.

After 10 days in hospital he died and was buried at St Columba's Church, but the building was decommissioned shortly after and the graveyard fell into disrepair.

Sidney's name is recorded on the Witney war memorial, on Church Green, but The Troubles meant his lone grave, in the corner of the churchyard, was quickly forgotten.

A few years ago, Mr Farren began looking into the history behind the mysterious headstone.

As someone who served in the Irish Army he had a special interest in Sidney's story and enlisted the help of fellow ex-serviceman Dessie McCallion, along with Thomas Ryan and David Canning, who had also developed an interest.

The quartet began organising a ceremony to commemorate the centenary of Sidney's death and were benefited by a growing interest in commemorating Ireland's war dead.

They received plenty of community support, including from the Inishowen Friends of Messines, a group that visits war graves of the area's servicemen.

Mr Farren said: “All we had in mind was to have a memorial for Sidney but it has attracted quite a lot of attention.

“Because of the human interest of Sidney’s story we wanted to do something different.”

This culminated in the commemoration service on September 29, which saw representatives from the Royal British Legion Northern Ireland, the Orange Order and the Devon & Dorset Regimental Association.

The four men all spoke at the service, while several wreaths were laid, including on behalf of members of the family.

While no relatives attended the ceremony Mr Ryan had managed to get in contact with descendants of Albert Humphris, Sidney's older brother.

Witney resident David Rolfe, husband of Albert's grand daughter Hazel, said: "We knew nothing about the family, there were no photos of Albert or Sidney. The work that's gone into this is incredible."