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Sydney was born in Wolverhampton in 1894, the son of Archibald and Emma McNicol. He was baptised on 25 Jul 1897 at St Mark’s Church, Wolverhampton. By 1901, the family were living in Shettleston, Lanarkshire, along with Sydney’s siblings Helen, Archibald, John and Marion.

In 1917, Sydney enlisted with the 10th Battalion of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (number 22588). His trade was given as machineman. He served in France, but was wounded, and died on 27 March 1918. He is buried at Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery in Belgium.