Sylvester joined the York and Lancaster regiment in December 1914, shortly before his 34th birthday. After initial training he was posted to Egypt and then to France. He saw action at Serre on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and, unlike many of his friends, was fortunate enough to survive. For those unfamiliar with the history of the Battle of the Somme, the 1st of July 1916 saw the greatest loss of life in any single day in British military history, with 60,000 casualties, 20.000 of which died. By the time the Battle of the Somme ended in November 1916 the collective casualties of the British, French and German armies stood at 1,265,000.
Prior to joining the Tunnelling Company Sylvester had worn a standard private's tunic (see first image). This seemed a more immediately recognisable piece of uniform, so I decided to make my exhibition piece based on this using the wool from my own flock of sheep. Since Sylvester was a Yorkshire man I selected wool from my Wensleydale sheep, a Yorkshire breed, as the most appropriate. The piece is made from flat felt, which has then been cut and tailored to fit. Although I hadn’t anticipated any problems in this area, despite an extensive search I was unable to find a pattern for a private's uniform. I found plenty of patterns for officer's tunics, German infantry tunics etc, but nothing resembling what I needed. However, I was lucky enough to gain access to the Durham Light Infantry Museum and, once there, was able to measure, sketch and photograph uniforms. From these unpromising beginnings I was able to construct a pattern, testing my tailoring skills to the limit!