Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens (1847 – 1872) was the fifth son and seventh of the ten children from the marriage of English novelist Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine Hogarth. He served as a Royal Navy officer but fell into debt. He died from illness whilst serving abroad.
Sydney Dickens was born on 18 April 1847 at 3 Chester Place, Regent’s Park, which Charles Dickens had rented for part of that year. He was baptized in the nearby church of St. Mary in Marylebone in London on 24 June 1847. His middle names come from his godfathers, Henry Porter Smith and William Haldimand of Lausanne.
Charles Dickens encourgaed Sydney to become self-sufficient in his future and, aged 13, enrolled him in the privately run Eastman’s Naval Academy in Southsea, intending to train as a naval officer. As a boy he had shown great energy and character, and was described by his father as a “born little sailor”. On 11 September 1860, aged 14, Sydney Dickens joined the Royal Navy as a cadet on the training ship HMS Britannia. After his initial training he was posted to HMS Orlando on 6 December 1861.
Sydney Dickens became ill whilst serving on HMS Topaze was invalided out of the Royal Navy on 22 April 1872. He remained aboard the ship for the passage home from India to England, but died at sea a few days later. He was buried at sea in the Indian Ocean.