Stanley Douglas Selby Sumner was born on 3 July 1885, the ninth of ten children of Edmund Sumner, a solicitor, and his second wife Alice Selby. There was also an elder sister from Edmund Sumner’s first marriage. Stanley Sumner’s father’s practice was in Doctors’ Commons in the City of London and they lived at Eltham in Kent.
Stanley Sumner and his younger brother Horace went as boarders to Dulwich College in 1897. Edmund Sumner died in 1889, a year after his wife Alice, but their children remained close, such that in 1911 five of them were living together at Horace Sumner’s house, Downsview in Banstead.
Stanley Sumner left school in 1903 and was a scoutmaster and leader in the Boy’s Brigade. In December 1911 he went to study theology at King’s College, London, and was awarded a degree in spring 1915. He then matriculated at Durham University in the Easter term of 1915, becoming an Unattached student studying theology. His King’s College degree entitled him to work for a Durham BA in only one year, and as an Unattached student he was not obliged to live in college.
In January 1916 he enlisted but was granted an exemption until the summer while he completed his studies. However, there is no record in the Durham University calendars of him having passed any examinations, nor of him having been awarded a degree.
In October 1916 Sumner was posted from the 3/6 (Depot) Battalion to the 12th (Service) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in France, but was later posted to the 13th Battalion, A Company, and joined them in the Arras sector on the Somme in November of that year. The men had to deal with deep mud and collapsing trenches and spent time repairing their positions as well as fighting. They were moved back to the front line on 4 January 1917 in the Rancourt sector, and on 19 January there was a gas and shell attack, which due to new gas masks having been issued they survived with few casualties. But the next day enemy shellfire killed Sumner and another man. They were buried first at Maurepas, and later re-buried in Hem Farm Military Cemetery at Hem-Monacu.
By the time of his death Sumner had become a Lance Corporal, and sources suggest that it had been intended that he be sent back home to become an officer. Stanley Sumner is commemorated in Banstead on its war memorial, and at All Saints Church on the Garton war memorial and panels in the Lady Chapel. His name is also recorded in the Scout Association’s roll of honour. His name will be added to the memorials of Dulwich and King’s College.