Sydney Marshall Rayfield was born in Kirkstall, Leeds, on 13 May 1892, the son of Thomas Rayfield, a bank clerk, and his wife Mary. He was educated at Leeds Modern School. After leaving school he worked for a time for the Yorkshire Post, but in February 1912 took a job with his late father's former employer, Beckett & Co.
In autumn 1914 Rayfield left the bank to join the army, becoming a Private in the West Yorkshire Regiment. He was killed in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was 24 years old. Two of his fellow Beckett's clerks, also both serving in the West Yorkshire Regiment, died on the Somme on the same day.