Sydney was a law clerk in Margate and was great friends with his older cousin, Herbert George Robins who lived and worked in South Africa. He jumped at the chance when Herbert asked him to join him in South Africa, to help run his game reserve. However, as the war in Europe progressed, he joined the Royal Engineers Signal Unit.
Herbert George Robins, the son of George Robins and Martha Ann Emptage, arrived in South Africa in 1892, aged 25. With a keen interest in science, he became a prospector and a surveyor. As a farmer, Herbert stopped the hunting, shooting and poaching of game on his land. His 26,000 acres were bequeathed to the Southern Rhodesian Government to be maintained as a game sanctuary for all time.