2nd Corporal William Smith, MM

Regiment:  129th Field Company, Royal Engineers
Service No: 67618
Date & place of birth: In either 1883 or 1884, in  Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Date & place of death: 23 June 1917 (aged 32 or 33) Lijssenthoek, Belgium.

William’s connection to Rogate is unclear although it may be that his children were living in the village at the time of his death. His younger brother, Albert Ernest Smith was killed near Béthune on 29 August 1918, while serving with the Canadian Infantry.

Family background

William Smith was born in  Grimsby, Lincolnshire either in the summer of 1883 or winter of 1884. In 1891 the family lived at 5 Charlton Street, Grimsby. By 1901 the family of William Smith [father a sailmaker] and Maria [mother] had moved to 13 Port Street, Glasgow, Scotland with William, the eldest son and three other brothers and two sisters.

In 1911 the census shows that the family had moved to 35 Mayhall Road, Copner, Portsmouth. No evidence could be found of when William moved to Rogate or where he lived in the parish or indeed his connection to the parish.

William married Lilian Hobbs in Alverstoke in the spring of 1907. A son, George William was born to the couple in Gosport in February 1908 and a daughter Emily Lilian in January 1909. Lilian died a few months after the birth of her daughter, aged 38.

Military service

It is understood that William enlisted in London, but the date could not be ascertained. His military career is also sketchy, although a record on the L.C.C. Record of War Service mentions that he may have served for 3 years 3 months in the Balkans and 4 months in France, up until 20 January 1917 when there is a Royal Engineers’ report of a raiding party taking place with a party of the 13th Middlesex Regiment. The Party left the front line near ‘Mannings Mound’ (near Grenay, north-west of Lens) at 9:30 a.m. and reached the German front line in two minutes without difficulty. William Smith was in No. 1 Section and according to the programme, proceeded with the Right Party first, returning to report to the O.C. of the raiding party; he then followed the left party. William also reported that he had observed a R.E. Dump.

For his part in this raid William was awarded the Military Medal and this is recorded in the 129th Field Company’s War Diary on 1 February 1917.

Death and commemoration

The War Diary records that on 21 June 1917 two ‘other ranks’ were wounded ‘while working on road’. It is probable that one of these wounded soldiers was William. William died of his wounds in hospital on 23 June 1917.

William Smith is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Flanders, and his name is recorded on the Rogate War Memorial. On his death his affects were left to his two children.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project