SMITH, George

No. 4971, Private, George SMITH
Aged 38

King's Own, (Royal Lancaster Regiment), 1st Battalion
Killed in Action on Saturday, 1st July 1916

George was born in Mildenhall in 1878 ( according to census records, but there are two George Smith with birth registered in Mildenhall in 1877, one in Q1 and one in Q3, and none in 1878 or 1879. He was the son of Pearmain and Elizabeth SMITH (née LEONARD).

1881 census...Aged 3 he was living at The Street, Eriswell in the house of his uncle and aunt Edward [46] farm labourer born Eriswell and Sarah LEONARD [38] born Beck Row, and their three children Albert [11], Agnes [7] and Naomi [1] all 3 Eriswell born, and his parents, father Pearmain SMITH [28] farm labourer born Mildenhall, mother Elizabeth [31] born Eriswell, sisters Elizabeth [8] and Eliza [1] both born Mildenhall.

1891 census...Aged 13, a farm labourer, at 2 The Square, The Street, Eriswell living with his parents, brother Thomas [15] a farm labourer born Mildenhall ( not there for the 1881 census, he was visiting George and Sarah Leonard at Church Farm Loke, Eriswell); sister Eliza, new sisters Edna [9], Emma [6] and Kate [2] all three born Eriswell.

1901 census...So far unable to trace him in this census

1911 census...Aged 33, a coal miner, he was lodging with William and Elizabeth Palethorpe at 35 Cawley Place, Wakefield Road, Barnsley

George enlisted in Pontefract. With a name like George Smith it may take some time to find any records, they are not amongst the more obvious ones.

On July 1st 1916, the worst day in British Army history, when nearly 20,000 were killed and a further 40,000 became casualties, the 1st Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) were part of the 14th Brigade, 4th Division. Leaving Bertrancourt at 22:05 on 30th June ready for the start of the Battle of the Somme they headed for their assembly area - Green Trench and Bow Street to attack between Beaumont Hamel and Serre. The leading companies advanced at 8:45 am and sustained heavy casualties even before the British front line was reached
Further heavy losses were incurred in No Man's Land from machine gun fire and shelling and few men reached the German front line. They withdrew to Elles Square support trenches. 123 men had been killed, only 31 of these have an identified grave.

The Bury Free Press of 26th August 1916 recorded :-

News has come to hand of the death in battle of the first native of Eriswell to give his life for his country, information having been received that Mr. and Mrs Pearman Smith, that their son, Prvt.George Smith of the Royal Lancaster Regiment, was killed in action on July 1st. He had previously fought at the Dardanelles. Formerly he was in the Militia, and shortly after the outbreak of war he re-enlisted. He was unmarried and 39 years of age.

George Smith is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial 5D/12B

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details