SMITH, Charles

No. 270264, Private, Charles SMITH
Aged 19

4th Battalion, Bedfordfordshire Regiment
attached to the Hertfordshire Regiment
formerly No.21417, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action (presumed) on Tuesday, 27th August 1918

Charles Smith was born in Fordham on 5th March 1899 (Newmarket Q1-1899 3B:520), baptised on 12th December 1900 in Fordham son of Susan SMITH.

1901 census...Aged 2, he was at Church Street, Fordham with his mother Susan SMITH [35] born Snailwell and uncle Stephen SMITH [46] a shepherd, born Snailwell.

1911 census...Aged 12, he was a boarder with Richard and Sophia PRYKE and their family at Mill Lane, Fordham. His mother was the cook for the BUTCHER family in High Street, Soham.

His mother married Robert FINCHAM in 1917.

He enlisted in Cambridge.
click here to go to Steven Fuller's excellent website for the whole battalion war diary

A very brief summary:-
At 11 a.m. on 27th August 1918, 4th Bedfords assembled in RED CUT to attack THILLOY and LIGNY THILLOY. The 7th Royal Fusiliers were on the left, D.Coy. was on the right, "B" Coy. in centre, and "C" Coy. on left each with 3 platoons in front line and 1 in reserve. "A" Coy. in reserve behind "B" Coy.
The barrage started at 11 a.m. and lifted forward at 11.3 moving back at the rate of 100 yards every 3 mins. Shells fell into the assembly positions which were thought to come from our own guns firing short. On leaving the sunken road heavy M.G. fire was encountered from the front and the left and especially from the right flank. It had been arranged that 21st. Division would attack on our right, but their attack was cancelled at the last moment and our right flank was thus exposed to extremely heavy M.G. fire from the high ground and further south. The line was held up...No further advance was possible as M.G. fire from THILLOY and the ridges on the right was so heavy. Snipers were very active and claimed many victims.
At 6 p.m. after 1 hours bombardment by heavy artillery and preceded by an 18 pounder barrage the advance was continued again. Just previous to zero one of our heavy shells fell in the midst of the centre Coy. and did much damage. Some of "C" Coy. on the left entered THILLOY and went right through, with their right on the cross roads..The left of the centre company was met again by very heavy M.G. fire from the right and was unable to make much progress and the right company was unable to advance at all owing to the same reason. The enemy had a perfect defensive position which commanded the approach from in front and on the right flank.

Around 35 men were killed that day.
Some of his Army records, very faint, are on line, but mixed in with another soldier's papers. It appears he enlisted giving his age as 19 1/2, on 13th September 1915, a farm labourer, from Collins Hill, Fordham. Initially No 21417, 11th Battalion Suffolk Regiment he was then 10397 with the 2nd/1st Hertfordshire Regiment. He managed to get to the BEF on 6th July 1916 but appears to have been returned to UK on 13th September 1916 (too young?). On 8th November 1917 he was attached to 51st Grad Bn.,West Yorkshire Regiment at Clipstone Camp for pay purposes and then transferred at Thoresby Camp to the Reserve Unit, 5th Bn., Bedfordshire Regiment. He was posted to the BEF on 4th June 1918, there is reference to Calais and influenza around 23rd June. He was posted to 'B' Company, 7th Platoon, 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment at the front on 12th July 1918 and reported missing between 21st and 27th August 1918. CWGC have his death as 27th August.
There is a letter from his mother, now Susan FINCHAM, asking where he is, as she knew he had gone to France in June 1918, but she had not heard from him for two months.
The battalion lost over 40 men killed from 21st to 27th August.

photo: Rodney Gibson

Charles Smith is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, panel 10

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