SMITH, Charles Robert

No.32952, Private, Charles SMITH
Aged 35

1st Battalion, Essex Regiment
formerly No.31323, Bedfordshire Regiment
Killed in Action presumed on 14th April 1917

Charles Robert Smith was born in Helions Bumpstead (Risbridge Q2-1882 4A:566) son of William and Matilda SMITH (née DYSON).

1891 census...Aged 8, he was at Parsonage Farm, Helions Bumpstead with his father William SMITH [36] farm labourer; his mother Matilda [35]; brothers Albert [17] farm labourer and George [5] and aunt Annie DYSON [17]. All were born in Helions Bumpstead.

1901 census...Aged 18, a horseman, he was at The Parsonage, Helions Bumpstead with his father William SMITH [46] horse-keeper; his mother Matilda [44]; brothers George [15] farm labourer, Arthur [9] and Stanley [3]. All were born in Helions Bumpstead.

In 1906 he married Ellen HARDING [30-1-1883] (Risbridge Q4-1906 4A:1566)

1911 census...Aged 28, married, a horsekeeper, he was at Parsonage Yard with his wife, Ellen [28] born Helions Bumpstead. His parents were at Parsonage Yard, Helions Bumpstead with his parents and brothers Stanley and Arthur.

His brother Arthur was killed serving in France in the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1918. see here

He enlisted in Warley, Essex.
The war diary:-
Thu, Apr 12, 1917 The Bn. marched from billets at FOSSEUX to ARRAS (abt 10 miles) and on arrival was at once ordered to proceed with the remainder of the 88th Bde to relieve the 37th Bde near MONCHY-LE-PREUX. The Bn arrived at ARRAS at 3pm and left to carry out the relief 4 miles off at 6.30 pm. Owing to intense congestion on the road and other delays the relief was not completed until 3am on 13th.
Prior to leaving ARRAS orders had been issued for an attack on the German line in company with the 1st NFLD to be made on the 13th at an hour to be notified later. The attack was to be made from an Assembly trench which was to be dug on the night of the 12/13 by 2nd Hants, 4th Worcs were in support to the attack. Owing to the late hour at which the Brigade relief was completed and consequent impossibility of making adequate preparation for the attack the operation was postponed.
At daylight therefore on the 13th the Brigade was situated as shown in the attached map.(not found) At 11am orders were received to make the attack at 2pm. These orders also were cancelled a few minutes before Zero.
During the night 13/14 the 2nd Hants dug the required assembly trench and operation orders were issued to the Bn. by Lt. Col. Halaham. App. B.
At 5.30am on 14th the barrage fell and the battalion left the trench and carried out the assault. In spite of a certain weakness of the barrage the objective was gained and by 6.30am all companies had reported that they were busy digging in. In the mean time "X" Coy detailed to form a flank guard to the then attacking Coys had at once come in contact with the enemy. Therefore acting under Capt. Foster's orders No. 5 Platoon got into shell holes at about O.1.b 8.1 and opened fire. No. 8 Platoon being checked by machine gun fire from ARROW COPSE No 7 was directed to outflank this copse with the result that No 8 could again get forward, capturing the 2 machine guns & driving the enemy out of the copse. The small wood at O.2.a.7.5 was also in hostile occupation but was cleared by Lewis Guns & Rifle Grenades. The Company then moved forward to the N. end of the copses where all platoons came under fire from a line of hidden machine guns. The company now began to form the chain of strong points as detailed in operation orders.
From this point no further definitive news could be gathered as to the fate of this company. A few men eventually rejoined the battalion & from their statements it is certain that all Platoons were in their proper positions where they were at once attacked by very superior German forces & were finally overwhelmed in these positions at a time between 6.30 and 7.30 am.
The main attack by the remaining 3 Coys having reached their objective by 6.30 am started to dig in and reports were sent back to Bn. Hqrs that large forces of the enemy could be seen in the BOIS du SART & the BOIS des AUBE PINES and that all covering parties were sent forward were at once coming under heavy machine gun & rifle fire. It became apparent rapidly to the Coy commanders that an immediate counter attack was being prepared and this also was reported to Bn. Hqrs. These reports were confirmed by two Coy commanders in person returning wounded from the main attack. [Capt Tomlinson, Capt Caroline] Steps had already been taken to get the Artillery on to the points where the enemy was reported to be massing but owing to the destruction of the wires by shell fire it was an hour before the guns opened fire. By 7.30 am the counter attack had fully developed in all its strength of at least 9 battalions. The weight of the attack seams to have come from the N. East & thus fell on "X" Coy. This Coy in spite of a stout resistance was gradually overwhelmed. Vide app. C.
From 7.30 onwards no reports, messages or wounded men arrived at Bn Hqrs or the Aid Post it is therefore apparent that "X" Coy having been overrun the hostile forces got between MONCHY & the attacking Companies of the Essex & NLFD. No men have returned from these Companies.
As soon as it became clear that MONCHY itself was being attacked patrols were put out from Hqr party to hold street barricades in MONCHY. No German succeeded in entering MONCHY. It must be remembered that during all this time the town was under an intense enemy barrage thus rendering it almost impossible to reinforce or support the two Battalions & making the work of the respective Hqrs parties extremely arduous. Except for a certain amount of support from the 4th Worcester & 2nd Hants they fought on alone and these two battalions broke up a German attack designed not to drive them back but to retake MONCHY itself.
Casualties were 17 officers and 644 other ranks

The remnants went into the CAVES at ARRAS at 8 pm.

The final total recorded by CWGC was 187 killed, of which only 6 have a known grave.

From their numbers William Brazier and Charles Smith enlisted together and they were killed at the same action

scene of the action, the wood mentioned is circled

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Charles Smith is commemorated on the Arras memorial, Faubourg d'Amiens bay 7

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

BACK to Helions Bumpstead home page