Saturday, September 06, 2014

G/9591 Pte George Smith, 13th Royal Sussex Regt

The George Spencer Smith commemorated by The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission was entered in the Lewes District birth register for the March quarter, 1887 as Spencer Maryon Smith. He also appears on the 1891 and 1901 census under this name as well.

He appears on the 1891 census of England and Wales living at Hanly Farm, Cooksbridge Road, Barcombe, with his family. The household comprised James Smith (head, married, aged 32, working as a groom), his wife Margaret Emma Smith (nee Diplock), also aged 32 and their five sons: Arthur Vere Smith (aged eight), Frederick James Smith (aged six), Spencer Maryon Smith (aged four), Henry William Smith (aged two) and Edward George Smith (aged five months). James was from Newick, his wife from Lindfield. Arthur had been born in Newick, Frederick in Hamsey and the other four boys in Barcombe. Next door to them lived William Diplock and his family. William was almost certainly directly related to Margaret; either an older brother or her father.

By the time the 1901 census was taken, the family had grown and had also moved house to Cornwell’s Bank, Newick. The household now comprised: James Smith (42, by now working as an agricultural labourer), his wife Margaret Emily [sic] Smith and their nine children: Arthur Vere Smith (aged 18, working as an agricultural labourer), Frederick James Smith (aged 16, working as a gardener), Spencer Maryon Smith (aged 14, working as a gardener), Henry William Smith (aged 12), Edward George Smith (aged ten), Leonard Diplock Smith (aged eight), Cissie Eva Smith (the only daughter, aged seven), Sydney Septimus Smith (aged 5) and Cyril Frank Smith (aged two). The four younger children had all been born in Newick.

George is not mentioned in Chailey’s parish magazine but The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register notes that he was 32 years old and was the son of James and Margaret Emma Smith of Yew Tree Cottage, Colonels Bank, Chailey, Lewes, Sussex.

G/9591 Private George Spencer Smith was killed in action on 26th April 1918 whilst serving with the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment. He has no known grave and is commemorated by name on the Tyne Cot memorial (below) in Belgium. His brother, Frederick James Smith, had been killed in France just over a year before, on 17th April 1917.

Both George and Frederick attended the village school at Newick and the photo that appears on this page is the one which Frederick sent his old headmaster, John Oldaker. A photographer's stamp at the bottom shows that it was taken at Newhaven, Sussex. I am grateful to Simon Stevens for sending me the photo.

Twenty pages of George's service record survive in the WO 363 series at the National Archives, also accessible via Ancestry. These are the key dates taken from that service record.

8th December 1915 - attests at Chichester (Derby Scheme) aged 32. Living at Westdean Park, Chichester and working as a footman. Next of kin given as his mother, Emily Smith, of Yew Tree Cottage, Colonels Bank, Newick
24th March 1916 - called up
25th March 1916 - posted to 3rd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment and given number G/9591
7th December 1916 - arrives France and posted to 40th Infantry Base Depot
25th December 1916 - posted to 13th Bn, Royal Sussex Regiment
9th December 1917 - granted leave to UK until 23rd December
26th April 1918 - killed in action

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