1584 Corporal Henry G Smith of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers was a patient at Hickwells in 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album was originally written in pencil but has been heavily overwritten in black ink at a later date. It reads:
Best respects to the Staff at Chailey Home
Wounded in Saint Julien Village on April 26th
of Battle Ypres
1st Line 6th Northumberland Fus
Better known as the Fighting Fifth
Saint George’s Drill Hall.
1584 Corporal Henry G Smith was born around 1892/1893. He joined the territorial 6th Northumberland Fusiliers on
29th April 1912
and sailed with the battalion when it arrived in as a complete unit on France 21st April 1915. Just five days after arriving, he was wounded
at St Julien.
23rd June 1915
his DCM award was noted on page 6136 of the supplement to the London Gazette
reading: DCM: 1584 Acting Corporal H Smith, 6th Battalion,
Northumberland Fusiliers, Territorial Force. One week later, on 30th June,
his DCM citation was noted on page 6402 of the supplement to The London Gazette
as follows: DCM: For conspicuous
gallantry in action, and for his devotion to duty in finally assisting at the
end of the engagement in carrying a wounded officer from the firing line,
although wounded himself.
Henry Smith was discharged on
July 1916 as no longer physically fit fro war service. He was 24 years old and had served for around
one week overseas.
At the time war was declared, the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers found themselves in the Northumbrian Division, one of fourteen as yet unnamed territorial divisions. When it arrived in
1915 it became the eighth complete territorial division to sail abroad but it was
not until the following month (by which time Smith had already been wounded and
sent back home) that it got its official designation as the 50th (Northumbrian)
After a calm journey across the Channel, the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers spent their first night under canvas at a rest camp outside
. The following morning they had a brisk three
mile march to Pont du Briquet and then picked up a train which had deposited
them at Boulogne Cassel around .
There they had de-trained and marched the five miles to Winnezeele,
arriving there at
and immediately billeted in scattered farms north and south of the
village. They spent the rest of the day
there. The following day, Day, they
left their billets at
and marched off towards Brandhoek at , covering the eleven miles in
four and a half hours. There, with the
rest of the brigade, they took over the GHQ 3rd line trenches either
side of the Ypres - Poperinghe Road and remained there until 3.45pm on the 24th
when they were ordered to move via Ypres to Potijze to form a Corps
reserve. At on the 25th the brigade
arrived at Potijze cold and wet through from the rain. They’d been shelled while passing through St George’s Ypres and had already suffered casualties.
The following afternoon, the brigade having been placed under the command of the 1st Canadian Division, they received orders to attack St Julien village through the lines of trenches held by the 4th Division. They would be accompanied by the Lahore Division and they would be the first Territorials to go into action as a Brigade. At they attacked in two lines but the situation was hopeless. As soon as they left the ruins of the village they were met by a hail of fire; shrapnel shells at first and then rifle and machine gun fire. Extending into open order the men advanced in rushes as they had been trained in
. But this wasn’t England and St Julien was an
unforgiving training ground. In England the men
had trained in light battle order but here they were still in marching order
with a heavy pack that included a greatcoat, full ammunition pouches and an
extra bandolier. Over-burdened, running
as best they could over the shell pocked ground they made easy targets for the
heavy artillery and machine guns situated in nearby Kitchener Wood and the
casualties soon began to mount. The men
managed to advance about a mile but it was no good. They got to within 500 yards of St Julien
village and there they halted. Without
artillery support and with no prospect of reinforcement, further progress was
impossible. They were ordered to remain
until dusk when they were withdrawn to the trenches held by the 4th
Later, as the war progressed, and drafts of replacements filled the gaps left by the original 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers Territorials, the battalion war diarists would have neither the time or the inclination to list casualties sustained by other ranks. In the early days though, it was different. Smith gets a mention along with many of his comrades in a list that fills eleven foolscap pages of the battalion’s war diary:
Seven officers and 114 men killed, seven officers and 492 men wounded; all within a week of being overseas and most of those in about one hour on the 26th April.
The war diary for the 149th Brigade reads as follows:
6th & 7th NF arrive and billet at WINNEZEELE
5th NF arrive and billet at
4th NF arrive and billet at OUDEZEELE
23rd April -
Orders received from HQ Northern Division for the concentration of the Brigade at WINNEZEELE
Orders issued for the Brigade to move to BRANDHOEK via WATOU and POPERINGHE.
Brigade arrived at BRANDHOEK and took over GHQ 3rd line trenches astride YPRES-POPERINGHE road. 4th and 7th Battalions North of Road, 6th and 5th Battalions South of Road. HQ billeted at Farm House 3 miles east of POPERINGHE on the
24th April -
Orders received from 5th Corps for Brigade to move via
to POTIJZE where it will form a Corps reserve.
Orders issued for move to POTIJZE. Movement to commence at .
Brigade arrived at POTIJZE being heavily shelled whilst passing through
25th April - POTIJZE
Brigade placed under the orders of GOC 10th Inf Bde and ordered to move to WIELTJE in support of 10th Bde.
Brigade arrived at WIELTJE. Orders received to send one Battalion to GHQ line EAST of Farm in C22t
4th and 7th Battalions sent to FORTUIN under instruction from GHQ 10th Bde. 5th
The Brigade was placed under the orders of the GOC 1st Canadian Division as Reserve.
Units ordered to leave their positions and bivouac for the night just south of WIELTJE. No casualties occurred this day in the Brigade. Weather fine.
26th April - WIELTJE
Report received from 10th Brigade that enemy were endeavouring to break through the line in D13 cd and ordering North. Brigade to verify and counter attack with whatever force considered necessary.
Orders received for the Northumberland Infantry Brigade to attack ST JULIEN in co-operation with LAHORE DIVISION
Orders issued for attack. For detail of engagement see App V.
General Riddell killed at VANHULE FARM
Colonel Foster 4th
Units commenced to retire from front line trenches being no longer required.
Appendix IV - Operation Order No 3 by Brigadier General J V Riddell, Commanding NORTHUMBERLAND INFANTRY BRIGADE.
a) French troops strongly reinforced are attacking with their right on theb) The
c) The 5th Corps is co-operating in the attack.
2 The Northd Inf Bde will attack ST JULIEN advancing astride the WIELTJE-ST JULIEN road
3 The 6th
move off at once and advance with its right on the WIELTJE-ST JULIEN road. The 4th Bn NF will
move with its left on the WIELTJE-ST JULIEN road and will divert. The 7th Bn will follow the 4th
Bn NF . The frontage of each battalion will be approximately
300x. The 5th Bn NF
will remain in their present position.
An artillery bombardment will commence at and be continued until during which time the Brigade will
advance. At rapid fire will begin and continue until after which the assault will
take place. Bn NF
4 Dressing Station will be established SOUTH of WIELTJE village.
5 Reports to support trench in C23a
FH Moore Capt
Northd Inf Bde
Issued verbally to OC Units at
The War Diary of the 50th Northumbrian Division gives the following casualties:
· The National Archives: Medal Index Card
· The National Archives: Silver War Badge Roll: O/1811/1: WO 329/3141
· The National Archives: War Diary: 6th Battn Northumberland Fusiliers: WO95/2829
· The National Archives: War Diary 149th Bde: WO95/2826
· The National Archives: War Diary 50th Division: WO95/2807