Private 7314 William Smith

Smith William 7314 96 400x600

Killed in Action on Monday, 17th May 1915, age 31.
Buried in Grave I. C. 11. at Rue-Des-Berceaux Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoue, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 6th Brigade of 2nd Division.

Son of James and Elizabeth Smith, of 2 Court, 3 House, Mason's Buildings, Toll End Rd., Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th August 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Mark's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/570742/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
2 Court 6 House, Toll End Road, Tipton, Staffs.
James Smith (47, Puddler, born Tipton), his wife Elizabeth (49, born Tipton), and their 5 children: Maria (20, born Tipton), William (16, Puddler, born Tipton), Steven (13, born Tipton), Thomas (9, born Tipton), and Martha (4, born Tipton).

1911 Census
South Barracks, Gibraltar
William Smith, Private, age 25, Single, born Tipton.

Personal Data

William Smith enlisted with the South Staffs on 2nd March 1905 in Birmingham when he was aged 19. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 125 pounds, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair. He was employed as an Iron Worker and was Church of England. He joined his regiment on 11th February 1906 at Allahabad, India.

As it was May 1915 before he landed in France, it would seem that he was not a regular or reservist in 1914, but volunteered again.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £6/0/11d (6 pounds and 11 pence); this was paid to his father, James, in September 1915. His War Gratuity was £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in August 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in approximately August 1914.

Action resulting in his death

The Battle of Festubert commenced on the night of 15th/16th May against a German salient between Neuve Chapelle and Festubert, and was the first night attack of the war. The bombardment had failed to significantly damage the German defences, and only the 6th Brigade - with the 2nd South Staffs in reserve - made initial progress.

On the 17th the Germans withdrew 1200 yards to a newly-prepared line, allowing the British to capture a German strongpoint called the Quadrilateral and over 450 prisoners. Unfortunately a subsequent attack during that afternoon, attempting to take advantage of this success, failed to produce any results.

On the 18th the Canadian Division renewed the advance, but this made little progress in the face of effective German artillery fire. The British forces then entrenched themselves at the new front line in conditions of heavy rain. The 2nd South Staffs, as part of 2nd Division, were relieved on the 19th May having lost heavily on the previous day. When French ordered Haig to terminate the offensive on 25th May, 1200 yards had been gained but at a cost of 16,000 casualties.

The CWGC shows William being killed on 17th May, but other sources suggest the 18th May. Statistically it is more likely to have been the 18th May as almost 10 times more were killed on that day, when the 2nd South Staffs had the majority of their casualties during the Battle of Festubert. William is buried at Rue-des-Berceax Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoue.

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