Private 21459 John Smitheman

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Photograph of John Smitheman, and photograph the bottom of this page are courtesy of John's grandson, Terry Smitheman.

Died of Wounds on Wednesday, 8th March 1916, age 26.
Buried in Grave VI. D. 15A. at Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.). 71st Brigade of 6th Division.

Husband of Emily Smitheman, of 72, Hill St., King's Hill, Wednesbury, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Chesterfield, Resident: Wednesbury.

First landed France & Flanders, 18th August 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/505999/

Genealogical Data

John Smitheman was born on 18th February 1890 at 35 Leabrook Square, Tipton.

1891 Census
Court 2 House 1, Leabrook Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Stephen Smitheman (37, Puddler, born Dudley), his wife Mary (33, born Dudley) and their 3 children: Ellen (7, born Dudley), Joseph (7, born Dudley), and John (1, born Tipton).

1901 Census
20 Eagle Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Stephen Smitheman (34, Puddler, born Dudley), his wife Mary (43, born Dudley) and their 4 children: Joseph (17, Tube Screwer, born Dudley), John (12, born Leabrook, Tipton), Ellen (7, born Ocker Hill) and Thomas Smitheman (5, born Toll End).

John married Emily Wells on 31st July 1910 at St Martin's Church, Tipton.

1911 Census
73 Aston Street, Toll End, Tipton, Staffs.
John Smitheman (21, Shearer at Iron Works, born Tipton), his wife Emily (20, born Darlaston), John's father - Stephen Smitheman (57, Miner Underground, born Dudley), John's mother - Maria (51, born Dudley), and John's brother Thomas (13, born Tipton).

John and Emily's first child, Ellen Beatrice, was born in Tipton in 1911. They moved to the Chesterfield area in 1911/12 along with his parents and about 8 other members of the family. Two further children were born: John Thomas in 1912 and Alfred Stephen in 1914. Sadly, Ellen died on 28th February 1916, just 10 days before her father died.

Family information and photograph courtesy of grandson Terry Smitheman.

Personal Data

John Smitheman (Private 21459) and his brother Joseph (Private 21457) joined the 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment together in January 1915. John arrived in France on 18th August 1915, and served in the Ypres Salient. Joseph had arrived in France a day earlier on 17th August 1915. Joseph served throughout the war, and was discharged on 14th December 1918.

John and Emily's daughter, Ellen Beatrice, had died on 24th February 1916, just two weeks before her father. After the death of her daughter and husband in so short a space of time, Emily had a breakdown and returned to Darlaston to live with her sister.

After John's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £1/13/10d (1 pound, 13 shillings and 10 pence), this was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Emily, in May 1916. His War Gratuity was £4/10/0d (4 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to Emily in October 1919. By this time she was Mrs Emily Glover, having married Richard E. Glover in December quarter 1917.

Action resulting in his death

The 6th Division had served in the Ypres Salient for the entirety of John's service from his arrival in August 1915, until his death in March 1916. The 2nd Sherwoods suffered relatively light casualties in January and February 1916, consistent with intermittently holding the front line, and casualties arising from sniping and occasional artillery fire. In February 1916 they had been in trenches at Wieltje, near Ypres. On 19th February they were at St. Jan, about 1.5 miles north-east of Ypres.

Family legend had it that John was shot in the head by a sniper on his 26th birthday - 18th February 1916. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph confirmed that John was shot in the head, but reports the date as the 19th February. John was moved through the casualty clearing system, and ended up at Etaples, the location of many hospital units. John died at No. 2 General Hospital at Etaples on 8th March 1916, he is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings

Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 17th March 1916
Shot through the Head.
Private John Smitheman, of the 2nd Sherwoods, is the latest Whittington victim of the war. As he was leaving the trenches he was shot through the head on February 19th. He lingered until March 8th and succumbed without recovering consciousness. A widow and two children are left.

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John and Emily Smitheman, with their children Ellen Beatrice, John Thomas, and Alfred Stephen, taken in 1915.