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Smith, Frederick John

Frederick John Smith
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Private Frederick John Smith (94090)
Killed in Action on Sunday 25th August 1918, aged 19
Son of Charles & Florence Smith
Father's occupation: Dairyman
Born 26th February 1899 at Hurst
1 sister, 1 brother, position in family: 2
Relatives: Brother of 402 Driver Charles Smith and Gladys Emma Jane Smith
Infant School:Hurst Infants
Senior School:Hurst Boys
Admitted:After 19/06/1905
Age on admission:6
Local address: Arbour Dairy, Hurst
Regiment:The King's (Liverpool)
Battalion:1st Bn.
Previous unit:18th Kings(Liverpool)
Went overseas:After 1 Jan 1916
Died:Sunday 25th August 1918
Cause:Killed in Action
Battalion at:Ervillers
Commemorated:Grave at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, Arras

Frederick Smith was born in Hurst on 26th February 1899 to Charles and Florence Smith, and was the younger of two brothers. Frederick's father was a dairyman who had brought his family to Hurst in 1898 to run a dairy at Arbour Cottage, on the site now occupied by 6/8 Arbour Meadows, Arbour Lane, Winnersh. It was here that Frederick was living with his family in 1901 until at least 1911. He attended Hurst Infants School and at the age of six Frederick became a pupil in Hurst Boys School.

Frederick was resident in Wokingham during the First World War and enlisted into the army there. A caption in the Reading Standard refers to Frederick as a Private in the 18th Battalion of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment and if he enlisted soon after his eighteenth birthday, then Frederick probably went to France towards the end of 1917.

18th Battalion was reduced to a cadre in May 1918 and it may have been at this time that Frederick was transferred to 1st Battalion of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment. The Battalion belonged to 6th Brigade , which formed part of 2nd Division. In August 1918, following success at the Battle of Amiens, 2nd Division was involved in a number of offensives on the advance towards victory. On 14th August the Battalion took part in a large raid against Pusieux and, as the front moved forward, it was called into action again to help take the villages of Ervillers and Mory. The Battalion War Diary describes the action:

Douchy-les-Ayette 22 August 1918
No dew last night. As there was an 8" gun dropping stuff about this morning we disposed ourselves for the day in hedges and had a very enjoyable picnic. At 3.15 p.m. we received a wire from Brigade that we would have to move tonight and relieve the 76th Brigade of the 3rd Division between MOYBLAIN TRENCH and COURCELLES. At about 9 p.m. we received a warning from the Brigade that we should have to take on ERVILLERS with the 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment and that the Brigadier would have a conference at 10.30 p.m. at the H.Q. of the 17th Royal Fusiliers. The Brigade orders were received very shortly afterwards. C.O. attended this conference where details were discussed and on his return, after 11 p.m,. drafted the orders which were issued to Companies the following morning (23rd).
Douchy 22 August 1918
We heard a heavy bombardment start at about 4 o'clock this morning. At 6 a.m. we moved off by Platoons, passed the South end of Douchy, over the sunken road, then across the AYETTE-ABLAINZEVELLE Road, past the South side of the old aerodrome on the COURCELLES Road and thence to our assembly position between FOCH TRENCH and HAIG TRENCH on what is called the BLUE LINE.
Blue Line 23 August 1918
We arrived there about 7.30 a.m. See special report on operations (attached).

Extract from Special Report on Operations of 1st King's Battalion on 23/24 August 1918

After a thorough reconnaissance of the forward routes, the Battalion advanced at 10.00 a.m. towards the "jumping off" line East of the ACHIET LE GRAND — ARRAS railway. The WHIPPETS (Mk. A Tanks) actually moved at 10.15 a.m. and passed without difficulty through the gaps between Platoons. The advance of the broken ground was carried out very slowly so as to ensure keeping each of the various small formations well closed up. The time allowed viz. 1 hour, was based on a rate of 50 yards a minute. This estimate was correct and the Battalion crossed the railway embankment, and reached the "jumping off" line close below the skyline without a single casualty.
At 11.00 a.m. the barrage fell about 750 yards ahead. It was tremendous and the leading Companies moved rapidly forward to close with the barrage. The Reserve Company moved forward 200 yards to get away from the vicinity of the railway embankment, and was dispersed in shell holes ready for any emergency. The enemy retaliation fell in about 3 minutes and rapidly grew in intensity. Most of it passed over the Reserve Company and Advance Battalion H.Q. crashing along the line of the railway and 250 yards East of it.
At 11.30 a.m. or thereabouts it was seen that the leading Platoons had crossed the spur running North-East so one supporting Company of 17th Royal Fusiliers was thrown forwards to straddle the valley and the North-West slope of the spur. The second supporting Company of 17th Royal Fusiliers was maintained on a North and South line safeguarding the flank of the attack which was judged to be the one offering the enemy the better opportunity of an immediate counterstrike since a considerable gap existed between our advance and that of the Guards Division.
When the white VERY LIGHTS were seen from ERVILLERS the whole Reserve Company of the King's (C Co.) was advanced onto the line of the road running from B.13 Central North-West. At the same time the two supporting Companies of 17th Royal Fusiliers and the 4 Vickers guns were advanced North-East. The Vickers guns were ordered to fire on the area A.12b at a range of about 1500 to 1800 yards thus to some extent neutralising the enemy machine gun fire from North of the ERVILLERS-HAMELINCOURT road.
The two Companies of 17th Royal Fusiliers were instructed to dig in and link up a shell hole system ready to defeat an enemy counter-attack.
Meanwhile The King's were consolidating the captured village of ERVILLERS in conjunction with 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment. Severe machine gun fire from the western slope of MORY COPSE - HALLY COPSE ridge prevented the establishment of posts clear of the eastern outskirts of ERVILLERS as had been ordered.
About 2.00 p.m. the enemy shelling eased off but heavy concentrations and area shorts were continuously being fired at varying intervals of time, throughout the remaining hours of daylight, and all abandoned dug-outs, gun-pits and trenches were searched with 5.9's. A good deal of switching was noticed in the enemy shelling and this unexpected practice caused us many casualties.
Throughout the night of 23rd/24th August efforts were made in a determined way, with strong fighting patrols, to capture MORY COPSE and MORY VILLAGE. The hostile machine gun fire was however too severe. No "S.O.S." signal was sent up from our front line throughout the night in spite of two alarms.
At about 4.30 a.m. on 24th August orders were received form Brigade H.Q. to push out patrols again. The Brigade Major explained that it was certain no strong resistance was possible as it was known that the enemy was opposing us with weakened Divisions and there were no fresh ones handy. Fourteen small reconnoitring patrols, 6 to 8 strong, were pushed out along the whole front and repeated efforts to advance only entailed further casualties which were particularly heavy against the Officers.
About 9 a.m., perhaps earlier, a long skirmishing line of the Guards Division was seen advancing, without opposition, South-East through B.8 and B. 14 with their right about the line of the railway. C Company of the King's was immediately sent out down the re-entrant in B.7d to prolong their right flank and push South-East towards B.2b. This joint advance was severely checked and it was evident that heavy machine gun fire had been encountered from the Western outskirts of MORY and from B.26b to B.27a. The advancing line retired to the sunken road and tracks about B.14b.00.35.
About 11.30 p.m. a renewed effort was made with B and D Companies of the King's; C Company was withdrawn to B.13 Central and reorganised and rested. B and D Companies progressed with caution, working East up the hill towards MORY COPSE and South-South-East along the light railway, when warning was received of the attack by 99th Infantry Brigade to be launched sometime after 2.30 p.m. The further advance of B and D Companies was immediately checked and these troops remained out in observation facing East and South-East. The 99th Brigade orders for the King's were:-
"1st Kings will form a support for the advance and will cooperate by moving up the MORY VALLEY in B.12a"
The action taken by the Battalion was as follows:-
a) B and D Companies in the valley were ordered to halt and not move forward until A and C Companies had advanced. B and D Companies were then to advance towards MORY forming a support to A and C Companies and give depth to our attack.
b) A and C Companies were deployed in two lines and held under cover at B.13b.35 ready for the advance.
When the attack of 99th Infantry Brigade had been launched and was seen sweeping South-East through B.14d and B.15c the two Companies of the King's, total strength 2 Officers and 140 Other Ranks, raced forward South-East in two waves 100 yards apart and passing over a battery of guns gained the spur from B.20a.80.35 to B.20b.30.95. It was decided here to amalgamate the steadily diminishing lines. After a momentary pause to gain breath, the line advanced again to about the North and South grid line between B.20b and B.21a, suffering from heavy shelling and machine gun fire. The machine gun fire appeared to be coming from the East end of MORY VILLAGE and the rising ground in B.22 b and d.
To move Eastwards through B.21a, or remain where the line was, equally meant a quick annihilation as the enemy machine gun fire was intensive and the morale of the men was suffering. It was noticed that the heavier numbers of enemy guns were shelling MORY VILLAGE. Also troops of 99th Infantry Brigade were stuck in B.15d and MORY COPSE, judged to be the one dominating position to be captured at all costs, had not yet been secured. The attack obviously required an impulse.
The decision was made to chance the flank more and wheel sharp left, sweeping up the hillside at racing speed and try and carry the whole thing forward. This was done. The men, lightly equipped, even though thoroughly worn out, responded magnificently and with cheers of "King's" tore across the railway lines and joined the 1st Royal Berkshires in a shallow depression somewhere about B.15d central. A pause had to be made as the machine gun fire swept the ridge and many were being hit.
Signals were continuously made to the tank "DOROTHY" and after 45 seconds, perhaps longer, she grasped the situation, ceased firing into the Northern outskirts of MORY and trundled up the hill. The line only waited till she was within 10 yards and then rose and swept forward in MORY COPSE. The last German post about B.15d.9.8 was held by a German Officer and 6 men with light machine guns. The tank saved the troops many casualties as not only did she draw most of the fire but the morale effect on the men was decisive. The tank DOROTHY also stood a heavy shelling but luckily escaped on completing her task.
The leading waves of Royal Berkshires made for HALLY COPSE firing hard at the running enemy. Within 30 minutes there was a strong Garrison from several Units installed in MORY COPSE. On the same night i.e. 24th/25th August the King's were withdrawn. The total losses in these two days were 16 Officers and 270 Other Ranks. Four Officers and 257 men came out unwounded.

The battalion War Diary continues the story:

Ervillers 24 August 1918
On being relieved by troops of the 62nd Division we assembled what was left of the Battalion on the open ground just North of the old aerodrome west of MOYBLAIN TRENCH. Here we made bivouacs with such materials as we could salvage in the locality. 2nd Lt. E. A. Wilson, 2nd Lt. J. P. Bradbury and 2nd Lt. C. Haswell joined Battalion here.
Ayette 25 August 1918
Brigadier, Brigade Major, G.S.O1 and G.S.O3 called on us this morning and discussed the recent operations. C.O. and Capt. MACE M.C. rode round to the S. end of AYETTE this evening and called on the 12th KING'S. Capt. W. J. H. HOWARD and Sergt. Major ADAMS, both of 1st Battalion, were serving with them. We had a Battalion parade and checked our rolls and reported our casualties.

The casualties for the two day operation were 23 men killed, 246 wounded and 17 missing, representing over half of the entire Battalion's strength. Frederick Smith was one of those killed in action; he was nineteen years old. Frederick now rests in a Commonwealth war grave in Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, about five miles from where he fell.


Frederick Smith at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, Arras
Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, Arras

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon