Joseph C Smith

Joseph C Smith outlined   

Full name: Joseph Charles Smith

Date of birth: 1897

Date of death: 5 May 1917 (Aged 19)

Location of death: Unknown

Rank: Honourable Artillery Company

Position at Lloyd's Register: Clerical Staff, London office

Any other details:

Smith was an avid cricketer and was a member of Lloyd's Register's Cricket XI.

Regimental number 4973.

Below is an account of Smith's life from his great nephew Nick Mann.

Joseph Charles Smith (Joe) was born in 1897 in Dulwich Grove, son of Joseph George and Annie Eliza. He was the second of six children and younger brother of my mother's mother Annie.

He was at school at Alleyn's, where he excelled at football and cricket. He played left half for the school first team and was a useful middle order batsman for the first XI too. His school diary for 1914 and photographs and letters home are kept in an archive held at the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC). 1914 was his last year at school. When he left at 16 he took a job as a Clerk at Lloyd's Register, playing for the cricket club, before enlisting in 1915. With several of his school friends he joined the 2nd Battalion of the HAC as a private.

The Battalion was posted to France and Joe spent the winter of 1916-1917 in the reserve trenches at the Somme. His letters home had two themes; requests for food - he seemed permanently hungry - and accounts of football matches he either organized, refereed or played in. He wrote regularly to his girlfriend Dolly as well. He was hospitalized with frost bite and spent some time in a field hospital (where he enjoyed hearty cooked breakfasts) before rejoining his battalion, which was redeployed to Bullecourt in 1917.

The battle at Bullecourt was the Allies initial attempt to break the Hindenburg Line and was a shambolic bloodbath. Many of the casualties were Australian, although the enthusiastic but inexperienced HAC battalion was decimated too; out of 850 fewer than 100 survived. You can visit the battleground today, where there is a little museum.

Joe was in the bombing section of 11 Platoon. C Company. He wrote a postcard dated 3rd May saying all was well. A little later, he was shot as he got out of his trench to advance; in the confusion it's not clear exactly what his injuries were. He died of his wounds two days later. He was 19. He is buried in the extension section of the small cemetery established next to the field hospital where he was treated, called Achiet-Le-Grand. The archive includes letters to his parents from the priest at the hospital, his comrades and old school friends, and his company commander, who himself was killed shortly thereafter along with nearly all of C Company, while defending a salient against a German counter-attack.

Smith's name can be found in the Achiet-Le-Grand Cemetery, France. For further burial details, including Smith's grave registration report, visit his portal on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

Photographs of Smith can be viewed below. Published with kind permission of Nick Mann.

More information about Smith can be found on the Imperial War Museum's Lives of the First World War website.

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