797155 PTE. H. SMITH. R.F.A.

 

Henry Smith was born in Bamber Bridge on 24 February 1898 and baptised at St Saviour’s on 10 April that year.  His father was James Henry Smith (b. 1879 in Bamber Bridge), a cotton weaver.  His mother was Florence Billington (b. 1879 in Bamber Bridge).  James and Florence were married on Christmas Day 1895 and they had 7 children, losing one in infancy.  The survivors were: Robert (b. 1896), the Henry, then William (b. 1903), James (b. 1905), John (b. 1909) and Ellen (b. 1910).  (The couple were only 32 years old in 1911 so they may have had more children after the Census date).  In 1911, the family was living at 7 School Street, School Lane.  Henry was 13 but had already started work as a spinner.

 

Henry turned 18 in 1916 so it seems likely that he signed up then.  He joined the Royal Field Artiller, was assigned service number 797155 and posted to 331 Brigade.  331Bde formed part of the divisional artillery for 66th (Second East Lancashire) Division.  66th Division was in training in Suffolk in 1916, and was also engaged in the defence of the east coast.  In 1917, they received orders to move to France and by 16 March 1917 all units had arrived in France.  They were then directed to participate in Operation Hush (26 June – 25 September 1917), an attempt to recapture the Belgian ports of Oostende and Zeebrugge, the Channel ports from which the Germans were launching their increasingly dangerous submarine raids on allied shipping.  Operation Hush was also meant to coincide with the allied attack from the Ypres Salient so that German troops would be drawn away from Ypres to the coast.  Operation Hush was a failure for the allies on all fronts and is now perhaps most notorious as the occasion of the first German use of mustard gas (10 July).

 

By August, the fighting had died down to harassing operations on both sides, with shelling, sniper fire and gas attacks.   331 Bde was at Coxyde Les Bains (now Koksijde).  That month 331 Bde had 1 officer and 11 other ranks killed, and 3 officers and 32 other ranks wounded.  Henry Smith was killed on 8 August.  He was 19 years old.

 

Rank:  Private

Service Number:  707155

Date of Death:  08/08/1917

Age:  19

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty. 331st Bde

Cemetery/memorial reference: II. E. 21.

Cemetery:  COXYDE MILITARY CEMETERY

Additional Information:  Son of James Henry and Florence Smith, of 16 Aberdeen Street, Preston.

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