Robert John Smith

york and lancaster regiment badgePrivate 21046, 6th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment (formerly 19723, 1tth Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry), killed in action, 25th September 1916, aged 40

Born at Garthorpe in December 1877, Robert was the youngest of the nine children of William and Sarah Smith (nee Easton). His father was a farm labourer from Swinefleet and his mother, also a worker in the fields in 1881, was from Garthorpe. The family lived in Shore Road in the 1890’s. Robert was working as a farm horseman in 1901 when he lived at home with his widowed father.

Robert married Sabina Hodgson at St John’s Church in Goole in December 1904. After their marriage the couple lived in Goole for a short time before moving to West Street, Scunthorpe where Robert worked as an ironstone miner. They returned to Goole around 1912 and when Robert enlisted in the army the couple had five children and lived in Beverley Street, Old Goole and he was working as a labourer.

Robert enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Goole on 10th November 1914. He joined the Regiment at Pontefract the following day, where he was posted to the 11th Battalion. Originally planned to be an Overseas Service Battalion, in April 1915 they were turned into a Reserve, training battalion.

This may have had an influence on Robert’s transfer to the York and Lancaster Regiment in September the same year, initially to 3rd Battalion before on 27th October 1915 he was posted overseas to join the 6th (Service) Battalion in Gallipoli. Fortunately for Robert his time in Gallipoli was short, the 6th York and Lancaster’s being part of the evacuation from Sulva Bay in December 1915, following which they served for some time on the Suez Canal Defences in Egypt.

In July 1916 the 6th York and Lancaster’s were transferred from Egypt to France as the army reorganised to make up the losses from the Somme Offensive. However Robert did not embark immediately with the rest of his regiment. Being kept back in Alexandria for duties at the Base Depot, he did not leave for France until 5th August 1916. Arriving at No.34 Infantry Base Depot in Etaples, on 15th August he finally rejoined his unit in the Somme on 6th September 1916.

On 22nd September the 6th York and Lancaster’s moved into trenches north of Ovilliers, near Thiepval. Subjected to regular shelling of their positions from the German guns on the ridge above them at Thiepval, that during the night and early morning of 24th-25th September was noted as being particularly heavy. Relived on the 26th September the battalion had 4 men killed and 5 wounded in the period. One of the casualties was Robert Smith.

Robert has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Not commemorated on Garthorpe Memorial Plaque, Robert is noted on the Roll of Honour. He is also commemorated on Goole War Memorial.