RFA West Lancs Bdes
2nd LT. H. L. SMITH. R.F.A.
Henry Leslie Smith (known as Leslie) was born in the first quarter of 1898 in Rosehill, Derby, and baptised at Derby St Andrew’s on 21 September that year. His father was Henry Smith (b. 1866 in Derby), a postal telegraph clerk. His mother was Clara Skidmore (b. 1871 in Derby). Henry snr and Clara were married in 1894 and they had six children, though they lost one in infancy. The survivors were: Winifred (b. 1895), then Leslie, then Eric (b. 1906), Norman (b. 1908) and finally Kathleen (b. 1911). In 1911, the family lived at “Granfield”, Littleover Lane, Normanton, Derby. Leslie was still at school.
Leslie appears to have enlisted in 1915, when he was still only 17. He was given service number 686826. Despite his youth, he was clearly a capable soldier as he was promoted to Sergeant. His service number indicates he was originally in 2nd/3rd West Lancs Brigade, or 287Bde, but this was broken up in 1917 and the men reallocated to other Brigades, so Leslie was in 286Bde. He landed in France with 57th Division on 7 February 1917. He was commissioned on 23 April 1918. So Leslie would have rejoined his Brigade just as the German Spring Offensive was petering out.
After a period of rest and training, on 12 May, 286Bde returned to the front line at Sailly-au-Bois. The rest of May and all of June were relatively quiet, with some exchanges of shell fire by both sides but no major raids or attacks. The Brigade was back up to a reasonable strength, with about 30 Officers, 760 Other Ranks and 600 horses. July was also relatively quiet and at the end of the month the Brigade moved from Sailly, first to Couin then on to Fosseux, west of Arras. On 1 August, Brigade headquarters were established in Arras and after a quiet few days, heavy shelling began on 9 August. On 10 August 2nd Lt. Waldegrave was killed when a bomb dropped on their new positions. 12-17 August was again relatively quiet, and on 17-18 August the Brigade moved to new positions at Anzin-St-Aubin, where Bdr Thomas Wells and 2nd Lt H. L. Smith were killed on 17 August. Leslie Smith was 20 years old.
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Date of Death: 17/08/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 286th Bde. Cemetery/memorial reference: III. E. 9.
Cemetery/Memorial: ANZIN-ST. AUBIN BRITISH CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Henry and Clara Smith, of 11 Harrington Street, Derby.