RFA West Lancs Bdes
681361 BDR. R. S. SMITH. R.F.A.
Robert Standing Smith was born on 11 March 1891 in Walton Le Dale and baptised at St Leonard’s church on 17 May. His father was Alfred Smith (b. 1863 in Walton Le Dale), an overlooker in a cotton mill. His mother was Annie Standing (b. 1866 in Walton Le Dale). Alfred and Annie were married in 1890 and they had 6 children but sadly lost four in infancy. Robert had a surviving younger brother, Frederick (b. 1896). By 1911, Annie was also dead. Alfred was living with his two sons at 1 Victoria Road, Walton Le Dale. Both the sons worked in the unusual profession of dental mechanic. In 1912, Robert married Ada Gertrude Nixon (b. 1891 in Preston) and it seems that soon after they moved to Farnworth where their son Alan was born later that year.
Robert enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery at Farnworth, probably in 1915, and was assigned service number 681361, but he was posted to “A” Battery of 286 Brigade and would have joined his classmates from Walton Le Dale. At some point, Robert was promoted to Bombardier. He landed with his Division in France in February 1917 and he served in the defence of Armentières, and later that year in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. In early 1918 286 Brigade returned to the area west of Armentières and in April they were engaged in the second phase of the German Spring Offensive, the Battle of the Lys.
From the War Diary:
9 April 1918
At 4.15am an intense bombardment of hostile gas shells commenced on the whole of the Corps front. Our batteries, which were standing to, to support a raid by the 121st Infantry, were immediately ordered to open counter-preparation fire. The gas shell bombardment lasted until about 9.00am when the enemy placed an intense barrage on the front line system. The enemy broke through the British line on the Right at the 40th Devonshires at front and turning to his Right outflanked our Batteries. The guns of B and C Batteries and two howitzers of D/286 were captured. A/286 were able to withdraw their six guns and D/286 four howitzers, after engaging the enemy up to within 300 yards of the position. The Brigade withdrew and took up position on the north side of the river LYS near to POINT MORTIER where batteries engaged the enemy with harassing fire. When a battalion of enemy infantry were reported in CROIX DU BAC a further withdrawal was made to positions near LE VERRIER. 7 Other Ranks killed. 2 Officers and 26 O.R.s wounded. 3 Officers and 22 O.R.s missing.
Robert was among the dead. He was 27 years old. His body was later recovered and he is buried at Ration Farm Military Cemetery.
Service No: 681361
Date of Death: 09/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 286th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: II. A. 3.
Cemetery/Memorial: RATION FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, LA CHAPELLE-D'ARMENTIERES