681526 CPL. J. E. SMITH. R.F.A.
Smith is a common name so I can’t be 100% certain about the family details of this man. We know from military records that his name was John Edwin Smith; he was born in Everton; his father’s name was John. He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in Liverpool and was posted to “D” Battery of 286 Brigade; he was killed on 9 April 1918. There is a potential match in the Census data with a John E Smith who was born in Everton on 25 March 1895 and baptised at Everton St Benedict on 9 September 1896. His father was John Smith (b. 1864 in Liverpool), a railway porter. His mother was Martha Matilda Edwards (b. 1865 in Liverpool). John and Martha were married in 1885 and they had 13 children, though two died in infancy. The survivors were: Lillian (b. 1889), Annie (b. 1891), Martha (b. 1892), Eva (b. 1894), then John, then William (b. 1896), Dorothy (b. 1899), Alice (b. 1901), Amy (b. 1902), Harry (b. 1904) and finally Allan (b. 1907). In 1911, the family was living at 83 Gregson Street, Everton. Several of the children were working in the printing industry and John was a book-binder.
Along with other men from Liverpool who joined the RFA, John was posted to “D” (Howitzer) Battery of 286 Brigade and at some point he was promoted to Corporal. 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.
John was among the dead. He was 23 years old. His body was not recovered.
Service No: 681526
Date of Death: 09/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 286th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 1.
Cemetery/Memorial: PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL