‘Brave life given for others’

Charles Henry William Smith.
Charles Henry William Smith.
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Today we continue Pamela Siegel’s poignant story, A Life Cut Short, in which she reveals how her great uncle Charles Henry William Smith died serving his king and country.

As mentioned yesterday Charles Henry William, who was known as Harry, lost his life after taking part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, on The Somme, in 1916.

Harry died on February 21, 1916, from wounds he sustained in action.

“He was just 19 years and three months old – a life cut short,” says Pamela.

“He was awarded the Victory, British and 15 Star, collectively known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’, and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, in Belgium.

“I have a copy of a hand-written letter, dated February 21, 1916, (with blotches of ink) sent to his mother from the Sister in Charge at the war hospital where he died. It reads: ‘I very much regret having to send you worse news. Although everything was done that could have been done for your son Pte Smith 9455 (it should have read 14765) it was of no avail and he passed quietly away in his sleep not having regained consciousness. He will be laid to rest in our soldiers cemetery, and a cross will mark his place bearing his name, regiment, number and the date in which he gave his life for his king and country’.

“His obituary in the Shields Gazette of February 27, 1916, reads: ‘I was Harry’s platoon officer, and consequently saw a great deal of him, and you can rest assured that he was a splendid soldier, did all his work to the best of his ability, and died like a soldier. You will have the great satisfaction of knowing when the call came he did not shirk his duty, but willingly gave his life for his country and loved ones and greater love hath no man than this.’

“Harry is remembered on two South Shields’ memorials, the Miner’s Plaque 1914-18, in St Hilda’s Church, and the Cross 1914-19, at St Hilda’s and St Thomas churchyard.”

His life, like so many other brave young men’s, was, indeed, tragically cut short.

l Thursday: The Hardship and Pain of a Wife and Mother.