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George Smith

30221 Private

15th Battalion Royal Scots, 101st Brigade, 34th Division

Age: 37

Date of Death: 22.10.17

Buried: Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 11 to 14

Family history: Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Smith, King’s Cottage, Braehead, Bo’ness. He had three brothers, Thomas, John and William, and five sisters, Elizabeth, Jane, Agnes, Edith and Janet. He was unmarried. Prior to enlisting he was employed as a gardener at Bo’ness Cemetery.

He enlisted in the Royal Scots on 15 November 1915, and was placed in the Army Reserve until he was mobilised on 21 March 1916, and landed in France on 8 May 1917 and was posted to the 15th Battalion on 25 May 1917.

The action leading to his death

On the 21October the Battalion was in the line with Battalion HQ and Aid Post in Olga Houses, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies in Taube Farm and neighbouring shell holes, ‘A’ company was positioned around Gravel Farm and ’B’ Company in shell holes around Turenne Crossing. At 5.35am the British artillery and machine guns opened a barrage on the German lines and the Battalion moved forward and Major C Anderson, Second-in-Command takes up the account:

(Linesman Map. the blue dotted line indicates the extent of the advance when Third Ypres ended.)

Our positions were simply a line of shell holes full of water. The conditions were past speaking about, mud and filth up to the neck. The attack commenced, zero being 5.35am, and we advanced on a two company front, ‘A’ on the right, ‘B’ on the left, ‘C’ in support, and ‘D’ in reserve. The left company (’B’ Company) reached a point near their objective, which was a line of concrete pill-boxes, which appeared to be deserted but which were found to be occupied by enemy machine gunners, who had an easy target at our men floundering about in the mud, and only a very few of this company came back, fourteen in all and no officers.’

The War Diary recorded an incident involving ‘A’ Company on the right: ‘At six am about one hundred of the enemy, led by an officer, advanced towards an officer and thirteen men of the right company, ‘A.’ The German officer called upon our officer to surrender. The British officer shot the German officer, and the thirteen men opened fire. Only one of the one hundred men was seen to return to his lines.’ Major Anderson thought that this officer was 2nd Lt. Simpson, who was killed later that day.

‘C’ Company had been ordered forward in support but was unable to cross the Broenbeek, which was in flood and heavily shelled. ‘D’ Company in reserve at Taube Farm could neither go forward not back due to the enemy artillery barrage around them.

Major Anderson: ‘The whole affair was a disaster as far as we were concerned; communication was broken between headquarters and the companies, and between companies themselves. Battalion Headquarters was at Olga House, and when we got into it, it was well-nigh impossible to get out, owing to the barrage, and runners could not come near it for hours at a time.’

The casualties of the battalion are recorded in the War Diary as 7 officers and 228 Other Ranks.


The British War Medal, Victory Medal

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