Posted by: michaeldaybath | January 23, 2017

Private George Smith, 6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

Grave marker of Pte. G. Smith, DCLI, Arras

Grave marker of Pte. G. Smith, 6th DCLI, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras (Pas-de-Calais)

The 23rd January 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the death of 27645 Private George Smith of the 6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. George Smith was a bellringer at Broadwindsor in Dorset and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers [1].

While I have not been able to discover a huge amount of detail, some elements of Private Smith’s life and death can be traced from public records and other sources. George Smith had been born in the 1st quarter of 1879 at Broadwindsor, near Beaminster in West Dorset; his parents were William and Mary Smith.

William Smith had been born at Broadwindsor in the 1st quarter of 1841. He appears, at the age of 2 months, in the 1841 Census, as the youngest of the seven children of Jonas and Mary Smith of Fore Street, Broadwindsor. Jonas was a shoemaker, who had been born at Corscombe (Dorset) in around 1799. From 1851 to 1861, William remained living with his parents at High Street, Broadwindsor, where Jonas is variously described as a master shoemaker or cordwainer. In 1851, William was still at school, but by 1861 he was himself described as a cordwainer, and shoemaking seems to have remained his trade to the end of his working life.

William married Mary Elliott at Broadwindsor on the 26th March 1867. They then feature in the 1871 Census, living in the High Street (although at a different address from William’s parents) and they already have three young children: Harriet, John, and Rhona. George first features in census records at the age of two in 1881, where he is one of four children, including John (who is by now an apprentice shoemaker), James and the nine-month old Mary. By 1891, George was 12-years old and working as a “baker’s boy.” He had even more siblings by then: John was still around (he is now described as a journeyman shoemaker), but there were also three younger daughters: Ada, Maud and Ethel. His mother Mary is now working again, as a sail cloth hand. In 1901, George was the only one of William and Mary’s children remaining at home; he is now described as a mason’s labourer (both Mary’s father and brother were masons, so it is possible that George was  working for his uncle, James Elliott). The three Smiths are still living together in 1911, although they had been re-joined by the 24-year old Ethel, now a cook domestic. By 1911, George was a 32-year old baker. His father William was 70-years old and apparently still working (her is described as a bootmaker); Mary was 65-years old. The 1911 Census return states that William and Mary Smith had had nine children, of which six were then still living.

William Smith died in the 2nd quarter of 1913, aged 72, and was buried at Broadwindsor on the 8th May 1913, where he is described as the church sexton. This is confirmed by a short obituary published in the Western Gazette [2]:

DEATH OF MR. WILLIAM SMITH. — Recently there passed away in this village Mr. William Smith, who for many years was caretaker, &c., at the Parish Church, another link with the past being thus severed. The deceased, who was 72 years of age, commenced his duties here in Dr. Malan’s time. He leaves a widow and a grown-up family, with whom much sympathy has been expressed.

César Jean Salomon Malan had held the living of Broadwindsor from 1845 to 1886 [3]. William’s long stint as church sexton was most likely the reason why his son George became a bellringer. Mary Smith died in 1927, aged 82, and was buried at Broadwindsor on the 21 September that year.

The Church of St John the Baptist in Broadwindsor has a peal of six bells. Three of the bells date from the fifteenth century, although the 14 cwt tenor was recast by Mears and Stainbank in 1897, when the bells were rehung in an iron cage [4]. A progress report on change ringing in West Dorset published in 1911 shows that several towers – Litton Cheney, Netherbury, Rampisham, Broadwindsor, Shipton Gorge, Lyme Regis, and Whitchurch Canonicorum – had only very recently become affiliated to the West Dorset branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers, suggesting that change ringing had not been long-established there [5]. The report, however, added that there were ringers at Beaminster, Bradpole, Bridport, Broadwindsor, Lyme, Netherbury, and Whitchurch who had some knowledge of change ringing. At the end of 1916, Private Smith’s name appeared in a 1916 list of West Dorset branch members that were serving in the armed forces [6]. George Smith was one of five from Broadwindsor:

Broadwindsor.– J. Bartlett, H. Case, G. Smith, R. Tuck, W. Tuck.


War Memorial in Broadwindsor Church (Dorset)

It has not been possible to find out that much about George’s service career. The Soldiers Died in the Great War database states that Private Smith had enlisted at Dorchester; it also notes that he had served with the  Somerset Light Infantry (Service No. 23186) before transferring to the 6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. The battalion were based in the Arras sector of the Western Front in January 1917. The battalion war diary states that on the 22nd and 23rd January 1917, the 6th DCLI were based at the Cavalry Barracks at Arras, where they were involved in carrying and working parties and in company training. On the 22nd, half of the battalion had managed to bathe and to get a change of underclothing. On the 23rd January, however, two casualties were reported [7]:

CASUALTIES One killed and one wounded Other Ranks “D” Coy. caused by a German Shell bursting near the squad while they were training under the trees near the Riding School.

The person killed by this shell is most likely to be Private George Smith (the only other member of the 6th DCLI that died that day was a prisoner of war in Germany). He was 39 years old [8]. He is buried in the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery at Arras (Pas de Calais, France). His name features on the war memorial in the Church of St John the Baptist, Broadwindsor.


[1] CCCBR Rolls of Honour:

[2] Western Gazette, 16 May 1913, p. 3, via British Newspaper Archive

[3] DNB:,_C%C3%A9sar_Jean_Salomon_(DNB01)

[4] Canon Raven, “The Church Bells of Dorset, “Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club, Vol. XXV, 1904, pp. 33-128; here pp. 42-43.

[5] “Progress in West Dorset.” The Ringing World, 29 December 1911, p. 686.

[6] “West Dorset Branch’s Roll of Honour.” The Ringing World, 29 December 1916, p. 242.

[7] The National Archives, WO 95/1908/2

[8] CWGC database entry:

Thanks also to the Dorset OPC:




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