Frank Smith

Frank Smith was born in 1888 at Benham Grange, just to the east of the Halfway.  He was the son of John Smith, a farm worker, and his wife Matilda, née Kent.  The family originally hailed from Hampstead Norris, but came to Benham Grange in about 1884.

Benham Grange at this time was farmed by Mr Frank Masters.  In about 1894 his son Frederick took on Easton Farm, and it appears that the Smith family moved to Easton at about the same time.

The 1911 census shows Frank, age 23, living at home at Easton Green with his occupation given as ‘labourer on farm’.  That of his father and older brother George is given as ‘waggoner on farm’.

At some point between March 1913 and March 1914, judging by his service number (10119), Frank Smith enlisted with the Royal Berkshire Regiment.  At this time, of its two regular battalions, the 1st was stationed at home (mainly at Aldershot) whilst the 2nd had been in India since 1909, after transferring there from Egypt. 

The 2nd Battalion was recalled to England following the outbreak of war, and on 4 November 1914, they left their camp at Hursley Park, near Winchester, to embark on SS Kingstonian (a converted cattle transport) at Southampton for Le Havre.  They landed next day with a strength of 30 officers and 978 other ranks.  Private Frank Smith was amongst this number.

The 2nd Royal Berks entrained for the railhead at Strazeele, near the French – Belgian border, then concentrated with the rest of 8th Division in billets at Merville, about 20 miles south-west of Ypres. 

The First Battle of Ypres was at that point drawing to a close, with the failure of the German effort to break the Allied line, and the troops were ‘settling down’ for the winter into the dangers and discomforts of static trench warfare.  On 14 November, the Battalion moved into front-line trenches at Fauquissart, where they suffered their first casualties.

We cannot at present shed any further light on Frank’s life at the front over the next few months; however, we know that he died of wounds on 8th October 1915, age 27.

We do not know the circumstances of when and where he was wounded.  Between November 1914 and October 1915 the 2nd Royal Berks had been involved in several costly engagements, in any one of which Frank could have received the wounds of which he later died.  These included those at Neuve Chapelle, Fromelles and Bois Grenier (March, May and September 1915 respectively).  He could also very well have been wounded during one of the ‘quieter’ periods in the line, from ever-present dangers such as enemy sniping or shelling.

Frank is buried in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, near Arras.  Named from a café that stood close to the site until destroyed by shellfire in March 1915, this cemetery was much enlarged in the years after the war when around 7,000 graves were concentrated there from the battlefields of Arras and from 103 other burial grounds in the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais.  Unfortunately therefore, the location of Frank’s grave does not give us any clues as to where he may have been when he was wounded.