Different Worlds: Pictures of the Past: World War One

The Leslie Smith family

[Poppy Appeal 2005 - register for a digital poppy on your website] My mother's father was James Robert Leslie Smith, the fourth eldest of five brothers and one sister:

Johnny (shown in the photograph below), was a keen photographer and is responsible for many of the WW1 photographs in this website.

Walter (also shown below) was a tragically early casualty of the war. His death was made more tragic by the fact that he was killed during the unofficial Christmas truce of 1914. He served with the Cameronians (5th Scottish Rifles), and on Christmas Day 1914 they were in the trenches near Armentieres. The following extract is from a history of the battalion published in 1936 ("The Fifth Battalion The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) 1914-1919", published by Jackson Son & Co., Glasgow):

...but towards the late afternoon on Christmas day a stray shot from our right front hit one of ours, 6179 Cpl W.S. Smith no 2 company (from which he died next day). The Saxons opposite us were at pains to let us know it was a Prussian who had fired the shot which killed Smith. This broke the spell however and the war was resumed after a truce of twenty-four hours.

The battalion moved out of the line less than 24 hours later. The Roll of Honour includes "Walter Sinclair Smith from Dunoon Argyll Enlisted Glasgow".

My thanks to Bernard Pass of Bosleys Military Auctioneers and Valuers for the details given above. We knew the date of Walter's death, and the story passed down in the family was that it was a stray shot fired during the unofficial truce in 1914 that killed him, but until Bernard uncovered the information in the book referred to above, we had no confirmation of this.

Pictured below from left to right:
Walter, an un-named friend, Johnny, and their father, James Robert Leslie Smith (senior).

Walter, a friend, Johnny and their father, J. R. L. Smith (senior), stand together for this group photograph, all wearing uniform.

Walter's original grave marker, December 1914.

Walter's original war grave marker - link to detailed description

Newspaper clipping from early 1915.

A newspaper clipping.

The newspaper clipping shown above reads as follows:


Dunoon and Kilmun School Board have resolved to send a minute of sympathy to the family of Corporal Smith, of the 5th Cameronians, who was killed in the trenches on Christmas Day.

Corporal Smith's family were closely connected with the public life of Dunoon, his grandfather having been Provost and his father a Town Councillor and Major of the local artillery. Both carried on business for many years in the town.

The young corporal was known to everybody in Dunoon, having been an enthusiastic member of the Grammar School Cadet Corps, which is recognised by the War Office and attached to the 8th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Walter was one of the first soldiers to be buried in what would later become the Cité Bonjean Military Cemetery at Armentieres in France, now cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (their website includes a searchable database of Commonwealth war grave records).

A copy of Walter's record from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database.

Photographs from Cité Bonjean Military Cemetery, 2004-2005.

For more details of the Leslie Smith family and what happened to them during the First World War, see the page about their father, James Robert Leslie Smith (senior) in the section about The Leslie Smith Family.

Corporal Robert Leslie Smith sniping at Germans only 50 yards away. Chapelle, D'Armentieres, January 1915.

(This photograph also appears on the "Armentieres" page)

Corporal Smith aims his rifle through a hole in the breastworks.

Captain R Leslie Smith and NCO's, 'C' Company, 8th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders - all wear the 1914 Mons Star. Charleroi, Belgium, 1919.

(This photograph also appears on the "Charleroi" page)

Captain R L Smith and NCOs - link to detailed description.

O.C. 'C' Company (Captain Robert Leslie Smith), Company Sergeant Major, Company Quartermaster Sergeant. Charleroi, Belgium, 1919.

(This photograph also appears on the "Charleroi" page)

Captain R L Smith with Sergeant Major and Quatermaster Sergeant - link to detailed description.

Captain Robert Leslie Smith in dress uniform with kilt.

An informal portrait of Leslie, looking relaxed and at ease.  He is leaning lightly on a walking stick, and standing on a gravel path with fern covered boulders sloping steeply up behind him, topped by a rough stone wall.

In association with Amazon.co.uk Review the list of books about the First World War currently available on Amazon.co.uk.


Acceptable use

The photographs shown on this page belong to my mother, Mrs J Smillie. You are welcome to copy and use them for educational and other non-commercial purposes (we'd love to know about it if you do, though). To discuss other uses, please email me at dms@zetnet.co.uk. Thank you.

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