Private G/5203 Frank Smith
18th – 21st August 1916
My Great Grandfather Frank Smith was wounded in the advance on ZZ Trench on 18th August 1916. I actually believe that his wounds came from British artillery due to the fact that he was advancing with an artillery curtain. How he got out of the Hell of Guillemont I do not know but we can track his evacuation through primary sources to when he landed back in Blighty. Frank’s journey from the front would have been one that many men would take and he was lucky as many men simply died of their wounds in no-man’s land.
We certainly know that he managed to talk to a Chaplin who informed Frank’s wife Edith that he had passed through his dressing station on 19th August 1916, the day after he was wounded. I cannot make out the name of this Chaplin on the letter we have. But we do know he was serving with the 17th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
Frank also wrote a letter to his beloved wife Edith and it said of the battle.
‘Been in the carry on along the Guillemont Front, and a very warm place we found it too never seen anything like before…’
Frank wrote this on Y.M.C.A. paper and it is a snapshot into is world where he described the 8th Buffs action at Guillemont and then how he was doing.
‘Been in the carry on along the Guillemont Front…’ This has always amazed me how matter of fact he is about this action. You are talking about an attack involving roughly 9,000 men advancing either side of Delville-Wood which pretty much failed apart from in small pockets. But having read a lot of his letters over the years this is how he skirted around the horrors on the Western Front.
This letter was not finished until 21st August when he landed at Southampton on the SS Marama.
The reason we can pinpoint the ship is because he also sent a postcard on the same day letting Edith know he’d got back safely. The postcard was of the ship he was evacuated on.
There was also a best wishes card with that listing the staff of “A” Ward who looked after him.
Frank’s war on the Western Front was over for now because he had received shell splinter wounds to his leg. He was initially admitted into F2 Ward of the Canadian Hospital at Paplow in Buckinghamshire.
It took 7 months for him to recover before he found himself serving as Private 198065 Smith in the 44th Labour Company in the Labour Corps who went to France on 25th March 1917. This is interesting because this shows he was not considered fit enough to serve in a front line infantry unit but was considered fit enough to do manual work.
We will leave Frank there for now and will see what happened to him in March 2018.