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Ernest George Smith

Rank: Private

Lifetime: 1892-1917

Reference: 11883

Private Ernest George Smith (11883) of the 7th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment was killed in action in Mesopotamia on 10 February 1917. He is buried in the Amara War Cemetery in Al Amarah, Mysan, Iraq.

According to his entry in UK Soldiers who Died in the Great War, he enlisted in Westminster. His CGWC entry for his grave at the Amara War Cemetery states that he was twenty five years old; the son of Mr W Smith and Mrs J Smith of 9 St John’s Road, Hampton Wick, Kingston-upon-Thames and that his birthplace was Hampton Court.

At the time of the 1901 Census his mother, Jane, had already been widowed. All of the family, except Ernest, were living in Mews property in Hampton Court. Mrs Jane Smith who was born in Little Shelford in Cambridgeshire is described as living on her own ?proceeds. Only Eleanor, 15, was employed, as an apprentice dressmaker. It is unclear why Ernest was absent. Ernest’s father, William Smith, does appear on the family’s previous Census entry in 1891. At fifty five years of age he was twenty six years older than his wife. His occupation is given as a groom/domestic coachman and he came from Berkshire. The family had already taken up residence in 5 Terrace Mews where the family appear to have remained after his death which must have occurred some time after the conception of his youngest daughter, c1894. Although the family lived within the parish of Hampton Wick, at least two of the children, Eleanor and Cecile, were baptised at Christ Church, Surbiton Hill in 1885 and 1887 respectively rather than in the parish church of St John the Baptist in Hampton Wick.

The entries in the 1911 Census reveal that Ernest Smith was one of five children living with his widowed mother, now aged 49, in a five room property at Elgin Cottage, Hampton Court which was within the parish of Hampton Wick. All the children had been born in Hampton Court. In 1911 the family comprised: his mother, Jane; eldest sister, Eleanor Emily Smith (25), a dressmaker working on her own account from home; middle sister, Cecile Alice Smith (23), also a dressmaker but working for a draper; older bother, Frederick William Smith (21), a carpenter who also fought in the Great War but survived (see survivors); Ernest George Smith himself (19) but oddly with no occupation listed; and his younger sister, Edith Laura Smith (17), employed as a clerk in the Post Office. By 1913, the family had moved to a nearby property, Hope Cottage, Hampton Court.

Nothing is known about Private Smith’s service career. However, the 7th Battalion served at Galliopoli between July 1915 and January 1916 before being evacuated to Egypt as a result of heavy losses. Subsequently, in April of the same year, the Battalion was involved in a doomed but costly attempt to relieve the city of Kut in Mesopotamia. In spite of their efforts the city fell to the Turkish forces with a surrender of some 13,000 British soldiers. Many of the captured British troops died in captivity as a result of the conditions in which they were kept. Further details of the actions in which the Battalion engaged can be found at www.glosters.org.uk/textonly.

Private Smith must have died in the course of the counter offensive launched by the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force led by Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude in December 1916 to recapture Kut. Conditions in Mesopotamia were horrific with many casualties arising from diseases such as smallpox, typhus and malaria. The city of Kut was recaptured on 24 February 1917 two weeks after Private Smith’s death.

Ernest’s older brother, Frederick William Smith, had been a member of the Territorial Army since 4 April 1908 and so was immediately called up at the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914. However, he survived the war having been discharged on the expiration of his service term on 11 May 1916. Details of his war service can be found in Survivors.

Two of Private Smith’s unmarried sisters remained as long term residents of Hampton Wick. The 1957 Register of Electors records both Cecile Alice Smith and Edith Laura Smith as being resident at 9 St John’s Road, Hampton Wick. Cecile’s death aged ninety four was registered in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames on 5 August 1987.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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