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Smyth, T.C., C.S.M., 1916

Photo : Duncan Lidell

Medal Index Card

Photo : Duncan Lidell

Photo : Duncan Lidell

Photo : Duncan Lidell

In Carnoy Military Cemetery is the Commonwealth War Grave of 19/382 Company Serjeant Major Thomas Chester Smyth, serving with the 19th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers who died 30/07/1916.

Duncan Liddell has submitted the following photographs and information:-

Thomas Chester Smyth was the eldest born of three children at Whitburn, in 1887, to James William Smyth, born July 1858 at Saffron Waldren, Essex, [the son of George, born 1811, a bailiff, and Susanna Smith, born 1816, {not Smyth}], a domestic Gardener by profession, died on the 20th November 1933, and his wife Susannah [nee Christie], born 1862 at Wappenham, baptised on the 23rd February 1862, [daughter of John Chester, born 1811, died 1886, he was a shoe-maker by profession, and his wife Rhoda Blackwell, born 1819, baptised on the 30th May 1819 at Syresham, died 1893], she died on the 20th March 1935. They were married on the 10th May 1886, at the parish church at Wappenham. James was residing at Chislehurst when he got married.

They had three children, Henry Richard Smyth born 1895, Ethel May Smyth, born 10th November 1893, at Whitburn and Thomas Chester Smyth born 1887, also born at Whitburn.

James William Smyth his father had been employed as a gardener for Major Augustine E. Burdon who died in 1909, at some time. James also was present at the 23d Annual Cramlington Society on Saturday, 7th September 1901, as a judge for the open classes.

In the 1901 and 1911 census the family were at Hartford Hall the home of the Burdon family. In 1911 James was 53 years old and had been born at Saffron Walden, Susannah was 49 years old and had been born at Wappenham Northampton, Thomas aged 24 was an Assistant Teacher, Ethel aged 17 years was a pupil teacher and Henry aged 15 years was a scholar. All the children had been born at Whitburn, County Durham. James and Susanah had married at Wappenham in 1886.

Newcastle Journal 03/08/1916 reports:- Mr and Mrs James Smyth have been officially informed that their son Lance Corporal H.R. Smyth has been missing since July 1.

Morpeth Herald 11/08/1916 headline reads: - Death of Sergt. Major Thomas C. Smyth. A Local teacher and Athlete. All lovers of sport throughout the county will mourn the loss of Sergt. Major Thomas C. Smyth of the Gardens, Hartford House whose death at the Front came with tragic suddenness on the 30th Ult. and will sympathise with the parents in their sad bereavement.

Sergeant Smyth was 29 years old and a young man of great mental ability, sterling character, cheerful and unselfish in disposition. He not only made friends but retained their friendship. As an athlete he had few equals for the versatility of his powers. For sometime he acted as goalkeeper for Bedlington United and for two years in the same capacity for South Shields Adelaide. He was an excellent all-round cricketer and was one of the main stays for Hartford House Cricket Club to which he was attached since his commencement.

He was educated for the teaching profession became a student at Bede College Durham afterwards holding positions of certified teacher at Willington-on-Tyne and Whitley Memorial School Bedlington. Tom had many friends; his bright and happy disposition endeared him to his comrades and he was generally the life of the company. While in his official capacity he displayed great ability, earnestness and thoroughness achieving results which gained the highest commendation from those in authority. He was no less valuable in the field of sport for the like qualities.

The following letters from officers at the Front show further that as a soldier he discharged his duty right manfully and well.

Regimental Sergeant Fred Burton of the Northumberland Fusiliers writes Dear Mr Smyth I expect that before now you have received word from other sources of the great loss to Mrs Smyth and you by the death of your dear son Tom. I wish with all my heart and soul that I could have written to you on a subject less tragic but considering that Tom and I had formed a strong comradeship with each other I felt I would just like to tell you of the high appreciation in which he was held by the whole battalion and more especially W company in which he was sergeant major. I was talking to him just a few minutes before his death which occurred just before 3 o'clock this morning(Sunday). He was sleeping in a dug out and a shell came through and injured his head, the doctor said that death must have been instantaneous and by the expression on his face he had passed away quite calm and peaceful. At each end of the same dug out there were bunks for about six men to sleep in and not one of these received a scratch. Before lying down one of the men had offered his bunk to Tom but with that fine spirit which made us all like him so well he refused to accept this small comfort so generously offered and lay down to sleep on the floor in the middle of the dug out at the very spot where the shell came through. I pray God, sir that He may help you and Mrs Smyth to bear your great sorrow. I can imagine the blow it must be to lose such a fine lad because after less than two years during which we became strong friends I feel it very severely indeed. I do not exaggerate when I say that the men in his company loved him. He got more out of them by kindness than most men get by stern measures. I do sincerely trust that your deep affliction will be less hard to bear by these few remarks of mine. We buried him at 11 o'clock this morning the sergeants and corporals of his company carrying him to rest and I hope to be able to let you know the exact situation of his grave at some future date. You and his mother have lost a splendid son, sir, his brother and sister the finest of brothers and we have lost the bravest of comrades. Only on Friday was he showing me your photos and those of his sister and friends which he had just previously received. In a day or two the regimental cross will be placed at the head of his grave which is next to the grave of another brave lad killed a few days before and who was one of the men in Tom's company. With deepest regrets and sympathy to you all in your affliction.

In a letter to his parents the Rev. Claude H. Staveley C.F. says: -a shell struck the dugout occupied by your son and the cooks of the company. I regret to say your son was killed instantaneously. I buried him in a well dug deep grave at 11am Sunday morning in Carnoy Cemetery and I can assure you the service was reverently carried out. This will be, I know, a great shock to you and yours. It will however be some consolation and satisfaction to you to know that he met his death doing his duty nobly for king and country and that he was loved and respected by both the company officers and men for whose welfare he had the deepest concern Still words really fail to express one's feelings at such a time for I feel that I myself have lost a man who helped me in my work as the Church of England chaplain a very great deal for he had such a keen sense of his religious duties which entered and should be the case in his everyday work. In closing I would point you to Him Who alone knows all our troubles and who alone can give comfort, strength and guidance to His servants who fully trust in him. That Almighty God our Heavenly father may do this for you and yours at this special time with one son killed and another concerning whose whereabouts and fate there is I believe great uncertainty, is the sincere and earnest wish of yours in His service Claude H Staveley C.F.

The following is from Captain T.W. Todd of the same battalion: - Dear Mrs Smyth I deeply regret having to inform you that your son Thomas was killed in action on Sunday July 30th. He was afterwards laid to rest in a British cemetery amongst other heroes who died for their country. It was an impressive ceremony. The enemy had been shelling in the valley and our guns were responding loudly on all sides as the little party of sergeants who had been his closest friends in life carried him to his last resting place. At the same time all the men stood to attention to pay their last tribute to one who they had learned to respect as an officer and to love as a man. Surely the thunder of guns is the most fitting funeral march for so good a soldier. Deep must be your grief at losing such a son. Deep also is our grief at losing such a soldier especially at such times as these when every man of his type is so badly needed. Yet in our mutual grief we have one consolation. He has made the 'great sacrifice'. Better love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. It is the sacrifice that Christ Himself made. And shall not this same Christ who underwent all our trials all our temptations all our griefs and sorrows and at the end made this great sacrifice shall not He welcome him with open arms into his glorious kingdom of peace perfect peace the peace which passeth all understanding.

In the Morpeth Herald 18/08/1916 is the following acknowledgement:- Mr and Mrs Smyth and family of Hartford House Bedlington wish to thank all kind friends for their may expressions of sympathy shown during their recent sad loss.

Thomas Chester Smyth is remembered at Bedlington on B15.01 B15.02, B15.09, B15.16, and B15.20 also at Morpeth on M17.06 and M17.12 and on M17.11 in Durham City on D47.017, D47.126, D47.127 in the National Union of Teacher's list of fallen and served teachers and at Newcastle in NUT256 page 220 and 246

The CWGC entry for Company Sergeant Major Smyth

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk