Source: Elgin County and the Great War.
Born England at Tottenham, December 24, 1878. Enlisted with the 91st Battalion on February 23, 1916, at St. Thomas, aged 37-years. A labourer married with 2 children.
Service card shows he was appointed a Lance-Corporal on May 1, 1916. He had a bout of laryngitis which required treatment at the Military Hospital at London om June 3, 1916. His unit sailed on June 28, 1916, from Halifax, Nova Scotia arriving at Liverpool, England on July 6, 1916, aboard the SS Olympic. He was transferred to the 36th Reserve Battalion with his rank as Acting Lance Corporal. The 36th Reserve Battalion was stationed at West Sandling.
On September 13, 1916, his rank was reverted to that of Private, in preparation for assignment to an active combat unit. On October 21, 1916, he was transferred to the 18th Battalion and arrived at the Canadian Base Depot at Etaples, France the next day. He then joined the 18th “in the field” on October 26, 1916, at the Somme.
He served with the 18th Battalion until wounded on April 9, 1917, on the opening day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He was wounded with a GSW (shrapnel) to the left buttock/thigh and sent for treatment at No. 2 Australian Hospital at Wimereux, Belgium on April 12, 1916, and four days later he was aboard the hospital ship HS St. Denis for England. His medical condition now included trench feet.
He had a series of hospital stays at four different institutions upon arrival in England from April 17 to October 2, 1917, and was released from treatment and boarded for discharge due to his wounds.
He was discharged to Canada on October 17, 1917, and boarded the HS Araguaya at Liverpool for his trip home. Upon arriving in Canada he was attached to MHCC (Military Hospitals Commission Canada), London, Ontario on November 14, 1917, and then transferred to MHCC Guelph.
He was discharged on February 6, 1918, at Guelph, Ontario for “…being medically unfit for further service.”
Re-attested on April 15, 1918, at London, Ontario. The object of his re-attestation was to get more medical treatment for his wounds. A memorandum from Lt.-Col. Williams on August 2, 1918, states he re-attested “for operations on his sciatic nerve.” The response was that an “Exploratory incision sciatic nerve” would be carried out.
During his service at London, Ontario he was posted to “F”” Unit of the MHCC and passed through several hospitals until finally posted to No. 2 DD, Neurological Hospital, College Street, Toronto, Ontario for treatment of his thigh.
He was again discharged at London, Ontario on April 4, 1919, as “Medically Unfit”.
He moved with his wife to Toronto, Ontario, where he is buried, having died on December 7, 1936. His death was attributed to his service as the Canadian Government issued a Memorial Cross to his widow, Maud E. Smith at 102 Wolfrey Avenue, Toronto, Ontario as his mother was deceased.
Soldier Sends Touching Poem
Lance-Corp. Smith Forwards Poem to be Preserved by His Young Sons
West Sandling Camp,
Kent, London, England.
Soldier, what are you writing
By the side of our cooling gun?
Sir, since I’m stopped fighting,
A word to my little sons.
Tell me the thing you’ve written,
For I love the writer’s art.
Sir, that to be a Briton
Is worth a broken heart.
Show me so fine a letter
That you write in the trench’s mud.
Sir, you could read it better
Were it not for the stain of blood.
Soldier, tell me your story—
Your eyes grow bright and wide.
Sir, it is the taste of glory
To think of the young one’s pride.
Would you like to be a soldier, little boys, all my own?
Would you like to tip the Kaiser off his high and mighty throne?
Would you like to be with father, in a well dug British trench,
Knocking spots off German generals and saluting General French?
Would you like to be with Harry, little Harry, all my own?
Would I give a month of Sundays just to see how he’s grown?
Yes! I’d like to be a dustman in the poorest London streets
For the chance of seeing Leslie with a gumboil made of sweets.
If you want to be where I am, then I want to be with you,
But I’m here to show a tyrant that a Briton’s word is true;
We must stand by little Belgium, we must Fight till the fighting ends;
We must show the foes of Britain that we don’t desert our friends.
Don’t you go and think, my Harry, little Harry all my own,
That we’re squabbling here for nothing, that we’re growing for a bone.
We are here for Britain’s honor, for our freedom, for our peace;
And we’re also here, my Harry, that these wicked wars may cease.
Don’t you say that I am funky, don’t you say I am sick;
Boys, I’m half afraid to tell you, but I love it when its thick—
When the shells come screaming, bursting, and whistling bullets wail,
God forgive me, but I love it, and I fight with tooth and nail.
But if after looking round us, missing friends and finding dead,
It is then the British soldier gets a fancy in his head;
And he swears by God in heaven that the man who starts a war
Should go swimming into judgement down a cataract of gore.
That’s what makes us such great fighters, and I hope you’ll be the same;
Love your country like a good son, hold your head up, play the game!
Be a straight, and pleasant neighbour, boys, be cool, unruffled men,
But when the bullets want a thrashing, why you thrash them all you can.
While you say your prayers at night, boys, my little boys, my own,
Asking God to save your daddy and send him safely home,
Save my little ones from slaughter, guard their hearts and minds from wrong,
Keep them sweet and kind and gentle, yes, but make them awfully strong.
Good night, my little children, here’s your Daddy’s good nigh kiss,
Don’t forget what I have told you, and remember also this:
If I don’t come back to see you I will die without a groan,
For it’s great to fall for freedom, little boys, my own.
Private Henry James Smith. Circa Summer 1916.