James George Smith was born on the 7th June 1883 at Deptford and was baptised on the 29th July 1883 at Christ Church, Deptford.
His father, George Smith, married his mother, Maria Richardson in 1879 at Greenwich. They had 13 children
1. George James born 18th September 1879 living at 9, Reginald Road, Deptford.
2. Sarah Maria Elizabeth born 30th August 1881 living at 85, Railway Grove, Deptford.
3. James George living at 9, Five Bells Lane, New Cross.
4. George John born 25th July 1885 living at 2, Cumberland Park, Brockley.
5. Eliza Maria born 4th August 1887 living at 20, Charles Street, Deptford.
In the 1891 census the family were living at 1, Slow Grove Cottages, Charles Street, Deptford and George is employed as a general labourer.
6. and 7. Mary and Maria both born 22nd October 1890 living at 1, Slow Grove Cottages, Charles Street, Deptford.
8. John born and died in 1892 at Greenwich.
9. Betsy Elizabeth born in 1893 at Greenwich.
10. Rose born 5th May 1897 living at Bronze Street, Deptford.
11. Charles Thomas born 14th December 1899 3, Copperas Square, Deptford.
During the 1901 census the family were living at 3, Copperas Square, Deptford and George is employed as a waterside labourer. James does not appear in this census.
12. Thomas Joseph born 2nd April 1902 living at 3, Copperas Square, Deptford.
13. Fred born 15th January 1906 living at 4, Bevil Street, Deptford.
At the time of the 1911 census the family were living at 5, Watergate Street, Deptford and George is still employed as a waterside labourer, James is still not at home as he has now joined the Army.
Early Army Service.
His Army Service Record has survived and contains the following information:
On the 11th November 1905 James enlisted at Stratford for short service of 3 years in the Colours and 9 in the Reserve as Private 6415 in The Coldstream Guards.
He said he was born in New Cross, London and his age was 23 years 4 months. His trade was as a Docker, that he was not an apprentice, was not married, had never been sentenced to imprisonment and was not a member of the Military.
He was medically examined the same day and the following recorded:
On Enlistment: Height: 6 feet. Weight: 175 lbs. Chest: 40 inches. Expansion: 3 Inches.
After 6 months: Height: 6 feet 5/8 inches. Weight: 182 lbs. Chest 40 ½ inches. Expansion: 1 ½ inches
Complexion: Fresh. Eyes: Grey. Hair: Brown. Identifying marks: Scar right leg, depression of chin.
He said his Religion was Roman Catholic, and his next of kin was his father George, mother, Maria, younger brothers Thomas, Charles and George all living at 4, Raynor Street, New Cross.
On the 14th November 1905 he joined 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in London and began his service at Home.
On the 13th January 1906 whilst at Caterham he was absent from Tattoo till 11.30 p.m. on the 15th January 1906 and was sentenced to 10 days confined to barracks. On the 20th April 1906 he was Appointed Lance Corporal but, on the 14th May 1906, he reverted to Private.
On the 20th August 1906 he was examined and found to be fit for service in Egypt and to extend his Service to 4 years with the Colours.
On the 16th September 1906 he was posted to the 3rd Battalion 13 days later he arrived in Egypt. On the 22nd December 1906 he was awarded a 3rd Class Certificate of Education. On the 28th May 1907 he passed a class of instruction in swimming.
On the 26th October 1907 at Cairo Hospital he was examined and found to be fit for extending his Service to complete 7 years with the Colours. On the 11th November 1907 he was granted proficiency pay Class 1, and on the 16th January 1908, he was granted his 1st Good Conduct Badge.
On the 7th September 1908 he started Camel Corps Duties but on the 12th February 1909 he was admitted to Khartoum Hospital with a wound that was caused whilst not on duty and described as ‘wrestling on camel back, wrist right, usual treatment, recovered’ and he was discharged after three days.
A week later he was awaiting trial for ‘Striking his superior officer – struck with his fist in the face Sgt. A.G. Barber’ and on the 26th February he was convicted by Division Court Martial for ‘Striking Superior Office’ and placed in detention for 84 days. 14 days’ detention was later remitted for good conduct in detention.
The 12th October 1909 saw the end of his time on Camel Corps Duties during which period he was described as ‘Good’.
On the 9th January 1910 whilst at Cairo he was charged with ‘Breaking out of Barracks when a defaulter between the hours of 9 and 10 p.m. and remaining 24 hours absent until 10 p.m. on the 10th January 1910. He was awarded 14 days confined to barracks and forfeited 2 days’ pay.
He is shown as having returned ‘Home’ on the 24th March 1911 but he does not appear in the 1911 census so he may have been on his way back from Egypt.
Between August 1911 and June 1912 James went absent from the barracks either whilst in London or at Aldershot on five occasions resulting in him being confined to barracks or forfeiting pay.
James married Mary Martha Dennien in 1912 at St. Olave, Southwark and they had a son James G.F. born in 1912 at St. Olave.
On the 11th November 1912 James was transferred to Section B Army Reserve on the expiration of his Army Service.
Army Form B2056, Proceedings on Transfer to and Discharge from the Army Reserve, shows:
Private 6415 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. Cause of Transfer: Transfer on the expiration of his period of Army Service. Conduct and Character: Fair. Trade: Carman. Other qualifications for employment in civil life: Has not been employed in any Regimental employment. He started a course of Mechanical Transport of which he completed two months. Number of Good Conduct badges: Nil. Classification for Proficiency Pay: 1st Class. Medals: Nil. Certificate of Education: 3rd Class. Musketry Classification: Marksman 1912.
Description: Age: 30 years 4 months. Height: 6 feet. Chest: 41 inches. Waist: 35 inches. Helmet: 22 inches. Boots: 11.2. Complexion: fresh. Eyes: Grey. Hair: Brown. Trade: Docker. Identifying marks: Scar right leg, depression of chin.
Intended address: 47 Esmerelda Road St James Road Bermondsey S.E.
His Police Service Record has not survived and very little is known about his service. There are just three General Orders (see below) which refer to James, an address which links him to the Police in his Army Record and a newspaper article, but from these we can make some considered conclusions.
Before the war started James was posted to E Division at Stevenage and on his demobilisation, he returned there. His address on demobilisation was given as 5, Huntingdon Road, Stevenage which in 1913 had been occupied by PS 140 Herbert Allen Badcock. Also, on his demobilisation James is shown as being paid £2/8/0 per week, the same rate of pay as PC 44 Abrathat, who we know had been Appointed on 2nd March 1913, so it is reasonable to assume that James had been Appointed at a similar time.
General Order 118 of 21st July1915 Is a list of 96 officers which included the Chief Constable, 43 Constables who were Army reservists who were recalled and 50 Constables and 2 Sergeants who volunteered for military service. James is shown as PC 151 Smith J.G. of E Division recalled to the 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards on the 4th August 1914.
Army Service During The War.
On the 7th August 1914 James was mobilised at London and posted to the Reserve Battalion, Coldstream Guards then 19 days later on the 26th August he was posted to the 3rd Battalion and embarked via Southampton for France.
On the 25th September 1914 he suffered a shell wound to the back of his left hand whilst In the field and the next day he was with No. 6 Field Ambulance.
On the 8th October 1914 Private 6415 J.G. Smith Coldstream Guards was listed as wounded on the Casualty List issued by the War Office. He was entitled to wear a Wound Stripe as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916. The terms of this award having been met by him being named in this list.
On the 11th October 1914 he was at No. 12 Field Hospital at Rouen and then on the 15th October he was posted to the 4th Battalion whilst being treated at the Connaught Hospital, Aldershot for what was now described as a serious gunshot wound to his left hand. On the 17th October he was discharged from hospital and given 14 days’ furlough.
Published on the 13th October 1914 in the Hertfordshire Mercury:
It was hell with the lid off. Such was the opening remark of Police Constable Smith of Stevenage, when interviewed by this paper. Constable Smith is a Private in the 3rd Coldstream Guards and was called up on 4th August and, after an absence of ten weeks, he is now back recovering his health, having had the fingers and the back of his left hand blown off, and a shrapnel wound in his left leg. Asked to describe the retreat from Mons, Constable Smith exclaimed, It was fair hell. We were 8 days and nights in the trenches, and the shells were bursting in front and behind us all the time. Comrades were falling all round us, but the men never flinched, and our officers were splendid. We have the finest set of officers in the army. They looked after us well and kept us well supplied with food. The night we won the battle of Soissons (27th September), the enemy’s fire was simply terrific, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the Irish Guards got up to the trenches. It was here that I was wounded. I was lucky to escape so easily, as on all sides, men were falling with legs, heads, and arms blown off. The hardships on the retreat were terrible and large numbers dropped out exhausted despite the fact that the guns, limber wagons, and transports were overburdened with men. As they fell out, so they lay down and, advancing back the same road when we had got the enemy on the run, terrible sights met our eyes on all sides. The Germans are a barbarous lot, and they treated our poor fellows shockingly. Everywhere round us we saw our comrades lying stark naked, having been robbed of all their clothing, and some with as many as a dozen lance wounds, while others were riddled with shot.
But, thank God, not all the Germans were like that, and some of the regiments treated our wounded well, picking them up and carrying them off to hospital. A good deal depends on the officers, and those regiments that we were forcing back must have been badly officered, for every village that we passed through bore signs of their wantonness. Houses were set on fire and demolished, while even the little cottages beside level crossings and miles from any other houses were fairly riddled with shot.
On the 9th January 1915 he was posted back to the 3rd Battalion and embarked with 9 reinforcement at Southampton for France.
On the 7th March 1915 he joined No. 2 Infantry Base at Le Havre and then on the 15th April 1915 he was posted to the 4th Battalion at Home. On the 12th August 1915 he was posted to the 5th Battalion.
On the 13th March 1916 he was posted to the London Command Depot. His record then shows that on the same day, 6th April 1916, he was Appointed Acting Lance Corporal and then Acting Corporal. Then on the 18th June 1916 he was Appointed Acting Sergeant Shoemaker.
On the 14th August 1918 whilst at Shoreham he was placed in category B2 by No.3 Travelling Medical Board, Eastern Command and three days later Army Form Z22 Statement as to Disability was completed and the following is shown:
Unit: London Command Depot. Regiment: Coldstream Guards. Regimental No.: 6415. Rank: Sergeant. Name: James George Smith. Address: 5 Huntingdon Road, Stevenage, Herts. Age: 35. First joined for duty: 11th November 1905 at Caterham. “I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military Service”, signed J.G. Smith.
On the 15th January 1919 he was transferred to Class Z on Army Reserve. He reached the end of his period on Army Reserve on the 31st March 1920.
He was awarded the 1914 Star and the British War and Victory medals.
Like every other soldier James was given 28 days leave on demobilisation and he would have used this time to arrange his re-joining of the Police. He last day of his leave would have coincided with the date of his re-Appointment to the Police.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 5 of 6th January 1919 listed 13 Police Soldiers who having been released from H.M. Army were re-appointed to the Force with effect from the dates shown. James was shown as PC 151 J.G. Smith of E Division at Stevenage on the 2nd January 1919 on £2/8/0 per week. Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. Superintendents concerned had to report to the Chief Constable when this has been done, showing the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken.
Resignation And Life After The Police.
General Order 31 of the 9th February 1919 announced that Police Constable 151 James George Smith E Division having submitted on 3rd February 1919 an application to be permitted to resign his appointment, the resignation is accepted and will take effect on 26th February 1919. Police Constable 151 Smith will be paid up to and including 26th February 1919, and his name will be struck off the strength of the Force as from that date.
There is no explanation as to why he resigned.
In the 1939 Register James G. Smith and Mary M. Smith are listed as living at 43, Rotherhithe Street, Bermondsey, London and his occupation is given as Government Messenger, Overseas Trade Dept.