Francis Harold SMITH
Rank: Private
Number: PLY/261(S)
Unit: 2nd Marine Battalion ROYAL MARINE LIGHT INFANTRY
Date of Death: 22 July 1916
Age: 22
Cemetery: Bully-Grenay Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Francis was the son of Isaac and Mary Smith, 33 Jackson Street, Cheadle. He worked for Messrs Greatorex & Co, Whitworth Street, Manchester.

He enlisted in September 1914, joining the Plymouth Battalion, RMLI. On 6 February 1915, the Marines went on active service and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April. On 27 June, Francis was wounded in the chest by shellfire and spent three months in hospital, in Malta. He was in Egypt for a while recuperating and re-joined his unit on 6 February 1916.  During the time he had been away, the Plymouth and Portsmouth Battalions had amalgamated into the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion based at Mudros – a small port on the Greek island of Lemnos. He also saw action at Salonika, between late February and mid April, before being sent to France in, approximately, May 1916. 

During early July, the Marines were in training. In the middle of the month, they were ordered into close support of the front line units at Bully-Les-Mines (a village to the west of Lens). On 20 July, they moved into the front line some 5 kilometres away at Angres, arriving about 5pm. During the evening, artillery on both sides was quite active with their position being hit by enemy shells. The next day the shelling continued.

In front of their trench was a crater that had been created by artillery shells some time before. The lip around the crater would provide cover for enemy snipers so, on 22 July, they tried to flatten it using trench mortar shells, but without success. The men could hear very heavy artillery bombardments to the south. This will have been in connection with a major British attack in the heart of the Somme battlefield some 35 kilometres away. The Battalion’s War Diary reports that this was a quiet day, but that there was still some shelling of the front line trench at 9.20 pm. This killed four men and wounded three others. One of them was Francis.  He was reported to have been seriously wounded and died later in the night still in the trench.

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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