George Outram SMITH
Rank: Private
Number: 290685
Unit: 14th Battalion WELSH REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 August 1918
Age: 40
Cemetery: Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France

George had been born in Cheetham, Manchester, in 1879, the son of George & Elizabeth. In the late spring of 1901, he married Elizabeth Keating at St Mary's Church, Moston and, within a few months, they are thought to have had a son who was named after his father and grandfather. Later, the family came to live at 42 Spath Lane, Cheadle Hulme.

For reasons now unknown, George travelled to Cardiff to enlist. His service number confirms that he was assigned to the Regiment's 7th Battalion and it also indicates it was some time after the beginning of 1917. The 7th Battalion was, effectively, a reserve training unit which remained in the UK throughout the War. George will have been transferred to the 14th Battalion when he went overseas on active service. He had undertaken additional training to become one of the Battalion's signallers.

Throughout late August 1918, the British Army was again advancing across the whole of the Somme battlefield, retaking land lost earlier in the year. 27 August brought the 14th Battalion to High Wood which had been the scene of heavy fighting in the summer of 1916. By 4am, they had assembled in shell holes in the Wood. The 13th and 15th Battalions attacked first, followed by George and his mates a couple of hours later. They immediately came under heavy machine gun fire but managed to capture their objective - a trench held by the enemy near the neighbouring Delville Wood (known as Devils Wood to the troops).

The Battalion had made more progress than the other units and found there was no-one supporting them. Despite the exposed nature of the captured position, it was decided to remain in the trench and prepare it for defence. Enemy machine guns opened fire from one of the flanks, causing many casualties and several German attempts to bomb the trench with grenades also had to be driven off.

They remained here all morning and into the afternoon. But, by mid-afternoon, the Germans began to work troops round both flanks of the Battalion's position. It became increasingly clear that the trench could not be held and an order was issued requiring the 14th to withdraw. This was undertaken during the late evening, whilst the withdrawal would be covered by the dark.  George had been one of 29 soldiers killed in the attack.

George is buried in a cemetery which overlooks the area in which he died. His headstone is inscribed "Remembrance and an everlasting sorrow - not for a day but for ever".

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

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