Harold Moses ("MAC") SMITH
Rank: Private
Number: 27199
Unit: 15th Battalion ROYAL SCOTS
Date of Death: 9 April 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Bailleul Road East Cemetery, St Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais, France

Isaiah Smith, a horse breaker, married Elizabeth Webb in a civil ceremony at Altrincham in the late autumn of 1883. By 1901, when the national census was taken, the family was living at 5 Newtown, Morley, Wilmslow. Elizabeth originated from nearby Dean Row. They had six children at home - William (14), Rowland (12), Elizabeth (9), Harry (7), Harold (4) and Miriam (3).  By the time of the Great War, they had moved to 52 Canada Street, Heaviley.

Although he doesn't appear to have Scottish ancestry, Harold was always known as "Mac" to his friends. So it was, perhaps, no surprise that when War broke out, he wanted to join a Scottish Regiment. Perhaps Mac would have been disappointed to find out that the Royal Scots was not a kilted Regiment.

On 9 April 1917, 15th Royal Scots were just behind the front line near the village of St Laurent-Blangy (a few kilometres north east of the French town of Arras). The day would see the opening phase of what would later be called the Battle of Arras.

In the front line was the 16th Royal Scots and the 15th had been ordered to keep in close support. It's no surprise, therefore, that as they crossed No Man's Land, the two Battalions became intermingled and the men fought side by side once they reached the German trenches.

The consequence of this is that the 15th suffered much greater casualties than expected and when they moved on to take their second objective (a railway line), there were only 4 officers and 100 men left. They were too few to press home their attack but were soon reinforced by 10th Lincolnshire Regiment and 6th King's Own Scottish Borderers. Together, they advanced up to the crest of a long ridge known as the Point du Jour. The slope was thickly protected with barbed wire but the advance was not significantly slowed. Later, the 16th Royal Scots also moved up in support and the troops dug-in and consolidated their gains.

Lance Corporal Allan Marsh (not a local man) wrote a diary of his war service with 15th Royal Scots. This is the extract for 9 April:-

"Went over at Arras. Pretty cushy as went with rifles slung over the whole 3 kilos. We had taken Jerry by surprise as he came out of his dug-outs partly dressed some with boots on some with them off. A rather amusing incident took place. Two pals, who were very much like brothers, went over. One of them got wounded and had to go back. The other was wild and was calling Jerry all the names he could lay his tongue to and swearing to have his revenge. Presently the platoon officer told him to take 2 prisoners back and a rather curious smile came into his face, as he went away. About half an hour later, he returned, all smiles. When I asked him how he had been so quick as he could not have been back to Brigade and back in so short a time, he simply said "Oh, one of those ******** got tired and I thought I might as well give them both a rest." He then asked me if I would like a watch as he had three (2 wristlet and 1 ordinary). It then struck me what he had done. When the officer saw him he asked him where he had come from and he just said the same. He asked him if would like a watch, and the officer offered him 20 frs, but he said that, as he got it for nothing so could the officer. The officer said that he would need the money when we got out of this stunt so he took it. It was great day. A company of Jerries formed up in fours under their officers and marched back asking our chaps to escort them."

Another local man, Francis Flaherty, was also killed during the attack.

After the War, families were asked if they wanted a short inscription on their relative's gravestone. Perhaps because of the cost and the likelihood that they would never visit it, most chose not. However, Harold's family did decide to have one. It reads "O Thou who changest not, abide with me".

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