Sergeant Hugh James Smith died on 22nd October 1916 serving with the 17th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
Although he was born in Bitteswell, Leicestershire, his parents, James and Harriet, were both from Berkswell, and Hugh was brought up in Hampton-in-Arden. Research by Clive Hinsull in Hampton-in-Arden: those who served 1914-18 indicates that Hugh attended George Fentham School in the village before enlisting as a regular soldier in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He served in South Africa 1899-1902 and in Somaliland 1902-1904.
As Hugh was overseas fighting in the Boer War in 1901, he doesn’t appear on the 1901 census returns. We haven’t been able to find his family, apart from his mother, Harriet, who is recorded on the 1901 census at Meriden Workhouse. Her occupation is given as laundress. The workhouse often acted as a hospital – with no universal free medical care, most people had no option other than the workhouse infirmary when ill health resulted in their being unable to work and support themselves.
By the time of the 1911 census, Hugh was back in England and working as a groom. He was living in Bakers Lane, Knowle with his wife, Edith Agnes (née Smith) who was born in Preston Bagot. The couple married at Packwood in 1909. Their son, Hugh Charles Furneaux Austin Smith, was born on 29th July 1910 at Sparkhill, Birmingham.
We don’t know when Hugh James Smith joined his regiment again, but he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916. He died of wounds on 22nd October and is buried at Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval. As far as we know, he isn’t commemorated on any local war memorial in the Solihull area, suggesting the family moved away from Knowle soon after 1911.
If you have any further information, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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