2842 Private John Robert Smith, 5th Battalion, the Guards Machine Gun Regiment [1] died 8 April 1920,[2] aged 22 and is commemorated on Cockfield War Memorial.

Family Details

John Robert Smith was born in 1897 [3] at Lands (near Cockfield) the son of John and Margaret Ann [nee Purvis] Smith.  There were at least 4 children:[4]

  • John Robert born 1897 at Lands
  • William bc.1899 at Cockfield
  • Mary Alice bc.1900 at Lands
  • Harry bc.1906 at Cockfield

In 1901 the family lived at Lands Farm cottage in the Parish of Evenwood & Barony where 31 year old John worked as a “colliery carter”.[5]  It is thought that John died in 1907.[6]  By 1911, widowed 35 year old Margaret Annie and her 4 children lived at Front Street, Cockfield.  John Robert was still at school.  Robert Sutherland, aged 54 lodged with the family and he worked as a quarry labourer.[7]  Robert Sutherland and Margaret Annie Smith married in 1911.[8]  By February 1916, John Robert Smith was 18 years 9 months old and worked as a coal miner at Gordon House Colliery.  The family lived at 12 Model Terrace, Cockfield.[9]  He died 8 April 1920, the cause being “pulmonary tuberculosis”.[10]  He was buried 11 April 1920 at Cockfield cemetery grave ref.H.9.[11]

John Robert Smith was the cousin of Fred Purvis (1894-1918) by virtue of his mother and Fred’s father being brother and sister.  340630 Private Fred Purvis, 1/5th Battalion, the Northumbrian Fusiliers died 9 December 1918 and is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery near Kassel, Hessen, Germany.[12]  He is commemorated on Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.

Service Details

John R. Smith enlisted 7 February 1916 and was placed on the Army Reserve.  He was 5’10½” tall.  His religion was Church of England.[13]  Aged 20 years 11 months, he underwent a medical examination, 13 April 1918.  He had brown hair, fair complexion and blue eyes and was found to be A1 and fit for military service.[14]  He was mobilized 6 June 1918 and posted to the Guards Machine Gun Regiment.[15]  He served as a Private with 5th Bn., Guards Machine Gun Regiment and was given the regimental number 2842.[16]  He was not posted overseas.  Private J.R. Smith was discharged 11 December 1918.[17]  He served a total of 2 years 311 days at home.[18]

A medical report dated 4 December 1918 records that he had “No disability” prior to his discharge.[19]  It was considered:

“Discharged surplus to military requirements not having suffered impairment since entry into the Service.  PARA 392 (XXVA)KR.” [20]

This situation had been previously confirmed by Private J.R. Smith when stationed at Pirbright Camp.[21]


11 April 1920: John Robert Smith was buried in Cockfield cemetery grave ref.H.9. [22]


[1] Army Form B.179A

[2] Death Certificate dated 9 April 1920

[3] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Teesdale 1897 Q2 Vol.10 p.267 & baptised 2 June 1897 at Cockfield [Brian Carter]

[4] 1901 & 1911 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] Purvis family tree

[7] 1911 census

[8] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Teesdale 1911 Q2 Vol.10a p.429 & Vol.10a p.554

[9] Army Form B.2512

[10] Death certificate dated 9 April 1920

[11] Brian Carter

[12] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[13] Army Form B.2512

[14] Army Form B.178

[15] Army Form B.2512 Statement of the Services

[16] Army Form B.179A

[17] Medal Roll

[18] Army Form B.2512 Statement of the Services and handwritten note

[19] Army Form B.179A

[20] Army Form B.103

[21] Army Form B.172B dated 29 November 1918

[22] Brian Carter