Thomas SMILES 1893 – 1975

Family Details

Thomas Smiles was born 27 April 1893,[1] the son of Joseph and Jane Smiles.  There were 2 children, both born at Barnard Castle:

  • Thomas born 1893
  • Robert Henry “Harry” bc.1898

In 1901, the family lived at Church Yard, Barnard Castle, County Durham where 44 years old Joseph worked as a “Market Gardener” and 38 years old Jane was recorded as a “winder in shoe thread factory”.[2]  By 1911,the family lived at the Bank, Barnard Castle and now Joseph was recorded as, “quarryman’s labourer”, Jane as, “mill hand, shoe – thread spinner”, 17 years old Thomas as, “Iron founder [brass] range maker” and 13 years old Harry was still at school.[3]

23 June 1913: Thomas married Margaret Ann Watson at Barnard Castle.  There were 4 children, 2 sons,  both born at Barnard Castle[4] and 2 daughters:

  • 7 January 1916: Thomas William [Billy]
  • 31 March 1920: George Henry
  • 13 August 1922: Mary Jane [Polly], birth registered in Teesdale, Durham[5], most likely born at Barnard Castle
  • 2 February 1924: Ellen, [Nellie] birth registered in Cumberland [6]

At some time, possibly February 1924, the family moved from 45 Bridgegate, Barnard Castle to 3 Smardale Gill Cottages, Ravensdale Station, Westmorland.[7]  It is likely that his employment as a NER platelayer took him to locations along the Barnard Castle to Tebay line over Stainmore.  He then was transferred to Evenwood and found a home at the Mill.[8]

Military Details [9]

22 April 1910:  Thomas Smiles was a member of the Territorial Force, enlisting when he was 17 years old.[10]  His regimental number was 6/1213, later renumbered in 1917 to 350731.[11]  His service details have not been researched.  A detailed account of the First World War service of 6/DLI is provided by Harry Moses, “The Faithfull Sixth”. [12]

The 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry came under the orders of the 151st [Durham Light Infantry] Brigade as part of the 50th [Northumbrian] Division.  Units were:

  • 1/6 DLI reduced to cadre and left 15 July 1918
  • 1/7 DLI left to become Pioneer Battalion 16 November 1915
  • 1/8 DLI reduced to cadre and left 15 July 1918
  • 1/9 DLI left February 1918
  • 1/5 the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment between 11 June 1915 and 21 December 1915
  • 1/5 Border Regiment between December 1915 and February 1918
  • 151 Machine Gun Corps between February 1916 and March 1918
  • 151 Trench Mortar Battery formed June 1916
  • 1/5 DLI between February and July 1918
  • 6/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined July 1918
  • 1/King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry joined July 1918
  • 4/King’s Own Rifle Corps joined July 1918

The 50th [Northumbrian] Division was a formation of the Territorial Force, as a result of the reforms of the army carried out in 1908 under the Secretary of State for War, Richard Burdon Haldane.  It was one of 14 Divisions of the peacetime Territorial Force. A detailed account of the First World War service is provided by, “The History of the 50th Division 1914-1919” by Everard Wyrall.[13]

1914

The units of the Division had just departed for annual summer camp when emergency orders recalled them to the home base.

5 August 1914:  All units were mobilised for full time war service and moved to their allotted positions on the Tyne defences by mid-August 1914.

1915

19 April 1915: Sergeant Thomas Smiles entered France[14] with 6/DLI and the 50th [Northumbrian] Division.  In early April the Division was warned that it would go on overseas service and entrainment began on 16 April. By 23 April the Division had concentrated in the area of Steenvoorde. It had arrived just as the German army had attacked at nearby Ypres, using poison gas for the first time, and was rushed into the battle. The Division remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements

1] The Second Battles of Ypres:

  • 24 April – 4 May: The Battle of St Julien
    8 – 13 May: The Battle of Frezenburg Ridge
    24 – 25 May: The Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge

After taking heavy casualties 1/6 and 1/8 battalions DLI merged to form 6/8 Battalion.  In May 1915, Sergeant T. Smiles was wounded, details are unknown.[15]

11 August 1915: 6/DLI resumed its original identity.

A report dated 23 September 1915, records 1213 Sergeant T. Smiles listed as wounded on the casualty list issued by the War Office from April and May 1915 confirming that he was entitled to wear a wound stripe as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6 July 1916.[16]

1916

Thomas’ brother Harry was killed in action in the Great War.  Serving as 5/2136 Private Robert Henry Smiles, 1/5 Battalion, Durham Light Infantry died 19 March 1916 and is commemorated on the Ypres [Menin Gate] Memorial,[17] the Barnard Castle War Memorial in the grounds of Bowes Museum and the “Roll of Service”, St. Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle.[18]

6/DLI took part in:

1] The Battle of the Somme:

15 – 22 September: The Battle of Flers-Courcelette
25 – 28 September: The Battle of Morval
1 – 18 October: The Battle of the Transloy Ridges

5 November:  One of the bloodiest encounters in which 6/DLI was involved, took place at the Butte de Warlencourt.  There were over 1000 DLI casualties.[19] However, this engagement was not recognised by the distinction of an official battle name by the relevant Commission which “named” battles after the war. 

1917

6/DLI took part in:

1] The Arras Offensive

9 – 14 April: The First Battle of the Scarpe, the Capture of Wancourt Ridge
23 – 24 April: The Second Battle of the Scarpe

2] the Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly known as Passchendaele
26 October – 10 November: The Second Battle of Passchendaele

1918

6/DLI was in the action during the great German Spring Offensive and was mauled on 3 occasions:

1] The First Battles of the Somme 1918

21 – 23 March: The Battle of St Quentin
24 – 25 March: The Actions at the Somme Crossings

26 – 27 March: The Battle of Rosieres. 

It is believed that Sergeant T. Smiles was wounded at this time and did not participate in any other action.

2] The Battles of the Lys
9 – 11 April: The Battle of Estaires
12 – 15 April: The Battle of Hazebrouck
3] The Battle of the Aisne

27 May – 6 June: The Battle of the Aisne

The Division took part in the three great battles and suffered heavy casualties. A decision was taken to rebuild the 50th Division. The original infantry units left and others arrived to take their place. It was not until October that the Division was once again considered to take the field. It then took part in the following engagements:

4] The Battles of the Hindenburg Line including:

29 September – 2 October: The Battle of the St Quentin Canal
3 – 5 October: The Battle of the Beaurevoir Line
5] The Battle of Cambrai 1918

8 – 9 October: The pursuit to the Selle

6] The Final Advance in Picardy
9 – 12 October: The Battle of the Selle
1 – 2 November: The Battle of Valenciennes

11 November 1918: The Division had been relieved and was resting at Solre le Chateau. The demobilisation of the Division began December and the service of the Division came to an end on 19 March when the final cadres left for England. The Division reformed as part of the Territorial Army in April 1920.

29 March 1918: The date of Sergeant T. Smiles’ discharge from the Army. [20]  This date is recorded on a form associated with his army pension.  It is likely that this is the  date when he received his wound [GSW right thigh].[21] It was during the German Spring Offensive when 6/DLI was in action at the Battle of St. Quentin.  Sergeant T. Smiles would not have been involved in any further action during 1918.

30 March 1918: Date of commencement of pension

6 June 1918: Discharged, probably the “official date of discharge”. [22]

350731 [formerly 6/1213] Sergeant Thomas Smiles was awarded the 1914-15 Star,[23] the Victory and British War medals[24] and the War Badge, numbered 397990  issued to “wounded” soldiers.  It was recorded that in May 1918, he served with 26/DLI.[25]

Post War [26]

29 June 1920: Aged 27 years, Thomas Smiles re-joined 6/DLI for 1 year.  He was recommended to be a sergeant. He was previously discharged as partially disabled.  At this time his address was 17 Bridgegate, Barnard Castle and he worked as a NER platelayer.  He was 5’ 7” tall, 142 lbs, with dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair.  His religious denomination was Church of England.  He had a name tattooed on his right forearm and a “scar of wound outer side right thigh”.[27]

25 July – 8 August 1920: Armed training at Scarborough.

12 July 1921: termination of engagement.

1939: Thomas and Margaret lived at the Mill, Evenwood with their 4 children:[28]

  • Thomas William [Billy] born 7 January 1916
  • George Henry born 31 March 1920
  • Mary Jane [Polly] born 13 August 1922
  • Ellen [Nellie] born 2 February 1924

Thomas [senior] worked for the NER as a plate layer, Billy was a coal miner [hewer], George was a coal miner [pony putter] and Polly was an apprentice dressmaker.  Nellie’s records are “officially closed”.  Both Billy and George served in the Second World War, Billy in the Merchant Navy being held as a POW in Germany and George in 6/DLI, the same battalion as his father.

1975: Thomas Smiles died aged about 82.[29]

Medal Roll Card Index

REFERENCES

[1] 1939 England & Wales Register

[2] 1901 census Note: the second son recorded as Robert H.

[3] 1911 census 

[4] Army Form E.501 Note: the second son was recorded as George Robert

[5] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.3559 Teesdale, 1922 Q3

[6] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10b p.1299 Cumberland 1924Q2 & England & Wales Death Index 1989-2019

[7] UK WWI Pension Ledgers and Index Cards 1914-1923 Army Form S.B.36

[8] 1939 England & Wales Register

[9] https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/50th-northumbrian-division/ and https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/durham-light-infantry/

[10] Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge dated 22 May 1918

[11] Medal Roll card index

[12] “The Faithfull Sixth: A History of the Sixth Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry” 1994 H. Moses p.17-110

[13] “The Fiftieth Division 1914-1919” 1939 Everard Wyrall

[14] Medal Roll card index

[15] 19 May 1915 Teesdale Mercury report

[16] https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/records/12045690/sergeant-t-smiles-british-army-durham-light-infantry/ Archive Reference: DT24091915

[17] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[18] NE War Memorials Project

[19] Moses p.76-79 & “The Somme” 2005 Peter Hart p.486-499

[20] Army Form S.B.36 Pension Form

[21] GSW – gunshot wound

[22] Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge dated 22 May 1918

[23] Medal Roll card index

[24] Roll of Individuals Entitled to the Victory and British War Medals 31 August 1921

[25] Roll of Individuals entitled to the War Badge dated 22 May 1918. Note: 26/DLI was a training battalion.

[26] Army Form E.501 unless otherwise noted

[27] Army Form E.501 Identification on Enlistment

[28] 1939 England & Wales Register

[29] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2005 Vol.1a p.1443 Durham SW 1975 Q2 Mary Vickers granddaughter believes that Thomas Smiles died 28 May 1973 aged 80.