PRIVATE LAWRENCE JOSEPH SMITH
Died 21st August 1916
No.3628 of the Machine Gun Corp. Infantry, 51st Brigade / Co. Formerly no. 7766 of the Bedfordshire Regiment.
Born: Midgham, Berkshire, 1897
Resided: Russell Street, Woburn Sands
Details from Jillian Swain – Niece of Lawrence Smith
Lawrence was brought up in Russel Street, Woburn Sands and lived with his mother and father, Caroline and Joseph Smith, and his younger siblings, Eveline and William. On the 1911 Census, he was aged 13 and still at school, leading the life of a normal young boy of the period. He became an apprentice in his fathers plumbing and decorating business – this would have been his career for life.
When war was declared in 1914, he was aged 17 and had never journeyed far from the village. He was so fired up with the idea of fighting for ‘King and Country’ that he, along with a local friend, ran away to enlist at the recruiting office.
Luckily, his father got wind of the escapade, and rushed recruiting office to drag both boys back home. As soon as he was of the official age of 18, Lawrence volunteered, enlisting in the Bedford Regiment, the Machine Gun Infantry, 51st Brigade. He was killed at the Battle of the Somme which was raging in the summer of 1916.
Extract from the North Bucks Times, 5th September, 1916: “Killed in Action. Pte. Lawrence Smith, eldest son of Mr J. Smith, Russell Street, has been killed in action. He enlisted in the Beds Regt. soon after the outbreak of war and was attached to the 51st Brigade, Machine Gun Corp. He was hit by a shell. In a letter to his parents his Commanding Officer gives him the highest praise for cheerful and willing obedience to duty. He was in his 19th year.”
He was buried in Foncquevillers Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
There is little tangible left by which to remember the life of this young man:
A commemoration plaque sent by the War Office;
A picture of war graves in France;
A scant entry in the army files;
A name engraved on the War Memorial in Woburn Sands High Street;
and a bereaved family with a mother who never got over losing her first born.
Yet the bravery of this young boy and of countless others won the war for Britain and they should never be forgotten.
His army service papers have not survived.
Page last updated Jan. 2019.