Albert Cavell SMITH

Smith AE missing OJI 20-06-1917 p6 smaller

Image from the Oxford Journal Illustrated, 20 June 1917, p.6.

Albert Smith was born in the summer of 1893 in the Blything area of Suffolk. He was the son of Albert Ernest Smith, a brass founder born in 1869/70 in Leiston, Suffolk, and Alice Roseleah Smith (née Woolner) who had been born in 1870/71 in Chatham in Kent. Albert and Alice married in Blything in early 1892 and their first child, Albert Cavell, was born just over a year later. A daughter, Iris Ruby, was born in late 1897.

In 1901 the family were living in Upton Place in Leiston. Ten years later, on the night of the 1911 census (2 April), Albert and his father were lodging in a boarding house at 17 Regent Road in Great Yarmouth. Albert (using his middle name of Cavell) was now 18 and working as a watchmaker's apprentice. Albert senior (now 40) was a brass founder working for a company of marine engineers. It's not clear what had happened to Albert's mother and sister - neither can be identified in the 1911 census, so they may both have died or gone abroad (though records of these events cannot be found either; and confusingly, Albert senior is described as 'single' rather than 'married' or 'widowed' on the 1911 census.)

Albert junior enlisted and became a Lance Corporal with the 5th Battalion of the Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry, service no. 32878. This battalion was formed at Oxford in August 1914 in response to Lord Kitchener's call for 100,000 volunteers to join the army soon after War broke out. The battalion landed at Boulogne in May 1915 and moved to the Somme on 7 August 1916.

On 6 February 1917 Albert married Edith Emma Edginton at St Aldates church in Oxford. His occupation was described as 'soldier' and he was lodging with Joseph Laitt, a house decorator, at 44 Western Road in Grandpont. Edith was 34, and had been born in Kirtlington. She was living at 27½ St Aldates and her father Jonas was a machine sawyer, probably at Basson's steam-driven saw mill and joinery on St Aldates near Folly Bridge.

Albert was killed only three months later, on 3 May 1917, aged 25, during the Third Battle of the Scarpe phase of the Battles of Arras. The British were supporting a larger French offensive further south - the battles of the Chemin des Dames and the Champagne Hills. Percival Edens and Albert Oliver were killed in the same battle on the same day. Their bodies were never recovered, but all three are named on the Arras Memorial which commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918 (the eve of the Advance to Victory) and have no known grave.

After the War Albert's father moved to Southampton. His widow Edith lived at 2 Sunningwell Road and so Albert is also named on the war memorial in the church of St John the Evangelist, New Hinksey. He is recorded on the St Matthew's memorial as 'AE Smith' but in fact those were his father's initials.

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