Geoffrey Cholerton Smith, MC: Tuesday 31st July 1917
Geoffrey was a member of the OTC at Emmanuel School. In April 1915 he entered Sandhurst and was gazetted into Army Service Corp in August. He was sent to the front in September and was attached to a French mortar battery in June 1916.
He was awarded the Military Cross after an engagement at Delville Wood during the battle of the Somme. The London Gazette for 20 October 1916 states “For conspicuous gallantry during operations. He assisted another officer with the guns in a very exposed position until all the ammunition was expended. Together they then tended the wounded and arranged carrying parties under very heavy shell fire”. The BMJ of October 1916 lists him and others as having been decorated “in recognition of services rendered to the wounded”. At the time he was a 2nd Lieutenant (Alt).
On the 27 February 1917 he was put on General List (R.F.C) and Gazetted as a Flying Officer (Observer) with the 6th Squadron RFC, with seniority from the 4 February, Gazetted to Luitenant (T) on the 1 May, Luitenant 1 June, and was reported wounded in action on the 31 July (1st day of Passchendaele), dying later the same day.
There was low cloud and it was not a good day for observation. Geoffrey and pilot, Lieutenant H J Snowden were hit by machine gun fire as a result of flying low. Despite their injuries, they managed to land at H.Q. and give their information. Geoffrey died the same day of gunshot wounds to his chest in the Canadian casualty clearing station and is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
This is the cemetery with the highest concentration of WW1 flyers in Belgium with some 100 buried there. The pilot was brought back to England for treatment but died eleven days later.
Geoffrey was born 17 April 1897 in Battersea. His parents were Alfred James, Civil Servant with the War Office, and Mary Eleanor Smith. In 1901 & 1911 the family lived at 2 Honeywell Road later moving to 11 Magdalen Road. He was their youngest son. His brother was 5 years older and studied at London University. Both went to Emanuel School, with Geoffrey later attending the Strand School Brixton. The latter was a boys’ Grammar School which had moved to Tulse Hill from the Strand in 1913. It was distinguished in its heyday for its contribution of young men to the civil service. We can guess what his father had in mind.
After his death, his school friend, George Lyward, who had been turned down for military service and went on to be an educator, wrote a poem in his memory:
“Is such is the Kingdom.”
So young he was, yet dare we call him boy
Who himself dared so greatly, yearned to climb,
Higher, to taste all unalloyed the joy,
Of self forgot In faithfulness sublime?
We blamed him, praised him, for that mighty longing
That burning thirst which bade him drink so deep –
Still on his course he kept, and thronging, thronging,
The visions came, he followed, shall we weep?
Because he followed – mourn a faith that shone
Clear and unshaken? He who ne’er could tell,
The half of all he felt, now calls us on,
With no uncertain voice, a man he fell,
And falling rose to heights of finer joy,
A leader still and therefore still a boy.