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Les soldats de la Grande Guerre : Projet de biographies historiques sur les soldats de Fredericton

Les textes explicatifs, les descriptions archivistiques, les commentaires, les en têtes de champs de données et les messages d’assistance à la navigation dans le site Web des Archives provinciales du Nouveau Brunswick sont en anglais et en français. Lorsqu’un élément est extrait d’un document pour être inséré dans une base de données ou présenté comme fac similé, il apparaît dans la langue du document d’origine.

Smith, William Harold

Private 301259
36th Canadian Field Battery
11th Canadian Howitzer Brigade
9th Canadian Howitzer Brigade

Background

William Harold Smith was born on April 8, 1893 in Iden, Sussex, England. Few records of his early life exists, however, documents do show that William was born to Edward and Beatrice Smith who lived on Carlton Street in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Together they had a large family having, in addition to William, three sons and three daughters. His brothers were Albert T., Private Hugh F. Smith of the Dental Corps, and Donald, who stayed at home during the Great War. His sisters were Dorothy, Daisy and Marjory, all of whom stayed home while William was away. At the time of his enlistment in 1915, he was unmarried and working as a chauffeur in Fredericton. According to his service record, William had blue eyes, a medium complexion, had dark brown hair, and his family were Methodists. He was also described as being a very tall man for the time standing at five feet eleven inches tall. In addition to working as a chauffeur, William was a volunteer fire fighter with the Fredericton Fire Brigade and like so many others his age he put his own life on hold to do his part in the war. He would formally enlist for service on November 22, 1915 in Fredericton, New Brunswick being only 22 years old at the time he went overseas as a gunner with the 36th Canadian Field Battery.

Wartime Experience

William left Canada for England on February 26, 1916 aboard the SS Missanabie, disembarking for training in England nearly two weeks later on March 13. After two months of training, in May of 1916, he was transferred from the 11th to the 9th Howitzer Brigade in preparation for the Somme offensive of July 1916. His service record reveals that he embarked for France on July 13 with the 9th Brigade where he would soon take part in of one of the major battles of 1916, the Battle of the Somme. It would be a campaign where there would be nearly 25, 000 Canadian casualties alone in the span of two months. However, prior to the Somme offensive, while engaged with enemy artillery in the Ypres Salient at Mount Sorrel, William was badly gassed and three months later he contracted albuminuria. Given the living conditions and changing season, William caught a cold which quickly developed into tuberculous. According to his records, he was taken to England in November of 1916 and was admitted to a military hospital due to his poor health and degenerating lungs. His lungs had been so badly compromised by the gas that nothing could be done for him and he was sent home to Canada in March of 1917 with hopes that being in the climate of his own country would be beneficial. The Daily Gleaner reported that William arrived March 28th, able to walk downtown that day and the next where he was always warmly greeted by his friends, noting that he was one of the most popular boys in town. According to reports, he practically lived outside during the last few months of his life as a tent was made for him in his garden where every attention could be given to him by family and friends. He died on Sunday, August 5th, 1917. He was 24 years of age, the first soldier to return and die at home. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Fredericton at the time.

Lest We Forget

William Harold Smith is buried in the northwest corner of Fredericton Rural Cemetery along the Woodstock Road. On the day of his funeral, William's casket, draped in the Union Jack, was carried from his house to the hearse where six returned men acted as pall bearers. William was given a military funeral and firing salute by members of the 236th Kilties. If you choose to, you can always visit or take note of the plaque installed on the old King Street Fire Station, a memorial to his and other soldiers' memory. He was very much loved by family and community.

*This biography was researched and written by Isabella Mehlitz, a Grade 8 student (2016-2017) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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