Some time ago Nigel Aspdin sent me this postcard photograph of a family member, Charles Sydney Smith, who served in the Machine Gun Corps (British/Imperial, rather than Canadian) during the Great War. Charlie was born in 1890 in Nottingham, son of a bank clerk John Bywater Smith (1847-1897) and Mary Ann Woolley. After his father died in 1897, they moved to Derby, where he married Beatrice Slater in 1915. In the outdoors portrait, he is shown in the uniform of a British officer, the cap badge identifying him as a member of the Machine Gun Corps, and mounted on a horse. The lower margin of the photograph is annotated, "France. May 1916," while the reverse, shown below, has a lengthier message to his wife.
17/5/16This would be an interesting photograph to research on its own, and it was sitting in my "to do" file, waiting for a suitable moment. However, yesterday, while browsing photographs for sale on eBay, I came across a listing of a postcard which seemed rather familiar:
Darling little girlie,
What do you think of this photo, it is not very good as my horse won't keep still. Hope the measles are OK. We move up into the trenches to-day. Weather is A.1. Want a letter from you and can't get one. Will write if possible to-night, hope to get leave after this spell in the trenches, but will let you know in plenty of time.
All my love
It seems an extraordinary coincidence, but this photograph was taken at exactly the same spot as the one of Charlie Smith, albeit that the shutter on the window has been raised and a woman stands in the previously empty doorway. The eBay listing states that it is inscribed on the reverse, "Dick 21.6.16," so it appears to have been taken just over a month later. Unfortunately, my meagre funds allowed for eBay purchases won't stretch to this one. I presume the photographer's studio was located in the vicinity of the yard.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site and database show that Major Charles Sydney Smith of the Machine Gun Corps, and husband of Beatrice Smith of 3 Wheeldon Avenue, Derby, died on 28 November 1918 at the age of 28, and was buried at the Nottingham Road Cemetery in Derby (Grave/Memorial Ref. 3872 (C.)). It also states that he was awarded the Military Cross, and was mentioned in dispatches. The Nottingham Road Cemetery, which featured in a recent article, "contains 193 First World War burials and 134 from the Second World War. There is a small war graves plot of about 40 burials from both wars, the rest of the graves are scattered throughout the cemetery."
His medal card shows that he arrived in France on 11 March 1916, but there is sadly little else to show what he was doing between then and his death in November 1918, shortly after the war had ended.