Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Fred Smith

Fred Smith  :

Fred Smith  : (L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

We don't know anything about Fred's early life or family.

By 1914 Fred lived in the Manchester area. The First World War broke out in August 1914 and he joined the Army in November or early December. He joined the 8th (Ardwick) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. His service number was 3353.

The 8th Battalion had been sent to Egypt on the 10th September. New recruits like Fred were used to form a second 8th Battalion (2/8th).

The original 8th Battalion (1/8th) landed in Gallipoli in May 1915. It was soon in action, and began to take casualties. Members of the 2/8th Battalion were sent out to reinforce it. One of the men chosen was Fred. He arrived in Gallipoli on the 1st August.

Fred's first major operation will have begun on the 7th August, near the village of Krithia. It was intended to divert Turkish troops away from the British landings at Suvla Bay. The British launched an attack, but were forced back by a Turkish counterattack. The Turks continued to attack for the next 2 days, inflicting many casualties on the British.

This would be the heaviest fighting Fred saw in Gallipoli. Although the Turkish defenders still shelled and sniped at the British, over the next few months the weather and disease were perhaps the main threats to Fred and his comrades. We don't know whether he was ever wounded or taken ill.

The 1/8th Battalion was evacuated back to Egypt in December and served there throughout 1916. In March 1917 they moved to France to fight on the Western Front.

At around this time soldiers serving in Territorial Force units were given new service numbers. The 8th Battalion was allocated the range 300001 to 350000. Fred was given 300895.

The 1/8th Battalion served on the old Somme battleground at Epehy and Havrincourt during the summer of 1917, before moving north to Ypres in Belgium during late August. They guarded the North Sea coast at Nieuwpoort whilst the Passchendaele Offensive was fought around Ypres. In November 1917 they returned to France and were stationed around Bethune.

During 1918 the 1/8th Battalion helped to defeat the German Spring Offensive of March and April. The attacks began on the 21st March, and the battalion fought desperately to bring the Germans to a halt.

The Allies had defeated this offensive by July and began one of their own in August. This was extremely successful and drove the Germans back.

During the Allied advance, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, the 1/8th Battalion took part in hard fighting in the Somme area. They broke through the German Hindenburg Line and crossed the Selle River, and by the 3rd November they had reached Le Quesnoy and the Forest of Mormal.

On the 6th the 1/8th Battalion joined the fighting on the edge of the forest. They broke through, but lost 25 men during the fighting. Fred was one of them. He held the rank of Lance Sergeant when he was killed. We don't know how old he was.

Shortly after the end of the war the National Publishing Company began an attempt to print a roll covering every man who had served in the First World War. They invited veterans or their families to send a short account of his or her service, for a fee. Not all veterans took up this offer, and the details they included were not checked for accuracy. Fred's family sent this biography to the Company. It was published in Section XI, Manchester, of the National Roll of the Great War:

Smith, F., Corporal, 1/8th Manchester Regiment

He volunteered at the outbreak of war in August 1914, and in the following year was drafted to the Dardanelles, where after taking part in the Landing at Cape Helles, he saw much severe fighting until the Evacuation of the Peninsula. He was then sent to Egypt, whence he was transferred shortly afterwards to the Western Front, and took part in the Battles of the Somme, Arras, Vimy Ridge, Ypres and Cambrai, and many other engagements. He was killed in action at Mormal Forest on November 6th, 1918, only 5 days before the signing of the Armistice. He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, and the General Service and Victory Medals.

'Nobly striving, he nobly fell that we might live'

6, Clough Street, Newton, Manchester.

Fred and his 24 comrades are buried in the North-East part of Hargnies Communal Cemetery in the village of Hargnies. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 1997.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council