SMITH, (Charles) Percy

Sergeant 9862 2nd.Bn. Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regt)

Died Sunday 20th September 1914.

At Rest: Sissonne British Cemetery, Aisne, France
Grave Ref.: O. 10

No photograph. Can you help?

Medal Rolls Index Card Sgt Percy Smith

Sgt. (Charles) Percy Smith was born at Church Gresley, Derbyshire in 1888. He was the son of Thomas and Emily Smith (nee Maddock).  He had siblings William, Thomas Alfred, George Harry, and Gertrude.  In 1891 the family was living at Church Street, Gresley but by 1901 had moved to Ashby Wolds, Leicestershire and his mother, then aged 49, is listed as a widow. Percy’s connection with the Jacksdale area is yet unclear but, in 1911, his mother was visiting the McSally family at Sedgwick Street, Jacksdale. Also, his deceased father and some of his brothers had been employed previously as sanitary pipe workers, so were perhaps drawn to the James Oakes Pipeyard in Jacksdale in search of work.

Percy was killed in action during the German attack on the trenches at Troyon, France, on the 20th September 1914, as was Private Joseph Morley a resident of Westwood also serving with the 2nd Bn Sherwood Foresters. Percy was a professional soldier having joined the Army in 1905, enlisting at Ripley, Derbyshire, nine years before the commencement of the the First World War.  In 1911 he was a Corporal in the ‘Infantry of the Line’ at the Sherwood Foresters’ Barracks, Normanton, Osmaston, Derby, aged 23 and single. He was sent abroad on 13th September 1914 (one of the “Old Contemptibles”) and killed on Sunday 20th September 1914, only seven days later, aged 26 years. He is buried at Sissonne British Cemetery, Aisne, France, a cemetery created after the Armistice with 291 commonwealth soldiers commemorated there. Of these, only a few were from 1914 and of these few, some were transferred from Troyon Churchyard.

The Nottinghamshire Daily Guardian of 30th October 1914 carried eye witness accounts by two privates involved in the same attack:

“Sherwoods Losses On The Aisne. Nine Officers & 300 Men In One Fight.

Experiences of the battle of the Aisne, in which the Sherwood Foresters suffered severely, are recounted in the “Nottingham Daily Guardian” by Private P. Phillips, of the 2nd Battalion, in a letter to his mother, of Fisher-street, Hyson Green, Nottingham. He is now a patient in the Alexandra Hospital at Cosham. He says:

“I cannot tell everything in a letter of what I have seen and have been through, for it would fill a newspaper. It is too uneasy for me to write a lot lying as I am partly on my back and right side. You see I am handicapped, my right arm being under me, but still I am doing my best.
“I was wounded in the battle of the Aisne on September 21st. We had just had a week of it. The day before I got hit we had a big scrap with a party of Germans. We lost nine officers and 300 men. As for the enemy, we nearly wiped the lot out. There were nearly 4,000 of them and there were not 1,000 in our regiment. No doubt you saw an account of it in the papers. They came at us in a solid body. We blazed into them as fast as we could, and when they got near us we met them with the bayonets. They didn’t like them, and those who could run away did so. Others put up their hands. The only thing I got was one through my water bottle, but I was not to escape for long.
“We went back into our trenches and at daybreak the following morning we saw that the ground was strewn with dead. Some of us were told off to dig holes to bury them in, and while we were doing so the artillery spotted us and started to shell us with shrapnel. The shell is filled with thick round black bullets.
“Before we could all get under cover one dropped right amongst us. I shall never forget it, for I felt was being stabbed with a perfect red hot poker. Then I could feel my blood running like a tap. All those near were killed or too badly hit to shift. I didn’t mean to bleed to death, so I started to drag myself to our trenches so that someone could bind me to stop the bleeding. They shouted to me to lie still, or I might get hit again, but I did not care. I wanted to stop the bleeding, for I was sinking very fast, so I rolled, dragged, and did any way I could till I got to our trenches, someone could bind me to stop the bleeding. They ripped my clothes off and bound me the best way they could, and when the firing eased off a bit I was taken to the ambulance wagon.
“I should have been in England before now but my case was too serious to shift far at the time. That is why they have not sent me far into the country now. I am doing well.”

A private of the same company, who was afterwards struck by a piece of shrapnel, and is now in hospital, states that no fewer than five sergeants of the Sherwoods were killed during the afternoon of September 20th. He says: –

“We had been under very heavy fire all the morning, and my bayonet was blown off my rifle by a piece of shell. Then during a lull we were trying to make some tea and get something to eat, when we suddenly received orders to leave the trenches and advance to reinforce the main body of our battalion, which was being hard pressed by the enemy.  It was during this advance that we lost most of our comrades, for we had to get across a stretch of open ground, but you can rest assured that we amply avenged our fallen comrades when we got to close quarters with the enemy.
“Sergeant Smith fell in the advance across the open with a bullet in the head, and we left all too many of our fellows on that open plain.  
Sergeant Smith joined the army nine years ago, and was 26 years of age.”

Sergeant Smith was awarded the 1914 (“Mons”) Star (with Clasp & Roses) and the British War and Victory Medals. Personal effects amounting to £16 7s 7d were sent to his mother in April 1915 followed by a war gratuity of £8 in May 1920.

SMITH, Percy