Private John Charles Smith was killed in action at Givenchy on 22nd December 1914, aged 21. He died just over four months after enlisting in the Coldstream Guards.
According to the information in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, he was the third son of Joseph and Ann Smith of Park Lane Corner, Berkswell. He was born on 12th April 1893 at Temple Balsall and was educated at Burton Green, near Kenilworth, and Temple Balsall. He enlisted on 18th August 1914 and was posted to France in December, shortly before he was killed.
He is commemorated at Berkswell and he is one of more than 13,400 soldiers with no known grave who is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
Because of the popularity of the surname Smith, it can sometimes be quite difficult to be sure you have the correct person in official records. There is a likely John Smith on the 1901 census, aged 7, born Balsall, living at Burton Green Kenilworth, with his mother, Ann, and siblings James, Henry, and Norman. However, although Ann is listed as married, her husband is absent from the household on census night and her occupation is given as “wife of Thomas [sic] Smith, agricultural labourer”. Cross-checking the births and birthplaces of children confirms that, despite the error with her husband’s name, this is the correct family.
The baptism of John Charles Smith is recorded at Temple Balsall on 2nd July 1893, with his birth noted as being on 12th April. His parents were listed as Joseph, a sawyer, and Ann, and their abode was recorded as Fen End. According to the 1911 census, Joseph and Ann had 8 children in total during their marriage (which took place at Kenilworth on 27th October 1880). Six of these (including John Charles) were baptised at Temple Balsall:
- 13 Nov 1881, Harriet Ada, born 4 Oct 1881. Abode, Balsall.
- 14 Dec 1884, William, born 25 Oct 1884. Abode, Balsall.
- 10 Jul 1887, Charlotte, born 8 May 1887. Abode, Balsall.
- 9 Mar 1890, James, born 2 Jan 1890. Abode, Balsall.
- 7 Jun 1896, Henry, born 31 Mar 1896. Abode, Fen End. (Henry was killed in 1917 serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery)
The couple’s youngest child, Norman Leslie, was baptised at Kenilworth on 13th August 1899. Joseph was listed as a sawyer, and the family’s abode was recorded as Burton Green. Norman also served in the First World War, enlisting with the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 28th January 1915, just over a month after his brother, John, was killed. However, although he gave his age as 19, he was actually about 15, so was discharged a few months later “having made a mistatement as to his age on enlistment”.
If you have any more information about the family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934