Above Passchendaele

Smith, G C 13

Lt. Geoffrey Cholerton Smith Geoffrey was a keen cricketer at Emanuel and from the Summer Term Portcullis of 1913 we learn that he was, ‘A hard‑working Vice‑Captain and secretary. As a player his strong defence has been invaluable to the side…’

Lt. Geoffrey Cholerton Smith obtained his commission in the Army Service Corps, before being attached to the Royal Flying Corps in which he was an observer. Living at 11 Magdalene Road, Wandsworth Common, both he and his brother attended Emanuel. Geoffrey was a member of the Emanuel OTC, entering Sandhurst in 1915. In September 1915 he made the journey to the Front where, being attached to the trench mortars of the Second Division, he saw action in the Battle of the Somme and won a Military Cross for gallant conduct at Delville Wood. His citation in the London Gazette reads:

For conspicuous gallantry during operations. He assisted another officer with the guns in a very exposed position, until all the ammunition was expended. Together they then tended the wounded, and arranged carrying parties under very heavy shell fire.

 

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Geoffrey Smith’s Headstone in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery with the History of Emanuel School at War open on the page dedicated to his memory

 

Geoffrey transferred to 6 Squadron RFC in April 1917, the squadron’s motto being, ‘The eyes of the Army’. The motto was appropriate for Geoffrey was an observer in which capacity he would have had various duties dependent on his squadron’s briefing. Generally observers located the position of German batteries and reported back to either headquarters or the artillery in order for them to fire upon these locations.

An observer would also have had to have taken command of a machine gun, typically a Lewis gun in RE8s, (Reconnaissance Experimental No. 8), a two seater aircraft which 6 Squadron were flying in the summer of 1917.

On 31 July 1917, the opening of The Third Battle of Ypres, otherwise known as the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, the weather was against observation due to low lying cloud and rain but flying in an RE8, Serial No A111, twenty‑year‑old Geoffrey and his pilot H. J. Snowden, also aged twenty, were first up. Having to fly low due to the weather conditions, both were wounded when hit by ground machine gun fire over German lines at Messines. The Portcullis later reported that, ‘He managed to reach headquarters, and give his information, but the severity of his injuries overcame him and he died.’ He died of gun shot wounds to the chest in No. 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station and is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, grave reference XIV – A – 10. Geoffrey’s pilot was taken back to England for treatment but died eleven days later and is buried in Hampstead Cemetery grave reference WB. 567.

Old Emanuel George Lyward, later a famous educationalist, wrote a poem in Geoffrey’s memory titled G.C.S.

72 GCS By Lyward

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