Sapper, Royal Engineers, 19th Light Railway Train Crew Coy.
Service no. 266259
Killed in action on 14 June 1917, aged 21
Remembered at St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, Hainaut, Belgium
Chris Burge writes:
Alfred Frank Smith was born in Lambeth on 5 January 1896 and baptised at All Saints Church in Devonshire Road (the area was redeveloped as the Lansdowne Green Estate). He was the second child of Frank and Kate Caroline Smith (née Farley), both of them originally from Andover in Hampshire. The Smiths were living at 8 Riverhall Street in South Lambeth at that time. Frank worked as a ‘horse keeper’ for the London & South Western Railway. By the time of the 1901 census, Alfred was the second of four children with an older sister and two younger brothers. The family were living in the four rooms of the property at 20 Fountain Street, near Wandsworth Road, along with Kate’s brother George Farley, another L&SWR horse keeper.
By the time of the 1911 census Alfred was the second eldest of nine. His parents had been married 17 years, and all of their children were born in Lambeth. The family of 11 were now living in the four rooms of the property at 25 Bolney Street, off Dorset Road. Alfredt’s father still worked as a horse keeper for the L&SWR, Albert’s sister Elsie worked as domestic servant and Alfred worked as van guard for the L&SWR.
There are no surviving records to date Alfred’s conscription into the Army. It could have been at any time between June 1916 and February 1917 when the Light Railway companies were formed at Longmoor Camp at Bordon in Hampshire. On the Western Front, the use of light railways to carry goods, men and ammunition as close to the front line as possible started in 1917. Experienced railwaymen were recruited for the ‘Railway Operation Division, Royal Engineers’. For example, sapper 218699 Edward Victor Harrington from Essex was a clerk on the Great Eastern Railway who was originally rated B1 when medically examined in September 1916. Harrington was not called up until 2 January 1917, when he joined at Longmoor. Men like Harrington and Alfred Smith did not receive infantry training and were sent to France within weeks of joining. Harrington was qualified as a shunter and, like Albert, served in the 19th Light Railway Train Crew Company, until he was killed in action on 28 March 1918 while attached to the Canadian Light Railway section.
Alfred Frank Smith was killed in action in unknown circumstances on 14 June 1917. The only document that may contain further information is a summary diary of the ‘19th Light Railway Train Crew 16 Feb 1917 to 01 Sep 1917 Coy’ held at the Royal Engineers Museum library at Chatham, Kent.