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Born: 1899, Greengates
Died: 27 January 1919, Idle
Buried: Upper Chapel, Idle
Address: 32 Marlborough Road, Idle
Parents: William Josiah & Ann
Siblings: Elsie, Cyril
Occupation: Packer, J Binns, Springfield Mills
Rank: Pte
Rolls of Honour: Holy Trinity, Idle; Greengates
Regiment: Scottish Borderers
Clifford Smith
Men Who Served Home Page Men Who Served Home Page Men Who Served Home Page Everything we know about Clifford’s war is packed into stories published in the Shipley Times & Express within a month, after the war is over, starting on 17 January 1919. Welcome new has been received by Mr and Mrs Will Smith of 32 Marlboro Road, Idle, concerning their son, Pte Clifford Smith, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who was taken prisoner by the Germans last March. Nothing had been heard from the missing lad since September and naturally his parents were very anxious. Last Friday, however, a postcard dated New Year’s Day, came from him as follows: “I am writing to let you know where I am. We have got out of Germany and are now in Holland. “I am expecting in a few days to be in good old Blighty. We are now waiting for the ship – Clifford.” Pte Smith has now returned home on leave. By the following week, the newspaper had sent a reporter to interview him: Pte Clifford Smith, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, a repatriated prisoner of war, had an interesting story to tell an Express reporter at his home, 32 Marlborough Road, Idle, the other day. He was in the hands of the Germans since 10th April last and was released towards Christmas since when he has been in Holland and only reached England a week last Sunday. Pte Smith was a packer for Mr J Benn jnr of Spingfield Mills, Idle, and Bolton Road, Bradford, when he was called up in April 1917. Gas After eleven months’ training with the West Yorkshire Regt, he went out to France and at the Etaples base was transferred to the KOSB. In less than a week the regiment was sent up the line to Messines. Smith’s duty was gas guarding, which consists of giving warning of the approach of gas. The British were entrenched in front of some elevated farmhouses in which the Germans could be plainly seen and, on the day before he was captured, there was a lively exchange of rifle fire. The distance separating the two forces was barely two hundred yards. The Germans threw grenades while many bombs dropped in and near the trenches in which Smith and his comrades lay concealed and at intervals, they ventured to the parapet to have ‘a pop back’ at the Germans. On 9th April Smith and another lad were ordered to go ‘over the top’ with a sergeant major but after proceeding about ten yards the party thought it wisest to turn back and take cover. This they achieved with miraculous success and Smith says that the backwardness of the Germans in not shooting them down was a pretence, as the Germans, who had put on British khaki caps as disguises, were hopeful of snaring a bigger batch and to this strategy Smith probably owes his life. Round a corner Once back in the trenches, they breathed freely again and the same day they were relieved by some men of the Cheshire Regt. Next morning they were again in the trenches. Smith crossed a farmyard when two Germans came round a corner and fired at him and the three other privates with him, wounding one of them. The Britishers were hopelessly outnumbered as other Germans had appeared from behind the farm walls and so they threw up their hands and gave up their equipment, including rifle, pack and gas mask. The first taste of enemy discipline was soon to be felt. Being hurried half a mile to the rear, they were then ordered to pick up a stretcher on which lay a wounded German officer and to carry him to a dressing station. Before reaching the station, Smith was relieved and ordered to assist a countryman of his own to the dressing station, this man having been wounded in the mouth. Altogether, Smith passed six weeks behind the German lines in Belgium. He was then removed to a prison camp at Menin.  Here twenty men got a loaf of bread between them and the work they were put to was unloading shells from canal boats and carrying paving stones. Cabbage and carrots A canvas bed packed with straw made a tolerably comfortable doss and the usual food was soup and bread. The soup was mostly made of cabbage and carrots and pieces of horse flesh. Only about a fortnight was spent at Menin and then Smith, with about 100 more British, was transferred to a prison camp at Dendamond, ten miles away. Here they had a little meal in the mornings, soup for dinner and soup for tea. It was practically a vegetarian diet – cabbage and potatoes with only a bit of meat which the Belgian cooks supplied. The fare was inadequate and barely sufficed to keep the men going. They became very weak and some of the British had actually to be held up by the wall as they went about their work, being almost exhausted, and it was not uncommon for some of them to drop down in fits. One incident at this camp lingers in Smith’s memory. While their clothes were being fumigated, the men were hustled into hot water baths. They had to remain in the water till the Germans thought their clothes were sufficiently steamed and on coming out of the baths they had to get into the wet clothes which reeked with steam. Another recollection that Smith finds it difficult to shake off is of a day when he was so hungry that he sold his cardigan jacket and his puttees for a loaf of good Belgian bread which he shared with his mate. On another occasion he was so famished that he sold a pair of good boots to a German for a pair of old boots and small loaf of Belgian bread. Stockings were then a thing of the past and Smith was reduced to the extremity of wrapping his feet up in rags. From this camp, he and his pal ‘Siddy’, from Durham, volunteered to work in a surface coal mine where they were employed from June to December. They got 2s 6d a week and were fairly well fed. However, the money was of little use as there was no bread, while cigarettes were scarce. A bottle of lemonade was an occasional treat though it was little better than water. The day after the Armistice was signed the Germans celebrated the event by a day’s holiday but the British party of miners, who numbered 75, refused to work afterwards. Determination They were fetched out of the huts with fixed bayonets, the Germans took the windows and doors out, removed the means of lighting and cut off the water supply. Yet the British adhered to their determination and did not work after Armistice Day. Some time later they were laagered at Doebritz where they were finally given their liberty and sent to Holland, which they reached on 2nd January. Pte Smith is fit and well now, having been thoroughly fed by British officers since he reached Doebritz. He is due to rejoin his regiment at Carlisle on 14th March. Holy Trinity RoH Holy Trinity RoH Holy Trinity RoH Greengates RoH Greengates RoH Greengates RoH
The following week, the paper reported: The funeral takes place today at the Upper Chapel Cemetery, Idle, of Pte Clifford Smith, KOSB, of 32 Marlboro Road, Idle, aged 19, a repatriated prisoner of war who returned home on 14th January. A week later he became ill, pneumonia supervened and he died on Monday. A week later on 7 February 1919, the Shipley Times & Express were clear where the blame lay for Clifford’s death. Behind the death of Pte Clifford Smith, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, of 32 Marlborough Road, Idle, lies a story of German brutality while he was a prisoner of war and there can be no doubt that his health was seriously undermined by his privations. He was only 19. Returning home as a repatriated man on 14th January, he became ill a week later and died from pneumonia on the 28th, the funeral, which
was given military honours, taking place at the Upper Chapel, Idle, last Friday. After repeating the stories told a fortnight before the paper concluded: His death has aroused great indignation such are the cruel circumstances of it and his parents have received many messages of sympathy. These include a letter from the superintendent, teachers and scholars of the Greengates Wesleyan Sunday School, with which the deceased was connected. The funeral service was conducted by the Rev C P Tinling, Congregational minister, and the mourners were Mr and Mrs Wm Smith (father and mother), Miss Elsie Smith (sister), L Cpl and Mrs Cyril Smith (brother and sister in law),
Mr and Mrs W Saville (uncle and aunt), Pte and Mrs H Revell (uncle and aunt), Mr and Mrs Ernest Smith (uncle and aunt), Mr and Mrs J Waterson (uncle and aunt), Mrs E Mortimer (aunt), Miss Ella Smith (aunt), Mrs Jos Robinson (aunt), Mrs Geo Smith (aunt), Miss Doris Robinson (cousin), Mrs Varley (cousin), Miss Waterson (cousin), Mrs J W Goldsboro (cousin), Master Allan Smith (cousin) and Miss Yeadon (cousin) and a number of friends. A party of local soldiers, home on leave, acted as bearers and they stood at salute when the coffin was lowered into the grave. Floral tributes were received from Father and Mother, Mr and Mrs Waterson, The Neighbours, Mr and Mrs Ernest Smith and Mr and Mrs W Saville.