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Willie Smith

Aircraftman 2nd Class Willie Smith, 1624931, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Willie Smith was born on the 15th December 1914, the only son and eldest child of Harry Smith (born 15th January 1884) and Mary Elizabeth Tolson (born 1886) who were married on the 8th May 1913 at the New Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett. In his early youth Harry Smith lived at Ossett Low Mill, but at the time of his marriage, he was a rag merchant of 'Oakleigh', Healey Road, Ossett and his wife, Mary Elizabeth’s home was at 6, Marlborough Street, Ossett.

The "Ossett Observer" of Thursday, 24th December 1914, just nine days after Willie Smith’s birth, published its WW1 Roll of Honour, recording the names and addresses of those Ossett men who were already serving their Country. The list included a Harry Smith, of Union Street, Ossett, who had joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers and had been a prisoner of war by the Germans in 1914. This would be Private 7896 Harry Smith who embarked with the 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, and landed at Le Havre on the 14th August 1914, just ten days after Britain’s declaration of war against the German Empire. He was awarded the British and the Victory medals and also the 1914 Star medal. The latter medal, also known as The Mons Star signified service in a theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 22nd November1914, which marked the end of the First Battle of Ypres. In fact, 462 Royal Scots Fusiliers had been captured by the Germans before 25th December 1914, including Private 7896 Harry Smith

The "Ossett Observer" also published a list of Ossett men who served as National Reserves on Guard Duty and this included Fred Smith of Healey Road, Ossett who was probably Harry’s father and therefore Willie’s grandfather. In any event Willie was born in December 1914 and his parents, Harry and Mary Elizabeth, did not have any more children until the 3rd March 1920, when their only daughter, Gladys was born. This would tie in with Harry Smith being a PoW for the duration of the war.

Sadly, Willie's Mary Elizabeth Smith died in late 1923, aged only 37 years. However, in early 1924, at Berwick, Harry, now aged 40 years, married 26 year-old, Berwick born, Mary Ann Webster, at Berwick and they subsequently had three daughters: Joyce, Mary E and Sarah A, all born in the Dewsbury area between 1926 and 1938.

By 1939 Harry Smith, now a clerk in the Ministry of Labour, and his second wife, Mary Ann were living at The Bungalow, Spa Street with Harry’s children from his first marriage: Willie Smith, working as a store-keeper, dyer and dry cleaner, and Gladys Smith, a glove machinist. Harry and Mary Ann’s children, Mary E. and Sarah A. were also living in the household. Two names are redacted and it is likely that one of these was the couple’s other daughter, Joyce Smith.

In the Spring of 1940, Willie Smith, aged 25 years, married 19 year-old Ella White, of Top Headlands, Ossett. Ella was born on the 12th October 1921 the daughter of rag grinder Alonza White and Edith Emma Parker, who had married at the Ossett Green Congregational Church on the 25th November 1917. The couple were both of Headlands, Ossett and at the time of their marriage Alonza was 42 years of age and Emma was aged 29 years. In 1939 the Whites were living at Top Headlands, Ossett with Ella, who was working a hand-cutter for a hosiery company, and their son, Eric White, born 22nd March 1918, who was a shop assistant in a hardware store.

Willie Smith and Ella White's Spring 1940 marriage was registered at Spen Valley, which was then the registration district for Ossett. Willie died on 22nd October 1942. A child, Robin, with the surname Smith, was born in early 1943 to a woman with the maiden name White. The birth was registered in Dewsbury. This is likely to be Willie Smith's son, sadly born after his death.

Aircraftman Willie Smith died on the 22nd October 1942 aged 27 years as a result of an accident sustained during a training exercise, prior to being deployed on active service with the RAF. He is buried at St. John's Methodist Chapel, Ossett and his death is recorded on a special memorial stone, located close to the chapel.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site