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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Pro Football player / Motorcycle Despatch Rider


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Whilst researching my Great grandfather and his brothers , I have found four playing Football between the early 1890`s up to the 1920`s . A very recent find with a near full back ground on all the teams " He " played for , the youngest brother ; Frederick Augustus Ford Smith ( Played as Fred Smith ) , also had his WW1 exploits described . Territorial Army - August 1914 Derbyshire Yeomanry , Motorcycle Despatch Rider , Served in France , Egypt , Gallipoli , Macedonia , Italy and Sardinia . ( Captain of the regimental football team ! ). I have learned that he would be a Corporal and a member of the Royal Engineers Signal Service , BUT I cannot find him on any Family History site / Military and have no serial number .

Any idea which organisation would have records to do with Despatch riders . There seems to be very little on them .

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I am afraid I have nothing really to say which will help you, but: I lived throughout my childhood with my Grandmother, whose brother served in the GW. I am convinced, (a) that he served as a Despatch Rider, and (B) that as a boy I saw a photograph of him in uniform sitting astride a motorbike. I cannot remember actually being told that he was a despatch rider; it's just one of those things that I have always known.

He and my Grandmother have been dead for many years, and the photograph has disappeared. When I came to research his service fairly recently I discovered that he had served in the RAMC as a Quartermaster - no mention at all of him being a despatch rider.

So, assuming that I didn't simply dream these things, it would seem that despatch riders were kept within their units, and had no separate organisation or chain of command.

I'm sorry I can't help you further.

EDIT: sorry about that smiley face : I don't know how it came and I can't get rid of it.

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Smiffy, I assume you are the same person who has posted about this man on the Lives of the First WW FB page? The article you have that describes Fred's War service mentions him mobilising with the Derbyshire Yeomanry in 1914 as a Despatch Rider but says nothing about RE, so is this is an assumption or is it based on actual knowledge?

Problem is of course that Fred Smith is such a common name and unfortunately there is no medal card for anyone with his full initials! There is a Frederick L Smith who served with the Derbyshire Yeomanry and the Royal Engineers, but of course no proof whatsoever that he's your man. You really need a Regimentla number for him. Any idea what happened to his medals?

Have you tried Derby Museums to see if they know anything about him? http://www.derbymuseums.org/the-soldiers-story/

Edited by HeatherC
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A few Military sites that specialise in the Great War , state that Despatch Riders were under the Command of the Royal Engineers Signal Service ( So ! , a specific Part of the R E ) I have also found that they were made a Corporal , regardless of how little time they had been signed up ( Lowest rank that could approach an officer ....and speak too them ? ).

I too have looked at the Medals cards , nothing ....But then they are not likely to state his full name ; Frederick Augustus Ford Smith ( I have no idea what was going on name wise , last four Children - Thomas Horatio / Jeremiah / Lancelot and " Fred " - the other eight ! had ordinary names ).

I will give the Derby Museums a look , Thanks . I can only presume that his son ended up with his fathers medals ....but I have no idea what became of him .( Stephen Smith - born 1910 , Thats all I know )


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How accurate do you think the report of his exploits is?

A dispatch rider was usually RE Signals. Could it be that he was a motorcyclist? He could have been with other Regiments. For instance, some motorcycles with sidecars were used for machine guns. Some as ambulances. Some running messages from HQ etc.

He seems to have moved around a few different countries.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A follow up to the report ! , the person who wrote up the football article found the WW1 info via a Player profiles " Player for that Week " in a Macclesfield newspaper . Sadly , they did not keep the actual info as they were more into the Football side of things . I am hoping they may get back to me if they can remember the name of the Paper ........Drat !

A second follow up ! , I found that the ; Derbyshire Yeomanry 1/ 1st served in Egypt , Gallipoli , France and Salonika ( Macedonia ) as the 1st / 2nd And 7th Mounted Brigade . This lot seem to be the only lot that matches some of the info .

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  • 5 weeks later...

I think this is what you were looking for...

The image size restriction don't allow me to post the accompanying picture but this is your man.


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