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Remembered Today:

Private, G5803, Frank Smith

the gunners dream

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On this day...

At ten minutes past five on the morning of the 21st March 1918, General Sir Hubert Gough, commanding the British 5th Army, was awakened by the roar of a Bombardment,

‘...so sustained and steady that it at once gave me the impression of some crushing, smashing power. I jumped out of bed and walked across the passage to the telephone in my office and called up the General Staff. On what part of our front was the bombardment falling? The answer came back immediately: All four corps report heavy bombardment along their front.'

For the 7th Buffs the 21st March 1918 would become a day of infamy. The story of 3 men will be recorded in this text.

Their day started at 0445hrs when the German bombardment began. Stand to was ordered and as daybreak began a thick blanket of fog and gas was seen all around their front line. Communication began to break down as the shells being fired cut field telephone lines and the Buffs became isolated into small groups. Within all this confusion the Germans began to infiltrate the lines and at 1000hrs they could be seen in A Company lines. It was at this time that our relative, Frank Smith, lost his life to a sniper.

By 1145hrs, C Company was surrounded by the enemy and A and D Company were able to see Germans moving around in their rear lines. In fact their plight was becoming so un-tenable that all members of the HQ Company, which included cooks etc had to man defences and further reports from the regimental Chaplin and M.O. only confirmed that the Germans were slowly but surely infiltrating Vendeuil and isolating its defenders.

At 1330hrs the Germans launched an attack on Vendeuil Fort, which was repelled by infantry and artillery fire, but the Buffs HQ was also attacked by a machine gun and the HQ staff had to fight off a number of determined attacks. The afternoon was one of sustained artillery attacks, directed by aircraft, and this only helped to assist the German infantry who slowly but surely managed to wear the defenders down.

So much so that by 1800hrs Vendeuil Fort came under a prolonged and intense artillery attack and it was deemed to be lost, although the fort managed to hold out for another 24 hours. All 4 companies were now either deemed lost or were operating in disjointed groups and it became apparent to the Buffs that the whole area was now lost to the Germans. So at 0155hrs, after orders from brigade, what was left of the 7th Buffs was out of the zone and back at Liez. They could only muster 3 companies, but where heartened by the fact that they had been the only battalion to hold out on the 21st from the whole of 3 Corps and that this had greatly aided the rest of the defending troops around the Crozat Canal as they desperately fought to reorganise their defences.

Within all this confusion and bravery, another soldier, Sam Moss, was captured, we will never know where, but it is suffice to say that he either got to the fort and held out there, or he assisted in the defence with his own company, or he was captured at the outset. Sam Moss died on the 2nd June 1918, probably of dysentery onset by starvation, in Flavy le Martel, a notorious German POW Camp. Sam now lies in Annois Communal Cemetery. We know that another soldier, Richard Cheadle, was wounded that day and he was evacuated. Tragically he died on the 12th April 1918, in a military hospital in Valenciennes, from a gunshot wound to the back. He is now laid to rest in the Valenciennes (St Roch) Communal Cemetery.

Between the 21st to the 26th March 1918, the 7th Buffs lost 17 Officers and 603 Other Ranks killed, wounded and missing. However, many of the missing would be accounted for in the prisoner of war camps. I have highlighted these 3 soldiers from this number to remember this day.

Frank Smith's, body has never been found, or identified, and he is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial. He joined the army in December 1914, in August of 1915 he was in France with the 8th Buffs. On the 26th September 1915 his battalion went over the top with the 24th Division at The Battle of Loos, in the space of 2 hours the 8th Battalion lost 24 officers and 530 other ranks. They were so badly mauled that they did not see any more offensive action for a year.

On the 18th August 1916, Frank Smith again went over the top around the Waterlot Farm area, near to Delville Wood on the Somme. In his own words he described a 3 Division attack on a heavily defended defensive line as,

'Been in a carry on on the Guillemont Front...'

He was wounded in the foot and thigh and evacuated back to the UK.

Frank did not see any more action for well over a year and a half as he recovered from these wounds, although he saw no respite and had to serve in the Labour Corps in a tunnelling company. He went back to the Buffs in January 1918, this time with the 7th Battalion, until his death on this day.

He left a wife and seven children, all of whom never got over the loss of their husband and father. And that loss is still felt to this day by his surviving relatives.

The picture below was taken in 1915 and shows him with his family less his youngest son who was born in February 1918 and never met his father.


He joined up to make his family proud and we are rightly proud of him to this day. At 1000hrs today I will be thinking about him.


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Not the only man on this terrible day. Two men from my village:

Name Jack Shorter

Address High Street, Cheslyn Hay


Rank Gunner

No 631996

Regt "B" Battery. 255th Brigade., Royal Field Artillery

Date of Death 21.03.1918


How Killed in Action

Theatre France and Flanders


Notes Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle dated 13th April 1918

Gunner Jack Shorter is reported by a sergeant to have been killed by a bursting shell while in action with the R.F.A. in France on March 23rd. A single man he had been on active service for over eighteen months having enlisted two years ago, prior to which he was employed as a shoemaker. He lived with his parents and was a prominent member and player in Cheslyn Hay United Football Club. He was also a good cricketer and a fine sprinter.

Name Edward Morris

Address 25 Saredon Road, Cheslyn Hay

NOK Son of Thomas and Eliza Morris.

Rank Private

No G/13948

Regt 7th Battalion Buffs (East Kent Regiment)

Date of Death 21.03.1918

Age 26

How Killed in Action

Theatre France and Flanders


Notes Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle dated 11th May 1918

Private Edward Morris was killed on 21st March while in action with "The Buffs". His Captain writes "Private Morris died a hero and was one of the most efficient men in his regiment. He was a thorough favourite with the other men." He was a single man, 26years of age and before joining the army he was employed at a north midlands munition works.

Below is a picture of Jack Shorter:


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