Frederick Smith was born and brought up in the Upper Bridge Road area of Chelmsford. He lost his father by the time he was 13 and four of his five siblings by 1911. After leaving school he worked as a labourer to his bricklayer brother, William. Frederick died form wounds in December 1917. His bricklayer brother was killed four months later and their mother died soon afterwards, having lost her husband and six children. Their home was in Upper Bridge Road.
Frederick was born in 1886 in Chelmsford and was the son of Sidney James Smith and Mary Ann Smith (nee Stiller). He was christened at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 19th April 1887. His father had been born in 1854 in Bocking; his mother had been born in 1854 in Bidborough, Kent. They had married on 13th November 1875 at St. John’s Church, Moulsham. At the time Frederick’s father was aged 21, a labourer of Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford, and the son of James Smith, gardener. His mother was aged 22, also of Upper Bridge Road, and the daughter of John Stiller, a labourer.
In 1881 Frederick’s parents had been living at ‘23 Bridge Row’ (later Upper Bridge Road), Chelmsford, one of the poorest parts of the town. At the time his father had been a general labourer.
Frederick’s four siblings included George William Smith (born c1880 in Chelmsford), Ellen Smith (born c1886 in Chelmsford), and Ernest Leonard Smith (born and died in 1890), By 1911 only Frederick and George would remain alive.
The 1891 census recorded Frederick, aged four, living with his parents and two siblings still at 23 Bridge Road. His father was still employed as a general labourer.
Frederick’s father died in 1898, aged 44.
The 1901 census listed 14 year-old Frederick living with his widowed mother and brother George, a bricklayer, at ‘19 Bridge Road’ (now Upper Bridge Road), the same house as the two previous censuses.
A decade later the 1911 census recorded 24 year-old Frederick living with his widowed mother and a boarder at the same house, now number 42 Upper Bridge Road (later given the number 53 and demolished around 1947 as part of a slum clearance programme, and replaced by Godfrey Flats). Frederick was a bricklayer’s labourer. The boarder was bricklayer who was also to lose his life during the war.
Frederick enlisted at Warley and served as Private 32372 in the 13th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment, also known as ‘The West Ham Pals’. The battalion, part of the New Armies, had been formed by the Mayor of West Ham in December 1914 and had arrived in France in November 1915. The following month it was transferred to become part of the 6th Brigade in the 2nd Division.
Private, 13th (Service) Battalion, Essex Regiment
In December 1917 Frederick’s battalion was in the area between Bapaume and Cambrai in Pas de Calais, France. On the 8th of that month the battalion relieved the 2nd Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks in the area west of Demicourt and remained there until 14th December 1917 when it moved westwards back to Lebucquière. It was perhaps during that period that Frederick was wounded for he died from wounds on 18th December 1917.
He was buried at Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery, Extension, six kilometres north-west of Bapaume, (grave II. D. 12). From April 1917 to March 1918, Achiet-Le-Grand was occupied by the 45th and 49th Casualty Clearing Stations who used the cemetery for their dead.
On 4th January 1918 the Essex County Chronicle included the following family announcement:
“Smith. - On Dec. 18th, of wounds received in action in France, Pte. F. Smith, Essex Regt., second son of Mrs. Smith, 53 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford aged 31 years. R.I.P.”
The same edition of the paper also reported:
“Mrs. Smith, 53 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford, has been notified that her second son, Pt. F. Smith, Essex Regt., has died of wounds received in action in France, He had been twice wounded. Before joining he worked for his brother, Geo. W. Smith, builder, Chelmsford, who is ill in hospital in France.”
Frederick is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. He was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
The 1918 register of electors listed Frederick’s mother at 53 Upper Bridge Road.
Frederick’s brother George William Smith was killed on 24th March 1918.
Their mother died on 2nd December 1918 and was buried at the Borough Cemetery five days later.