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Private Percy Smith of the 1/5th L.N.L. was seriously wounded in action on the 10th January 1917, a link that connects him to being involved in the Wieltje trench Raid and one of the 49 men wounded that day.

The Bolton Evening News of Tuesday 30th January 1917 and the Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 2nd February printed the following information:

“Pte Percy Smith 15 Bennetts Lane, Halliwell of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Scouts Section was seriously wounded in the hand and leg on January 10th and now lies at a base hospital. He joined the army at the commencement of the war previous to which he was employed in the office at Messrs. Lord, Hampson and Lord, Gaskell Street Mills. His name is on the Roll of Honour at Halliwell Road Wesleyan Chapel. “

No service papers have been found for this soldier, and the story above is the only surviving record found that connects the individual to participation in the 10th January 1917 Wieltje trench raid.

Although a common name, there was a soldier of this name within the ranks of the 1/5th LNL and has the following information whose details do coincide with the above Percy Smith.

This mans’ service history in surviving military documents bears out all the information contained within the above 1917 newspaper report as regards his enlistment and discharge due to wounds received prior to April 1917.

Although not conclusive they do tend to support that they are one and the same person.

Pte 241386 Percy Smith 1/5th bn was issued with a Silver War Badge numbered 180505 on 9th May 1917 for wounds that he had previously sustained and were of such nature that he was deemed no longer fit for further service.

This badge was issued to personnel invalided out of the service, for wear in civilian attire and carried the wording ‘For Services Rendered’. In this case the L.N.L. SWB award document dated Preston on 28th April 1917 shows that Smith enlisted on 11th November 1914 soon after hostilities began and was discharged from the army on 3rd May 1917.

A Medal Index Card with pre 1917 army service number to Pte 3438 / 241386 Percy Smith of 1/5th L.N.L. shows the issue of a 1915 Star trio of medals for his army service and that he went to France on 3rd August 1915.

Without his service papers to refer to it is difficult to place Pte Percy Smith at any particular place but, he did serve for 18 months on the western front during a very trying early period of the war and no doubt shared the hardships of his comrades in the battalion during this time.

The initial news report for Pte Percy Smith shows his address as 15 Bennetts Lane, Halliwell Bolton, a red brick semi-detached house with a large adjoining garden and the end house of a small row of homes.

It is a presumption that Smith was a young man at this time so searching the census returns provided the following information.

There was no record of the Smith family at 15 Bennetts Lane address or even the address itself for the census return of 1911 nearest to that of his enlistment date of 1914.

A check of the 1910 Ordnance Survey map of the street shows the row of houses containing No. 15 was not built at this time. There was however a Percy Smith with his parents not 100 yards away from the address at nearby 89 Adrian Road Halliwell, a smaller 4 roomed mid terrace red brick house, with a minute front garden just in front of the ground floor window and a back yard, no doubt the Smith family moved into the bigger new house sometime after the 1911 census, and prior to his enlistment, both homes are still inhabited today.

He was born in late 1896 and his parents were James William Smith 42 yrs and his wife Adelaide aged 42 , there was an older sister Evelyn 16 yrs a mill worker and the 14 yrs old Percy, also employed in a cotton warehouse.

A decade previously shows the family resided at 43 Chalfont Street Bolton. All of course were 10 years younger, the father at this time being employed as a Commercial clerk, Percy on this return being only 4 years of age.

The Bolton Evening News of 28th September 1903 printed a story entitled:

 Fatal Swing Accident, Conflict Of Evidence’ the text of which included the 7 years old Percy Smith of Chalfont Street giving evidence into the death of his friend,  6 years old John Heaton Punchaby of 11 Back o’th Bank who died as a result of a fall from a child’s swing at a local park from severe head trauma.

There was conflicting evidence given, but that of the 7 yrs old Smith alleging that an older boy was on the back of the swing pushing the swing to its limit was accepted as the more truthful version of events, but no one was ever prosecuted over the incident.

Garry Farmer
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