Captain Richard Reginald (Rex) Smart

 

 

Richard Reginald (Rex) Smart was born at Patrick's Plains, New South Wales, in 1882, (probably on 8 January, although the records are unclear). He was the son of Joseph Richard Smart and Florence Margaret (formerly Futter). His grandfather, Thomas Ware Smart, was a prominent Sydney politician and a wealthy businessman.

At some time after the death of his father in 1885, Smart moved to England with his mother and sister, living in London.

Smart was independently wealthy, a good horsemaster and polo player. When the war began he applied for a commission in the 7th Hussars. Instead he received an infantry commission on 16 September but that was subsequently cancelled.

In the meantime (7 September) he had enlisted in the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (No.1304). On 9 December 1914 he applied for a commission in the 11th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry. He was made a 2nd lieutenant on 27 February 1915 and posted to the North Irish Horse at Antrim. On 18 November he was promoted to lieutenant.

On 1 June 1915 Smart married Eleanor Forsyth-Forrest of Culross Street, Mayfair. Captain Neil Graham Stewart-Richardson of the North Irish Horse was one of the witnesses. Eleanor's brother Philip Maurice would also become a North Irish Horse officer.

Smart embarked for France on 9 November 1915 and was posted to either C or F Squadron. In June 1916 these squadrons joined with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment. The regimental war diary makes a number of references to Lieutenant Smart, mostly in relation to him commanding trench digging parties around December 1916. On 9 September 1916 the diary recorded that:

There was a regimental race meeting at Contay and Capt Henry of B Squadron had a horse entered in "The New Derby" so a good many of the Regiment rode over to the meeting. Unfortunately Mr Smart who rode the Horse made a mistake and rode the wrong course after he practically had won.

In a letter to his mother from Antrim at this time, fellow officer Lancelot Wise makes reference to Smart and his family connections:

There are some quite good fellows here. One is a cousin of Hamilton’s, Harry’s pal in K.E.H. Another fellow who is an awfully good fellow called Forrest. I don’t know if you remember them. They are Cheltenham people. His two sisters were very good dancers & very pretty. They are both married now. One to a Cirencester fellow in this regiment called Smart.

In mid-1917 news came that the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment would be dismounted and its officers and men transferred to the infantry. However on 17 June Smart was attached to Headquarter Units and posted as Assistant Provost Marshal, St Omer Area (graded as staff lieutenant, 1st Class). He continued in similar postings throughout the war.

On 4 February 1918 his grading was increased to staff captain, and on 6 April 1918 he was promoted to captain. The following day he was attached to the 51st Division as Assistant Provost Marshal.

He was mentioned in Field Marshal Haig's despatch of 7 April 1918.

Smart had faced a medical board at St Omer on 23 March 1918 and was found unfit for general service on account of cardiac hypertrophy – he was classified B1, which allowed him to continue in his provost duties.

On 22 April 1919 he relinquished his appointment with the 51st Division and the following day left for home for demobilisation. In June that year he was awarded a Military Cross in the King's Birthday Honours. He relinquished his commission on 1 April 1920.

Smart returned to London after the war and maintained his interest in horse riding and training. He was part of the Cirencester polo team that won the prestigious Roehampton Trophy in 1922 and 1923.

In 1931 he and his wife travelled to Australia, where they lived at 'Bondea', Menangle Park, New South Wales. Both were active as horse trainers and Captain Smart was a prominent polo player.

Smart and his wife returned to England in 1949, settling at Cirencester. He died at Watford on 18 October 1958.

 

Smart (standing far right) at a house party at Watermoor House near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, c.1910-14. Edward, Prince of Wales, is leaning against the right column.

 

Captain Smart (second left) as part of the Cirencester Polo Team, winners of the 1922 Roehampton Cup. Image from British Sports and Sportsmen kindly provided by Anita Forsyth-Forrest.

 

Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 1933

 

Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November 1934

 

The Sunday Guardian, 21 June 1936

 

First image, The Referee (Sydney), 24 February 1938; second, The Sydney Sportsman, 13 June 1939.