Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Rifleman John William Raphael Smith


Smith 1


John William Raphael Smith was born on 1 July 1897 at 19 Adam Street, Belfast, son of Scottish-born parents Joseph Cowan Smith, a joiner, and his wife Janet (nee Robson).

Smith enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim between 8 and 11 February 1916 (No.2108).

In November 1916 Smith, together with around 100 other North Irish Horsemen, volunteered to transfer to the Royal Irish Rifles (No.40917). They embarked for France on 7 December, where they joined the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, on the Somme front.

On 16 August 1917 Smith's battalion took part in the Battle of Langemarck, part of Third Ypres. The battalion war diary for the day listed 27 other ranks killed, 7 wounded and missing, 170 wounded, and 63 missing.

Rifleman Smith was one of those initially reported as wounded, then soon after as wounded and missing. Later on, his death was officially accepted as having taken place 'on or since' 16 August 1917.

As he has no known grave he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium, Memorial Panel 9.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission register gives Smith's date of death as 6 September 1917. This is I believe a clerical error. Other records, including the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, suggest that 16 August is much more likely. The 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles was well behind the lines on 6 September.




Images 1&2 Copyright © Phillip Tardif with all rights reserved as set out in this Use of Material policy. Image of Smith's 1914-18 War Medal courtesy of William Gordon.