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Headstone for an unidentified Australian soldier at Fromelles
Fromelles Association of Australia

Arthur George SMITH

Regimental Number
1640
Rank
Private
War Service
Egypt and Western Front
Prior Military Service
Nil
Enlistment
26 Jul 1915 at East Guildford, WA
Embarkation
18 Nov 1915 from Adelaide, SA, on the HMAT A2 Geelong
Next of Kin
Father – Abram SMITH, Swan St, East Guildford, Western Australia
Date & Place of Birth
01 Aug 1893, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England
Parents
Charlotte nee KNOWLES and Abram SMITH
Marital Status
Single
Siblings
Five brothers
Occupation
Blacksmith’s striker
Physical Description
5 feet 3 1/4 inches, 121 pounds (160.7cm, 54.9kg)
Eyes grey, Hair fair, Complexion fresh
Religion
Church of England
Fate
Killed in Action, 20 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France. On German Death List - aged 22
Place of Burial
No known grave
Commemorated
V.C. Corner, (Panel 6), Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified
No

Arthur Smith - Looking for DNA

The soldier we are researching is Arthur George SMITH, who died at the Battle of Fromelles, France, 20 July 1916. We need your assistance to find relatives to help identify the soldier via DNA.

Arthur was a 21-year-old blacksmith’s striker, not quite 5’4” tall, and less than 9 stone when he signed up in 1915. His record can be seen at the National Archives of Australia web site. (59 pages) – there is a link at the end of this story.

Arthur Smith is believed to be one of the soldiers from the mass grave at Fromelles as his identification disc was found and returned by the Germans. We need help to identify him – to find relatives to talk to, or to find relatives who may be the DNA match. Identifying any siblings of his grandparents would be a start. Are there any SPRINTALL or KEY cousins out there? More about that later.

Arthur’s Family

Arthur’s parents came from Derbyshire in England. His father, Abram Smith (1864-1921) was born in Shottle, Derbyshire and, by 1891, he was widowed with one son (Fred 1888-1958). In that year, Abram married Charlotte Knowles (1872-1952) of Eckington, Derbyshire in Chesterfield and they went on to have a further five sons who survived to adulthood. Arthur was the first of these five followed by Frank, Alfred, Ernest and Harold.

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Abram and Charlotte Smith listed with their family of five sons (at that time) in the 1901 English Census. The family was living in Brightside-Bierlow in Yorkshire and Abram was employed as a stationary engine driver.
source 1901 Census of England, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England

In 1908 when Arthur was about 15, the family migrated to Western Australia, living in Guildford, Perth. By 1910, Abram was supporting the family working as an engine driver and, in 1911 aged 18, young Arthur also joined the Western Australian Railways. He worked as a junior labourer for about three years and then became a blacksmith’s striker.

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Arthur Smith’s record of service with the Western Australian Government Railways. Note the balance of his leave was paid out to his mother in 1921 as his next of kin.
source State Records Office of Western Australia, Australia; Western Australia, Railway Records, 1879-1986; Description: 3393: Record of Service

Arthur is off to war

Aged 21, Arthur answered the call for new recruits after the Gallipoli landing and enlisted in July 1915. He was assigned to the 32nd Battalion and underwent initial training at the Blackboy Hill training camp in WA before heading to Adelaide from where they left first for Egypt and then France.

Less than 12 months after signing up, Arthur was reported missing on 20 July 1916.

In November 1916, Arthur’s name appeared on the German Death list and by April 1917 his family had been formally advised that he had been killed in action.

Arthur’s identification disc was returned to British military authorities but it was not until 1920 that it was finally returned to his family. It appears that this was the only item returned home despite many hopeful requests from the family for any:

“little things that he might have had in his kit at the time of his death”

Letter 29 April 1917 from Arthur’s mother, NAA Personnel dossier, page 24

Private Arthur George Smith was always remembered by his family with at least one nephew named in his honour. Memorial notices appeared each July for many years and he was specifically named in his parents’ death notices in 1921 and 1952. The July 1917 notice is below.

As an aside, Major Richard A. Geddes, M.C., who inserted the third of the notices above, was from Western Australia. He was a captain in the 32nd Battalion at Fromelles and was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during that battle. It is highly likely that he knew Private Arthur Smith and was in contact with his family.

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The recommendation details for the Military Cross awarded to then Captain Richard Allen GEDDES, 32nd Battalion (1888-1964) for his activities at Fromelles (referred to as the nearby Petillon in many military documents).

Private Arthur George Smith’s name is commemorated at Fromelles (V.C. Corner) and in Australia on the following memorials:

  • Canberra, ACT – Australian War Memorial – panel 121
  • Guildford, WA – Guildford War Memorial – Stirling Square
  • Guildford, WA – Guildford and District Roll of Honour – Swan Valley Visitors’ Centre
  • Midland, WA – Midland Railway Workshops Soldiers’ Memorial
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The plaque showing Arthur’s name on the Midland Railway Workshops Soldiers’ Memorial in Midland, WA.
source Monumentaustralia, photo by Bryan Hardy, 2014

We are searching the female line for Arthur and have been unable to find any of that Mt DNA line for his mother Charlotte Knowles and grandmother Alice Davenport/Devonport.

However, we think it may be possible to go back to his great grandmother, Maria SPRINTALL, who married Robert Davenport in 1849 at Chesterfield, and her mother, Martha KEY, who married Samuel SPRINTALL in 1802, at Stavely, Chesterfield. We are hopeful that there may be female descendants of these marriages.

DNA (MTDNA) is still being sought for family connections to

SoldierArthur George SMITH 1893-1916
ParentsAbraham SMITH 1864-1921, born Shottle, Derbyshire
and Charlotte KNOWLES 1871-1952, born Eckington, Derbyshire
Grandparents
PaternalJohn SMITH and mother unknown
MaternalAlfred Turner KNOWLES 1845-1882 of Lancashire and Derbyshire and Alice DAVENPORT/DEVONPORT 1850-1907 – Eckington, Derbyshire
Maternal GrandparentsMaria SPRINTALL c1822-1869 Stavely, Derbyshire married Robert DEVONPORT in Feb 1849 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Maternal Great GrandparentsMartha KEY b. abt 1777 Stavely, Derbyshire married Samuel SPRINTALL (a tailor) in 1802 in Derbyshire
Earliest known AncestorsJames KEY b 1740 and his wife, Maria JOHNSON
Other Associated family namesDIBBO DOUGHTY

Seeking DNA Donors

Fromelles Association of Australia

Contacts

The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).

Donations

The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).