Project Bugle: Soldier buried honourably as life cut short

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A Batley soldier died after being hit by a car before getting his chance to serve during the First World War.

This is the latest story in our series to support Project Bugle, a Heritage Lottery Fund scheme to commemorate Batley and Birstall’s fallen WWI heroes.

Albert Arthur Smithson, 23, of Upper Taylor Street, enlisted in Batley and later Leeds during November 1915.

He was billeted at South Camp in Ripon and attached to the Cameron Highlanders.

Parents Joseph and Annie had Albert Arthur christened in Batley on June 5, 1892.

After Joseph died in 1909 at the age of 40, Albert lived with his mother before enlisting.

Albert was well known in Batley. He was a salesman for George Jessop and Sons clothiers and associated with Zion Methodist Church and Sunday School.

He was also a member of the Batley Branch of the Shop Assistants Union.

But tragedy struck while he was posted in Ripon.

Private Smithson had been in the town centre with his friend Private Denton Wilson – also from Batley – before returning to camp.

They called into the YMCA to pick up some supper to take back. As they were coming out of the hut into Wycliffe Lane, they had to battle against a strong gale.

They put their heads down and walked across the road, where they parted. Pte Wilson reached the pavement but Pte Smithson was blown into the middle of the road.

A car came down the wrong side of the road and the horn was sounded. Wilson heard it and shouted to Smithson to get out of the way, but he fell injured in the road.

Wilson did not see the car hit him, but it did not stop and Pte Smithson, who said “that car has run over me”, was taken hospital. He died early on January 7, 1916.

His mother received a telegram about the accident, but when she arrived in Ripon her son had already died.

On January 10, more than 400 soldiers escorted the coffin to the station in Ripon on its way to Batley Cemetery and a band played ‘Scots Wha Ha’e’.

A sergeant and six privates attended as escorts the cemetery, where it was the seventh funeral of the war.

Pte Albert Arthur Smithson, 4043, 3rd/4th Cameron Highlanders, is remembered with honour at Batley Cemetery.

The headstone and Commonwealth War Graves Commission record gives his age as 24 but he was in fact still 23 when he died.

This research was complied by historian Ken Fedzin.

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