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Driver George Sidney Smith

Driver George Sidney Smith

 

Unit : No.3 Para Platoon & 3rd Para Jeep Section, 250 (Airborne) Light Composite Company, RASC

Army No. : T/14284292

 

George Smith was born on the 12th August 1922, in Canning Town, East London. His parents were Jack and Maud Smith, and he attended Star Lane School in Canning Town. He and his three brothers later followed in their father's footsteps and worked in the docks, while his two sisters worked in a local factory. One of the brothers died at an early age.

 

Smith enlisted into the General Service Corps on the 17th September 1942, and was sent to No.51 Infantry Training Centre. On the 28th October, he transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps and was posted to the 7th Training Battalion, where he was trained as a General Duties Driver.

 

On the 11th February 1943, he was posted to the 250th (Airborne) Light Composite Company, RASC, which was part of the 1st Airborne Division. After completion of the build-up and formation of this unit, it was deployed for overseas service in North Africa. George arrived there on the 16th May 1943, and helped with the transport of the 1st Airborne Division from Algeria to Tunisia, and then preparing airfields for the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943. In early September, the 1st Airborne Division landed at Taranto in Southern Italy, but it is probable that Smith stayed behind in North Africa with the Division's Rear Base Party, transporting essential supplies to the port of Bizerta from the Divisional Main Base.

 

On the 22nd December 1943, George Smith was re-embarked on a troop-ship bound for the UK, where the Company was billeted at the Moorlands Hotel, Neward Road, Lincoln.

 

By September 1944, George was serving in No.3 Platoon under Captain "Bill" Gell, and left for Arnhem with the First Lift on Sunday 17th September. His Horsa glider carried a jeep and trailer, bound for LZ-Z, near Wolfheze and Heelsum.

 

His platoon swapped places with No.1 Platoon, and so they ended up supporting the 2nd Parachute Battalion in the battle around Arnhem Bridge. He was wounded and taken prisoner on Thursday 21st September, along with Jock Ferguson, Charlie Payne and Teddy Chapman, his close friends in No.3 Platoon. He remained in a prisoner of war camp until liberated on the 19th April 1945, and he was flown home the next day.

 

After a period of leave, he was posted to the 4th Division Troop Unit on the 28th July 1945, but as he ceased to fulfil Army medical requirements he was discharged on the 24th October 1945. His military conduct was noted as "Very Good".

 

The following are a few memories submitted by his eldest daughter, Johanna Legg;

 

"My dad often referred to little things that happened to him during his time in the army but always in a jokey way. Having three girls was probably not conducive to battle chat but he didn't ever seem to want to talk about the 'hard' times preferring to remind us of silly things like; - green water (leftover water from cooking cabbage) was very good for us because that was all he got while prisoner of war! Don't know if this was true..! -he lost his helmet jumping out of the glider; -had the heel of his boot shot off;-how he pinched a picture of Hitler from a building and hid it under his jacket then when he was captured and searched thought that was the end of him, but, the German who pulled it out just laughed along with his comrades! Once we married his son-in-laws were much better for battle chat but even then they all said he never really spoke about the horrible things he must have seen or had to do."

 

George Smith remained single after the war until marrying Jean Duthie in February 1960. Their first daughter, Johanna, was born in the same year, followed by Kathy in 1962 and Nancy in 1965. He never left East London, living in Canning Town and then Stratford until his death, and always stayed very close to his brothers and sisters, who also remained local; all of his brothers served in the Second World War. He remained a dock worker until 1976, when he took his severance and began working for British Gas as a driver, and then, until his death, at a police station as an early morning cleaner. George Sidney Smith died on the 3rd November 1998, at Newham General Hospital, with all his family around him.

 

 

My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.

 

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