Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Peter Smith

Peter Smith :

Peter Smith : Allied Victory Medal

Allied Victory Medal

Peter was born in 1883 in Salford, Lancashire. His father was called Henry and his mother was Elizabeth. He had an older brother called Charles H. and 5 younger siblings called Margaret A., John Henry, Rose Annie, Frances A. and James Edward.

In 1891 the family lived at 14 Seddon Street in Westhoughton, near Bolton in Lancashire. Henry worked as a general labourer.

Ten years later in 1901 the family had moved to 20 Hill Street in Withington, Manchester. Henry died between January and March of this year, aged 55. When the Census was taken in April Elizabeth and her 3 oldest children all had jobs. She was a charwoman, and Margaret was a servant, but we don't know what Peter did.

By 1907 Peter was working as a labourer and living at 6 Field View in Withington. On the 22nd June he married Susan Russell at Withington Parish Church. She lived at 17 Moorfield Street.

We know that Peter and Susan had 6 children over the next 11 years. John Henry was born on the 26th March 1908, Rose Ann on the 28th February 1909 and Elizabeth Ellen on the 11th May 1910. They all lived at 9 Field Place in Withington when the 1911 Census was taken that April. Susan was a laundress in a laundry and Peter worked as a road repairer and labourer for the Municipal Corporation, an early form of local council.

Elsie was born on the 25th April 1914. The First World War began in early August that year and Peter left his job to join the Army on the 24th November.

Peter joined the 7th City Battalion. The City Battalions were 'Pals' units, formed by the workers of Manchester so that they could serve together. He was given the service number 20817. This unit became the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and John was assigned to XIII Platoon in D Company.

When Peter enlisted he was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds.

The 22nd Battalion began life at Heaton Park in Manchester, and then moved to Morecambe on the Lancashire coast in December 1914. In February 1915 Peter had to have 'my teeth extracted'. We don't know why or how many teeth Peter lost.

The battalion moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire during April 1915. Here, at 5:30am on the 23rd August, Peter went absent without leave. He did not return until 3am on the 24th. As punishment he was sentenced to 96 hours detention, and forfeited 2 days pay.

In September the battalion moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire. Peter either overslept, or refused to get up, on the morning of the 14th. He was confined to barracks for 5 days for being 'in bed after reveille'. On the 11th November Peter and the 22nd Battalion sailed to France.

We don't know much about Peter's time in France. The 22nd Battalion served around Mametz near Fricourt during early 1916.

During June the battalion began training for the 1st Day of the Somme Offensive. This battle would begin on the 1st July, and the 22nd Battalion was going to attack towards the village of Mametz. The attack was successful, but around 470 out of almost 800 members of the battalion were killed, wounded or went missing. The survivors were relieved on the 5th.

Peter was one of the men wounded that day. He was shot in the neck. He was treated at the 96th Field Ambulance, the 21st Casualty Clearing Station and Number 10 General Hospital over the next few days. He was sent to a Convalescent Depot in Rouen on the 6th July.

Four days later Peter was well enough to return to duty. He was sent to the 30th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples to wait to be sent back to the 22nd Battalion. This didn't happen until the 23rd September. By this time the battalion had moved north to the area around Ypres in Belgium.

After spending some time in the front lines there, the 22nd Battalion returned to the Somme in November. They spent the winter around Beaumont Hamel.

On the 27th December Peter fell ill. After being treated at the 22nd Field Ambulance and the 11th Casualty Clearing Station he was sent to Number 26 General Hospital in Etaples on the 9th January 1917. He was treated here for almost a month before moving to a Convalescent Depot on the 7th February. Ten days later he joined the 30th Infantry Base Depot. He did not rejoin the 22nd Battalion until the 15th April.

Shortly after he rejoined them the 22nd Battalion attacked German positions near the village of Bullecourt. This was part of the Battle of Arras, fought during April and May.

The battalion's attack on Bullecourt began at 3:40am on the 13th May. Although they were able to advance, the darkness caused confusion about where the soldiers were, and were not able to clear the Germans from the area. The advance ground to a halt, and the battalion had to be relieved.

During this fighting Peter carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal for it in the London Gazette of the 18th July. Unfortunately there was no citation, so we don't know what he did to earn the medal.

In the autumn of 1917 the 22nd Battalion moved to Belgium and joined the Passchendaele Offensive that was fought around Ypres.

On the 29th September Peter was taken ill, although again we don't know what was wrong with him. He was treated at Number 10 Stationary Hospital in St Omer until the 8th October. After 3 days at Number 7 Convalescent Depot, Peter joined Number 14 Convalescent Depot on the 11th October. He was here until the 28th November when he was sent to the 30th Infantry Base Depot.

The 22nd Battalion was sent to Italy during November. The Italians had suffered a serious defeat in their fight against Austria Hungary, so the British and French sent several units to help them. Peter didn't catch up with them until the 14th December.

Peter must have been able to return to the UK during his recovery, although the precise dates are not recorded. We know this because he and Susan had 2 more children during the war: Peter on the 24th May 1917 and Nora on the 21st October 1918.

The 22nd Battalion stayed in Italy until the end of the war and played a major role in the final defeat of the Austrians in October and November 1918.

Peter was returned to the UK on the 17th February 1919 and demobilised back to civilian life on the 18th March. He went back to his family at 5 Henry Street in Rusholme, Manchester.

Shortly after the end of the war the National Publishing Company began an attempt to print a roll covering every man who had served in the First World War. They invited veterans or their families to send a short account of his or her service, for a fee. Not all veterans took up this offer, and the details they included were not checked for accuracy. Peter or his family sent this biography to the Company. It was published in Section XI, Manchester, of the National Roll of the Great War:

Smith, P. (M.M.), Private, 22nd Manchester Regiment

Twelve months after volunteering in November 1914, he was drafted to the Western Front, and first saw heavy action at Loos, St Eloi, and Albert. He also took part in the Battles of Vermelles, the Somme, Arras, Vimy Ridge and Bullecourt, where he was wounded in action in May 1917, and was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during a German attack. On his recovery he was transferred to Italy, and was in action on the Asiago Plateau and the Piave. Demobilised in February 1919, he holds the 1914-15 Star, and the General Service and Victory Medals.

5, Henry Street, Moor Street, Rusholme, Manchester.

Peter's life after this remains a mystery. As well as his Allied Victory Medal, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War Medal for his Army service.

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