BALLYMENA 1914-1918

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Words to reflect on

Captain Robert Stewart Smylie



Robert Smylie in 1914

Captain Robert Stewart Smylie, Royal Scots Fusiliers, killed in action, was a son of the late Mrs. R. Smylie, Bridge End, Ballymena. He was educated at Ballymena Model School and Mr. T. Ferguson?s Intermediate School, Ballymena,  and he took his degree at the University of London. Before the war he was head master of the County Grammar School, Sudbury, Suffolk. His wife and three children reside at Sudbury. 

Ballymena Observer, July 1916.


Title: 

No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station


A bed at last, in a long low-roofed hall.

Full of soft footfalls, moans and sharper cries.

At intervals now I can see it all -

White beds, red nurses, khaki orderlies.

Then nightmare: dying, crushed by the victor Hun;

Or struggling madly, shoulder-deep in mire.

Or straining demon horses until one

Rolls over me with breath and eyes of fire.


I waken from these horrors and thank heaven.

Finding myself all safe in bed, but then

The real grows more clear and fearful

Even equals the dream.


Beside me lie two men

One young and fragile, with the bubbling cough

Of men shot through the lungs and dying slow;

A nurse is bending over to wipe off 

The red foam from the quivering lips below.

The other, huge, grim. silent save for rare

Expostulation: "Why the hell can't he keep quiet like the rest of us."

And there I almost break in to reprove him too.

But just refrain and later in the night

Someone steals gently to the strong man's bed.

And peers into his face in the dim light.

And brings the bearers to remove the dead.





Captain Robert Stewart Smylie, Royal Scots Fusiliers


Born Birmingham.
Raised and educated in Ballymena.
Taught at Daventry Grammar School, Lewisham House School, King Edward's School, Chelmsford.
Latterly headmaster Subury Grammar.
A former Essex Territorial Officer.
Killed in action 14th July 1916.




Smylie's Effects were kept after the Great War


Early on 14 July Smylie led C Company of the 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers into position near a quarry to the north of Montauban. The battalion was in support and did not advance until around 07.00. When they moved forward onto the slopes of Longueval Ridge, they suffered heavy casualties. Five officers were killed, including Smylie. They were buried close to the nearby road but the grave was later moved to Flatiron Copse Cemetery.


I am writing this tonight, My three kids 

By a little candle-light, My three kids 

And the candlestick's a tin 

With some dry tobacco in 

And so that's how I begin, To three kids 


Now I wonder what you're at, My three kids 

Moll and Bids and little Pat, My three kids 

Why of course there's two asleep 

But perhaps Moll's thinking deep 

Watching little starts that peep, At my kids 


Since I left you long ago, My three kids 

There's a lot you'd like to know, My three kids 

That has happened to your dad 

In the varied luck he's had 

In adventures good and bad, My three kids 


I have soldiered in a trench, My three kids 

Serving under Marshall French, My three kids 

Once a shell dropped with a thud 

Quite close, covered me with mud 

And its lucky 'twas a dud, For my kids 


And I've crossed the ground outside, My three kids 

It's at night that's chiefly tried, My three kids 

And the bullets sang all round 

Overhead, or struck the ground 

But your daddy none has found, No my kids 


I have mapped our trenches new, My three kids 

And some German trenches too, My three kids 

I have sprinted past a wood 

Counting steps, for so I could 

Judge the distance, as I should, My three kids 


I have placed our snipers where, My three kids 

On the Germans they could stare, My three kids 

And they killed their share of men 

Quite a lot for snipers ten 

From their little hidden den, My three kids 


And I've slept in bed quite warm, My three kids 

But I haven't taken harm, My three kids 

When upon the ground I lay 

Without even straw or hay 

In the same clothes night and day, My three kids 


When they sent us back to rest, My three kids 

Then they seemed to think it best, My three kids 

To send on your dad ahead 

To discover where a bed 

Could be found, or some old shed, My three kids 


And new officers were trained, My three kids 

And the men we've lately gained, My three kids 

And while that work was in hand 

I was second in command 

Of B Coy and that was grand, My three kids 


But it didn't last all through, My three kids 

There was other work to do, My three kids 

When they made me adjutant 

I was busy as an ant 

And its not much catch, I grant, My three kids 


I have ridden on a horse, My three kids 

Captured from a German force, My three kids 

And I've marched and crawled and run Night and day in rain and sun 

And shall do it till we've won, My three kids 

And I'd rather be with you, My three kids 


Yet you know I'm lucky too, My three kids 

Lots of men I used to know 

Now are killed or wounded, though 

I remain, and back I'll go, To my kids 

And I hope you'll all keep well, My three kids 


Just as sound as any bell, My three kids 

And when this long war is done 

We shall have some glorious fun 

Moll and Bids and little son, 

My three kids