Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sepia Saturday - War and Peace - Week 1 - Smiths in WWI

My great grandmother, Isabella Frances Parker Smith, saw two of her five sons go overseas from Canada to fight for King and Country during WWI. These must have felt like very long years.

This is my Great Uncle, Herbert Austin Smith. All I know about his service is that he was captured by the Germans and held prisoner for some time.

Before Uncle Herb shipped out, he visited his sister, Frances Ruth Smith, at prep-school, King's Hall Compton, in Lenoxville, Quebec. There Herb met her Principal, Miss Joll, who so approved of him that she declared a school holiday when word came that he had been freed from the POW camp.

Miss Joll

My grandfather, George Washington Smith, also served in WWI.

He enlisted on August 18, 1917 at the age of 19 and was discharged on July 11, 1919 at 21.

My mother was always under the impression that he worked in the "motor-pool" during World War I and saw no combat. He was still overseas after Armistice Day and spent his 21st birthday, February 22, 1919, delivering a truck back to its unit and waiting for a train back to his own unit. An entry in his WWII service file, however, indicates that he was a machine-gunner.

It will be a while before I can find out more. While his WWII file was available through the mail after a wait of about five months, both his and Uncle Herb's WWI files are being digitized as part of a huge undertaking by Library & Archives Canada. They are working through the "M"s now, according to their last update. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I will see their files by the end of 2017.


  1. Your grandfather looks like he's only about 16 in that photo. It sounds like he told his Mom a story about what he was doing in the war, to protect her. A sweet thing to do. Hope you get the rest of the file sooner, than later.

  2. I think Diane may be right in regard to what your grandfather told his mother he did during the war. My brother served aboard an air craft carrier during the Vietnam war. When he told me what one of his duties was and showed me where he carried it out, he made me promise not to tell our Mom. I'm not sure what he did tell her, but I'm pretty sure she never knew the real truth - and it was just as well!

  3. I wish you every success in finding out more about your grandfather.

  4. I continue to marvel how the technology of digitizing documents allows people to discover the stories behind their ancestors. My grandfather enlisted in the Marines at age 16 and served during a "police action" in Nicaragua in the 1920s. It was a thrill when I found his name among dozens of service records preserved at It explained several old photos that showed glimpses of his military life.

  5. How wonderful to have this document. And I hope the other documents are yours soon.

    Your uncle and grandfather look so much alike.

  6. An interesting post and I agree that your grandfather looks so much younger, although mature enough to hide his real occpation from his family!

  7. Good luck with your quest to discover more information. Here in Aus we are lucky that all WW1 servoce records have been digitalized and those from WW2 can be requested and will then be available to be viewed online.