Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Leonard Victor Harry SMITH (1897–1916)

(Leonard Smith is also listed on the St Andrew’s Church Roll of Honour and thus appears twice in the “tour”)

Leonard Smith

Leonard Victor Harry Smith was born in Bodicote in 1897, the youngest child of Henry Worville (or Worvell) Smith (born in Beckley in 1857) and Rebecca Nicholls (born in Marsh Baldon on 23 June 1859).

His parents were married at Elsfield Church on 13 May 1879 and had three children:

  • Beatrice Emily Smith (born in Ibstone in 1885 and baptised there on 13 September)
  • Herbert George Smith (born in Ibstone in 1890 and baptised there on 4 May);
    died aged six near the beginning of 1896 and buried at Marsh Baldon
  • Leonard Victor Harry Smith (born in Bodicote in 1897 and baptised at Marsh Baldon in November, but with his birthplace recorded as Atterbury).

At the time of the 1881 census Leonard’s father, who was a gardener, was living in a cottage in Aston Rowant with his young wife. They had evidently moved to Ibstone by the time their first child was born in 1885, and they were still there with their first two children at the time of the 1891 census, with their address specified as Copstone Hill. Their son Herbert died there aged six in 1896.

By the time of Leonard’s birth in 1898 the family had moved to Bodicote, and the 1901 census shows them living in Main Street there with their two children, including three-year-old Leonard.

The family then moved to New Headington, and at the time of the 1911 census were living at 58 Lime Walk (then numbered 54) in All Saints’ parish. Leonard (13) was still at school, and his sister was not at home.

At the time war broke out, Leonard was employed as a gardener by Mrs Morrell of Headington Hill Hall.

Grave of Leonard Smith

Poppy In the First World War Leonard Victor Harry Smith volunteered in April 1915 when he was only 17. He must have lied about his age, as at that time soldiers were not allow to enlist until they were 18, and could not be sent to the Front until they were 19.

Leonard went to the front in January 1916. He served as a Private in 1st/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 4750). He was killed in action at the age of 18 in the course of an attack by his battalion at the Somme in France on 19 July 1916, and is buried at the Pozières British Cemetery at Ovillers-la-Boisselle (IV.J.5).

He is listed on the roll of honour of both All Saints’ Church in Highfield (the parish where his family lived) and of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington. As he was working at Headington Hill Hall, it is likely that he was living at the top lodge or one of the other buildings at the top of the hill that came under the parish of St Andrew’s.

Left: Photograph of Leonard Victor Harry Smith’s grave in the Pozières British Cemetery, kindly supplied by British War Graves. The text reads:

[Emblem of the OBLI]

4750 PRIVATE
L. V. H. SMITH
OXFORD & BUCKS. LIGHT INF.
19TH JULY 1916. AGE 18

The grave in Headington Cemetery of Leonard Smith’s parents (below) also commemorates Leonard himself and his brother and sister, all buried elsewhere:

Grave of Leonard Smith’s parents in Headington Cemetery

In Memory of
REBECCA SMITH
BORN JUNE 23RD 1859 DIED AUGUST 23RD 1933
(FROM HER LOVING HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER)

ALSO OF LEONARD HER SON KILLED IN FRANCE,
JULY 19TH 1916 AGED 18.

ALSO HERBERT GEORGE, ELDEST SON
INTERRED MARSH BALDON

AND HER HUSBAND HENRY WORVELL SMITH
DIED FEB 9TH 1940 AGED 82.

ALSO OF BEATRICE EMILY SMITH,
DIED JULY 17TH 1967, AGED 81.

 


All Saints' board

Postscript

Leonard’s parents
  • Mrs Rebecca Smith died at Lime Walk at the age of 74 on 23 August 1933 and was buried at Headington Cemetery three days later.
  • Henry Worville Smith died in Lime Walk at the age of 82, and was described as a gardener: he was buried with his wife on 13 February 1940.
Leonard’s only surviving sibling
  • Beatrice Emily Smith (born 1885) did not marry, and died in Hertfordshire on 17 July 1967 at the age of 81.

See also

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website