Captain Duncan Galloway SMITH

Royal Engineers
1st Field Company (City of Edinburgh)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
26 June 1916 - Died of wounds
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
I. B. 2.

Personal History:

Duncan was born in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, on the 25th April 1890, the only child of Harold Duke (Civil Engineer) and Frances Mary ((née Galloway) Smith, later of Ivy Cottage, Ivybridge, South Devon. In 1901 (Census RG 13/2537) they were living at 'Grassendale', Oakley Street, Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/21813) Duncan was living with his mother at 62 Shrewbridge Road, Nantwich, studying to be a 'Civil Engineer', like his father.
He was a pupil at The Limes Preparatory School, Shrewsbury, before going on to Sherborne School (School House) in January 1905, where he remained until July 1909. Duncan played in the Cricket First XI in 1908 and 1909. In the latter year he had a batting average of 17.66 and took nineteen wickets for 23.52 runs each. He was also in the 1st XV rugby team in 1906 and was Captain in 1908. He also played football for Somerset and was a member of the Somerset XV Rugby team.

After School Duncan became a pupil of Mr W. Dawson, M. Inst. C.E., of the London and North Western Railway, and was admitted a Student of the Institution in March 1911. He was Articled to Sir A.Gibbs, Rosyth Harbour Works. 

Duncan was the husband of Florence Ethel Smith, although the date or place of his marriage has not been found. Probate Records show that in his Will Duncan left £144 0s 2d (£144.01) to his widow [an approximate relative value of £8,519.00 today (2014)]. His Medal Index Card lists her place of residence as: '10 Archibald Place, Edinburgh'.

The link between Duncan and Buxton is, however, rather tenuous. His grandfather,
Aston William Smith (born 24 April 1831) married Sarah Meggitt Duke (b. 6 November
1842) on 15 April 1865. Duncan's father, Harold Duke Smith, was their second child.
Sarah Meggitt Duke was the daughter of the famous architect Robert Rippon Duke
who built the Octagon Concert Hall and re-modelled the Devonshire Royal Hospital
for the Duke of Devonshire (pictured right).

It is quite possible, therefore, that Duncan never visitied or lived in Buxton - his great-
grandfather died there in 1909. Surviving relatives were no doubt responsible for his
name being added to the memorial window in St John's Church.

Military History:
The 1st (City of Edinburgh) Company of the Royal Engineers were a Territorial Force and consisted of Head Quarters, No 1 Works Company and No 2 Electric Light Company, and were part of Scottish Coastal Defences. The 1st was redesignated as the 416th Field Company and moved in December 1915 to Egypt, and there attached as Army Troops. The Company returned to France and joined 56th (London) Division in May 1916. As Duncan's MIC does not mention the Mediterranean Theatre, he must have been posted to the Company, from the Territorial Force, after it returned to France

Duncan's Medal Index Card shows that he died of wounds on the 26th June 1916 and that he was not eligible for the 1914-15 Star Medal, so again reinforces that he was not posted to France with his Battalion until 1916.

Duncan is mentioned in the War Diary of the 416th Field Company, RE, 56th Division. On Monday, the 26th June, the day he died, Duncan's Company was at work constructing Machine Gun emplacements, not doubt in preparation for the Division's diversionary attack at Gommecourt, which took place on the 1st July 1916, the first day of The Battle of the Somme.

The day, described as 'W Day', part of 'The Bombardment' was: 'Fine morning, heavy rain afternoon, low clouds.' The Company War Diary reads:

"'Gommecourt Wood' subject to severe bombardment by heavy artillery fire. Captain D. G. Smith severely wounded by the enemy shell fire and evacuated to casualty clearing station 'Couin'. Died same day. 1788 Driver Dow, batman, accompanied Capt Smith with baggage, returning to unit with report." [Duncan's Batman was Dr. 1788 Alexander Dow, also of the TF, later renumbered 422566.]

Duncan was the only casualty of his Company in the month prior to his death. The Couin British Cemetery was begun in May 1916 by the field ambulances of the 48th (South Midland) Division, and was used by units and field ambulances during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

· "The Devonian Year Book" 1917
· Sherborne School Archives, Abbey Road, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, DT9 3AP.
· I am grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of Duncan's grave.
· I am also grateful to Colin W Taylor, via the GWF, for the War Diary extract.

Commemorated on:
Duncan's name does not appear on The Slopes Memorial

Link to CWGC Record
Capt Duncan Smith's grave