The SMALLEY family – 2nd Lieutenant Smalley, Walter Herbert (1893-1918) and Corporal SMALLEY, John Clarence (1898-1968)

Josiah Smalley (1851-1913) and Hannah Ludlam (1854-1933) married in Leicester in 1878, when Josiah was manager for John Gibbs, hay and corn dealer in Humberstone Gate.  He was also a hay and corn dealer in his own right between 1881 and 1890, first at Junction Road, then 62 Mansfield Street and then at Erskine Street.  This was a failing business due to the establishment of a weekly auction sale at the Haymarket which took most of his trade.  Eventually the Official Receiver was called in.  During this turbulent time Josiah and Hannah had eight children:  Daisy (1882-1882), Rose (1882-1882), Ida Lilian (1880-1961), George Irwin (1883-1960), Hilda (1887-1968), Elsie Rosetta (1891-1983), Walter Hebert (1893-1918) and John “Jack” Clarence (1898-1968).  All were baptised at St Margaret’s, with the exception of Elsie who was baptised at St Luke’s.

The family lived 4 Erskine Street, moving between January and April 1891 to 61 Victoria Road then briefly to a yard behind the Admiral Nelson Inn at 14 Humberstone Gate and then to 27 Clarence Street.  In 1901 Hanna’s brother William, who was deaf, lived with the family.  The census return describes him as a pauper.  Josiah began trading in hay and corn again, first from Admiral Nelson Yard and then from 154 Wharf Street.  Hannah brought in money by running a boarding house of “apartments” at Clarence Street from before 1901 to 1932.  This became even more necessary after 1913, as Josiah died in November of that year.  Usually there were just one or two boarders.

Walter Herbert Smalley  was born in Leicester in 1893 and baptised at St Margaret’s on 5th March 1900 with brother John.  He attended Alderman Newton’s school.  After leaving school he worked as a warehouseman at the textile firm T H Downing and Company (makers of “Alpha – new wool underwear”) and lived with his parents.  He joined the 9th Leicestershire Regiment as a private soldier and was later promoted to Corporal.  He landed in France on 24th September 1915. In July 1916 the 9th Leicestershires took part in the attack on the Bazentin-Le Petit wood and village in the Battle of the Somme.  Walter was commissioned temporary Second Lieutenant in the 1st Northamptonshire Regiment in March 1918.  He transferred to the 2nd Battalion, reaching the line at Mericourt, Vimy Sector, on 23rd July 1918 with fellow second lieutenant Donald Charles Meredith.

On 22nd October Walter marched for an hour in fine weather with his battalion between Bouvignies and St Amand.  The following day they pressed on towards Buridon, capturing a German machine gun en route.  On this day, the 23rd October 1918, Walter was wounded.  He is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as having died of his wounds on 28th October 1918.  It is known that he died of wounds at 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station sometime between 23rd and 28th October 1918.  The Clearing Station war diary records records the admission of several British officers during this time and almost as many deaths, though none on 28th October. Walter’s sister Ida Lilian lived at Northampton with her husband and family and informed this notice which appeared in the Northampton Mercury (and which contains several mistakes):


SMALLEY, Lieut Walter W., Northants, brother of Mrs H Arnold, 26 Alexandra-road, Northampton, died of wounds at the 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station on Oct 21.  He enlisted in 1915, and obtained his commission in 1918.

Walter is buried at Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun. He had amassed about £80 in army pay, which with his war gratuity of £17 10s was divided between his parents and siblings Ida, George, Elsie and Jack in 1919 and early 1920.

John Clarence Smalley, known as “Jack”, was born on New Year’s Day, 1898 and baptised at St Margaret’s on 5th March 1900 with brother Walter.  He served as a Corporal in the 2/4th Leicestershire Regiment.  No service record survives.  After the war John returned to live with his mother at 27 Clarence Street.

John married Ivy Abbott (1899-1982) at St Margaret’s on 12th September 1921, by which time he was working as a civil servant.  John and Ivy both gave their address as 27 Clarence Street and Ivy was probably already pregnant with their first child.  She gave birth to Eric Stanley (1922-1995) the following April.  Son Anthony Jack (1924-2000) was born two years later.  John and Ivy still lived with John’s mother at Clarence Street in 1931, until her death in 1933.

By 1939 they lived at 138 Braunstone Close and wrote a letter to the Leicester Daily Mercury (6th January 1939): “Your editorial on Wednesday, ‘Fitting Youth for the Future’ is welcomed for its support of Lord Bessborough’s youth campaign.  Its success, however, is doubtful whilst indifference continues to the perpetual number of approximately 250,000 youths of the Great War.  The Government would be wise at this juncture to preserve the splendid heritage of these gallant men by securing suitable employment for them to live a normal life in the country they fought for.”  Shortly after the writing of this letter John and Ivy moved to 106 Fullhurst Avenue, Braunstone.  John worked as a transport manager and his sons worked as a lorry driver, and a lorry driver’s mate, probably with their father.  During the second world war John was a member of the newly established Leicester City Police War Reserve.

John Clarence died in Leicester in 1968, Ivy in 1982.

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