William Smith

William Smith

Shortly after his wedding in December 1939, William Smith was conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry. His first taste of battle was in France and led to retreat and evacuation from Dunkirk. The men were fired on by the German Air Force from which they had no shelter and rescue was only secured after wading chest high in water in the hope that they would be pulled onto a craft before drowning or being shot during another air raid. William could not swim and was horrified at the sight of drowned bodies floating around him.

He later served in the almost forgotten Abyssinian Campaign and had his photograph taken with Emperor Haile Selassie after his return to Abyssinia. After Ethiopia, he fought in North Africa and was captured by the Italians at Tobruk in June 1942. His wife Peggy received the dreaded news that he was 'Missing in Action' and later heard that his name had been broadcast on Vatican Radio as being a Prisoner of War.

He was held at a camp near Rome until Mussolini fell. The prisoners in the camp decided to stay together but were then captured by the German Army and forced to march into Austria and Stalag 18A. He appears to have been held at a Work Camp (A95GW) somewhere 'deep in Austria' until being liberated by the US Army in May 1945.

After the war, the years spent in the desert and subsequent malnutrition meant that he never recovered full health and his final years were spent in a wheelchair, nursed by his loyal and faithful wife. The war was to imprison him again, this time in his body and his own home, but his indomitable spirit and unfailing humour overcame the inevitable indignities. He died in 1977, aged sixty.

(Details supplied by his daughter, Lesley Brown.) 

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