29117 Royal Field Artillery who died on 11 August 1916
Percy Albert Smith, known as Dick, was born on 2 November 1891 at Langham in Rutland to John William Smith, a master tailor and his wife Emma (nee Burdett). John Smith died aged 32 in 1894 leaving his wife with three sons and two daughters. In 1898 Emma remarried Arthur Wright, a brewer’s drayman and groom. By 1911 the family, with a further two daughters, were living at Burley Road, Langham. Dick was working as a farm labourer for Mr W Watchorn of Barleythorpe, Rutland.
Dick’s stepfather Arthur Wright was employed by Langham Brewery which produced Ruddle’s Ale
Dick’s Oadby home was the police house on Albion Street which runs between the Black Dog and The Fox pubs
On 24 May 1913 Dick joined the Leicestershire County Police Force based at Enderby. He transferred to Oadby in August 1914 and lived at the police house on Albion Street opposite the back door of the Black Dog. Dick was no doubt called upon to deal with the rowdy and drunken young people who were causing a major problem for residents at the time. The accessibility of Oadby via tram to the Stoneygate terminus drew the youngsters into the village from Leicester. They came for the music and dancing in Oadby pubs which were banned in Leicester town centre. By October 1916 the situation became so bad that not only music and dancing but also young people were banned from Oadby pubs.
Gunners of the RFA in France in July 1916.
Dick enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 12 June 1915 and embarked for France in January 1916. At the time of his death he was a gunner in D Battery of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade but had probably transferred from the 176th (Leicester) Howitzer Brigade.
Dick’s grave at Becourt Military Cemetery, Albert, France.
Dick was killed on the Somme on 11 August 1916 when he was hit by a shell, most likely during German counter battery fire. He is buried at Becourt Military Cemetery near Albert, France.
Dick is also honoured on the memorial tablet in the Leicestershire Police Headquarters in Enderby.
Chief Constable Mr E Holmes wrote these words to Dick’s mother “During the two years that your son was a member of the Force, his conduct was excellent. He won the respect of all who knew him and I was proud to have him. All his comrades in the Force deeply regret his loss”.
Dick is also commemorated on the Langham Memorial
Dedication of the Langham War Memorial 7 March 1922
We are grateful to the Langham Village History Group for additional information and photograph.