James William Smoker

Date of birth: between April and June 1896
Place of birth: Twyford, Winchester
Service number: 128858 and later 22251
Rank: Pioneer
Regiment: Royal Corps of Engineers and later Hampshire Regiment
Died: 3rd September 1917 aged 21.
Death location: France and Flanders

Military Service
During WW1 James William Smoker initially served as a pioneer in the Royal Corps of Engineers (service number 128858) and later in the Hampshire Regiment (service number 22251). He died on 3rd September 1917 aged 21. (His service record was not found) He was posthumously awarded the British medal and the Victory medal in recognition of his services to his country and is inscribed on the cenotaph at Southampton “lest we forget”.

The British War Medal was awarded for service in World War One. Also called the British Empire campaign medal, it was issued for services between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. The medal was automatically awarded in the event of death on active service. This medal was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Squeak’.

The Victory medal, also called the Inter Allied Victory Medal was awarded to those who received the British War Medal. It was never awarded alone. This medal was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Wilfred’.

Life before the war

James William Smoker was born in Twyford, Winchester (vol2c p139) between April and June 1896, eldest son of James Smoker born in 1872 and Emily Louise Northover born in 1870, who were married between April and June 1895. Their marriage was registered in South Stoneham vol2c p147.
They had a total of five children but by 1911 three had died in infancy.
The following children of James and Emily Smoker are confirmed from parish records:

  1. James William was born in 1896
  2. Emily Louisa was baptised in 1902 and died in 1903 less than a year old
  3. Charles Henry was born in 1903 and died in 1904 aged 1.
  4. Percy was born in 1906 and may have died aged 44 (death registered in the new forest Q2 1949). No marriage details were found.

In 1901 the family lived at 24 Cumberland Street, Southampton. His father James was employed as a sweeper for the corporation.
In 1911 the family had moved to 12 Upper Bullar Street. James was still employed as a sweeper for the corporation along with his eldest son James William Smoker.

His mother Emily Louise Smoker (nee Northover) died aged 49 towards the end of 1918. His widowed father James may have married his wife’s sister, the widow Mary Ann Fry (nee Northover) (born 13th may 1870) in the middle of 1919 in Southampton (vol 2c p16). Her first husband Frederick Fry, whom she had married on 30th October 1890 had died in the middle of 1915 leaving her with 10 children.

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