William Reid Smellie (Smaillie) likeness

William Reid Smellie (Smaillie) cap badgeLance Corporal William Reid Smellie (Smaillie)

1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry
Service No: 18530

William Reid Smellie (Smaillie) grave





Personal details

Family Information

Son of John and Agnes Smaillie. Elder brother of James Smellie (Smaillie) of 56 Nicol St, Kirkcaldy previously 59 North Jackson St, Coatbridge who served as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers and younger brother of Private John Smellie (Smaillie) of the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders who was Killed in Action on the 13/10/1914. Just 2 months later William fell. From the 1891 Census - Address - 112 Dunbeth Rd, Coatbridge - John Smaillie aged 34, Agnes Smaillie aged 29, John Smaillie aged 2, William R Smaillie aged 11 months. From the 1901 Census - 11 Wellwynd St, New Monkland - John Smaillie aged 44, John Smaillie aged 12, Catherine Johnston Smaillie aged 5. William's younger brother James Harper Smaillie was born on the 15/05/1893 at 85 Deedes St, Airdrie.

Born / Resided

Coatbridge / 59 North Jackson St, Coatbridge.


Killed in Action on the 19/12/1914 at Festubert (part of the Winter operations, 1914-15)


Coatbridge 1914


North British Iron Works with his brother John / Reservist


24 / DOB - 08/04/1890

Buried / Remembered

Le Touret Memorial (Panel 37 and 38), Pas de Calais, France.

Cemetery / Memorial Information

The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. Almost all of the men commemorated on the Memorial served with regular or territorial regiments from across the United Kingdom and were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war, including the battles of La Bassée (10 October – 2 November 1914), Neuve Chapelle (10 – 12 March 1915), Aubers Ridge (9 – 10 May 1915), and Festubert (15 – 25 May 1915). Soldiers serving with Indian and Canadian units who were killed in this sector in 1914 and 1915 whose remains were never identified are commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle and Vimy memorials, while those who fell during the northern pincer attack at the Battle of Aubers Ridge are commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Additional Information

William and the Battalion were in Ambala, India in August 1914 and were part of the 9th (Sirhind) Brigade in the 3rd (Lahore) Division. They moved to France via Egypt, landing at Marseilles on the 01/12/1914 (some weeks after the other Brigades of the Division). WILLIAM WAS KILLIED IN ACTION AT FESTUNERT JUST 18 DAYS LATER. Givenchy and the Indian Corps - To the south of IV Corps, the line was continued by the Indian Corps comprising the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions. As their name suggests the Divisions had been based in the Lahore and Meerut areas of northern (and of course pre-partition) India. The Sirhind and Ferozepore Brigades attack on the 19th December : The story of this attack was not dissimilar to that of the Garhwal, but ultimately with much heavier casualties and, and as things turned out, producing much greater risk to the security of the British position at Givenchy. The plan was concocted during the meetings on the 18th December and was launched at 5.30am next day – almost two hours after the Leicesters had commenced their attack and by which time the German defences were fully alerted and projecting enormous volumes of fire onto the British lines. Described in orders as a ‘simultaneous and conjoint’ operation between the Sirhind and Ferozepore Brigades, the action took place east and northeast of Givenchy. Their objective was the capture of enemy trenches on a front about 150 yards in breadth. On the left, four waves of men of the Sirhind Brigade, comprising 1st Highland Light Infantry and 1/4th Ghurka Rifles, would advance. It was their first significant operation since arriving in France from Egypt. The first wave of the left-hand group (the Sirhind Brigade) left their trench and moved out into no man’s land. The moment is stopped, they rushed the last 180 yards or so and entered the enemy fire trench with very few losses. They had achieved an element of surprise, regardless of the generally alerted enemy, and sent some 80 prisoners back to British lines. In accordance with orders, the Pioneers and Sappers and Miners moved in to consolidate the trench and make it defensible. The second and successive waves also began to move forward. So far, so good. The Scots of the Highland Light Infantry and the Ghurkas now moved on to the reserve trench, finding that stage relatively straightforward, too, and the second wave arrived soon afterwards. But the advance was halted there. The two captured trenches, so narrow in extent, were now so crammed with men that a message was sent back to the third and fourth waves to halt their advance and return. A position was also reached on the extreme left. No one could report quite how, but a party under Lieutenant William Bruce veered so far to their left that they ended up entering the German main trench across into the Sirhind Brigade’s area of operations. Bruce was wounded and later died in the trench that day. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, with his citation reading, "For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On the 19th December, 1914, near Givenchy, during a night attack, Lt. Bruce was in command of a small party which captured one of the enemy’s trenches. In spite of being severely wounded in the neck, he walked up and down the trench, encouraging his men to hold on against several counterattacks for some hours until killed. The fire from rifles and bombs was very heavy all day, and it was due to the skilful disposition made, and the example and encouragement shown by Lt. Bruce that his men were able to hold out until dusk, when the trench was finally captured by the enemy. With it being evident for some hours that progress was improbable, that casualties were great and that the efforts to link up the sap on the right of the Sirhind Brigade’s front had foundered, the 1/4th Ghurkas’ Major Bernard Nicolay took the decision to withdraw. By about 5pm the captured position was given up. The losses to the attacking units had been heavy, but for the two brigades the battle had barely yet begun. The action at Festubert / Givenchy was part of the Winter operations (Western Front), 23rd November 1914 – 6th February 1915 : French orders for a major offensive in December lead to disastrous piecemeal British attacks. Localised operations seeking tactical advantage continue through winter. The 1st Battalion casualties for this action were : 2 Officers and 54 Non-Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks Killed, 63 Non-Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks Wounded, 8 Officers and 266 Non-Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks Missing. SEE PHOTOS x 7 FOR THE BATTALION WAR DIARY FROM 1st DECEMBER - 19th DECEMBER 1914 AND A MAP OF THE LOCATIONS OF FIGHTING IN DECEMBER 1914. William is listed as SMILLIE with the CWGC and on the Le Touret Memorial. A huge thanks to Margaret Love for her family information (especially regarding surname). See Directory for William's elder brother John's page. William is also remembered on the Maxwell Parish Church (with his brother John) and East United Free Churches Rolls of Honour (with his brothers John and James - see photos). See photos for William's Medal Index Card, his Army Register of Soldiers Effects, his Service Medal and Award Rolls x 2, his name on the Le Touret Memorial (listed as SMILLIE), his CWGC Grave Registration (listed as SMILLIE), his name on the Le Touret Memorial Panel List and the Highland Light Infantry Cap Badge. Finally, I have the Battalion War Diary from August 1914 - March 1919. If information is required please contact me.

William Reid Smellie (Smaillie) Medal Index CardWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) newspaper clippingWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) remembered at homeWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) remembered at homeWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) remembered at homeWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) remembered at homeWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photoWilliam Reid Smellie (Smaillie) additional photo

War Diaries

The battalion War Diary is available on the National Archives website.

Creative Commons License

We have made this information and the images available under a Creative Commons BY-NC license. This means you may reuse it for non-commercial purposes only and must attribute it to us using the following statement: © coatbridgeandthegreatwar.com

Margaret Love. Thanks for your message. I'm in the process of updating all men's pages. I'll gladly skip to the brothers today. Please email me on johnsammc@gmail.com as I'm unable to reply personally to you. Thanks
John McCann, Belfast, 03/12/2020 8:41AM
I didn't have a photo of my Grans brothers and only knew a little of their deaths , thankyou William Reid Smaillie ( Smaillie was their birth surname ) William was born on the 8th April 1890 Coatbridge
Mgt Love, England, 02/12/2020 10:14PM

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