First World War Project

William SMITH (of Wychling)

b. 7th September 1886
d. 23rd April 1919. Aged 33

Leading Mechanic, Service Number 202096
Royal Naval Air Service

Died of unknown cause,
after leaving active service

Remembrance in Wychling ChurchThe Society have experienced significant difficulty uncovering the story for this man. Originally thought to be a 1920 casualty, it does appear we now have the correct account - if you know more, please contact us.

The limited records for this man show he had a distinguished career, but his death is not acknowledged by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which suggests there was no material link between William's service and his death. However, his local community honoured his memory.

William Smith was born in Frinsted. At the time of attestation, his employment was given as "carpenter". A skilled carpenter, he became a 'rigger' in the RNAS. A 'rigger' would be employed in construction of biplane wing struts and cabling. Towards the end of the War, William was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Standing at 5 feet 6¾ inches with 38 inch chest. Brown hair, grey eyes, fresh complexion. His distinguishing mark was a "Scar on left of forehead."

William gave his mother as "Next of Kin" - Mrs C. (Smith), Rectory Cottage, Wychling, Doddington. There is no explanation of his discharge to "Lister", Borough Green, Kent. There is a modern-day "Lister Close" in Borough Green - so, perhaps, this reference is to an earlier building or an estate over which modern housing has been developed. No details are known to us about this part of Borough Green.

William's service is described through accounts of his location:-

Enlisted 21st November 1914 into the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as an "Air Mechanic Grade 1" - elsewhere described as a 'rigger' (an important skill-set in building wooden biplanes).

20th November 1914 (the date of his formal joining the RNAS) to 2nd January 1915 - PEMBROKE III (Chatham Shore Establishment)

3rd January 1915 to 25th July 1917 - Posted to ARK ROYAL

1st March 1916 - Leading Mechanic (C)

15th December 1916 - Petty Officer (R.H.)

26th July 1917 to 31st March 1918 - Posted to PRESIDENT II [Accounting base, firstly at Crystal Palace then Westgate]

12th October 1917 - Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM), No. 3669.

1st December 1917 - Petty Officer (R.H.(C). F.W.)

1st April 1918 - Transferred to R.A.F. Sergeant Mechanic

1st April 1918 located at Westgate, Kent

28th July 1918 moved to 55 T.D.S. (Training Squadron)

12th October 1918 moved to "Joyce Green", Dartford. This is an area beside The Darrent and The Thames. It was at this time that he was given a Medical Assessment and assigned "B1" = Free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service on Lines of Communication in France, or in garrisons in the tropics. B1 - Able to march 5 miles, see to shoot with glasses, and hear well.

22nd January 1919 moved to a "Pool of Pilots" until he was sent to the "Dispersal Centre, Crystal Palace" for demobilisation.

18th February 1919 put on the R.A.F. Reserve. "Class G". Class G = Airmen released from service after WW1, liable for recall whilst on the reserve. 

23rd April 1920 - Deceased. No details as to location or cause. This man is not recorded by Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which suggests there was no acknowledged link between his death and his period of service.

Section on - Medals [See Appendix 1] + [See Appendix 2]

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