7th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, attached 1st Battalion
(‘Lieutenant’ on CWGC)
Robert Smylie was born on 7th April 1874 in Ballymeena, County Antrim. His father died when he was a child. He attended Ballymeena Grammar School and later graduated from London University taking his M.A. in 1903.
He had been the Headmaster at Sudbury Grammar School for almost 4 years when he enlisted a few months after the outbreak of war. He came to Sudbury from the King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford. He was 40 when he volunteered at the outbreak of war. Robert was married and had a son and two daughters. He wrote a poem for his 3 children whilst in the field on 19th November 1915. It was called ‘My Three Kids’ and in it he tells them what he has been doing but how he would rather be with them – Moll, Bids and little Pat.’ And when the war is over ‘We shall have some glorious fun’.
He was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme on 14th July 1916, by a single shot in the chest. His C.O wrote to his widow “Captain Smylie was killed instantaneously while charging at the head of his company and setting a fine example to his men. His loss is very greatly deplored by all of us; he was one of the best company commanders in the battalion and endeared us all by his cheerful endurance of hardships and his kindly disposition”.
The Imperial War Museum has his pocket book – the bullet that killed him went right through it. A letter from one of his NCOs described his death as “painless and sudden”. Writing to Mrs. Smylie he added: “ He made me promise that if I returned home I would write to you stating that his last thoughts were of you. He died happy and doing his duty”
Robert Smylie lies buried in Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Mametz, Somme, France.
He is also remembered on the memorial window in St. Gregory’s Church and on the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.
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