7th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers,
(attached 1st Battalion)
Robert Smylie was born on 7 April 1874. 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 came to Sudbury from the King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford where he was a Lieutenant with the Cadet Corps.
He was aged 40 and had been the Headmaster at Sudbury Grammar School for almost four years when he volunteered after the outbreak of war. In the spring of 1915 he was in France with the 7th Battalion and by September he was on front line duties with the 1st Battalion.
Robert was married to Beatrice and had a son and two daughters. He wrote a poem for his three children whilst in the field on 19 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’.
In January 1916 it was reported that he had been wounded by shrapnel. Robert was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme near Longueval Ridge on 14 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 lies buried in Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Mametz, Somme, France. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. A Cross of Remembrance was laid by the grave in March 2007.
(Robert Smylie was an Acting Captain and is therefore recorded as Lieutentant on CWGC and on his headstone). 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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