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Webmatters : J.R.R. Tolkien: Friends - Geoffrey Bache Smith

J.R.R. Tolkien

Geoffrey Smith

Although a relative latecomer to Tolkien’s TCBS group he was to become one of his closest friends. It was probably Smith’s interest in modern literature that influenced Tolkien’s poetic beginnings.

The grave of Geoffrey Bache Smith
The grave of Geoffrey Bache Smith

Geoffrey Smith was born on 18th October 1894 and attended the same school as Tolkien and Robert Gilson: King Edward’s School, Birmingham.

When war broke out he was studying at Corpus Christi College Oxford. In October 1914 he joined the Oxford University Officer Training Corps as a Private, but on 1st December 1914 he put in his nomination for a commission. The forms were signed by his old headmaster at King Edward’s — Robert Gilson’s father: Cary.

He joined the 19th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers who were sent to France in November 1915.

A year later in the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme, Smith was acting as Adjutant for the Battalion which were now camped near the village of Souastre on the Doullens — Arras Road.

On 29th November 1916 the Battalion was shelled and Smith was hit by shrapnel. By 2nd December his wounds to his right arm were considered dangerous and at 0330 hours the following morning he died.

Geoffrey Smith had written to Tolkien following Robert Gilson’s death on 1st July 1916 to say that their TCBS would endure but his own death just five months later and only weeks after Tolkien himself had been hospitalised back to Birmingham had a profound affect on Tolkien.

War Diary

19th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers

21 November 1916

Holiday for A & D Companies. Anniversary of the Battalion’s embarkation for France.

22 November 1916

Companies did usual work.
Two Lewis Guns and teams (A & B Coys) sent to BIENVILLERS to form an anti-aircraft detachment with 146 Bde MGC.

23 November 1916

Fire at Souastre in the WR Billets, extinguished by us.

29 November 1916

Weekly holiday for A & D Coys.
Lewis Gun teams of A & B Coys at BIENVILLERS relieved by teams from their respective Coys.

Souastre shelled with 5.9s from direction of ESSARTS. Lt GB Smith A/Adjutant wounded.
2/Lt Lonsdale took on duties.

30 November 1916

Coys did usual work.
Souastre shelled again.

1 December 1916

Whole Battalion billeted in Souastre.
A & D Coys working in conjunction with 57 Fld Coy RE. B & C Coys doing Road work under CE VII Corps.

3 December 1916

Lt GB Smith died of wounds 3.30 am.