Joseph Wilfred Smith was one of fifteen children born in Springfield where he spent his early years. He worked for the Chelmsford auctioneers G. B. Hilliard & Son before emigrating to Canada around 1908 to work as a farmer. He joined the Canadian army in 1916 and was killed in action while helping wounded just ten days before the Armistice. His family’s home was in Springfield Road. A brother was also killed during the war.
SMITH, JOSEPH WILFRED,
Private, 44th (New Brunswick) Battalion,
Joseph was born on 22nd August 1893 in Springfield, the youngest son of the tailor and Springfield Sub-Postmaster Henry Madder Smith and Sarah Ann Smith (nee Barker).
His father had been born in 1854 in Broome, Norfolk as ‘Henry Madder’; his mother in 1857 in Chignal Saint James. The couple had married in 1877. From at least 1871 Joseph’s father used the alternative surnames ‘Smith’ or ‘Madder Smith’ as well as ‘Madder’, a confusing habit that was continued by several of his children,
Joseph was one of 15 children, 13 of whom were still alive in 1911. He was baptised at Baddow Road Congregational Church in Chelmsford on 29th October 1893 - at the time his forenames were recorded as ‘Wilfred Joseph.’
In 1881 the census had found Joseph’s parents at Randulph Terrace, Springfield where Joseph’s father was a master tailor. A decade later the family had still been resident there.
Joseph’s fourteen siblings, all born in Springfield (and registered as ‘Madder’ but baptised as ‘Smith) were: Edith Gertrude Smith (born in 1875), Henry Ernest Smith (born in 1877), Charles Madder Smith (born in 1878), Jessie Smith (1880-1884), Alfred Smith (1881-1915), Ella Lilian. Smith (1883-1955), Harold Randolph Smith (born in 1885), Horace Victor Smith (born in 1887), Percy Frederick Smith (born in 1889), Hilda Smith (born in 1890), Ivy Nellie Kate Smith (1895-1968), Ruby Smith (born in 1896), and Mabel Irene Smith (born in 1899).
In 1901 the census found seven year-old Joseph living with his parents and seven siblings at 19 Randulph Terrace, Springfield Road, Springfield. His father was a tailor.
Joseph emigrated to Canada around 1908 having previously worked for the Chelmsford auctioneers G. B. Hilliard & Son. Three years later the 1911 census recorded his parents and three sisters at 124 Springfield Road.
Joseph settled in Douglas, Manitoba where he was a farmer.
His brother, Alfred Smith, died from disease in Egypy while serving in the army in August 1915.
Less than eight months later, on 3rd April 1916 Joseph attested at Brandon to serve in the Canada Over-seas Expeditionary Force using his father’s original surname ‘Madder’ and giving his father as his next of kin. He passed his medical the same day and the surviving record shows that he was five feet two inches tall, had a 36 inch chest (expandable by three inches), a medium complexion, brownish eyes and brown hair. He was a member of the church of England.
He was posted to the 44th (Manitoba) Battalion (re-designated "New Brunswick", August 1918, Canadian Expeditionary Force. It formed part of the 4th Canadian Division. During his service Joseph was recommended for the Military Medal for bringing in wounded under fire. It was whilst undertaking similar work that Joseph was killed, on 1st November 1918. Canadian military records show that ‘Whilst dressing the wounded during the attack on Aulnoy he was killed by enemy machine gun fire.’ It was just ten days before the Armistice.
Two weeks later the Essex County Chronicle carried news of his death:
“Joseph Wilfred Smith, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Smith, of Springfield-hill Post Office, Chelmsford, was killed on Nov. 1 while attending wounded as a stretcher-bearer with the Canadians. He was 25 years of age, and emigrated to Canada about ten years ago. Before that he was at the offices of Messrs, G. B. Hilliard and Son, auctioneers. He had been with the Canadian Forces for two years, and was looking forward to a Christmas at home. He had been recommended for the Military Medal for bringing in wounded under fire. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have two other sons serving.”
The same edition of the paper included an announcement from his family:
“SMITH. - Killed in action, on November 1st, 1918, at Aulnoy, while attending to wounded, Joseph Wilfred, stretcher-bearer, 44th Batt, Canadians, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Smith, Springfield Hill Post Office, Chelmsford, aged 25 years.”
On 22nd November 1918 the Essex Weekly News reported:
“Pte. Joseph W. Smith, of the Canadian Forces, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Smith, of Springfield-hill Post Office, Chelmsford, was killed on Nov. 1 while attending wounded as a stretcher bearer. Deceased, who was 25 years of age, emigrated to Canada about ten years ago, having previously been engaged in the offices of Messrs, G. B. Hilliard and Son, auctioneers. He had been with the Canadian Forces for two years, and had been recommended for the Military Medal for bringing in wounded under fire.”
Today Joseph lies in grave A.1. 18. at Aulnoy Communal Cemetery in Nord, France.
Joseph is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford and on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church. However, neither memorial commemorates his brother Alfred Smith who died in Egypt on 10th August 1915 while serving as Driver T2SR/02639 in the Royal Army Service Corps.
Joseph is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission under the surname ‘Madder’ and by the Douglas, Manitoba war memorial.
He left an estate valued at £9 0s. 6d.
The 1918 register of electors listed Joseph’s parents still at 124 Springfield Road (today’s number 283).
His father died in 1929; his mother four years later.
Joseph’s brothers Percy Frederick Smith (aka Madder) and Harold Randolph Smith (aka Madder) joined the Canadian army in Winnipeg, Manitoba in December 1915 and December 1917 respectively.