This Father’s Day we pay tribute to the millions of men whose lives were changed forever by the First World War, and especially those who never returned home to their families. This is the moving story of Robert Smylie.
Robert was 40 years old at the start of the war, making him a relatively old recruit. Prior to the war, he was a teacher and then headmaster at Sudbury Grammar school, where he taught English, Latin and Maths. He also ran a cadet force at the school and saw many of his students go into military careers.
Robert married Beatrice Mary Comfort in 1903 and together they had three children – Mary (‘Molly’), Elizabeth (‘Bids’) and Patrick.
- Separated from his family
“And when this long war is done, we shall have some glorious fun Moll and Bids and little son, my three kids.”
Robert served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers during the war, arriving on the Western Front in September 1915.
Whilst serving with the army that November, Robert wrote a poem entitled ‘My Three Kids’, which contains the poignant lines
“And when this long war is done,
we shall have some glorious fun
Moll and Bids and little son, my three kids.”
Tragically Robert was not able to fulfil his promise – he was killed in action at Longueval Ridge during the Battle of the Somme on 14 July 1916. Robert’s personal effects, including his shrapnel damaged wallet and notebooks, were returned to his wife and children. They were donated to Imperial War Museums and are on display in the First World War gallery at IWM London.