Search

First World War hero’s story is made into book by family 40 years on

14:43 12 June 2014

Fred Smith

Fred Smith

Archant

The memoirs of a Plaistow man’s life in the Royal Navy during the First World War have been immortalised in a book.

Fred on HMS CeresFred on HMS Ceres

Fred Smith, known as Smudge, joined up in 1913 to escape a troubled upbringing, serving King and country for seven years.

One of four siblings, Fred was born in Plaistow in 1894 and attended Stock Street School until he was 14.

His mother died when he was just 13, and he was bullied by his two German stepsisters.

“He was known as Smudge because he was small, he wasn’t fed enough,” said his great-nephew, Graham Rogers, who has helped publish the book.

Fred and his family in PlaistowFred and his family in Plaistow

“There were a lot of people named Smith and they used to give nicknames to tell them apart.”

Fred trained as a stoker at Chatham, where he had to learn how to swim.

Just a few months later he was diving into icy waters to rescue passengers from a torpedoed ship in the middle of the Atlantic.

“He had only just learnt to swim and then he had to dive overboard to save a woman and two children from drowning.

Graham Rogers reading the bookGraham Rogers reading the book

“People tend to think of U-boats as being in the Second World War, but they were used in the First World War as well.”

He stayed on after the conflict, rescuing civilians caught up in the Russian revolution and the Crimea.

Whilst in the Navy he married Louisa, who had lived on the same road as him as a child, and despite being offered a promotion he chose to leave in 1920 when Louisa fell pregnant with their only child, Rosina.

Their wedding wasn’t the only one both families attended, as Fred’s brother George married Louisa’s sister Alice.

Fred was given a sum of money after leaving the Navy which he used to purchase a home in Sidcup, where the family remained.

“He used to commute up to London to work for the Post Office,” said Graham, who lives in Hampshire.

“During the Second World War he worked on the telecoms.”

It wasn’t until he was much older that Fred wrote his recollections down.

The 200-page memoirs were scribed in a series of school exercise books and were found by Rosina following Fred’s death.

She passed the books onto her own daughter, Wendy Reader, who decided to get them published 40 years after they were discovered.

“We took it to publishers but they said it needed too much editing, so we edited it and published it ourselves.

“It goes up to 1920, and I don’t know whether he intended to write more or whether he died before he could.”

Smudge’s Story is available online in both ebook and paperback form.

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 19:00
Paralympic athlete David Weir

The biggest names in Paralympic sport will return to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this summer and six-time champion David Weir cannot wait to revisit the memories of 2012 .

Elizabeth Olympic Park
Yesterday, 16:05
People taking part in Edible Bus Stop® community planting days

Would-be gardeners are being invited to use their green fingers tomorrow by helping to plant what could be London’s very first edible postcode.

London
Yesterday, 15:56
The Business Show at the ExCeL arena

More than 25,000 people descended on the ExCel Arena last week for the country’s biggest business exhibition.

Europe
Yesterday, 12:47
Ellie Simmonds teaches children from Carpenters Primary School to swim at the London Aquatics Centre. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire

Four-time gold medal winner Ellie Simmonds made a splash on Wednesday when she treated pupils to a special swimming lesson.

London Aquatics Centre

Most read news

Competitions

You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Read more
Time to experience the dizzy heights of London's tallest attraction!

Morgan Pryce, commercial property experts based in London are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to The Shard viewing platform in the city itself.

Read more

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Newham Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder