Not all of the men in the Tank Men exhibition survived the First World War. Archibald Smith, one of the first gunners, was killed in August 1918, just a few months before the end of the war.
Archie Smith was born on 16 October 1895 in Finmere, Buckinghamshire and joined the Northamptonshire Regiment as a volunteer on 31st August 1914 – less than a month after the outbreak of the war.
His Battalion arrived in France in May 1915, where he served as a machine gunner. That October, he sustained a head wound during the Battle of Loos and would spend the next 4 months in hospital.
Following his return to active service, Archie fought at the battle of the Somme, where his unit was supported by tanks near Flers in October, 1916. He later transferred to the newly formed Tank Corps as a gunner and went on to fight at the Battles of Passchendaele, Arras, Messines and Cambrai.
Whilst away he wrote numerous letters to his family, especially his sister Lilah to whom he was very close.
On 8th August 1918, Archie was part of ‘A’ Company of the 1st Battalion of the Tank Corps, supporting the 4th Canadian Division, when he took part in the Battle of Amiens. The Battle of Amiens was the British Army’s final push on the German lines and ultimately led to the end of the First World War, 600 tanks took part in the battle. During the battle Archie’s tank was hit by shellfire and set on fire; the entire crew were killed, including Archie. A burnt picture of his sister and his prayer book was found on his body, both of which feature in the Tank Men exhibition.
Archie was buried nearby in a temporary grave and eventually, his body was recovered and placed in Bouchoir New British Cemetery. After the war, the YMCA helped pay for Archie’s mother and sister to visit his grave, where his mother was photographed. As well as this photo, Archie’s medals and a letter to his sister will also be on display in the exhibition.