Lieutenant William Bates Smyth



William Bates Smyth was born on 27 December 1874 in Main Street, Strabane, County Tyrone, the third or fourth of five children of merchant (later mill owner and grain merchant) Robert Smyth and his wife Annie (née Bates). He was educated at the Royal Academical Institution, Belfast.

Smyth followed his father into the mill trade and before the war was a prominent local leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

On 16 November 1915 he applied for a commission in the North Irish Horse. Twelve days later he was appointed 2nd lieutenant and posted to the regiment's headquarters depot at Antrim. He remained there until 26 July 1916, when he embarked for France, joining the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment in the field at Pas.

On December 1916 he returned home on ten days leave, and while there consulted a doctor about pains in his feet. He was advised to take sick leave and a medical board at Londonderry found he was suffering from osteo-arthritis, "probably aggravated by wearing rubber boots on active service in France." However by 2 May he had fully recovered and was again fit for general service. The remainder of 1917 he spent at the regiment's headquarters depot at Antrim.

He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1917.

On 19 January 1918 Smyth embarked for Egypt with another officer, Ernest Philip Beresford, in charge of a draft of North Irish Horseman ordered to join the Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry regiments. Smyth was attached to the 1/1 Staffordshire Yeomanry. He spent the next five months at Alexandria, Kantara and El Arish at the Yeomanry Base Depot, and attending a school of instruction in sniping (he passed 1st Class with a score of 82%).


Photo taken at Cairo, marked on reverse "W. B. Smyth & friend, 1914-1918 War". Smyth is on the right. The other man is probably Captain Ernest Philip Beresford.


On 23 May 1918 he embarked at Port Said for France, where he was posted to the Machine Gun Base Depot at Camiers. On 23 June he was attached to the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) and posted to the UK depot at Grantham.

Lieutenant Smyth's employment with the Machine Gun Corps ended on 27 November 1918. He was demobilised on 17 January 1919 and resigned his commission on 27 March 1920.

Smyth returned to the family business at Strabane after the war. On 21 October 1919 he married Lillie Margaret Dickie in the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Omagh. He was an active member of the North Irish Horse Old Comrades association. He served as High Sheriff of Tyrone in 1926 and in June 1942 was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Tyrone.

He died at home at Strathfoyle on 28 September 1946.


Family photograph, date unknown




Some of Smyth's equipment, recently sold


Belfast News-Letter, 7 December 1915


Lieutenant Smyth, second from right, Belfast News-Letter 12 November 1938


Belfast News-Letter, 30 September 1946