George Smissen is no ordinary hero: in many ways he can be ranked up there with with some better-known Chaplains of the British Army such as Tubby Clayton and G.A. Studdert Kennedy. George was no stranger to military affairs, for he was involved in ministry at the Hythe and Shorncliffe camps during the Boer War. By 1914, he was married and a practicing Congregational minister in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
During the period 18th June to September 1916, George was in France as a volunteer, assisting with activities conducted by the YMCA. These were principally the organisation of rest and recuperation facilities such as tea- and reading rooms, for off-duty troops, and canteens for troops coming out of the fighting lines. At some point in September or October 1916, he returned home.
He applied for an appointment as a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces (TCF), and on 6th December 1916 the War Office notified him that he had been selected for duty with the British Expeditionary Force in France.
Two days later, George completed a formal offer to serve as a Chaplain 4th Class, with the rank of Captain. He gave his church as Congregational. He was therefore under the administrative control of the United Army and Navy Board, an organisation responsible for the Chaplains of the smaller churches (Church of England and Roman Catholic Church having their own administrative staffs).
Unfortunately there is no record of when George embarked for France again, but we can surmise that it was in the period December 1916 to January 1917. At an uncertain date, probably after he landed in France, George was formally attached to the 15th (Service) Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters. He was to remain with this unit throughout the war. He almost certainly joined them while they were in camp at Dainville, near Arras.
On 19th August 1917, George sustained a gunshot wound, while the Battalion made a successful attack in the area of Lempire-Epehy. He was one of 53 men wounded during this action; a further 27 were killed in action or died of wounds received. He was given an immediate award of the Military Cross, which was published in the London Gazette of 18th October 1917. This award had no attached citation, but it is highly likely that is was for his services in helping to care for men wounded during the attack.
Later, after a local action to capture some enemy vantage points, the Battalion named a trench position after him. This was near The Knoll – a location on the Saint-Quentin front. (It was called Smissen Post, although it is misspelled on the trench map as Smisson Post).
George was awarded a second Military Cross (a Bar) for his efforts during an attack by the Battalion on 29/30th September 1918, near Zandvoorde. This award was notified in the 1 February 1919 edition of the London Gazette, and it carries a citation. “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the night of 29th/30th September 1918, during operations round Tenbrielen. He went forward and tended a lot of wounded who were lying out, spending the whole night marking each man with white tape to help the stretcher-bearers in their work. The night was very wet and dark, and the shelling continuous, but he had a cheerful word of encouragement for all“.
George was struck off the strength of the British Armies in France on 19 February 1919, in consequence of his evacuation to England, sick. The final comments, by the Principal Chaplain says that he was ‘one of the best U.B. chaplains serving. Awarded MC immediate reward. Over 2 years in France – 4th Class’. He was formally gazetted out of the service on 18 April 1919, with the substantive rank of Captain. His permanent address was given as Lyndhurst Road Church, Hampstead, London, and it is noted that he was married. Soon after his demobilization in 1919 he was inducted as warden of Lyndhurst Hall in Kentish Town, where he worked in happy association with the minister and church at Lyndhurst Road. Two years later he was commissioned as a chaplain in the Territorial Army. His distinguished service for the troops was recognized by the award, in the King’s Birthday Honours list in 1929, of the MBE (Military Division).
George was researched in detail for a private client by fourteeneighteen|research