Bunwell – St. Michael and All Angels Church (Grave of Jack Montague Smith)

This is the churchyard of St. Michael and All Angels Church in Bunwell.

Just before my friend Richard and I meandered out to look at some historic churches, I was watching a documentary on tunnelling under the German lines during the First World War. This was a successful tactic deployed primarily by the British military and the Royal Engineers, although they were helped by numerous other companies which included those from Canada, Australia and New Zealand amongst others.

Which is why I thought that the grave of Jack Montague Smith looked interesting, he’s one of the three war dead who is buried in the churchyard. He was born in Bunwell on 2 November 1892 and was the son of George William Gates Smith and Mary Alice Smith, of The Laburnums, Bunwell. His father was a watchmaker and Jack had three brothers and two sisters at the time of the 1901 census.

Jack was a member of the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company, part of the Canadian Engineers. They were sent to France in early 1916 and worked on the Bluff area, in Flanders, until early 1917 when the Australians took over. Their role was primarily in tunnelling under enemy lines, a dangerous and difficult occupation.

Jack was a sapper with service number 501337 and he signed up in Ontario in December 1915. There’s an obvious question of what Jack was doing in Canada, but it wasn’t uncommon for younger men to go and find employment there, so that’s my best guess. Unfortunately, as Jack’s surname is Smith, I can’t identify which of the many Jack Smiths it might have been on the passenger lists.

After being sent to fight on the front line he was injured on 26 April 1916. He was admitted to the 51st Field Ambulance, which was a front line medical unit which treated those with injuries. He was evacuated back to the United Kingdom, being sent to the Yarrow Hospital in Broadstairs where Canadian troops were cared for. Sadly, Jack died of his injuries at the hospital on 1 June 1916 at the age of 23 years old. His body was then returned to Norfolk for burial at Bunwell on 2 June 1916.