L/Cpl (later L/Sgt) Reginald George Smith
Lincolnshire Regt; York & Lancs Regt;
1915 – 1995
Reg grew up in Walthamstow, one of six brothers. He never knew his father, who was killed in France, three months before the end of WW1.
By the time he was called up, Reg was married to Mabel, whom he loved dearly. He joined the Army, initially the Lincolnshire Regt, guarding the North Norfolk coast.
In 1942 he transferred to 2nd Btn, York & Lancs Regt, 5th Indian Division of the 14th Army, either 65 or 84 Column, and sailed for India on 27.05.42 – it is believed on the SS Otranto – and then on to Burma, and spent 20 months there, some of it in hospital. He promoted from Private to War Service Corporal. He did not take part in the first Chindit operation: Longcloth, but was in the second: Operation Thursday, and was transported into the Burmese jungle by WACO glider (as used during and after D-Day), on his birthday, 5th March 1944.
Life was hard for all the Chindits. The only transport most of them had was their feet. Heavy equipment, such as the Vickers guns, mortars, supplies, and the sick and wounded were carried on mules, ponies or sometimes elephants. There was no motorised transport, and a lot of time was spent hacking their way through jungle. The terrain was frequently steep jungle-clad mountains and valleys with wide rivers to be forded. Sometimes it took a day to move a mile, all the while at risk from attack by the Japanese Army. The enemy was not only the Japanese, but the climate, the insects and leaches, jungle ulcers and the diseases such as malaria, berri-berri and dengue fever.
He was self-contained, carrying in his pack all he needed to fight and live (which dry, weighed about 60lbs (27.22kg)). As it was jungle – damp, humid and often raining, the canvas pack and webbing soaked up water like a sponge. At night in the mountains it was freezing. He had one blanket and a groundsheet. He embarked for England from Rangoon on the Durban Castle on 05.11.45, 3 months after the war had ended. He had been away from home for 3½ years.
Reg was lucky. Unlike many, he came home to his wife (who had herself joined the WAAF, and “looked after aircraft”), and had a long and happy marriage and his son. Mabel predeceased him and he married Ruth. Unlike some of those that did come home, many of whom died in their 50’s and 60’s, he enjoyed relatively good health, although the fact that he had to kill another human being was never very far from his thoughts.
He died aged 79, ironically the day before the 50th anniversary of VJ (Victory in Japan) day on 14th August 1995. He still had the head of a leech in his leg that he had acquired in the jungle.