WARTIME MEMORIES OF
Smithey was born at the family home on Fishergate, Ferrybridge, in 1921 to
parents Mr. and Mrs Hollings Smithey. Frank’s father was well-known
around Ferrybridge for playing on the spoons and bones and was often to be
seen playing in the Harry Preston Band. Many of the older residents of
Ferrybridge will remember Harry Prestons Accordian Band.
was the fourth child into the family with eight brothers and sisters. When
he attained school age he was enrolled at the Ferrybridge Junior and
Infants School where he remained until he moved up to the Senior School
where he was to stay until he was of school leaving age which at that time
was 14 years.
leaving school Frank began his first job working at Jackson’s glassworks
as a ‘yard lad'. When he reached the age of 16 years, which was the age
level required to move into the ‘shops’ where the bottle manufacturing
took place, his first job was as a 'taker in', putting bottles into the
leah’s to finish off before they were examined for faults. He later
moved on to the 'press and blow' machine producing 5lb sweet jars. The
leader of the group was the gatherer, Bramwell Horton, a well-known
Salvationist. Frank continued with this occupation until he received his
call up papers for military service in 1941.
passing his medical examination at the Examination Board on Woodhouse
Lane, Leeds, he was enlisted with the R.A.S.C as a driver and was sent to
join a regular army unit stationed at Blackpool. It was in this unit that
he received his military training, and upon completion he was posted to
Bangor, Northern Ireland where he stayed for some twelve months. He was
then relocated to Hillsborough, County Down, where the home of the
Governor Central of Northern Ireland was situated. During his time there
that he quite often saw members of the Royal Family who were visiting the
area, and were enjoying the hospitality of the Governors residence. He
recalls seeing our present queen as a young girl and her parents the King
and Queen. He also saw the Duke of York shortly before he was involved in
the tragic air accident which was to cost him his life.
his return to England, Frank's company were posted to army barracks in
Sussex. They performed their normal duties along with training for the
D-Day landings planned for June 1944. Part of his duties entailed
water-proofing his vehicle and carrying out tests in water conditions.
he did not in fact cross the channel on June 6th, he did serve the last
nights guard duty prior to the fleet sailing which happened from every one
of the southern Embarkation Ports. He described it as an amazing sight to
witness the massed fleet of ships and troops awaiting their sailing
company sailed some three or four days later from the Gosport Hards
Harbour and coincidentally was aware that his father had previously worked
on them when he had moved around the country under the movement of Labour
Act. Gosport Hards were concrete slopes down to the water which enabled
liberty boats to lower their ramps to allow the loading of military
vehicles. Frank and his fellow comrades stayed aboard one of the liberty
boats for a couple of nights before sailing across the channel and
arriving during the evening on the beach at Arramanche, Normandy. His
lorry was loaded with ammunitions to supply the forward troops, Infantry,
Tank Regiments etc. After carrying out water-de-proofing of his
vehicle, his company were sent on detachment to the Royal Engineers, who
were part of the 3rd British Infantry Division.
the winter months of 1944 his Company’s role changed and they switched
from carrying ammunition supplies for the forward troops to working with
the engineers supplying ballast and tarmac so repair work could be
undertaken to the damaged and unmade roads which were in danger of causing
the supply lines to bog down. This was an essential duty to ensure
continuity of war materials reaching our forward fighting men.
the spring of 1945 the Company continued to support the engineers who had
now moved up the line to occupy the forward positions and were responsible
for the maintenance and building of new ‘bailey bridges’ and tank
crossing points due to many of the bridges and vital crossings being
destroyed by the retreating German forces.
one occasion Frank remembers that they raided a local brickyard and
completely emptied it of its stock of bricks to be used as ballast. They
worked continuously for three days and nights to carry out important
repairs to an entry road to one of the river bridge crossings. It came as
a complete shock the day following the repairs when while sitting eating
sandwiches and listening to the BBC radio news broadcast, they heard the
newscaster report that a river bridge crossing had been established and
troops were now moving across it.
Frank's Company finally crossed the Rhine into Germany he was driving his
lorry loaded with ballast for the engineers when he spotted a soldier in a
beret wearing the badge of the East Riding Yeomanry waiting with his tank
regiment to cross over the river. Frank's younger brother George was also
serving in the Yeomanry. Frank asked the soldier if he knew of his brother
George Smithey and the soldier replied "Yes, very well... In
fact", he said, "on your return journey I will have him back
here to greet you", and that is what happened. Frank and George
were both overjoyed to see each other. George was also somewhat fortunate
to be able to share the contents of a parcel Frank had recently received
from the Hull Daily Mail.
continued his military service in Europe until the end of the hostilities
was declared. He was demobbed in Germany and returned to Taunton,
Somerset, for his final discharge from military service. He was also
issued with the famous civilian demob outfit for his return home.
future wife, May, had a friend called Mary who had approached Frank and
enquired if he would be interested in making up a foursome for an evening
out. He said he would most certainly be interested and so he went to
meet May, who was but 16 years old at the time. The evening was a great
success and the couple courted for three years until they were married.
Frank’s time away from home on active duty, May had found work in a
munitions factory situated at Thorpe Arch, Wetherby. She was employed in
the Aircraft Inspection Department. The work entailed the inspection of
aircraft munitions. She stayed in this work until the end of the war when
the factory was closed down.
Frank Smithey with his wife May
after their wedding in 1942
had married his wife May, who was a Pontefract lass, in 1942 in a wedding
ceremony held at All Saint's Church in Pontefract. On his return home
Frank rejoined his wife who was by this time living with her parents on
the Willow Park Estate. They enjoyed a successful and happy life together
for over 58 years until May's unfortunate death in March 2000, just two
weeks before her 77th birthday. They had a son Kevan, born in 1948, who
was followed by their lovely daughter Karen in 1956. He has three
grandchildren, Kevan has a son Stephen and Karen has a son Jonathon and a
Frank has lived in Pontefract since 1942 he still fondly remembers living
in Ferrybridge as a boy. He remembers attending the Infirmary Sunday Gala’s
and joining in the sporting activities and games. He was also a regular
supporter of Ferrybridge Amateur Football Club and recalls that the games
were played on a field which later became the Pinders Garth Estate. He
also enjoyed attending the charity concerts held in the school hall.
now leads a quiet life in Pontefract and is a member of the Royal British
Smithey was talking to Maurice Haigh.