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In Memory of

CHIEF YEOMAN OF SIGNALS GEORGE SMITH, DSM, Royal Navy and RN Shore Signal Service 1904-48 (Part 1 of 7)

1. Naval Service Record 1904-28 (here)

2. North Russian Expeditionary Force 1919

3. HMS Vanquisher, Baltic Cruise 1921

4. HMS Curlew, America & West Indies 1922-25

5. Point Honda Disaster 1923

6. HMS Durban, China Station 1926-28

7. Royal Naval Shore Signal Service 1929-48

his son, Ordnance Artificer George Smith

son-in-law, Lt Cdr (A) James Summerlee MID, RN

Yeoman of Signals George Smith, wearing Naval General Service Medal with Persian Gulf clasp (click to enlarge)  return to World War 1, 1914-1918
 by his grandson, Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net


with ship and other information added


26 Nov 1888 - Born Lincoln, England


17 Sep 1904 - Volunteered for 12 years service, aged 15, Official Number 232282



Boy II/Boy I


Sep 1904-Oct 1905 - HMS Ganges, Boys training establishment, Harwich, England.



Boy I


Oct-Dec 1905 - HMS Pembroke, shore base, Chatham, England.


Dec 1905-Jan 1906 - HMS Repulse, battleship of the "Royal Sovereign" class, (completed 1884, 14,100 tons, 4-13.5in and 10-6in guns, broken up 1911). Serving in Home waters.


Jan-May 1906 - HMS Hawke, large cruiser of the "Edgar" class, (completed 1893, 7,350 tons, 2-9.2in and 10-6in guns, torpedoed and sunk in North Sea by German U.9, Oct 1914). Serving as Boys Training Ship in 4th Cruiser Squadron on North America and West Indies Station; paid off Aug 1906.


May 1906 - HMS Pembroke, shore base, Chatham, England


May-Jul 1906 - HMS Argonaut, large cruiser of the "Diadem" class, (completed 1900, 11,000 tons, 16-6in guns, broken up 1920). Apparently in reserve at Chatham until June 1906 when started refitting for Special Service.



Boy I to Signalman to Qualified Signalman



Aug 1906-Sep 1908 - HMS Cadmus, sloop of "Cadmus" class (last of long line of sloops retaining some sail power; completed 1904, 1070 tons, paid off at Hong Kong 1920 after spending entire career on China Station). Serving on China Station.


Sep-Dec 1908 - HMS Crescent, large cruiser of "Edgar" class (completed 1894, 7,700 tons, 1-9.2in, 12-6in guns, broken up 1921). Part of Portsmouth Division of Home Fleet 4th Cruiser Squadron (until 1913).


Dec 1908-Mar 1909 - HMS Pembroke, shore base, Chatham.


Mar-May 1909 - HMS Actaeon, shore establishment.


May-Aug 1909 - HMS Pembroke, shore base, Chatham.


Aug 1909-Jan 1910 - HMS Minotaur, large cruiser of the "Minotaur" class (completed 1908, 14,600 tons, 4-9.2in and 10-7.5in guns, broken up 1920). Serving with 1st Cruiser Squadron, probably in Home Waters until early 1910.


Jan 1910 - HMS Pembroke, shore base, Chatham.


Jan-Mar 1910 - HMS Hyacinth, light cruiser of "Hermes" class (completed 1900, 5,600 tons, 11-6in guns, broken up 1923). From Feb 1907 as Flagship East Indies Station; recommissioned at Bombay in Mar 1909 and then paid-off at Chatham in Mar 1911. Serving on East Indies Station at this time.



Mar-May 1910 - HMS Philomel (above - Navy Photos), light cruiser of "Pearl" class (completed 1891, 2,575 tons, to RNZN 1914, sold 1947, scuttled off New Zealand in 1949). Commissioned at Portsmouth in July 1909 for East Indies Station, returning in 1913. Serving in the East Indies.


May-Jul 1910 - HMS Fox, light cruiser of the "Astraea" class (completed 1896, 4,360 tons, 2-6in and 8-4.7in guns, broken up 1920). Left Devonport in June 1908 to relieve light cruiser "Highflyer" in East Indies, recommissioning at Muscat, Gulf of Oman in July 1910. Probably left ship there.


Jul-Aug 1910 - HMS Alert, steel screw sloop of "Alert" class (schooner rigged, completed 1895, 960 tons, 4-6in guns, sold 1926); fleet messenger ship, believed on East Indies Station


Sep 1910-July 1912 - HMS Fox, light cruiser (as above). After recommissioning at Muscat in July 1910, served on East Indies Station until recommissioning again at Aden in July 1912.

Took part in capture of Persian Gulf gun-runners on 25 March and 11 July 1911, and 10 February 1912. Paid a gun-running gratuity, 3 November 1915

July-Aug 1912 - HMS Hermione, sister ship to "Fox" (details as for "Fox", except broken up 1921). Serving with 4th Division, Home Fleet so believed in Home waters.




Signalman to Leading Signalman


Aug-Dec 1912 - HMS Pembroke, shore base, Chatham.


Dec 1912-Jan 1914 - HMS Hecla, destroyer depot ship (ex-"British Crown", launched 1878, 6,400 tons, 4-12 pdr guns. Originally torpedo depot ship and played important role in developing British torpedo forces).



1 July 1913

King George V and Prince of Wales visiting battlecruiser HMAS Australia in Portsmouth


crew mustering

inspection by Lieut
HRH Prince of Wales
King George V leaving ship

1914 Chevron awarded

Jan 1914-Apr 1915 - HMS Woolwich, destroyer depot ship and HMS Forester, destroyer of "Acheron" class (launched 1911, 780 tons, 2-4in guns and 2-21in torpedo tubes, sold 1921). Joined 1st Flotilla around 1911-12 and part of Home Fleet from Aug 1914 until 1916. Possibly with 1st Flotilla as part of The Harwich Force, commanded by Commodore Tyrwhitt.

28 Aug 1914 - HMS Forester took part in the Battle of the Heligoland Bight and was possibly involved in the sinking of German destroyer V.187.


1915 Chevron awarded



January 1914-April 1915
HMS Forester, North Sea


HM Destroyer Forester ....
... took part in August 1914 Battle of Heligoland Bight,

..... December 1914 seaplane raid on Cuxhaven,
.... and the January 1915 Battle of Dogger Bank


Apr-Jun 1915 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport



Leading Signalman to Yeoman of Signals


Jun 1915-27 Mar 1916 - HMS Dido, destroyer depot ship and HMS MEDUSA, destroyer of "Medea" class (launched 27th Mar 1915, completed July 1915, 1,000 tons, 3-4in guns and 4-21in torpedo tubes). Joined Harwich force.

28 Oct 1915 - Awarded Naval General Service Medal with Persian Gulf 1909-14 clasp


3 Nov 1915 - Paid gun-running gratuity for captures made in 1911/12


1916 Chevron awarded


Mar 1916 - Harwich Force of light cruisers and destroyers screened "Vindex" for a seaplane attack on the Zeppelin sheds near the island of Sylt off the North Sea coast of Germany. "Laverock" accidentally rammed "Medusa" amidships, leaving her with an enormous hole in the engine-room and had to be taken in tow by flotilla leader "Lightfoot". They were only 40 miles from Heligoland and as "Medusa" was towed north to join the cruisers, were bombed for a number of hours by German seaplanes. Weather worsened with heavy seas and violent rain-squalls alternating with snow. Towing was reduced to 6 knots - (quote) "with the seas breaking over her ("Medusa") as she lay over at an appalling angle .... looked more like a half-tide rock than a ship". They met Admiral Beatty's battlecruisers, but were too close to German forces and the weather was getting even worse. The tow parted and the decision made to abandon ship at 10.00 pm in pitch darkness. Most of "Medusa's" ship's company (including Yeoman of Signals George Smith) were saved by destroyer "Lasso".

Mar-Apr 1916 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport


Apr-May 1916 - HMS Woolwich, destroyer depot ship and HMS Forester, destroyer (details as above). Possibly with 1st Flotilla as part of Harwich Force, until Spring 1916 when attached to 3rd Battleship Squadron believed to consist of old pre-Dreadnoughts of the "King Edward VII" class serving with the Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow.



Smith Family in The Great War, c 1916


George Smith, his wife Emily and son George William Charles Smith, born Devonport  11 January 1916 (Gordon Smith's father). PO Smith was back with HMS Forester at this time


left to right - George Smith, Bob (?), his father, brother-in-law Charles, brother Joe

George Smith with Joe over from Canada with the Canadian Army



May-Dec 1916 - HMS Dido, destroyer depot ship and HMS Forester (details as above, including presumed service with 3rd Battleship Squadron).


Dec 1916-Jun 1917 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport.

1917 Chevron awarded

Jun 1917-5 Dec 1918 - HMS CASSANDRA, light cruiser of "Caledon" class (launched Nov 1916, completed June 1917, 4,120 tons, 5-6in guns). Joined 6th Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet from June 1917; with sister ship "Caradoc" ran aground on Fair Isle on 15th Aug 1917 and towed to Lerwick for repairs. Then in Nov 1918 to the Baltic to be sunk by mine in the Gulf of Finland on 5th Dec 1918 with 11 dead. Numerous offensive and defensive minefields laid by the Germans and Russians in the Baltic.



June 1917- 5 December 1918
HMS CASSANDRA, North Sea and Baltic


HMS Cassandra
Signal and W/T Staff 1917

Signal and W/T Staff April 1918


A brief account of her loss

Post Office telegram announcing that PO Smith was not among those lost




Dec 1918-Mar 1919 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport.


Mar-Jun 1919 - HMS Fox, light cruiser (details as above). From 1915 to 1918, served in East Indies and Egyptian waters and then Red Sea, but then paid off in Mar 1919.

20th May 1919 - War gratuity paid; recommended for Chief Yeoman of Signals

Jun-Oct 1919 - HMS Fox, light cruiser and HMS Borodino, fleet messenger ship (see North Russian Expeditionary Force)




June-October 1919
HMS FOX and HMS BORODINO, North Russia


Converted Russian paddle steamer, HMS Borodino

PO's Mess, Borodino
Signals Staff, Borodino

Royal Marines contingent, Borodino
Dvina River Flotilla, 1919



Oct 1919-Oct 1920 - HMS Vivid, signals shore establishment, Devonport.

21 Jan 1920 - Awarded Distinguished Service Medal during service on HMS Fox in North Russia.


I long wondered why my grandfather was awarded the DSM. Then I pinned it down to North Russia, but it was not until Damien Wright from Australia sent me the official recommendation, out of the blue, that I learnt the details. Damien was then in the final stages of completing a book on British and Commonwealth involvement in the Russian Civil War 1918-20 and had come across a copy of the original. My family and I are very grateful to Damien for his thoughtfulness - Gordon Smith


click to enlarge



Surname: Smith, Christian Name: George William
Rank or  rating: Yeoman of Signal, Official No.: 232,282
Ship: "FOX" addl., Station: Archangel River Expedition

Full particulars of distinguished service for which recommendation  is made: Has performed excellent service in connection with signalling in action. He was one of the Petty Officers including in the signalling staff employed on every occasion of flotilla bombardments and showed marked coolness and ability under fire.

Honour, Medal for which recommended, or mention: D.S.M.

(administrative details)

Signature of Commanding Officer - signed E Altham
Captain, S.N,O. Archangel River Expedition
Date: 1 Oct. 1919.

20 May 1920 - Paid Naval prize money


7 Jul 1920 - Awarded 1914-15 Star


Yeoman of Signals to Chief Yeoman of Signals

Oct 1920-Jan 1922 - HMS Columbine, shore-based destroyer depot, Port Edgar, Firth of Forth and HMS Vanquisher, destroyer of the "V" and "W" classes (launched 1917, 1,100 tons, 4-4in guns and 4-21in torpedo tubes, broken up 1947). Possibly with Atlantic Fleet or based at Rosyth. (see Baltic Cruise 1921)

August 1921 - Awarded Victory and other war service medals

Jan-Nov 1922 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport.

24 Apr 1922 - Awarded Long Service Good Conduct medal


5 May 1922 - Paid medal gratuity


20 May 1922 - Paid final share of Naval prize fund


Nov 1922-Oct 1925 - HMS Curlew (above, no enlargement), light cruiser of the "Ceres" class and close sister to "Cassandra" (launched 1917, 4,190 tons, 5-6in guns, sunk by German air attack, Norway in May 1940). Recommissioned Nov 1922 for North America and West Indies Station. (see America & West Indies 1922-25)

(9 Sep 1923 - Six United States "Clemson" class destroyers went ashore in poor visibility in the San Francisco area (see Point Honda Disaster 1923))


4 May 1924 - Paid supplementary final share of Naval prize fund

Oct-Dec 1925 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport.


Dec 1925-Sep 1926 - HMS Britannia, Royal Naval College, Dartmouth


Oct 1926 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport.


Oct 1926-Aug 1928 - HMS Durban, light cruiser of "Danae" class (launched 1919, 4,970 tons, 6-6in guns, scuttled as part of Mulberry harbour off Normandy beaches, 9th June 1944). "Durban" joined 5th Light Cruiser Squadron on China Station in Nov 1921, and remained until 1928. (see China Station 1926-28)


Aug-Nov 1928 - HMS Vivid I, signals shore establishment, Devonport.



26 November 1928 - Pensioned after 24 years service at age 40 and enrolled in Royal Fleet Reserve until age 50.


1 January 1929 - Discharged from Royal Fleet Reserve and enrolled in Royal Navy Shore Signal Service (RNSSS).


1929-1948 - RNSSS service (see Royal Naval Shore Signal Service)




Distinguished Service Medal,
HMS Fox, Archangel, Aug/Sep 1919


Naval General Service Medal with clasp, Persian Gulf 1909-1914



1914-15 Star

British War Medal

Victory Medal


1939-1945 Star

Defence Medal

War Medal



  Royal Naval Long Service & Good Conduct Medal 


Main Sources of Warship Information:
"Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905"
"Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921"




June 1977 - Died Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, England

Much missed


The photographs are from the Smith family -  with thanks to his daughter, Val Summerlee, ex-WRNS.

return to World War 1, 1914-1918
or to Naval-History.Net

revised  31/7/11