Henry Smith Scotland

Biography of Henry Smith

Chaplain Henry Smith
Chaplain Henry Smith

Henry Smith was an MA Graduate from the University of Glasgow and Minister for Lochend Church, Kirkcudbrightshire 1937-1940. During the Second World War he served as Chaplain for the 2nd Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders and was killed during the Alexandria Hospital Massacre on February 14th 1942

Henry (Harry) Smith was born on 6 September 1912 in Glasgow, son of Jeanie Angus McPherson (Connal Smith) and Thomas Smith, a furnaceman. He was educated at Whitehill School, Dennistoun, before matriculating at the University of Glasgow in 1932, aged 19. Smith read for an Arts degree, studying Latin, Greek, Botany, History, Divinity and Moral Philosophy. He won class prizes for the latter two subjects. Whilst at University, his footballing talents were recognised and he was asked to try out for Celtic Football Club, but he declined. Smith graduated with an MA on 3 November 1934, after which he studied at Trinity College, Glasgow, to become a Minister of the Church of Scotland. In May 1937, he became Minister of Lochend Church, Beeswing, Kirkcudbrightshire.

Smith married his wife, Muriel, at Townhead in 1939. On the outbreak of war in September, he tried to join up but was told he wasn’t allowed to as, being a Minister, he was in a reserved occupation and therefore exempt. However, after the evacuation of Dunkirk in June 1940, Smith was called up and joined the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department. He was initially attached to the Black Watch in the UK and later received orders to join the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders as their Chaplain in Singapore. However, Muriel was heavily pregnant. Luckily, his daughter Ann was born on 20 August 1941. Only two days later, Smith sailed from Glasgow, bound for the other side of the world.

On 7 December 1941, war broke out in the Far East. Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, bombed Hong Kong and Singapore, and invaded Malaya.The 2nd Gordons were committed to battle on mainland Malaya on 26 January 1942. As their Chaplain, Smith was with the Battalion as it saw heavy action against determined Japanese attacks. He was subsequently Mentioned in Dispatches for his efforts helping wounded men and tending to the dead. The 2nd Gordons then withdrew from the mainland to Singapore Island on 31 January 1942.

On 8 February, Japanese forces invaded Singapore Island in a multi-pronged seaborne assault. The 2nd Gordons were kept in reserve until 12 February, when the Battalion was ordered forward and quickly became involved in heavy fighting against enemy infantry and tanks.

On 13 or 14 February 1942, Smith was ordered by the Commanding Officer of 2nd Gordons, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Stitt, to accompany wounded Gordons back to Alexandra Hospital, just outside Singapore city.

On 14 February 1942, Japanese soldiers surrounded and entered the hospital. They embarked on a murderous rampage, shooting and bayoneting doctors, nurses, orderlies and patients, even those on operating tables. Smith was undertaking pastoral work when a Japanese soldier burst into the ward he was in, and without any provocation, savagely bayoneted him to death. Smith’s body fell over a patient, saving that soldier’s life. The man was only able to tell his story after the war, having somehow survived the rampage and ensuing years of brutal captivity as a Far East Prisoner of War.

Tragically, it appears that two other Glasgow graduates were murdered in the Alexandra Hospital massacre, a war crime for which no one was prosecuted for after the war. Lieutenant Donald Ferguson Irvine and Major William Robert Logan were both officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and are mentioned on the Singapore Memorial.

no.135499 The Reverend Henry Smith, Chaplain 4th Class, was 29 years old. He is buried at Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore. He is also remembered in another way, at Lochend Church where he was Minister before being called up. His name forms part of a stained glass memorial window commemorating those who gave their lives in the Second World War.

Summary

Henry Smith
Born 6 September 1912, Glasgow, Scotland.
Died 15 February 1942.
GU Degree: MA, 1934; Arts,
University Link: Graduate
Father's Details: Thomas Smith; Furnaceman
War Service: Chaplain to the Forces, Gordon Highlanders
Grave / Memorial: Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore
Additional Information: Written and researched by Assistant Curator Jesper Ericsson of the Hunterian Museum Sources: DC183/11/62, General Council Register, 1937 R8/5/54/10, Matriculation Record, 1933-1934, “S” R4/1/24, MA Graduation Schedule, 1934 SEN10/76, University Calendar, 1934-1935, p.859 SEN10/77, University Calendar, 1935-1936, p.854 Archives of The Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen The Life of a Regiment, Volume V, 1919 – 1945, Wilfred Miles, Frederick Warne Ltd, London, 1980 Scattered Under the Rising Sun: The Gordon Highlanders in the Far East 1941 – 1945, Stewart Mitchell, Pen & Sword Military, 2012
Record last updated: 29th Jun 2017

Country Associations

Scotland Scotland
Place of Birth

University Connections

University Roles

  • Graduate

WWII Roll of Honour