Medals and poems of Sudbury WW1 hero for sale on eBay
PUBLISHED: 05:30 01 March 2019
The medals of a Sudbury headmaster and war poet killed at the Battle of the Somme have come up for sale.
The British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal were awarded posthumously to the family of Captain Robert Smylie, who was killed in action in 1916.
They are being sold on online auction site eBay along with copies of some of his papers, newspaper cuttings of his death, and an anthology of his war poems and those of his wife Beatrice which she published after the war.
Missing from the medal group is the 1914/15 Star - issued to personnel who served in the first two years of the war before conscription was introduced - although its ribbon survives.
Capt Smylie was headmaster at the former Sudbury Grammar School when he joined the Army at the outbreak of war in 1914.
The seller, who has asked not to be identified, said he was a collector who had bought the medals online some years ago only to later discover Capt Smylie had not served with the regiment in which he was interested.
He said: “Sadly, so many regimental museums are now closing and many of those that remain no longer think the general public are interested in seeing large displays of medals, so people are often unsure what to do with family medals that they don’t want.
“Most collectors nowadays have as much interest in the men behind the medal as the medals themselves, so those in private collections are usually well researched and well cared for.
“Thankfully the value of the medals is now usually considerably higher than their scrap silver value, so the majority that appear for sale end up with collectors.
“This was not the case 40 years ago and unfortunately many silver medals were melted for scrap.
“It would be lovely if the medals ended up with a collector with a Sudbury or Sudbury Grammar School connection.”
Capt Smylie was born in 1874 in Kings Norton in what is now Birmingham but was then Worcestershire.
He grew up in Ballymena in Ireland and by the outbreak of war was married with two daughters and was headmaster at Sudbury Grammar School.
Capt Smylie was commissioned in 1914 into the Royal Scots Fusiliers and was killed on July 14, 1916, leading his men in an assault on German positions at Langueval in the second week of the Somme offensive.
He is buried at Flatiron Copse Cemetery at Mametz.
In a letter to his widow, the regimental chaplain said of him: “He was a gallant gentleman. Some of us were talking about him before the action, and one man summed up our opinion by saying ‘if that ridge over there had to be taken and Smylie knew it meant his death he would go straight for it,’.”
Many of Capt Smylie’s personal effects, including the tunic he wore when he was killed, are now in the possession of the Imperial War Museum in London and formed part of an exhibition last year celebrating its 100th anniversary.
They include a wallet containing pictures of his wife and daughters that was in his pocket when he died.
It was selected to be one of the objects investigated on the 2018 BBC program ‘Britain at War: The Imperial War Museum at 100’.
Last March, Falklands War veteran Simon Weston took the wallet to Ormiston Sudbury Academy, which replaced the old grammar school, as part of the documentary where he met staff and students.
The eBay auction concludes on Sunday March 3 at 9.27pm.