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  • The commonwealth wargraves commission headstone marking the grave of Robert William Smallwood at Nottingham Basford Cemetery, courtesy of Peter Gillings
Person Details
Robert was the only child of Henry (Harry) and Elizabeth Smallwood. His father was a lacemaker. In 1881 when Robert was 4 years old his parents were lodging at 29 Pelican Street, Radford, Nottingham, but by 1891 were in their own home at 15 Denton Street, Radford, together with a boarder, Thomas Brentnall. The family had moved to 17 Sullivan Street, Radford, by 1901; Robert was now 22 years old but the census does not record his occupation. Robert married Lily Bransby (born 25th March 1882) in Nottingham in 1905 (registered Oct/Nov/Dec) and their son, also named Robert William born 25th September 1906 but known as 'Roy', At the time of the 1911 census Robert, his wife and son lived with his father and mother at 65 Derby Grove, Nottingham. However, at the time he attested in 1915 he gave his address as 35 Middleton Street, Nottingham. His pension record card shows his wife and son were living at 60 Foresters Street, Radford, his date of death is given as 6th November 1915, cause of death is given as ' suicide due to temporary insanity whilst on active service.'
In 1911 he was employed as a clerk.
03 Nov 1915
75450465 - CWGC Website
He enlisted in Nottingham giving his address as 35 Middleton Street, Nottingham.
1/7th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
His service record (damaged) survives. There is a note dated 8 November 1915 that he 'was attested on 1 November 1915, committed suicide on Friday 5 (sic) November 1915. He was ordered to proceed to the Third Line Depot on Saturday last.' Robert had committed suicide by cutting his throat and drowning. His army record includes correspondence between the Army's record office at Lichfield and the 7th Bn Administrative Centre in Nottingham about the report of the inquest and although this was clearly sent by the Battalion to Lichfield there is no copy in the records. Although Army records give his date of death variously as 5 and 6 November, the date of 3 November is as given on the CWGC record. Robert was buried in Nottingham (New Basford) Cemetery (grave ref. H.6.27).
A report of the inquest into his death was reported on 6th November 1915 in the Nottingham Daily Express :- “NO MORAL COURAGE. “Strange Depression of a Radford Clerk. “SAD INQUEST STORY. “On Wednesday morning [3rd November 1915] the body of Robert William Smallwood, a shorthand clerk, of Middleton-street, Radford, was found in the canal near Beeston. There was a wound in the throat. “An inquest was held at Hyson Green yesterday [5th November 1915] by the City Coroner. “The widow told the coroner that she saw her husband alive at 7.40 on Wednesday morning when he left home to go to business. “He did not take any breakfast that morning, saying he did not want any. He was very much depressed,and had not been to work since the previous Saturday. Her husband was subject to fits of depression. They had had no cause to worry, for they were not in debt, and, so far as she was aware, her husband had not gambled. “What do you think was the matter with him?” asked the coroner. “Witness:”I think he was worried about his work, and was going to enlist,” the widow replied. “The Coroner: Do you think he had been dismissed? “Witness: No, I think he had given up is work and was sorry about it. He had been in the employ of his firm about twelve years. “Gash in the Throat. “A youth named James Andrews, of 17, Old Church-street, Lenton, said that whilst walking along the canal towing path near Beeston he met a man. There was nothing unusual about his appearance or demeanour to specially attract witness's attention. “When he return he saw in the middle of the path at the “Beeston Bend” a coat and hat similar to those worn by the man he had met a little before. There were no signs of a struggle having taken place, but when the body was recovered from the water witness noticed a gash in the throat. “Witness was certain that the body was that of the man he met earlier in the day on the towing path. “Henry Smallwood, father of the deceased, who also lives at Radford, and who asked to give evidence, said that his son had complained to him of acute depression and of pains in the head. “A verdict of Suicide whilst Temporarily Insane was returned. “Employer's Kindness. “After the verdict had been announced, a gentleman, who described himself as the deceased's employer, explained that the reason he was present was the thought the question of dismissal might be raised. On returning from a journey last Friday night he (witness) found a note left on his desk in the deceased's handwriting intimating that he did not intend to return to work. “He had three or four times absented himself in that manner, and he (the employer) realising that he was subject to acute depression had visited him at home with the hope of cheering and encouraging him. He had also increased his wages, and improved his position, but the deceased had no moral courage. “Lately he had talked of doing munition work, because he was afraid that life in the Army would not suit him owing to his weak chest and lungs.” Above article is courtesy of Jim Grundy and his facebook pages Small Town Great War Hucknall 1914-1918 Soldiers' Effects Register erroneously gives his service number as 5794.
Remembered on


  • The commonwealth wargraves commission headstone marking the grave of Robert William Smallwood at Nottingham Basford Cemetery, courtesy of Peter Gillings
    Robert William Smallwood - The commonwealth wargraves commission headstone marking the grave of Robert William Smallwood at Nottingham Basford Cemetery, courtesy of Peter Gillings