Students in Sudbury have remembered the passing of their former head master who died 100 years ago in the Battle of the Somme.
A minute’s silence was held at Ormiston Sudbury Academy on Thursday to mark the centenary of the death of Captain Robert Smylie who led cadets from Sudbury Grammar School to fight in the First World War.
The school became Sudbury Upper School in the early seventies and is now Ormiston Sudbury Academy, based in Tudor Road.
Principal of the academy Caroline Wilson said: “When teaching the First World War, indeed all conflicts, it is often easy to forget the personal stories of heroism and sacrifice.
My predecessor has left us a personal story of valour that we and our students will remember and respect.”
Father of three, Mr Smylie wrote a poem for his children while in the field on November 19, 1915.
It was called ‘My Three Kids’ and in it he tells them what he has been doing but how he would rather be with them – ‘Moll, Bids and little Pat.’ He went on to describe how when the war is over ‘We shall have some glorious fun’.
He was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme on July 14, 1916, by a single shot in the chest.
His commanding officer wrote to his widow, saying: “Captain Smylie was killed instantaneously while charging at the head of his company and setting a fine example to his men.
“His loss is very greatly deplored by all of us; he was one of the best company commanders in the battalion and endeared us all by his cheerful endurance of hardships and his kindly disposition.”
The Imperial War Museum has his pocket book – the bullet that killed him went right through it.
A letter from one of his fellow soldiers described his death as ‘painless and sudden’.
Writing to Mrs Smylie he added: “He made me promise that if I returned home I would write to you stating that his last thoughts were of you.
“He died happy and doing his duty.”