Geoffrey Bache Smith
Geoffrey Smith was born on 18 October 1894 and met Tolkien and his friends at King Edward’s. Although a relative latecomer to the TCBS, he became one of Tolkien’s closest friends, and it is likely that it was Smith’s interest in modern literature that influenced Tolkien’s poetic beginnings.
When war broke out he was studying at Corpus Christi College Oxford. In October 1914 he joined the Oxford University Officer Training Corps as a Private, but on 1 December 1914 he put in his nomination for a commission. The forms were signed by his old headmaster at King Edward’s – Robert Gilson’s father.
He joined the 19th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, and he was sent to France in November 1915.
He wrote to Tolkien following Robert Gilson’s death on 1 July 1916 to say that the TCBS would endure, and then only a few days later, on the 6th July, he arrived at Bouzincourt, where Tolkien was stationed. This proved to be a high point in Tolkien’s war as for the next few days they talked as often as they could, discussing poetry, the war and the future.
A year later, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme, Smith was acting as Adjutant for the Battalion which were now camped near the village of Souastre. On 29th November 1916, the Battalion was shelled and Smith was hit by shrapnel. By 2nd December his wounds to his right arm were considered worrying and at 03:30 hours the following morning he died.
Only a few days before his death, he wrote again to Tolkien, uttering what would prove to be prophetic words:
“May you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them.”
One has to wonder what an incredible inspiration he would have remained to Tolkien had he lived.
He was buried in Warlincourt Halte Cemetery.