Smith, George Herbert Carington
Herbert Carington Smith 1906 - 1966
Known as Herbie, Herbert Carington Smith was the third of four children born to Charles and Aileen Carington Smith. The family lived at Montmorency Falls, where he told of a life of skiing and skating to school, canoeing on the river, and sailing in the sea. Like his brother Noel, Herbie was an accomplished horse rider, and when he lived in Hereford, England, much later in life, he used to run the local pony club and annual camp.
His engineering skills started early when he and a friend built a wall across a road one night, and on another occasion, craned a car onto the top of a roof when they tired of the boastful chap who owned it!
He went to the Lower and Upper Canada College, before spending four years training at the Royal Military College in Kingston.
Following in brother Noel's footsteps, Herbie joined the British Army as a Royal Engineer and studied at Cambridge University. From 1930 he was posted to Ordnance Survey Companies at Fort Southwick, Southampton, and Edinburgh. In 1931 he took part in a Trans-Atlantic Ocean race with the Royal Engineers. He had the last crew position as a cook and had to hastily ask his mother for cookery lessons! He told of having to put the dough for the bread in a tin, and take it to bed with him to make it rise.
In 1933 he took part as a surveyor in an Oxford and Cambridge University expedition to Spitzbergen.
In 1935 Herbie spent two and half years with the British Guiana-Brazil Boundary Commission. Then he served as Captain for another eighteen months with the 19th Field Survey Company, which included a tour in France with the British Expeditionary Force. He worked at survey and training centres in Scarborough, Derby, and then Ripon, as an instructor in Fields Works and Bridging. He also obtained his pilot’s licence at that time.
Following this, he again visited Spitzbergen for special duties with Force 111, a joint Canadian, British and Norwegian operation largely composed of Canadian Sappers sent to evacuate the inhabitants, destroy fuel stocks and render all facilities useless to the enemy. He received a mention in despatches for saving a Sunderland flying boat from being driven ashore in a storm. He collected some French-Canadian soldiers, none of whom had ever handled an oar before and took out a small rowing boat. With that, he was able to get a line to the Sunderland and tow it to safety.
He then went as General Staff Officer (Grade 1) on a liaison mission to Australia, where he was highly regarded, working with Australian and US intelligence. He served as a Special Operations Executive, and Officer of Strategic Services, taking part in the top-secret behind-the-lines network. His experience included battles at Salamanca, during August and September of 1943, Finischafen and Lae in September of 1943, The Admiralty Islands in March 1944, and Hollandia in April of 1944. He got experience being in charge of staff and working with Aerial Photography, Combined Ops, Jungle Warfare, Airborne, Mortars and Pioneer duties.
He was in charge of small pockets of men, walking in and out of the jungle multiple times during 1943 and 1944 on missions that are still highly classified. It would seem that he was in Force 136, a far eastern branch of the British World War II intelligence organisation. Royal Engineers were involved in building the bridge over the River Kwai in 1942 and 1943.
His next foreign tour took him back to the Far East as CRE to the British and Indian Divisional Engineers, British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and then in May 1948, to Command of the Engineer Training Centre, FAREFLY at Kluan, Malaya, until November of 1952.
In Japan in 1947, the Lt Gen. Commander in chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force recommended him for the Order of the British Empire for his meritorious service in carrying out his duties most efficiently, making troops comfortable, hard-working, taking a keen interest in his work and because his mechanical aptitude was excellent.
“Success of the engineering work in this formation 268 Indian Infantry Brigade Group, is entirely due to the organizational capacity of Colonel Smith and his untiring zeal and energy to see the task through. He carried out his task despite the great difficulties of lack of any precedence and procedure. He had to organize the procurement of the Engineer Store which in itself was a complicated task, and needed an officer of Colonel Smith's calibre.”
In 1948, he was awarded Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire following his engineering work and organizational skills in the Far East. He was mentioned in despatches in December 1949. His medals included The Pacific Star, British War Medal ribbons, France & Germany Star, and the Italy Star.
Herbie met Alison (Ty) Gatey, a Major in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, also working in intelligence, and they married in London in 1950. Their son, Anthony, was born in Malaya in 1951. Herbie used to love getting parcels from his sisters in Canada – they used to send blocks of maple sugar - and he loved slicing this on his porridge. He passed his love of swimming, rowing, riding and dogs on to his son and daughter.
Herbie returned to the UK in May 1953 on promotion to Colonel, as Assistant Director of the Directorate of Royal Engineers at the Ministry of Supply in London. He had a passionate love of sailing and the sea, and as a member of the Royal Engineers Yacht Club, he was Skipper of the Right Royal. In the 1956 Channel Race, he saved the yacht, which was dismasted in a gale. He refused to abandon ship, despite offers to be taken off, and got the boat and crew, battered but safe, into Dunkirk. His final posting, in 1957, was as Commanding Officer of the Special Air Service base in Hereford, although it was officially known as the Territorial Army base. Herbie retired in 1960.
When he retired from the Army Herbie spent some time working as a surveyor on the M4 motorway that was being built. He and Ty then moved to Keswick. He enjoyed rowing on the lake and climbing the mountains. The family used to go on a narrowboat every year on the canal. When his daughter was seven, he saved her life when she fell overboard and became trapped between the boat and the canal bank. He hooked her out with the boat hook.
He was a warden at Crosthwaite Church in Keswick. He loved seeing his brother Noel and family in Scotland, and his sister Doris came over to England in 1954. He had plans to take the family to Canada in 1966, but sadly became ill that year and passed away just before his 60th birthday.
His varied career well reflected his ever-inquiring mind, objectivity and problem-solving. A man of immense courage, with unfailing good humour and quiet enthusiasm, earned him universal respect and made him many friends.
Eve Wickwire & Georgina Williams