Smiles, William Alan

Smiles, William Alan (Alan)


2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles

Killed in action on Sunday 9 July 1916 (aged 34)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 15A and 15B)

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club Memorial Plaque

Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour (Page 591)

Sydenham War Memorial (located at the junction of Inverary Drive and Station Road, opposite Sydenham Railway Station)


William Alan Smiles was born on 29 April 1882 at Ballyhackamore and he was a son of William Holmes Smiles and Lucy Smiles (nee Dorling, sometimes Darling) who were married in England.  Lucy Smiles was a half-sister to Isabella Mary Beeton (nee Mayson), better known as Mrs Beeton the Victorian cookery expert.  Isabella was 4 when her father died and her mother Elizabeth (nee Jerram) married Henry Dorling, a widower with four children of his own.  In all, Lucy Dorling had 20 siblings (including her half and step siblings).

In 1878 William Holmes Smiles founded the Belfast Rope Works and then became Managing Director.  He and Lucy had eleven children:

John Holmes (born 15 February 1875 at Sydenham)

Henry Dorling (born 18 February 1876 at Sydenham)

Lucy (born 30 March 1877 at Sydenham; died of endocarditis 7 May 1896 aged 19)

Aileen (born 15 October 1879 at Sydenham)

Samuel (born 31 March 1881 at Strandtown)

William Alan (born 29 April 1882 at Ballyhackamore)

Walter Dorling (born 8 November 1883 at Strandtown; later Lt Col Sir Walter Dorling Smiles CIE DSO DL who was MP for North Down until his death – he lost his life on 31 January 1953 in the sinking of the MV Princess Victoria)

Norah Elizabeth (born 23 March 1886 at Strandtown)

Michael Geoffrey (born 4 March 1889)

Philip (born 17 July 1890)

Christopher (born 19 October 1892 at Strandtown)

The Smiles family lived at Westbank, 17 Palmerston Road, Strandtown, Belfast (the house has been since demolished).

William Alan Smiles was a solicitor and an active fund-raiser for the Ulster Hospital for Women and Sick Children in Templemore Avenue, Belfast (relocated to Dundonald in 1962). His father William died of heart failure on 9 January 1904 (aged 57) and his mother Lucy died on 15 November 1939 (aged 91).  Both were buried in Belfast City Cemetery (Grave J1 352).

William Alan Smiles obtained a commission in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and was later transferred to the 17th Battalion.  He returned to the Front in March 1916 with the 2nd Battalion and he was 34 when he was killed in action on 9 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

Captain William Alan Smiles has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.  Captain William Alan Smiles is also commemorated on the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club Memorial Plaque; in the Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour (Page 591) and on the Sydenham War Memorial (located at the junction of Inverary Drive and Station Road, opposite Sydenham Railway Station).

Captain William Alan Smiles’s brother Samuel was also killed in the Great War.  Second Lieutenant Samuel Smiles served with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and he was 36 when he died on 16 August 1917.

Second Lieutenant Samuel Smiles was buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery (Grave VIII. G. 1).

During the Great War Walter Dorling Smiles served as Lieutenant-Commander with the Royal Naval Air Service and was awarded the DSO in May 1918.