Harold “Smudge” Smith

Picture: Harold “Smudge” Smith (right), in the workshops at Potter’s, with one of the many fine drums on which he worked.

We were greatly saddened by the death of Harold “Smudge” Smith on 13th March 2018, aged 93. Known to all by his nickname of “Smudge”, he was not only a founder member of the Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum but was one of our most loyal and enthusiastic members. Right up until the end of his life, Smudge would be at every meeting and every Friends event, his enthusiasm and cheerfulness never failing.

Smudge was a proud Aldershot man, whose father, Frank Smith, had served in World War One and had worked at the Junior Army and Navy Stores in Union Street, and his grandfather was William Smith, a military tailor with a shop in the High Street. Smudge went to the West End Boys School and on leaving, at the age of 14, joined the famous local company of George Potter and Co., instrument makers. Smudge served in the Army during World War Two, having been called up in 1942 at the age of 18. He served for five years in the Royal Artillery and was with the forces which landed in France on D-Day, 1944. Late in life he received the Legion D’Honneur from the French government, in honour and gratitude for the men who had fought for the liberation of their country. Although always a most modest man, Smudge was very proud of this recognition of his service.

After the war, Smudge returned to Potter’s, where he was a highly skilled craftsman working on drums. During his time there he prepared two silver kettle-drums for the Queen’s Coronation, made a silver mace carried by the Presidential Guard at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, and painted the heraldic designs on the shells of many drums for the Army. He continued at Potter’s until he was in his 70s and was made a director of the Company.

In his spare time he was a Scout leader and devoted many years of his life to helping young people through the Boy Scouts organisation. Smudge had joined the 4th Aldershot (WEBS) Scout Group on leaving school and was very involved in keeping the Group running when the leaders were called up for military service at the beginning of the war. He remained in the Group for the rest of his life and was involved at all levels of scouting leadership in the Group.

Smudge had a great interest in Aldershot history, and with his family connections he had strong personal connections with the town stretching back to the nineteenth century. In the League of Friends there was no-one who could be so relied upon to always 'be there', whether at one of our regular meetings, a special event, a trip, or to give any assistance to any of our projects. As one example, when FAMM was organising our special exhibition for the centenary of the First World War, Smudge was one of the first to offer help and he generously loaned numerous item of memorabilia from his personal collection. His dedication and enthusiasm was such that he would sometimes walk to the Museum for a FAMM meeting, even when he was in his eighties.

Smudge was a true gentleman and friend who was much beloved by all, and he will be much missed.

Peter Smith and Paul Vickers