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Percy Guillemard Lewellin Smith

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Percy Guillemard Lewellin Smith (1838-1893)


1893 Obituary [1]

MAJOR-GENERAL PERCY GUILLEMARD LEWELLIN SMITH, R.E., retired, son of Colonel J. T. Smith, late of the Madras Engineers, was born at Madras on the 15th of June, 1838.

After passing through the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he obtained on the 28th of February, 1855, a commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers.

From the following August until January, 1862, he served in South Africa, where he received the special commendation of the General Officer Commanding for his devotion to duty.

In April, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and in the following December was ordered to Weymouth, where important defence works were in progress.

There he remained until November, 1869, performing for a considerable period the duties of Commanding Royal Engineer of the Portland District, an important post for so young an officer. For the next three years Captain Smith was engaged on engineering duties in Scotland. On the 5th of July, 1872, he obtained his majority, and in the following year was appointed Instructor in Estimating and Construction at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham.

In 1879 Major Smith‘s services were placed at the disposal of the Admiralty for special duty as Superintending Engineer at Portsmouth Dockyard and in December of the same year he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. During the three years he remained at Portsmouth he superintended the completion of the works of the great extension of the dockyard ; built the Infirmary at Eastney Barracks, gave great attention to the improvement of the sanitary condition of the several Admiralty establishments and carried out other works of importance.

In September, 1882, he received the appointment of Director of Works of the Navy, with control of all the works of the naval establishments at home and abroad and of the coastguard stations throughout the country.

Early in the following year he was directed to proceed to Malta, to select a site for a proposed new dock. He then submitted to the Admiralty an elaborate report on a suggested extension of the Malta dockyard, which resulted in the construction there of the “Hamilton” dry dock (the largest of any in H.M. dockyards), the extensive “Gun-Mounting Store” and other important works. In December, 1883, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel.

On his appointment as Director of Works, Colonel Percy Smith became a member of the Government Committee on Convict Labour, and as a member of a sub-committee assisted in the inquiry as to the most suitable place on the east coast of Scotland for a harbour of refuge to be constructed by convict labour. This resulted in the selection of Peterhead for that purpose. Subsequently the extensive works at Peterhead, designed by the late Sir John Coode and still in progress, were placed under his direction as controlling engineer for the Government. On the 31st of December, 1887, he retired from the corps of Royal Engineers with the honorary rank of Major-General.

The other more important works carried out under the superintendence of General Percy Smith,, while at the Admiralty, were the Naval Barracks at Whale Island, Portsmouth ; the completion of the Naval Barracks at Keyham; the Torpedo Range at Horsea Island in Portsmouth Harbour; the coaling arrangements for the dockyards of Portsmouth, Haulbowline and Portland Harbour; slipways for torpedo boats at various naval yards; the dredging of the harbours at Chatham and Portsmouth, for which he introduced the use of steam-hopper dredgers; and the sanitary improvement of all the naval establishments. He also prepared designs for a dry dock at Gibraltar, not yet commenced.

In July, 1890, increasing ill-health compelled General Percy Smith to resign the appointment of Director of Works, to the regret of all who had been associated with him at the Admiralty. He then lived in retirement at Bournemouth, where he employed himself in preparing a treatise on “Calculations for Building Structures” which formed. Part IV of a series of “Notes on Building Construction,” written by him, and published anonymously by Messrs. Rivington, for the use of the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education. This series is regarded as the best text-book on the subject and it is to be regretted that the Author’s name should be unknown to many who use and profit by it.

General Percy Smith died at Bournemouth on the 25th of April, 1893. He was a most conscientious and painstaking officer and in spite of the exhausting malady by which he was for many years afflicted his work was always carried out with great energy and thoroughness. Of kindly disposition and full of humour and anecdote, he was a true friend and most pleasant companion.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 4th of December, 1883.


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