This article is based on material sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, Feb 2018.
One of the most interesting graves in St. Saviour’s Cemetery in Eddington commemorates John Alan Smith (always known as Alan); the inscription tells us he was a Major and was awarded an OBE. But who was this man with the everyman, anonymous name of John Smith?
John Alan Smith was born in Cambridge on 16 February, 1921 and later baptised on 24 April 1921 at the Holy Trinity Church. His parents, John and Annie Winifred Jackson were living at St. Peter’s Cottage, Chesterton near Cambridge. His father was a publican. His daughter Angela Ford kindly emailed (Dec 2020) to add that "one of his pubs was the Blue Ball in Grantchester where he was well known as Jack Smith".
From Cambridgeshire High School for Boys he joined the Cambridgeshire Regiment of the Territorial Army and as WW2 broke out in 1939 he rose to the rank of colour sergeant in the Sherwood Foresters. This was one rank below that of a warrant officer.
In 1942, he was commissioned from the ranks into the Suffolk Regiment and fought with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in North Africa and Sicily.
He later became a staff captain at the army’s General Headquarters, 2nd Echelon, which was responsible for the administrative, operational and logistical needs of its unit. In particular, it provided bi-directional flow of information between a commanding officer and subordinate military units and useful information needed by the army’s commanders.
Towards the end of his military career, he worked at the Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) in Italy in a GSO 2 Intelligence unit which formed part of M.I.9.
After being demobbed with the rank of major in 1946, he was appointed Conservative agent for South-West Norfolk, and later for Huntingdon.
In 1968, Alan Smith moved to London as deputy Central Office agent for the South East.
In 1975, he was appointed secretary of the Conservatives’ National Union (now National Conservative Convention). His tasks included organising the party’s annual October conference, which then alternated between Brighton and Blackpool, although even before the 1984 Brighton bombing, he had already arranged for the 1986 conference to be moved to Bournemouth.
On 12 October 1984 at 2.54 am, an IRA-planted bomb ripped through the Grand Hotel on the seafront at Brighton causing extensive damage to the building and many injuries.
He had always planned to retire at the end of 1984, “but to finish my political career in such sadness over the death and injury of so many people I had worked with was a traumatic ending I had never expected.”
He was appointed OBE in 1984 in respect of his political service.
In 1945, Alan Smith married Pamela Hosking in Cambridge and they had three children: Anthony, Carol and Angela Smith. At the time of his death on 13 October, 2014, he was living at 3 Pound Piece, just off Smitham Bridge Road.