b. 1890 Guilden Sutton, Cheshire. d. 08/06/1964 Boscombe, Dorset.
DATE OF AM ACTION: 13/08/1917 North Atlantic.
Robert was the eldest son of six children born to Robert Cathcart and Mary Ann Smith (nee Garnett). By 1911, Robert was studying medicine at the Trinity College, Cambridge, but his studies were interrupted by the Great War. He volunteered to join the Royal Navy and became a Probationary Surgeon, presumably because he had completed his studies by 1914 or 1915 although he had not necessarily been awarded his diploma by then. He was mentioned in despatches twice before the award of the Albert Medal aboard HMS Bergemont in 1917. In 1922, Robert married a widow, Amy (known as Pamela) Parlette (nee Ranson) in Willesden, and they had two daughters, Pamela Elizabeth and Margaret.
He qualified as a Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery of the Society of Apothecaries in 1927 and was entitled to use the post-nominal letters L.M.S.S.A. This appears to be his only qualification and was a less than common way to becoming a qualified doctor. In 1931 and 1935 his address is given as Caterham Mental Hospital, Caterham, Surrey. In 1939, ’43, ’47 and ‘1951 his address is given as 253 Coulsdon Road, Caterham, Surrey. As this house is only about a mile away from the hospital I suspect that he spent his career as a doctor just in that one hospital (although there used to be a clutch of mental hospitals just outside the area at the time he was working).
In 1951 he retired to Corfe Mullen, just to the north of Poole and not far from Bournemouth. He died in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Boscombe on 8th June 1964. He left £580 in his will to his widow Pamela.
Surgeon Probationer Robert Sydney Steele Smith, R.N.V.R., was Medical Officer of one of H.M. ships which was torpedoed by an enemy submarine. When the enemy torpedo struck the ship Surgeon Probationer Smith was in the wardroom aft with the 1st Lieutenant. The explosion wrecked the wardroom and rendered the 1st Lieutenant unconscious. All other exits being blocked, Surgeon Probationer Smith piled the wrecked furniture under the skylight, and got the 1st Lieutenant through this on deck. He then attended to a Petty Officer who was lying on deck with a broken arm and leg, adjusted and blew up his life-belt, and after doing the same for the 1st Lieutenant got him overboard, as the ship was then foundering. The 1st Lieutenant was by then partially conscious, but was again stunned owing to an explosion when the vessel foundered, and when he was picked up by the boat he was apparently dead. Surgeon Probationer Smith applied artificial respiration until the 1st Lieutenant showed signs of life; he afterwards attended to the injured in the boat so far as the circumstances allowed, until they were picked up forty-three hours later.
BURIAL LOCATION: ST CLEMENT’S CHURCHYARD, BOSCOMBE, BOURNEMOUTH, DORSET.
Grave lost. Headstones removed due to vandalism.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.