Tributes to Esther: a life of service
2009: Tributes have been paid to Esther Smith, a “truly remarkable lady” and lifelong faithful soldier of the Salvation Army who has died at the age of 97.
Mrs Esther Smith, was born Esther Walker in 1912, in Heaton Norris, Stockport. Although she was less than five feet tall and of slight build, her diminutive size did not reflect her feisty determination. Her character developed suddenly with the outbreak of the Second World War. From a quiet young woman who worked in a northern cotton mill, never having left home, she applied for service with The Salvation Army Red Shield section, the night war was declared. For the next six years she worked in France, Italy, and North Africa supporting the tank regiments on the front line. In May 1944 Red Shield women drove mobile canteens across the swollen Rapido River in Italy, with the 8th Army spearhead. They wore battle-dress, but over their bunks at night hung the familiar poke bonnets of the Salvation Army war-time uniform!
Mrs Smith was awarded several service medals - The Defence Medal, The Victory Medal, The Italy Star, The War Medal and an Oak Leaf. She wore these with pride on Remembrance Sunday when for many years she laid the wreath on behalf of the British Legion in Sheringham.
She married Stan at The Salvation Army in Stockport in 1950 and then they worked his farm together near Fakenham, until Stan retired when they moved to Sheringham. Esther grew bountiful crops of vegetables, baked all her own bread and cakes as well as a couple of dozen Christmas cakes which she shared with friends and neighbours.
Corps Press Representative Annette Copeman says, "I once asked her, if she had a whole day to spend just as she wished, what would give her most enjoyment? She replied 'I would love to have a reunion with some of the old boys. Have a chat about the old days and locations that we were in and end up with the old songs. ‘The Old Rugged Cross’, ‘Abide with Me’, ‘Tell me the Old Old Story’. It would be a pleasure to hear them. In North Africa we were under canvas in a cork forest. Every evening we would organise an epilogue and 300 to 400 men would come and join us sitting around on tree stumps - the sound of the men singing was marvellous!'"
Promoted to Glory at 97, Esther’s thanksgiving service included stirring hymns of her choice and was followed by a traditional Salvation Army funeral procession; headed by the band, songsters and uniformed soldiers, through the streets of Sheringham. The pavements were lined with onlookers who watched as the soldiers saluted the coffin as it went on to St Faith’s for the committal in Norwich. She was a splendid Christian lady and a lifelong faithful soldier of the Salvation Army.