Ref NoFS
TitleFrederick Smith papers
Extent49 boxes
DescriptionThese papers illustrate the career of Frederick Smith, covering his days as a student at the Royal Veterinary College (1873-1876), as a veterinary officer for the cavalry in India (1879-1885), as professor at the Army Veterinary School, Aldershot, and then returning to service, rising through the ranks of the Army Veterinary Service during the Second Anglo-Boer War until joining the War Office during the First World War. Papers relating to this work include official correspondence, case notes, diaries and research data. Smith contributed a great deal of literature to the veterinary profession, with papers regularly published in journals from 1876 until the year of his death. This work is represented in papers including research notes and data, extracts from other sources, drafts and proofs, and published copies of the articles.

Smith's research and publications covered a broad scope, but there were particular interests in horse anatomy and physiology; stable hygiene and nutrition; saddlery; the loss of horses in war; and the eye and foot of the horse. Smith was also concerned with veterinary education and the reputation and status of the veterinary profession as a whole, and this is reflected in his correspondence with his peers.

There is very little information regarding Smith's personal and family life within the collection. Some mention is made in Smith's autobiography, but these papers are almost wholly concerned with Smith's professional life and activities.
ArrangementThese papers have been separated by series relating to different aspects of Smith's career. His work as a practising veterinary surgeon, author, and then as the Director of the Army Veterinary Service has been kept together in a SubFonds (FS/2). A separate SubFonds has been created for research papers, as these are more difficult to date, and ascribe to a particular stage in Smith's life (FS/1). Where possible, papers that Smith kept in a file together, have been kept together. It seems that Smith returned to old files and added to them at later stages. Loose papers without a clear file structure have been moved to relevant series according to subject matter.
PhysicalDescriptionManuscript and typescript papers, photographs, pamphlets and reprints, newspaper cuttings, sketches and paintings.
AdminHistoryMajor-General Sir Frederick Smith was born in Hull on 19 April 1857, the son of John Smith, a quarter-master in the Army and his wife Mary Jane. His father died in India whilst on foreign service, and Smith was educated at the expense of the Patriotic Fund, both at school and when he entered the Royal Veterinary College in London on 1st October 1873. Whilst at the College, he formed a lifelong friendship with John Henry Steel. He was awarded his diploma with ‘great credit’ when he was still only nineteen, and also won the Coleman Medal and several other prizes and medals. Smith applied to join the Army, his application was initially deferred and he was advised to get some practical experience, which he did, joining a large, mostly equestrian practice in Islington for eight months. He later passed the Army examination and was gazetted on 9th December 1876.

He was initially posted to an artillery regiment based in Woolwich. On being commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery, he left for India on 21st October 1877 and was posted to Lucknow where he developed some inflammation of an eye which necessitated his return to England. His eye troubles were quickly cured by the prescription of glasses and he returned to India soon after. Meanwhile he had married Mary Ann Briggs on 27th November 1879. He was transferred to the 12th Lancers on his return to India and served with them from 1879 to 1885. On joining the 12th Lancers, he became particularly interested in problems caused by horses with sore back. Rejecting the then prevailing view that these were caused by careless riding, he eventually established that they were they were the result of ill-fitting saddles. His observations on the subject eventually resulted in the publication of ‘A Manual of Saddles and Sore Backs’ which became part of the 'Army Manual on the Care and Management of Horses'. He also wrote and published papers on various subjects, including food and feeding, eyes and the results of experiments carried out on the action of medicines on horses. Together with John Steel, he founded the first veterinary periodical devoted to India, 'The Quarterly Journal of Veterinary Science in India' and 'Army Animal Management' (1882-1888). Smith was invalided back to England in 1885 and resigned as co-editor of the Journal in 1887 over a disagreement with John Steel’s father. John Steel had by then become Principal of the Bombay Veterinary School and died in 1888, when the Journal died with him.

Back in England, Smith devoted himself to research and teaching at Netley College, whilst on six months sick leave. He studied ventilation in stables and his results were published in 1887 in his ‘Manual of Veterinary Hygiene’.

When posted as Assistant Professor to the Army Veterinary School in Aldershot, he refused to teach the young officers the treatment of disease, believing that they should limit themselves to learning about the care and prevention of disease. He also lectured the farriers on nursing. His firm belief was that the Army Veterinary School should become a major centre for research into animal disease. He was subsequently appointed Professor and worked at the School for nine years. The supply of animal lymph for the vaccination of soldiers had, until 1888, been the responsibility of the National Vaccine Institute. An outbreak of smallpox in that year caused a shortage of lymph and Smith put forward a plan for the Army to open its own vaccine institute, which was accepted. After taking a course in animal vaccination at the National Vaccine Institute, he opened an Army Vaccine Institute in Aldershot.

He wrote in 1892 there was considerable resentment amongst veterinary officer regarding their ‘position, prospects, pay and pension’. Smith published a list of recommendations for improvements to the promotion and pension of veterinary officers, including giving the Director General the rank of Major General. The recommendations were eventually accepted in full, although it took about ten years for this to happen. Wanting to inform potential candidates about life in the Veterinary Service, he wrote an article entitled ‘Veterinary Life in the Army’ which was published in the 'Veterinary Record' under the alias of ‘Kudyard Ripling’ (1892).

He left the School in January 1893 and went back to regimental duties, still in Aldershot. In that year he was also appointed Examiner in physiology for the diploma of the RCVS. He was posted to the remount depot in Woolwich in ‘1896 or 1897’, where he formed a lifelong friendship with his superior, Colonel Tollmer.

In the autumn of 1898 he was sent to the ‘Soudan’ [Sudan], and then in 1899 sent to South Africa, having first gone to London to choose hundreds of horses for the war taking place there. His book, 'Veterinary History of the War in South Africa' gives a detailed account of the two and a half years he spent there as Principal Veterinary Officer.

He returned to England in 1906 as Principal Veterinary Officer to the Eastern Command. In 1907 he was appointed Director General of the Army Veterinary Service, thereby reaching ‘the top rung of the ladder’ after 31 years’ service. When the Territorial Force and Army Reserve Service were created in 1908 he was the driving force behind the establishment of the Army Veterinary Service as a separate directorate, something about which he felt strongly enough to take on the military establishment, with the help of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. However he then had to fight on to see some of his proposals pushed through, despite strong opposition from various quarters, including the Treasury. During that time he also encountered opposition from the Cavalry regiments who felt threatened by his attempts to remove the responsibility for treatment of sick horses from Cavalry officers. He established a veterinary store at the Woolwich depot which went on to keep the Armies in Europe, Asia and Africa fully supplied during the First WorldWar.

He retired in 1910. A year after he left, the War Office agreed to form a separate directorate for the Veterinary Service as a result of which he wrote that ‘the future was assured’. He then devoted his time to research work. His 'Veterinary History of the War in South Africa' was serialised in the 'Veterinary Record' between 1912 and 1914. Having intended to publish his History as a book with a foreword by Sir Evelyn Wood, he was told that unless he removed Sir Evelyn’s foreword, he would have to delay publication until after the end of the war because it was so critical of Lord Kitchener and the Remount Service. He chose to delay publication and his book didn’t appear until 1919.

He volunteered for service with the Honourable Artillery Company when war broke out and was posted to Salisbury in an administrative capacity, where he set about organising the care of sick horses in his charge. He remained there for twenty-two months, until he retired once again in May 1916. He then spent eighteen months ‘munition making’ and also manufacturing surgical appliances. In December 1917 Major General Blenkinsop invited him to work with him in the War Office, a position he readily accepted. He finally retired in September 1919, when he devoted himself to new writing and revising his previous publications.

He suffered a heart attack in May 1928, despite which he went on working until his death on 27th July 1929. He was not a religious man and left instructions that his heart should be removed and examined by Sir Thomas Lewis and Dr Tom Hare, and his body cremated. He asked that his ashes and his heart should then be placed in the Pathological Museum of the Royal Veterinary College (where they remain to this day), so that ‘I am not to be separated from the work I have loved so well’.

[For full biography please see attached authority record]
CustodialHistorySmith did some work to organise and weed his papers in the years before he died, and arranged for them to be deposited at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons after his death. Some papers may have come to the RCVS before he died. It is assumed that correspondence from Smith to Fred Bullock, Secretary of the RCVS, were merged into the papers at some point. J W Barber-Lomax did some work to arrange the papers, and removed them temporarily from the RCVS for research purposes.
RelatedMaterialThe Library of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons holds copies of Frederick Smith's publications, and a few of his possessions.
RepositoryRCVS Knowledge (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Trust)
DS/UK/1Smith; Sir; Frederick (1857-1929); Major-General; Army Veterinary Surgeon; author1857-1929
DS/UK/2Bullock; Fred (1878-1946); Dr; Barrister-at-Law1878-1946
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