Edward Smith (VC)

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For other people named Edward Smith, see Edward Smith (disambiguation).
Edward Benn Smith
EdwardSmithVC.jpg
Born (1898-11-10)10 November 1898
Maryport, Cumberland
Died 12 January 1940(1940-01-12) (aged 41)
Bucquoy, France
Buried at Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1918–1938
1939–1940
Rank Lieutenant
Unit Lancashire Fusiliers
Battles/wars World War I
World War II  
Awards Victoria Cross
Distinguished Conduct Medal

Edward Benn ('Ned') Smith VC, DCM (10 November 1898 – 12 January 1940) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

World War I[edit]

He is unusual in having gained both the DCM and VC, and in quick succession, during the Hundred Days Offensive.

Distinguished Conduct Medal[edit]

On 10 August 1918, then a Corporal with the 1/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, he was leading a daylight patrol near Hebuteme in the Somme Area of France to examine points in the German lines where information was required. As the patrol was about to retire, Ned Smith saw a party of about 40 Germans about to take up outpost duty. Despite being heavily outnumbered by the German soldiers, Corporal Smith led his small party of men and engaged the enemy, breaking up the German party and causing severe casualties. As well as receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal for this action, Ned Smith was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant.

Victoria Cross[edit]

Only 11 days later, during the period 21/23 August 1918, east of Serre, France, Lance-Sergeant Smith while in command of a platoon, personally took a machine-gun post at The Lozenge (Hill 140),[1] rushing the garrison with his rifle and bayonet. The enemy on seeing him coming, scattered to throw hand grenades at him, but heedless of all danger and almost without halting in his rush, this NCO shot at least six of them. Later, seeing another platoon needing assistance, he led his men to them, took command and captured the objective. During an enemy counter-attack the following day he led a section forward and restored a portion of the line. According to the London Gazette Supplement of 18 October 1918:

"His personal bravery, skill and initiative were outstanding, and his conduct throughout an inspiring example to all."

Interwar[edit]

According to "The Whitehaven News", a local West Cumbrian newspaper, when he returned to his home town of Maryport after the Great War in 1919, he was greeted by a cheering crowd of 6,000 people, equivalent to the town's total population at the time. Another local newspaper described Ned Smith in the following terms:

"Sergeant Smith is not only a VC but looks it. He is a British soldier every inch of him. He is an A1 man from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. .... He has not only won the VC but he has a chest on which to display it."

He continued serving, from 1918–38, in China, Malalya and Ireland, before retiring with an Army pension having attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major. He then joined the Corps of Commissionaires in London for about a year.

In 1921, he attended a Garden Party held at Buckingham Palace by King George V of England for Victoria Cross holders, as the youngest recipient present. He never married.

World War II[edit]

As war loomed in summer 1939, he re-enlisted with his former Regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers and was among the first contingent of the British Expeditionary Force to sail for France.

Having achieved the rank of Lieutenant, he was killed in action in France, on 12 January 1940 (possibly due to friendly fire, this was five months before the start of the Battle of France in May) and is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery of Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Frederick P. Gibbon. The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division 1914-1918. London: Country Life, 1920. pages 156-157
  2. ^ CWGC entry

References[edit]

External links[edit]