Edward Benn Smith
|Born||10 November 1898|
|Died||12 January 1940 (aged 41)|
Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension
|Years of service||1918–1938|
|Battles/wars||First World War Second World War †|
Distinguished Conduct Medal
|Relations||Mother Martha Benn Father Charles Henry Smith|
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
He is unusual in having gained both the DCM and VC, and in quick succession, during the Hundred Days Offensive.
Distinguished Conduct Medal
On 10 August 1918, then a Corporal with the 1/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, he was leading a daylight patrol near Hébuterne 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.
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), 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."
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.
World War II
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.
He was a Lieutenant and quartermaster when he died in France from a gunshot wound in the head on 12 January 1940, five months before the start of the Battle of France in May. Smith is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery of Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension.