Second Lt Smith, 24, of 1/5th (TF) battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, 42nd Division, he won the VC for conspicuous bravery.
Dec 23rd 1915 he led a bombing party to make life difficult for the Turks as the Allies withdrew. After hours exchanging grenades and bombs. with it raining heavily making the ground muddy and treacherous, he again picked up a grenade, pulled the pin, slipped in the mud, fell and dropped the grenade which rolled near his men. In a split second decision, he threw himself past his men and on top of the grenade.
This is from a workshop I attended where we were to write to a person in WW1. It is part of a competition (possible) entry for Plans, Hopes & Dreams.
I sit here, in the comfort of a warm home with all the modern conveniences and technology that you could never have conceived in your time. I sit here and I consider you, your life cut short remedying a mistake you could not help making.
My day today involved coffee and writing. Slothful activities compared to what you endured during your time at war. You probably started your day in the open, cold and wet and muddy maybe – we’ve all heard tales from the trenches through our history books at school. I woke under a cosy duvet in a warm & dry home.
Did you understand as you woke each morning that this could be your last day? Were you more aware of your own mortality since joining up or was it just a job to be done and you took your chances as miners took theirs underground back home. When you stood there, gazing at the fallen grenade were there any doubts as to your next actions? Was it a conscious decision or instinct to save your comrades that made you crash past them and throw yourself down on the grenade in order to save them?
And save them for what? Save the world for what? We do not seem to have learned the lessons. We still send our people off to war for the sake of money, greed, power, oil, religion. All excuses for those in power to make their mark in history, or make a profit for their coffers.
I despair sometimes that humankind will never learn. We plant a host of ceramic poppies around the Tower, there’s one for you amongst them, but remembrance does not seem to equate to learning unfortunately.
Yet there are good people in this world, not necessarily always amongst the great and powerful whose names are known by many, but often amongst those quietly going about their day to day business and in small ways making life easier and more pleasant for others. If only all those small acts could come together, would that make a difference to the world today?
You made a huge sacrifice, and you did it to correct a mistake that you could probably not have avoided. What advice can I offer someone who could give his life for his friends? You could advise me far more, and you have, through your actions, given me a lot. Thoughts to ponder on how would I act in such a situation? Could I do the same? I’m not sure. We all like to think we would would but in that second of decision would we hesitate that moment too long?
Men like yourselves committed such wonderful acts of bravery and I hope that, if you saw the world today you would not be disappointed with the results of your legacy.