This Day In History

  • 1775 In the early hours a small British force, including the Grenadier and Light Companies of the 47th (later 1st Loyals) and 59th (later 2nd East Lancashires), sets out from Boston, Massachusetts for Concord, some 20 miles away, to destroy a colonial munitions depot. At dawn at Lexington they are confronted by the local militia and the first shots of the American Revolution are fired. A further engagement follows at Concord where about 500 Militiamen defeat three British companies and force the British column to begin its return march to Boston. Reinforced at Lexington by a relief force including the rest of the 47th, the march is carried out under sustained fire from concealed insurgents, and the American War of Independence has begun.
  • 1854 47th Regiment (later the 1st Loyals) disembark at Scutari, opposite Constantinople, to join the 2nd Division, part of the British Army concentrating in preparation for the Crimean War. They are quartered in the huge Turkish barracks there, later to become famous as the British base hospital where Florence Nightingale effected her nursing reforms.
  • 1880 2nd Afghan War. Battle of Ahmed Kel. 59th Regiment (soon to 2nd East Lancashires) is hard-pressed on the right of the British line.  The Regiment forms square around its colours. It is the last occasion on which colours are carried by a British regiment on a victorious field. Afterwards 1,000 dead lie in front of the British line, with 600 around the 59th's position. The shell-torn colours are now displayed in the Sergeant's Mess of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.
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2nd Lieutenant Alfred Victor Smith VC

Alfred Victor Smith VC. This portrait, showing him at Gallipoli and holding a grenade, was commissioned by Burnley Corporation in 1916 and paid for by public subscription. It is on display in Towneley Hall Museum, Burnley.

Alfred Smith was born in Guildford, Surrey, in 1891. The son of a police officer, he moved with his family several times in his youth, and was at one time a boy chorister at St Albans Cathedral.

When he was 14 his father was appointed Chief Constable of Burnley, Lancashire, and the family moved to the town, where Alfred completed his education at Burnley Grammar School. He left school at 18 and joined the Blackpool Police Force.

When World War I broke out he immediately enlisted and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st/5th Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment, on 10 October 1914

He landed on the Gallipoli peninsula with his battalion on 13 May 1915.

On 23 December 1915 he was instructing men in grenade-throwing. What happened next is best described in the words of the citation to his posthumous VC, gazetted on 3 March 1916:

“For most conspicuous bravery. He was in the act of throwing a grenade when it slipped from his hand and fell into the bottom of the trench, close to several of our officers and men. He immediately shouted out a warning, and himself jumped clear and into safety; but seeing  that the officers and men were unable to get into cover, and knowing well that the grenade was due to explode, he returned without any hesitation and flung himself down on it. He was killed instantly by the explosion. His magnificent act of self sacrifice undoubtedly saved many lives.”

He is buried in 12 Tree Copse Cemetery on Gallipoli, although the precise location of his grave is not known.

Alfred Smith's grave marker in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Gallipoli

Alfred Smith’s grave marker in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Gallipoli

He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his action.

His Victoria Cross, and other medals and memorabilia, are on display in Towneley Hall Museum, Burnley.