This Day In History

1918 Battle of The Lys - Battle of Hazebrouck. In the face of 3 successive attacks, stubborn defence by 11th East Lancashires - the Accrington Pals - helps to defend Hazebrouck at cost of 267 casualties killed, wounded and prisoners-of-war. The battalion later received 16 gallantry awards for this action - 2 DSOs, 5 MC's, 3 DCMs and 6 MMs
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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.