Later this year, the Council will receive a commemorative stone in respect of Ned Smith. Edward Benn (Ned) Smith, VC, DCM, was born in Maryport on 10 November 1898. Unusually, he won both the Distinguished Service Medal & the Victoria Cross in quick succession, during the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’ of World War 1.
As a Corporal, Ned Smith won the DCM for leading a small party of men in a successful attack on an enemy outpost, despite being heavily outnumbered, on 10 August 1918. As well as being awarded the DCM, Ned Smith was promoted to Lance Sergeant in recognition of his role in this action. Only eleven days later, during the period 21 to 23 August, whilst in charge of a small platoon, Ned Smith personally took a machine gun post, despite being under fire & subject to grenade attack. Later, he assisted another platoon, leading the men in capturing the objective. The following day, he led a group in restoring a portion of the battle line. Ned Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in this action, one of the youngest recipients of the award. The London Gazette Supplement of 18 October 1918 reported that:
‘His personal bravery, skill and initiative were outstanding, and his conduct throughout an inspiring example to all’
On returning to Maryport after the war, Ned Smith was greeted by a crowd of some 6,000 people, equivalent to the population of the town at that time. A local newspaper reported that:
‘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.’
As World War 2 loomed in summer 1939, Ned Smith re-enlisted with his former Regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers, and was among the first contingent of the British Expeditionary Force for France. He was a Lieutenant & Quartermaster when he died in France from a gunshot wound on 12 January 1940. He is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery of Beuvry, in France.