b. 29/10/1885 Farcet, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. d. 1946 Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
DATE OF AM ACTION: 24/10/1908 Woburn, Bedfordshire.
George Henry was born on 29th October 1885 in Farcet, near Peterborough, the son of William and Whybree Smith (nee French). By 1901, his family had moved to Woburn Sands, and were living at The Leys Farm, where his father was the farm foreman. George was their oldest surviving son, and had already started work as a brickyard labourer by the age of 15. The Royal Humane Society honoured him with the silver medal for saving life. One recipient of this medal was chosen each year to also receive the gold medal of the Society, known as “The Stanhope Medal”. On February 27th, 1909, Smith went to Marlborough House to be presented to The Prince Of Wales, president of the Royal Humane Society. Admiral Sir George Digby Morent (deputy chairman of the RHS) described how there had been five silver medals awarded for 1908, but the committee had unanimously decided that the Stanhope Medal for 1908 should go to Smith.
This Gold Medal was accompanied by a £5 gift. The Prince of Wales told Smith he was “exceedingly pleased to meet such a brave man, and hoped he would live long to wear his medals and feel proud of an act of bravery which was of no ordinary character.” Sir William Bull M.P. thanked the Prince on behalf of the Society.
This was not the end of the recognition of Smith’s act of bravery. On 22nd July, 1909, Smith went to Buckingham Palace to be awarded ‘The Albert Medal’ 2nd Class, by King Edward VII.Possibly because of the injuries he received, or the help he needed to recuperate afterwards, by the time of the 1911 census they had moved back to the Peterborough area and were living at 63 Alexandra Villa, Old Fletton, just a mile or so from where they had come from originally. The then 25-year-old George was working as a Farm Labourer. I believe he was married to an Elizabeth Ding at Peterborough at the end of 1913 and they were both still alive and living at 45 Paston Lane, Peterborough at the time of the 1939 Register. He died in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in 1946, aged 60.
On the 24th October, 1908, a workman at the Woburn Sands Brickworks, named Charles Griffin, was precipitated to the bottom of one of the kilns owing to the roof collapsing, and was imprisoned by hot ballast and bricks, the upper part of his body alone being free. His comrade Smith on hearing of the accident at once went to his rescue, but to effect an entry proved to be a work of some difficulty as the wicket through which the bricks were taken into and removed from the kiln was almost completely blocked. He succeeded, however, in reaching his comrade and in removing the bricks and ballast imprisoning the fallen man, who was eventually drawn up to the top of the kiln by means of a rope fastened under his armpits. Griffin subsequently died of the injuries he sustained.
BURIAL LOCATION: UNKNOWN.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD. BEING SOLD AT SPINK ON 04/04/2023.
Allan Stanistreet – Image of George Henry Smith AM.
Dix Noonan Webb – Image of the George Henry Smith AM medal group.
Spinks – Image of Medal Group and of George H Smith AM.