Henry Smith VC

b. 1825 Thames Ditton, Surrey. d. 18/08/1862 Gwalior, India. 

Henry Smith (1825-1862) was born in Thames Ditton, Surrey in 1825, but little is known about his life outside of the Army. He enlisted with the 52nd Regiment of Foot (later Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) at Ditton, Surrey on 9th February 1853.

H Smith VC Medal Group RGJ Museum

He would be immediately recommended for the VC by Colonel Campbell following his actions on 14th September 1857. As part of the No 3 Column, Smith had charged through the smoke and rubble of the Kashmir Gate which had been dynamited. He fought his way up to the Chandni Chouk (Silver Bazaar), where it was planned to link up with the other columns. It met with such resistance that Campbell’s men fell back and regrouped at the Bagam Bagh for 80 minutes.

Pressure again forced the column to retire to St James’ Church, which they were able to hold. It was during this retirement that Henry Smith charged forward under heavy fire and rescued a wounded comrade, pulling him to safety. His lifesaving action was mentioned in Campbell’s despatch of 16th September. Five days later, on 21st September, General Wilson’s General Orders declared that Smith had been awarded the VC. It was gazetted on 24th April 1858, the same date as John Smith and Robert Hawthorne but, like them, there appears to have been no formal presentation of the medals.

Little more is known about Henry, except that he chose to remain in India after the Mutiny and rose to the rank of Sergeant. Sadly, during an epidemic of cholera whilst he was stationed in Gwalior, he contracted the disease and died on 18th August 1862. Due to the size of the epidemic and death toll, he was buried in a mass unmarked grave in Gwalior Cemetery later the same day. Smith’s VC and Indian Mutiny medals are held by the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.