b. 1871 Maidstone, Kent. d. 18/03/1946 Dartford, Kent.
James Smith (1871-1946) was born in 1871 in Maidstone, Kent. Little is known about his life around his service in the military. At a young age, he enlisted with the Buffs, East Kent Regiment and was soon promoted to Corporal.
He served mostly in India, and was most notably recognised for his actions during the Mohmand Campaign in 1897. On the night of 16th/17th September 1897, in the Mohmund Valley, North-West India, Corporal Smith, with other men, responded to a call for volunteers and followed two officers of the Royal Engineers (James Morris Colquhoun Colvin and Thomas Colclough Watson) into the burning village of Bilot, in an attempt to dislodge the enemy.
Afterwards, although wounded, Corporal Smith continued fighting steadily and coolly, and also helped to carry the wounded to the place prepared for them. When one of the officers left in order to get help, the corporal held the position until his return, exposing himself to great danger and directing the fire of his men.
Smith was gazetted for the VC, nearly a year later than both Colvin and Watson, on 21st April 1899. He was presented with his medal by the GOC Nagpur, Brigadier-General Sir R Westmancott on 5th July 1899. Smith remained serving in India after his VC action.
Not much is known about his later life, though he did eventually return to his native Kent. He eventually settled in Dartford, where he died at his home, 12 Wilmot Road, on 18th March 1946, aged 74. He was laid to rest in Watling Street Cemetery in Dartford. His medals were part of the Buffs Regimental Museum in Canterbury, though when that closed, the medals were transferred to the National Army Museum, Chelsea. Sadly, his medals are not currently displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA.
BURIAL PLACE: WATLING STREET CEMETERY, DARTFORD, KENT.
Kevin Brazier – Image of Smith’s Grave and the Cemetery Map of Watling Street Cemetery, Dartford.