b. 14/08/1868 Westminster, London. d. 21/07/1941 Balmoral, Victoria, Australia.
Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth (1868-1941) was born on 14th August 1868 at 13, Victoria Street, Westminster, London, the second son of Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth, FRS, of Marazion, Cornwall. His father was a noted geologist, and his grandfather was Admiral W.H. Smyth. His father’s sister Henrietta Grace Powell was Robert Baden-Powell’s mother making Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement, Smyth’s first cousin.
Smyth was educated at Westminster School and graduated from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1888. He was posted to the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) in India as a Second Lieutenant on 22 August 1888. In 1890 he was attached to the Royal Engineers to assist with a railway survey during the Zhob Valley expedition.
In the Dongola Expedition of 1896, he was employed on special service with the Intelligence Department. He was Orderly Officer to the Officer Commanding the Mounted Forces in the Battle of Firket and pursuit to Suarda. For his services in the campaign, he received the Medal with two clasps, the 4th Class Order of Medjidie, and was mentioned in despatches.
In the Sudan Campaign of 1897, he acted as Staff Officer to Sir Leslie Rundle, Commanding Dongola Province, and was given command of the advanced posts on the Atbara; commanded infantry and machine guns at the gunboat bombardment of Metemmeh and Battle of Atbara. He was also present at the Battle of Omdurman, where he was severely wounded, and mentioned in despatches. Subsequently, he was given the British Medal for Khartoum, and was also awarded the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 15th November 1898) for his actions at the Battle of Khartoum on 2nd September 1898.
At the Battle of Khartum on 2 September 1898, Captain Smyth galloped forward and attacked an Arab who had run amok among some camp followers. Captain Smyth received the Arab’s charge, and killed him, being wounded with a spear in the arm whilst in doing so. He thus saved the life of at least one of the Camp Followers.
Smyth received his VC on 6th January 1899 at an investiture at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, from Queen Victoria. He then returned to the Sudan where he helped suppress the uprising on the Blue Nile of Khalifa Sherif. He was awarded the 4th Class Osmanieh and four bars to his Egyptian Medal.
In 1902, he served as APM and DAAG in Lawley’s Column in South Africa, and for his services received the King’s Medal with three clasps and the Brevet of Major. He was duly promoted to Major in 1903, and to Colonel in 1912. He then became Commandant of the Khartoum District from 1913-1914. On the outbreak of the Great War, the now Brigadier-General Smyth, commanded the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade at the Dardanelles operations from 20th May 1915, including the assault on Lone Pine on 6th August 1915. In 1916, he was created a Companion of Bath.
In 1916, he was present at the First Battle of the Somme, including the capture of Pozieres on 23rd July 1916. In 1917, he saw action in Bapaume and the capture of the Hindenburg Line, and at the Third Battle of Ypres, for which he was awarded the Belgian Military Cross. During the Great War, he was mentioned in despatches eight times. Following the war, he commanded the 58th (London) Division in 1918, and the 59th Division from 1918-1919, including the command of the Portuguese Artillery and Infantry. He was knighted in June 1919.
Following his Army career, he retired and settled in Australia. He died on 21st July 1941 on his Kongbol Homestead, near Balmoral, Victoria, Australia. He was buried in Balmoral Cemetery, and his medals are held by his family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: BALMORAL CEMETERY, BALMORAL, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA.
Bonnie Atteridge (Smyth’s granddaughter) – Images of the Smyth VC Medal Group.