MIL Canada's Last Surviving Victorian Cross winner put to Rest

Discussion in 'On Topic' started by Jason H, Aug 13, 2005.

  1. Jason H

    Jason H Active Member

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    [​IMG]
    Sergeant Ravi Gill from US Marine Corps Reserve of Albuquerque New Mexico, salutes the casket of Ernest Alvia 'Smokey' Smith at the Seaforth Highlanders Armoury in Vancouver, British Columbia, August 12, 2005. Smith, the last of Canada's sixteen Second World War Victoria Cross recipients, died at the age of 91 on August 3, 2005. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford

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    This post will be updated throughout the day as more images become available.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2005
  2. Jason H

    Jason H Active Member

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    Citation

    'In Italy on the night of 21st-22nd October 1944, a Canadian Infantry Brigade was ordered to establish a bridgehead across the Savio River. The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada were selected as the spearhead of the attack, and in weather most unfavourable to the operation they crossed the river and captured their objective in spite of strong opposition from the enemy.

    Torrential rain had caused the Savio River to rise six feet in five hours, and as the soft vertical banks made it impossible to bridge the river no tanks or anti-tank guns could be taken across the raging stream to the support of the rifle companies.

    As the right forward company was consolidating its objective it was suddenly counter-attacked by a troop of three Mark V Panther tanks supported by two self-propelled guns and about thirty infantry and the situation appeared hopeless.

    Under heavy fire from the approaching enemy tanks, Private Smith, showing great initiative and inspiring leadership, led his P.I.A.T.(1) Group of two men across an open field to a position from which the P.I.A.T. could best be employed. Leaving one man on the weapon, Private Smith crossed the road with a companion and obtained another P.I.A.T. Almost immediately an enemy tank came down the road firing its machine-guns along the line of the ditches. Private Smith's comrade was wounded. At a range of thirty feet and having to expose himself to the full view of the enemy, Private Smith fired the P.I.A.T. and hit the tank, putting it out of action. Ten German infantry immediately jumped off the back of the tank and charged him with Schmeissers and grenades. Without hesitation Private Smith moved out on the road and with his Tommy gun at point-blank range, killed four Germans and drove the remainder back. Almost immediately another tank opened fire and more enemy infantry closed in on Smith's position. Obtaining some abandoned Tommy gun magazines from a ditch, he steadfastly held his position, protecting his comrade and fighting the enemy with his Tommy gun until they finally gave up and withdrew in disorder.

    One tank and both self-propelled guns had been destroyed by this time, but yet another tank swept the area with fire from a longer range. Private Smith, still showing utter contempt for enemy fire, helped his wounded friend to cover and obtained medical aid for him behind a nearby building. He then returned to his position beside the road to await the possibility of a further enemy attack.

    No further immediate attack developed, and as a result the battalion was able to consolidate the bridgehead position so vital to the success of the whole operation, which led to the capture of San Giorgio Di Cesena and a further advance to the Ronco River.

    Thus, by the dogged determination, outstanding devotion to duty and superb gallantry of this private soldier, his comrades were so inspired that the bridgehead was held firm against all enemy attacks, pending the arrival of tanks and anti-tank guns some hours later.'
     
  3. TheNewMonaro

    TheNewMonaro New Member

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    God speed to him...

    One of my relos won a VC, unfortunately my grandmother and her siblings decided to donate his medals to the war memorial in Canberra... I would have loved to have them... :hs:
     
  4. mongorunner

    mongorunner New Member

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    that pic looks 'shopped



    and that guy appeared to be one hell of a hero:cool:
     
  5. Jason H

    Jason H Active Member

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    Picture is from Yahoo. I wasn't able to attend but I'll update later after people start submitting pictures.
     
  6. Jason H

    Jason H Active Member

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    War hero Smokey Smith remembered as Canadian icon at massive military funeral

    Elianna Lev
    Canadian Press

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    VANCOUVER (CP) - War hero Sgt. Ernest (Smokey) Smith was been remembered by Defence Minister Bill Graham as an inspiration to all Canadians whose death marks a milestone in the country's history.

    Smith's funeral followed a solemn military procession that made its way through downtown Vancouver to honour the last surviving winner of the Victoria Cross in Canada.

    Thousands of people lined the streets in bright sunshine to bid farewell to Smith, who died 10 days ago at the age of 91.

    Smith's flag-draped coffin was carried to his funeral on a vintage gun carriage, accompanied by hundreds of military personnel from across the country.

    The procession to commemorate Smith is the largest that Canada has seen in 50 years.

    As his coffin crossed the Burrard Street Bridge, a group of CF-18 jets roared above the ceremony as they performed the Missing Man formation, traditionally used to mark the loss of a comrade.

    Smith won the Victoria Cross for single-handedly holding off German tanks and troops in a battle in Italy in October 1944 during the Second World War. The medal is the Commonwealth's highest award for bravery.

    The procession from the Seaforth Highlanders Armoury along Burrard Street to St. Andrew's Wesley United Church included a band and pipers.

    The Smith family followed the procession, which included RCMP officers, in two limousines.

    As the procession neared the church it was joined by veterans of the Second World War.

    Eight pallbearers dressed in the tartan kilts of the Seaforth Highlanders carried Smith's coffin into the church as those standing shoulder-to-shoulder outside broke into applause.

    Inside the church, the commanding officer of his regiment said Smith should not just be remembered for his bravery in battle, but also for his life as a husband and father after the war.

    "All Canadians have lost a great Canadian hero," said Lt.-Col. Rob Roy MacKenzie.

    A military chaplain said the week of mourning to mark Smith's death has been overwhelming.

    "This has been an incredible week," said Rev. Jim Short, senior chaplain to 39 Brigade Group based in British Columbia. "This has been a time of tears and a time of laughter, a time of celebration and a time of mourning, a time of story telling and a time of lament."

    Like many who spoke, Graham paid tribute to Smith not just as a soldier, but as a colourful character who was known for his love of life.

    "His passing marks a milestone in Canadian history and we will forever be indebted and grateful as a nation for his conspicuous bravery," he said. "He was and always will be a much respected and remarkable national hero."

    Smith's last request was to be buried at sea and on Sunday his ashes will be scattered on the Pacific Ocean during a private service aboard HMCS Ottawa.

    His death set the stage for a period of mourning for a veteran unlike the country has seen since the death of First World War flying ace Billy Bishop in 1956.

    Smith won the Victoria Cross for acts of bravery after Seaforth Highlanders were selected to establish a bridgehead across the Savio River in the push to liberate Cesena.

    Torrential rain had caused the river to rise, making it impossible to get tanks across the muddy river banks. Without regard for his own safety, Smith valiantly fought back German tanks and troops to help secure the Canadian position.

    Since the inception of the VC in 1856, 94 Canadians have received the award given for bravery or some daring act of valour or self-sacrifice.

    Earlier this week, Smith's coffin lay in state on Parliament Hill, where Prime Minister Paul Martin and Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson were among the thousands who paid their respects.

    Smith was born in New Westminster, B.C., on May 3, 1914, just weeks before the start of the First World War. He was a joyful man who savoured a good cigar and a well-aged scotch.

    Described by his friends as the salt of the earth, Smith was also a natural-born diplomat whose status as a war hero meant he spent time in the company of royalty, presidents and prime ministers.

    Last fall, Italians and Canadians gathered beneath the walls of an 800-year-old castle in Cesena to honour Smith, whose nickname came from his running ability in school, for the bravery he showed on the battlefield that saved untold lives and changed his own forever.

    For Smith, that night was about survival.

    "If you're not afraid, there's something wrong with you," he said. "You've got to do it. Don't worry about it.

    "Do it."

    After his death, the prime minister thanked Smith's family on behalf of "a grateful and indebted nation."

    Smith's "conspicuous bravery, initiative and leadership in the face of enemy fire during World War II inspired fellow Canadians everywhere - in action and on the home front," Martin said.

    Comrades knew him as "a soldier's soldier," and independently minded man whose relationship with the army was stormy. He was made him a corporal nine times and busted him back to private nine times.

    He held the rank of private when he was awarded the VC, making him the only Canadian private to win the medal in the Second World War.

    Smith was promoted sergeant before he retired from the military. He became a newspaper photographer before starting his own travel business with wife Esther and worked until he was 82.

    Late in life he was largely confined to a wheelchair, but he said last year he didn't dwell on what happened during the war.

    "Once it's over, it's over," he said. "It was a good life."

    © The Canadian Press 2005
     
  7. Jason H

    Jason H Active Member

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