Smith – Lance Sergeant Edward Benn (Ned)

10 November 1898 – 12 January 1940:-

Edward, known as Ned, was born in Maryport, Cumberland and worked as a miner in Oughterside Colliery until 1917, when he enlisted with the 1/5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers at the age of 18. In a little over a year, he would be promoted to the rank of Sergeant and be awarded the DCM and VC for separate incidents in August 1918.

In August 1918, then a Corporal, whilst leading a patrol he ambushed a party of more than 40 enemy soldiers inflicting severe casualties. This earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal and saw him promoted to Lance Sergeant.

During the period 21st to 23rd August 1918, east of Serre, France, Lance-Sergeant Smith while in command of a platoon, personally took a machine-gun post at The Lozenge (Hill 140), rushing the garrison with his rifle and bayonet. The enemy on seeing him coming, scattered to throw hand grenades at him, but heedless of all danger and almost without halting in his rush, this NCO shot at least six of them. Later, seeing another platoon needing assistance, he led his men to them, took command and captured the objective. During an enemy counter-attack the following day he led a section forward and restored a portion of the line.

At the age of 19, Ned was the youngest soldier to be awarded the VC in the First World War. On his triumphant return home in 1919, a local newspaper described him thus: “Sergeant Smith is not only a VC but looks it. He is a British soldier every inch of him. He is an A1 man from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet…He has not only won the VC but he has a chest on which to display it.”

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Ned re-enlisted into his old regiment with the rank of Lieutenant and was sadly killed in France (possibly by friendly fire). He is buried in Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension, France. His VC is held at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum London.

Filed under: WW1