|THE HISTORY OF THE VICTORIA CROSS AND CAMPAIGN MEDALS AWARDED TO SERGEANT JOHN SMITH, BENGAL SAPPRERS AND MINERS, AWARDED THE VC DURING THE SIEGE OF DELHI.|
|30 October 2008|
|Following Sergeant John Smith's heroic action during the blowing up of the Kashmir Gate during the Siege of Delhi in September 1857, he was believed to have been invested with his Victoria Cross in India in 1859, but where and by whom is not known.
Recent research has discovered that the whereabouts of Smith's Victoria Cross was known to the Smith family until 1918, when it was believed to have been given, as a mark of respect, to the wife of the only Smith brother out eight not to return from the First World War. It is thought this lady later remarried and the whereabouts of the Victoria Cross and campaign medals was lost to the family.
The John Smith Victoria Cross next surfaced at a Sotheby's auction on the 12th September 1989 with an estimate of £2,000 to £2,500. The catalogue entry was quite brief because the VC clearly had some issues and was only "attributed to" John Smith. While the Cross itself was judged to be genuine the named suspension bar was described as being "of later and unofficial manufacture". There were no campaign medals accompanying the Victoria Cross and it was not illustrated in the catalogue.
It is plausible that the original VC was split from the suspension bar and was "made into two", probably to allow two family members to inherit them. There is a possibility that the buyer of the John Smith Victoria Cross at auction in 1989 knew of the whereabouts of the suspension bar and campaign medals as the price paid was more than double the estimate.
John Smith was a 45-year-old experienced senior non-commissioned officer when he joined Lieutenant Duncan Home's party of Bengal Sappers and Miners detailed to blow up the Kashmir Gate at the siege of Delhi on 14th September 1857.
As well as Lieutenants Home and Salkeld, and Sergeant John Smith, one other member of the Kashmir Gate party earned the Victoria Cross. This was Bugler Robert Hawthorne, a 37-year-old Irishman of the 52nd Regiment ( later the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry ).
For the award of the Victoria Cross
[ London Gazette, 27 April 1858 ], Siege of Delhi, Indian Mutiny, 14 September 1857, Sergeant John Smith, Bengal Sappers & Miners.
For conspicuous gallantry in conjunction with Lieutenants Home and Salkeld, in the performance of the desperate duty of blowing in the Cashmere Gate of the fortress of Delhi in broad daylight, under a heavy and destructive fire of musketry, on the morning of the 14th September 1857, preparatory to the assault.
John Smith died of dysentry whilst serving at Jullundar on 26th June 1864 and was buried in the town's Artillery Cemetery. His headstone showed his rank as Ensign.
Medal entitlement of Sergeant John Smith - Bengal Sappers & Miners
Iain Stewart, 30 October 2008