15th Ludhiana Sikhs, Indian Army

Although John Smyth's family originated from Halifax, Yorkshire, the family adopted Devon as their County, spending many happy holidays there. John's father, William, was born in Sidmouth and following family tradition, John was born in a large Victorian house in Ferndale Road, East Teignmouth, Devon, on the 25th October 1893.

Although obtaining a double first from Balliol College, Oxford, John's father William Smyth, opted for employment with the Indian Civil Service, serving mainly in Burma. Therefore, John's life was probably mapped out at an early age; private education, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and eventually a commission in the Indian Army, which he achieved by joining the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs in October 1913.

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Lieutenant John Smyth and his Sikhs were transported from India to Marseille for action on the Western Front. There were critics who expressed doubts as to whether, under conditions of warfare so totally different from those in India, the Sikhs would be able to withstand the action they were forced into. These doubts were completely dispelled when John Smyth and ten of his men undertook one of the most gallant episodes of the whole war.

The military career of John George Smyth

Richebourg L'Avoué, France - 18 May 1915

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Iain Stewart, 10 January 2004