b. 07/12/1920 Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. d. 10/01/1945 Ist, Yugoslavia.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 10/01/1945 Ist, Yugoslavia.
Kenneth Smith (1920-1945) was born on 7th December 1920 in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, the eldest son of Bertie and Alice Jane Smith (nee Rowson), who hailed from Louth, Lincolnshire. His father was a farm labourer who worked seasonally on different farms from year to year. Sadly, Bertie Smith died when Kenneth was young, and left Alice Jane to cope alone. She had at least two other boys and two girls to look after. For a brief time, Kenneth worked as a farm labourer, but soon sought a new adventure, and on 23rd January 1939, and with the Second World War on the horizon, he enlisted with the Royal Corps of Signals as a regular soldier.
It is then believed that after the war broke out later that year, the served with the Signals, until in 1941, he joined the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) Signal Section. This is a tough group of men who lived and operated behind enemy lines in inhospitable and dangerous territory.
In the latter months of 1944 and into January 1945, Kenneth was part of a team gathering information on shipping movements in the Adriatic Sea. They were using a villager's home as a base on the island of Ist, when saboteurs laid time-bombs in vital houses on the island. On 10th January 1945, after hearing firing, Smith got up and went into the main part of the house, where he saw a bomb on the table by the door. Knowing that there were partisans and children in the room, he immediately picked up the bomb, which was already ticking and had only run a few yards with it when it exploded, killing him. He had sacrificed himself to save others.
Kenneth was laid to rest in Belgrade War Cemetery in then Yugoslavia (now Serbia). He was gazetted for a posthumous George Cross on 16th October 1945, and it was presented to his mother by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. She in turn decided to give the GC to her second son Nigel and the campaign medals to her third son Michael. Sadly it was discovered on Nigel’s death that the GC was missing, and it was his wife that declared that Nigel had sold the medal six months after receiving it from his mother. Michael decided to trace the medal and discovered it was to be auctioned at Spink. Michael contacted the Royal Corps of Signals Museum in Blandford Forum, Dorset and informed them about the sale, and they acquired the medal, and with Michael donating them the campaign medals, the whole group are now displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL SIGNALS MUSEUM, BLANDFORD FORUM, DORSET.
BURIAL PLACE: BELGRADE WAR CEMETERY, BELGRADE, SERBIA.
PLOT 6, ROW D, GRAVE 9.
Kenneth Smith's medals courtesy of the
Royal Signals Museum, Blandford Forum, Dorset.
Smith's grave in Belgrade War Cemetery (British War Graves Project image)