Burnley war hero remembered

Hero: Alfred Victor Smith
Hero: Alfred Victor Smith

A Burnley soldier’s heroic sacrifice in the First World War, which led to a posthumous Victoria Cross, was yesterday marked in a Remembrance Day service a century on.

Second Lieutenant Alfred Victor Smith (24) was killed two days before Christmas, 1915, at Helles, Gallipoli, when he selflessly flung himself onto a grenade to save his comrades.

The heroic action earned the young officer from the East Lancashire Regiment a Victoria Cross, the highest British military decoration.

Smith was born in Guildford, Surrey, but moved to Burnley when he was 14, his father having been appointed Chief Constable of Police in the town.

Victor completed his education at Burnley Grammar School, and after leaving joined the Blackpool Borough Police Force.

The citation for his VC states that “he was in the act of throwing a grenade when it slipped from his hand and fell to the bottom of the trench close to several officers and men.

“He immediately shouted a warning and jumped clear to safety. He then saw that the officers and men were unable to find cover and knowing that the grenade was due to explode at any moment, he returned and flung himself upon it.

“He was instantly killed by the explosion. His magnificent act of self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved many lives.”

When Guildford Council began organising the ceremony of commemoration, they contacted Burnley so that the town could be involved.

The Burnley Armed Forces Community Covenant designated local man Mr Chris Preston to attend the event.

Mr Preston, the community engagement officer with local veteran’s charity Salute, said: “I am very pleased to be able to represent the Burnley Covenant at this ceremony.

“I am sure that it will be a moving occasion as Guildford honours Victor Smith’s memory. I will also bring back ideas about how Burnley can organise commemorations for our two other VC recipients from the First World War, Hugh Colvin and Thomas Whitham, when the 100th anniversaries of their actions come around in 2017.”