British Groups


Lot 4002    The J.J.Atkinson Collection    British Groups

Estimate $14,000
SOLD $20,000

A GEORGE CROSS GROUP OF SIX TO PRIVATE ANTHONY SMITH, Royal Marines/ Civil Defence Rescue Service George Cross (Anthony Smith. 30th May, 1944.); 1914-15 Star; British War Medal 1914-18 (CH.18816 A.Smith. Pte. R.M.); Victory Medal (CH.18816 A.Smith. Pte. R.M.); Defence Medal; Coronation Medal 1953. First award engraved and in case of issue, others impressed. Very fine.

Together with illuminated Certificate creating the recipient a Freeman of the London Borough of Chelsea; copy of the relevant London Gazette entry; biographical details; research from the VC & GC Association; and extracts from 'The Story of the George Cross, 'For Gallantry. The Story of the George Cross', and the OMRS Journal; photographs of the recipient and his grave.

GC: London Gazette 30 May 1944. 'During an air raid, bombs demolished a number of four-storey houses, leaving standing only the party walls which were in a precarious condition. Gas and water mains were fractured and the gas ignited, setting fire to the buildings and wreckage, the whole of which became a raging inferno. Two floors had pancaked forming a huge pile of debris but Smith burrowed a way through the burning ruins and managed to reach a casualty trapped in a front basement underneath. He released the victim, but by this time the front of the building was a solid wall of flame, the upper floors were collapsing and his escape was cut off. Carrying the casualty, Smith made his way through the flames and smoke to the rear of the house and there found a six inch aperture in the wreckage. He forced a way through and managed to pass the casualty to safety just as the remaining portion of the front wall collapsed in the area. Smith's eyebrows and hair were burnt and he was almost overcome by smoke but, undeterred by his ordeal, he immediately went to the assistance of a comrade who was endeavouring to rescue a woman trapped in the basement of an adjoining building, the walls of which were in a very dangerous condition. Here, working for an hour up to his waist in water, and with walls and floors on the point of collapse, Smith helped to release her. He then obtained a change of clothing and carried on until his squad was relieved. Smith displayed outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty in conditions of the utmost danger and difficulty.'

Private Anthony Smith (1894-1964) was born on 3 August 1894 in Christchurch, Hampshire (England). After leaving school at the age of fourteen he took to the family trade; chimney-sweeping.

When war broke out in 1914, Smith enlisted in the Royal Marines Light Infantry, Chatham Division. He was posted to the Royal Marine Brigade of the Royal Naval Division and participated in the landing at ANZAC cove in April 1915. It was here that Smith suffered his first injury - a foot wound requiring evacuation to Chatham. By December, Smith had recovered and rejoined his old battalion in France, where he fought in numerous actions including the Somme offensive of 1916. Smith's service in the Great War came to an end after a serious hand injury requiring amputation of three fingers resulted in invalidation from the Army in August 1917.

Smith's first occupation upon resumption of civilian life was night watchman at Holburn Viaduct Hotel. By accounts, Smith disliked the job and resisted instructions to carry a pistol, deeming a truncheon and whistle were sufficient to handle any intruders. In 1926, Smith returned to his original calling and, equipped with a new set of brushes, quickly became a familiar figure in his native Chelsea. As the threat of war loomed again in 1939, Smith joined the ARP and was assigned to a squad of eleven men in Heavy Rescue - among the most dangerous branches of the civilian war-time services.
From 1940 onward, Smith and his squad encountered many situations requiring rescue of trapped individuals among widespread destruction. Smith later related the story of his squad rescuing a lady trapped five days among bomb-damaged buildings. On 23 February 1944, Smith's Heavy Rescue Squad reported to the incident cited above. In addition to the award of the George Cross, Smith was also made Honorary Freeman of Chelsea. After the Second World War he continued his work as a chimney-sweep and remained a bachelor until his death in 1964.

Anthony Smith lay buried in an unmarked grave for decades until 1999, when a new stone was dedicated by arrangement of the Royal Marines Association and supported by The George Cross and Victoria Cross Association, the Military and the Royal Marines Historical Societies and representatives from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Estimate / sale price does not include buyer's premium (currently 22% including GST) which is added to hammer price. All bids are executed on the understanding that the Terms & Conditions of sale have been read and accepted. For information on grading and estimates please refer to the Buying at Auction advice.

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