Cousin Nevill Maskelyne Smyth
earns the Victoria Cross at Khartoum
Museum of the 1st the Queen’s
Dragoon Guards, Cheshire Castle
Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth, V.C.
Captain Nevill M. Smyth, VC
Museum of the 1st Queens
Baden-Powell’s first cousin, Nevill Maskelyne
Smyth, was the son of Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth (brother of
Henrietta Grace Smyth) and grandson of Admiral W. H. Smyth. While
serving with the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) at Khartoum in 1898,
he was awarded the Victoria Cross. At the Museum of the Queen’s
Dragoon Guards, the incident is described as follows:
CAPTAIN NEVILL SMYTH,
At the battle of Khartoum on 2nd
September, 1898 a native armed with a spear ran amok among the camp
followers. Captain Smyth galloped forward and received the natives
charge, and was wounded in the arm by his spear, but he killed the
native. By a complete disregard for his own safety he saved the camp
followers and prevented further trouble.
Prior to the Egyptian
Campaign, the Battle of Khartoum and First World War, Nevill Smyth
participated in the Zhob Valley Expedition of 1890-1891. The Zhob Valley
and the British expeditions are described briefly in the 11th Edition of
the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910):
ZHOB, a valley and river in the N.E.
of Baluchistan. The Zhob is a large valley running from the hills near
Ziarat first eastward and then northward parallel to the Indus
frontier, till it meets the Gomal river at Khajuri Kach. It thus
becomes a strategic line of great importance, as being the shortest
route between the North-West Frontier Province and Quetta, and
dominates all the Pathan tribes of Baluchistan by cutting between them
and Aighanistan. Up to the year 1884 it was practically unknown to
Europeans, but the Zhob Valley Expedition of that year opened it up,
and in 1889 the Zhob Valley and Gomal Pass were taken under the
control of the British Government. The Zhob Valley was the scene of
punitive British expeditions in 1884 and 1890. In 1890 Zhob was formed
into a district or political agency, with its headquarters at Fort
Sandeman: pop. (1901) 3552. As reconstituted in 1903, the district has
an area of 9626 sq. m.; pop. (1901) 69,718, mostly Pathans of the
See Sir T. H. Holdich’s Indian
Borderland (1901); Bruce’s Forward Policy (1900); McFall’s With the
Zhob Field Force (1895); and Zhob District Gazetteer (Bombay, 1907).
Captain Smyth rose to the rank of
Major-General in World War One. In 1920, he was appointed Colonel of the
3rd Dragoon Guards (Prince of Wales’) and in 1922 was appointed Colonel
of the 3rd/6th Dragoon Guards upon amalgamation of the 3rd Dragoon
Guards with the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers). The amalgamated
regiments were titled the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales Dragoon
Guards) in 1925. His career is described at
Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth
(1868-1941) served in field command positions, generally in charge of
Australian forces, during World War One.
Smyth had led an
extraordinary life even before war began in August 1914. The son of
an eminent scientist (and founder of the Royal School of Mines), the
first cousin of Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the world scout
movement), Smyth’s pre-war career in the British Army was nothing if
Seeming equally at
home in command of infantry as of cavalry, Smyth also had experience
of leading machine gun teams; he had the apparent ability to adapt to
conditions as necessary.
Among other pre-war
experiences Smyth put down the Khalifa Sherif’s rising on the Blue
Nile; surveyed the Sudan; charted the Nile cataracts; and was severely
injured at Omdurman where he won the Victoria Cross.
Determined to learn
the new art of flying, Smyth applied for and gained an aviator’s
license in 1913. He put this to good – if unusual – use while serving
in command of 2nd Australian Division on the Western Front, often
"borrowing" aircraft to personally survey enemy lines (attracting much
comment among fellow officers).
Having led the 1st
Australian Brigade in Gallipoli, Smyth returned to the Western Front
in December 1915. Spending the majority of the war in command of
Australian forces, Smyth was given command of 2nd Australian Division
in December 1916, leading them until May 1918.
Smyth’s courage under
fire impressed the Australians he led, as did his concern to carefully
plan any offensive in which they were involved. Although held by some
to be responsible for the failure of the attack at Bullecourt in May
1917 he retained the confidence of contemporary officers.
After the war Smyth
chose to retire to Australia, having developed an affection for the
men he had led during wartime. He died in 1941.
Who: Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth" Updated – Tuesday, 17
September, 2002. Original Material
Michael Duffy 2000-04.
for First World War Studies
at the University of Birmingham described
General Smyth as bearing the nickname of "The Sphinx:"
Major-General Nevil Maskelyne Smyth
VC (1868-1841) commanded 1st Australian Brigade on Gallipoli, then
2nd Australian Division on the Western Front. After the
‘Australianisation’ of the Australian Corps in the spring of 1918
Smyth commanded the British 58th and 59th Divisions. His courage at
Lone Pine in 1915 won him the respect and admiration of the
Australians that he never lost. Brudenell White, Chief of Staff of
the Australian Imperial Force, described him as ‘sphinx-like, silent
and imperturbable’. He was certainly a man of few words and the
Australians, perhaps with their training in Egypt in mind, referred
to him as ‘The Sphinx’. Major-General Smyth emigrated to Australia
A memorial to
Major-General Smyth has been placed
on the North Wall of St Mary’s Anglican Church, Balmoral, Victoria,
Australia. A resident of Balmoral until his passing, he is honored as
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND IN LOVING MEMORY OF
SIR NEVILL SMYTH
DIED KONGBOOL, BALMORAL, 1941.
AUST. INF. BDE. 1915-16
GALLIPOLI, LONE PINE, BATTLE OF THE SOMME.
AUST. DIV. 1917-19, G.O.C. 58TH
DIV. & 59TH DIV.
ZHOB VALLEY EXP. 1890-1, SOUDAN 1896 – 99
||From the Regimental site of the 1st
Queens Dragoon Guards: A brief account of the service of the Kings Dragoon
Guards and the Queens Bays in
Africa, 1899-1902, refers to the service of Captain N.M. Smyth, VC
during the South African War.
||Commodore Dacre Smyth, A.O. is the son
of Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth, V.C.
and great-grandson of Admiral W. H. Smyth (B-P’s grandfather). Commodore
Smyth served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1940 to 1978. He was
present at the Battle of the Coral Sea, at Normandy, and in both the Korean and
Vietnam Wars. He was an artist,
author, and publisher of twelve books of his paintings, including The
Bridges of the Yarra, Gallipoli Pilgrimage and Historic
Ships of Australia. In 2004, Commodore Smyth was one of ten
Australians to receive the
French Legion of Honor recognizing his service and that of other
Australians on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Baden-Powell Family History.
A series of links based on
the research of Robin Baden Clay, a grandson of Baden-Powell. They are
focused on the genealogy of the Powell family. The author is extremely
grateful to Mr. Clay for sharing the results of his labors with the
Scouting community. Links are provided to pages for three of B-P’s
brothers: Baden, Warington and Sir George Baden-Powell as well as to the
genealogy of the Smyth and Warington families.
||Baden-Powell Home Page
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P. Orans, 2012
Last Modified: 8:52 PM on August 24, 2012