Thus this correction above my original blog. Sorry to all for these mistakes and thanks to the family for helping me to get this correct.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and now the original blog.........
There is no shortage of reference materials telling us of the bravery of Toronto born Lt Alexander Roberts Dunn of Crimean War fame. The 6 ft. 3 inch officer was so tall Wilkinson's had to make a special sword for him. And that sword was used to rescue both a Sergeant and a Private during the Charge of the Light Brigade in October of 1854. Many have heard the poem about the charge... "cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them." The battle was a slaughter for the Brits with some 673 officers and men charging down a "Valley of Death" and by the time it was all over only 195 returned. Lt Dunn was the only officer in the battle to earn the Victoria Cross and it was presented to him by Queen Victoria at the very first awarding of crosses to about 60 recipients on 26 June 1855 in London. There will be much more in a later blog about Lt. Dunn.
This was Canada's first VC. But it was not the first to come INTO Canada.
That honour rests with Felix.
(UPDATE).. claims have come forth claiming that he was born at the townsland of Lurgan in either Armagh or Cavan county, as noted in the 2 comments below.)
The uniform button of Smith's unit, pictured here, is made out of pewter. The unit's brass cap #17 and the button were recently found on the very battlefield of so long ago.
Smith's Regiment and others were forced to advance in an ill-advised attempt at taking the redan (fortification). The Russians had previously learned that the British were coming, and the Brits wanted to wait for reinforcements that were delayed. But pressures forced then to dive into a bloody bath of wounded and dead as they vacated their trenches and tried to move forward. The unit was driven back but Smith and two others remained behind to help save wounded. Smith was reported to have made several trips under very heavy fire to save these soles. He and the two others would later be awarded the Victoria Cross.
On the very day that Alexander Dunn became the 17th soldier in history to be presented with his Victoria Cross, Felix was supposed to be on parade for his presentation, but he was off on military duty in a place called Montreal, Canada.
His unit had been posted to duties there after the Crimean War and that is where he was on service whilst the first VC parade and presentation took place in London. But all was not lost. Queen Victoria ordered that all recipients who were away on military service were to have the most formal of parades wherever they were and that the top commanders attend and present the hero with his Victoria Cross.
Above is the actual London Gazette entry of 24 Feb., 1857 announcing that Smith had been awarded the Victoria Cross.
On August 1 1857 Major General Trollope C. B. rode into Barrack Square at the Montreal Citadel, had the troops of the garrison formed into a hollow square with him and his staff in the center and ordered Sgt Smith... " Front and Center."
Trollope then dismounted and pinned the medal of Smith's uniform. Further speeches were made and then Smith was placed at the head of his regiment just behind its Colonel for a march past and saluting of General Trollope.
Smith would return home and continue service and finally died on 16 January 1906. In two days it will be the 107th anniversary of his death. History has recorded that his Victoria Cross was the first to ever come into the country, though most standard references do not mention it.
At Halifax today there is a very prominent monument, to Crimean heroes Parker and Welesford who also fought with other Canadians at Sabastopol. Both officers died in battle trying to scale the redan. One was decapitated in the process. That monument may well be the only Crimean memorial in Canada.