Personal info

  • Name: James SMITH
  • D.O.B: 1st Jan, 1871
  • D.O.A: 17th Sep, 1897
  • D.O.D: 18th Mar, 1946
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 1
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Bilot, Mamund Valley, North West Frontier, India 16-17 September 1897

16-17 September 1897

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INDIA and BURMA 1889-97 

On 6 August 1897 the Mohmands, who lived around the Kabul river to the north-west of Peshawar, attacked the border post of Shabkadr only fifteen miles from the town. A Mohmand Field Force under Brigadier General E R Elles was dispatched to deal with them. They proved such a tough proposition that the Malakand Field Force, which had been active in Bajaur after its reduction of Swat, marched to join Elles. On the night of 16-17 September, during the course of punitive actions being carried out by the Malakand Field Force’s 2nd Brigade, the Brigade commander Brigadier General P D Jeffreys found himself with a small force, including half a company of the 4th Bengal Sappers and Miners and twelve men of the Buffs (East Kent Regiment), outside the village of Bilot, which was full of heavily armed tribesmen who began firing at the British. Lieutenants T C Watson and J M C Colvin led the unsuccessful attempts to take the village, Colvin continuing after an artery in Watson’s arm was severed by a bullet. Among those accompanying Lieutenant Watson was Lance Corporal J Smith. With Jeffreys himself wounded, Colvin soon found that he and Lieutenant Wynter, Royal Artillery, were the only officers left to command the small British detachment; a relief force arrived at midnight. Watson, Colvin and Smith were awarded the VC for their gallantry in the action, four Privates of the Buffs the DCM, and two members of 4th Company, Bengal Sappers and Miners the (Indian) Order of Merit. The Mohmands finally submitted on 18 October 1897.


 On the night of the 16th-17th September, 1897, Corporal Smith, with a party of the Buffs, responded to Lieutenant Watson’s call for volunteers, and followed that Officer into the burning village of Bilot, driving off the enemy with the bayonet. Afterwards, although wounded, he continued firing steadily and coolly, and also helped to carry the wounded to the place prepared for them. When Lieutenant Watson left, in order to fetch assistance for the wounded, Corporal Smith held the position till that Officer’s return, exposing his life freely in watching the enemy and directing the fire of his men. 

The London Gazette of 21 April 1899, Numb. 27073, p. 2545

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