This Indigenous Hero Won the Military Cross for Valor. His Son Would Star in the Lone Ranger


Captain Alexander Smith was one of the vital extremely embellished indigenous Canadians of World Warfare I. Whereas greater than 4,000 males of the First Nations served within the Canadian Expeditionary Pressure (CEF), few have been officers. Smith in the end rose to the rank of captain within the military and later grew to become chief of his Cayuga tribe.

The eldest son of a Six Nations Cayuga chief, Alexander George Edwin Smith was born on Aug. 12, 1879, on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in Ontario. As a younger man Smith joined the thirty seventh Haldimand Rifles, a militia unit with many indigenous members. By the outset of World Warfare I he’d served within the rifles for 18 years and been promoted to captain. Smith volunteered for the CEF. He was assigned to the twentieth (Central Ontario) Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division, as a lieutenant, regardless of his militia rank and expertise. After preliminary coaching in Britain, Smith’s unit shipped out to France in September 1915. Two months later Smith was again in Britain for medical remedy after having been deafened throughout shut calls with German artillery shells.

Smith returned to his unit in France in June 1916. On July 1 Anglo-French forces launched the Battle of the Somme, although the divisions of the Canadian Corps didn’t make their fight debut for one more 76 days. On September 15 the Canadian 2nd and third divisions, together with 9 British divisions, pressed the assault till September 22. Then, following three days of artillery preparation, the Canadians resumed attacking on September 26. The subsequent day Smith led his firm in a supporting assault for a predominant effort by the eighth Battalion (ninetieth Winnipeg Rifles). Advancing in entrance of his firm’s predominant physique with a celebration of troopers armed primarily with hand grenades, Smith captured a German trench and 50 prisoners. Twice in the course of the course of the assault he was buried by earth thrown up by shell fireplace. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

Identified with shell shock, Smith was once more evacuated to Britain. In April 1917 he returned to Canada and was assigned to the first Depot Battalion at Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake coaching camp. Among the many recruits he educated there for the French military have been some 23,000 Polish-born volunteers from each Canada and the USA. France later awarded Smith the Colonial Order of the Black Star (Officer class) for his contribution to the French battle effort. He was one among solely 5 Canadians to obtain the ornament.

After the battle Smith succeeded his father as chief of the Cayuga tribe. His accidents left him with everlasting disabilities, together with listening to loss and power complications. Regardless of his battle hero standing, the veteran formally remained a ward of the state, his $49 a month incapacity pension doled out by the Canadian Division of Indian Affairs. With the assistance of his sons and nephews, he tried to run his 100-acre farm, however ultimately it proved an excessive amount of. In 1942 he moved to Buffalo, N.Y., the place he died at age 75 on Aug. 21, 1954.

Alexander’s brother, Charles Denton Smith, was additionally a captain in World Warfare I, with the 18th (Western Ontario) Battalion, in the identical brigade as his brother. Charles Smith was additionally awarded the Navy Cross, for heroic actions on Nov. 9, 1918. On that day he led his platoon in an assault in opposition to German positions close to the Belgian village of Frameries, personally taking out each a demolition social gathering and a machine gun and crew. One other notable member of this exceptional household was Alexander’s son Harold. After his father moved to Buffalo, Harold too moved to the USA. He ended up in Hollywood, the place he landed bit components enjoying Indians. Altering his display screen identify to Jay Silverheels, he achieved on-screen immortality as Tonto to Clayton Moore’s Lone Ranger. MH

This text appeared within the March 2022 difficulty of Navy Historical past journal. For extra tales, subscribe and go to us on Fb.

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