A Collection of Medals to the 10th and 11th Hussars

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Date of Auction: 5th April 2006

Sold for £45,000

Estimate: £20,000 - £25,000

The highly important Light Brigade D.C.M. group of six awarded to Regimental Sergeant-Major George Loy Smith, 11th Hussars, the ‘last man that returned up the valley,’ and a central figure for Lady Butler’s famous painting ‘After the Charge’

Distinguished Conduct Medal, V.R. (Troop Serjt. Major G. L. Smith, 11th Hussars); Crimea 1854-56, 4 clasps, Alma, Balaklava, Inkermann, Sebastopol (Regtl. Serjt. Major. G. L. Smith XIth Hussars) regimentally impressed naming; Jubilee 1887, bronze, unnamed; Army L.S. & G.C., V.R., large letter reverse (Regtl. Serjt. Major Geo. Loy Smith, XIth Hussars. 1857) regimentally impressed naming as correct for this period; Medaille Militaire, 2nd Empire, silver, gilt and enamel; Turkish Crimea, British issue, unnamed, light contact marks, otherwise nearly very fine or better (6) £20000-25000

D.C.M. recommendation submitted to the Queen 7 February 1855, with annuity of £20.

Medaille Militaire: ‘Recommended by the vote of his comrades, who, with himself, returned from the Crimea previous to the first issue of the French Medal. Served until 25 January, 1856, and was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaklava and Inkermann. Horse shot under him at Balaklava, where he behaved Gallantly.’


George Loy Smith was born in Woolwich, Kent, on 27 March 1817, and was a chemist’s and druggist’s apprentice before enlisting into the 11th Hussars at Maidstone, Kent, on 11 June 1833, aged 16 years 2 months. He joined the regiment in India in October 1835, returning to England in June 1838. He served in England and Ireland until 1854, when he went with the regiment to Bulgaria in July until September, and from then in the Crimea until January 1856. He was present at the affairs of Bulganak and Mackenzie’s Farm, and at the battle of Alma. As Troop Sergeant-Major he rode in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, during which his horse suffered a broken leg and he had to run to evade the Cossacks. He mounted a riderless horse of the 4th Light Dragoons and returned to our lines, ‘the last man that returned up the valley’. He was present also at Inkermann, Tchernaya and the fall of Sebastopol. He was promoted to Regimental Sergeant-Major in December 1854, and held this rank until retiring in April 1859.

He left the regiment on 12 April 1859 and was appointed a Yeoman of the Guard that same year. He attended the first Balaklava Banquet in 1875, and was appointed the first President of the Balaklava Commemoration Society in 1877. He was present at many inspections of the Guard including those in 1869 and 1875 by the Prince of Wales, by the Crown Prince of Sweden in 1879, and by Sir Garnet Wolseley in 1880. In 1881 he was Drill Master of the Yeomen and by 1885 had become a Yeoman Bed Hanger in the First Division. He signed the Loyal Address along with other Light Brigade survivors which was presented to Queen Victoria in June 1887, on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee. Regimental Sergeant-Major George Loy Smith died at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, on 16 October 1888.

Smith’s lengthy account of the Charge of the Light Brigade is one of the best, mentioning many names, and forms an entire chapter in the
Historical Record of the 11th Hussars, Captain G. T. Williams, London, 1908. Extracts from his extensive diaries were published under the title A Victorian RSM, by D. J. Costello Ltd. in 1987, a copy of which accompanies the medals, together with full research. A finely engraved portrait of George Loy Smith in the uniform of a Yeoman of the Guard, wearing medals, proposing the Loyal Toast, was published by the Illustrated London News on 2 July 1887.