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Added 23.12.2012. Additions 27.1.13, 3.1.14, 11.12.14, 29.4.16. Minor edits 1.8.2018.


766, Sergeant Major George Loy SMITH - 11th Hussars

Birth & early life

Born at Woolwich on the 2nd of April 1817.

At some time or other the family seem to have taken the hyphenated name of Loy-Smith. There is no apparent reason for this as he was christened George Loy James Smith at the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Plumstead, London, on the 13th of April 1817.

He was the son of Joseph Smith, a Gunner in the Royal Artillery, and his wife, Amelia.

The family lived in New Road, Woolwich, at this time. It has not been possible to positively identify his father, there being at least three men of the same name serving in various detachments at this time at Woolwich, and any one of them (by the dates of their enlistment) could have been his father.

A brother, Basset Loveless (born 6th of June 1821), is also known to have been baptised in the same church, on the 30th of June 1821.

"It was on a bright May morning in 1833 that the Headquarters of a cavalry regiment marched into a pretty country town and formed up in the market-place directly opposite my master's shop. What I was doing at the time I cannot now call to mind, perhaps making pills or mixing medicine, this being my daily occupation, having been apprenticed about six months previously to a chemist and druggist.

This was the first time I had seen a regiment of cavalry with their mounted band and I became enchanted with them, particularly when I thought of what a glorious life theirs must be to mine, they marching from town to town and seeing the world, and appearing so light-hearted, and I, condemned to stand behind a counter from Monday morning to Saturday night. Even on Sunday we were not free, the shop only being closed during divine service, I attending to it one Sunday, the other apprentice the next.

The following morning they again paraded in the same place before marching off. I cannot describe my feelings when I heard the last strains of the band, and the rear-guard fast receding from sight. What would I have given to go with them!"


Enlisted at London on the 17th of May 1832.

Age: 16 years 3 months.

Height: 5' 9".

Trade: None.

Appearance: Fresh complexion. Blue eyes. Auburn hair.


From Private to Corporal: 10th of October 1833.

Resigned to Private, "at his own request", on the 3rd of July 1834.

From Private to Corporal: 10th of December 1834, but resigned again to Private, "in order to embark for India", on the 27th of June 1835, aboard the "Herefordshire".

From Private to Corporal: 24th of January 1840.

Corporal to Sergeant: 17th of April 1843.

Appointed to Troop Sergeant Major on the 1st of July 1845.

1851 Census

Pockthorpe Cavalry Barracks, Norwich.

Geo L Smith, soldier, 33, unmarried [sic], Tp Sgt Major, born Woolwich. [p.9]

Mercy Smith, 37, married, wife, born Canterbury. [p.6]

Wm L Smith, 3, born Coventry.

Hy T Smith, 1, born Hounslow.


Queens Barracks, Ipswich.

Bassett Smith [brother], 31, unmarried, Corpl. 11th Hussars, born Woolwich.

Death registered

Basset Smith [brother], December Quarter 1851, Nottingham.

Death registered

Mercy Amelia Smith [1st wife], December Quarter 1857, Medway.

1841 Census

Broad Lane, Sheffield.

Marianne Gilchrist [future 2nd wife], 15.

1851 Census

Pitsmoor, Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield.

Mariann Gilchrist [future 2nd wife], 25, unmarried, Teacher of Drawing, born London.

N.B. Employed by Bridgett Wever, a School Mistress, with a Teacher of Music, including 4 pupils and 2 servants.

Invalided to England on the 25th of January 1856.

He was at the Invalid Depot at Chatham from the 24th of February 1856 - 1st of April 1857.

Letter sent from the Horse Guards, dated the 29th September 1857, to the Officer Commanding the 11th Hussars at Hounslow:

"Sir, - By desire of the General Commanding-in-Chief I have the honour to acquaint you that by the request of the Commandant of Cavalry Depot, Maidstone, HRH the General Commanding-in-Chief has approved of Sergeant-Major Smith, 11th Hussars, being ordered to rejoin his Regiment, it appearing that this Non-Commissioned Officer, has nearly completed his service of 24 years and feels himself inadequate to go through the course of training required to fit him for the duties of a Riding Master,

I have, etc., etc.

W.A. Forster DAG."

Discharge & pension

Discharged from Brighton on the 31st of March 1859.

"At his own request, after 24 years' service."

Served 25 years 355 days. (Under age: 1 year 10 months.)

In Turkey and the Crimea: 1 year 7 months

In India: 2 years 8 months.

Conduct and character: "Exemplary".

Aged 42 years on discharge.

Awarded a pension of 2/6 per day.

To live at Downes Place, Foots Cray, Kent, after discharge, but he was living at 25, Laurel Grove, Penge, in later life.


Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman, and Sebastopol.

Documents confirm the award of his medals, but not which particular clasps.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but it is not known under what circumstances.

The award was recommended by Colonel John Douglas and was sent through a Colonel Steele on the 12th of January 1855. He received an annuity of 20 per annum with this award.

Awarded the French War Medal. The citation for this stated:

"Recommended by the vote of his comrades, who, with himself, had returned from the Crimea previous to the first issue of the French Medal.

Served until the 24th of January and was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman.

Horse shot under him at the battle of Balaclava, where he behaved most gallantly."

He took over as RSM when RSM George Bull's horse was shot at Balaclava.

"Horse Guards,

16th April 1857.

Sir, - By direction of the General Commanding-in-Chief I have the honour to transmit the French War Medal which has been awarded to the man named in the margin [No 766 R.S.M. George Loy Smith] and to express his Royal Highness's desire that you will present the same at the first favourable opportunity and with every formality that may tend to impress upon the recipient and upon his comrades the value of the decoration the receipt of which you will be pleased to acknowledge,

I have, etc. etc.,

J.W. Reynolds, AAG.

[To:] The Officer Commanding, 11th Hussars.

The Service Historique of France states that the Medaille Militaire was awarded to him by a decree dated the 6th of March 1861. All other such medals awarded to men of the 11th Hussars were by a decree dated the 16th of April 1856. (See copies of the award documents in the "Memoirs" file.)

He was awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 28th of March 1857, with a gratuity of 10.

He was possibly awarded the Jubilee Medal in 1887, when he was a Yeoman of the Guard.

His narrative of the Charge, written in manuscript and now in the Officers' Mess of the Royal Hussars, is told in Captain C.T. Williams's Regimental History.


Attended the first Balaclava Banquet in 1875.

President of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1877 and 1879.

Signed the Loyal Address to the Queen in 1887.


Elizabeth Thompson / Lady Butler,

Elizabeth Thompson, "Balaclava" (prints are often called "Return from the Charge", or "After the Charge"), Manchester Art Gallery, 1876

(Click on image to enlarge)

"After the Charge", painting by Lady Butler

He is said by Lummis and Wynn to be portrayed, mounted, in Lady Butler's picture, "After the Charge", but in a book on "Lady Butler, Battle Artist" (the catalogue of an exhibition held at the National Army Museum, 14th of May - 26th of September 1987) a Major George L(Lewellyn) Smith, late of the 107th Foot is said to have sat for the figure of the bearded Troop Sergeant-Major astride the bay horse on the left of the picture. This fact is said to be in a letter lodged in Manchester City Art Gallery. (The horse is said to have to have been loaned for the occasion by an officer of the 10th Hussars.)

Be this as it may, there is a striking resemblance of the Troop Sergeant-Major pictured to George Loy-Smith, especially in later life, and it is surprising that the latter was not used for this, especially as he was in London serving as a Yeoman of the Guard since 1859.

Furthermore, an enquiry made of Manchester Art Gallery showed that in spite of an exhaustive check of the Gallery's "Lady Butler" files no reference can be found of this letter, and that "most previous correspondents upon the subject agree that this particular figure was modelled by one George Loy Smith, late a Troop Sergeant Major of the 11th Hussars" [PB: source of this last quote?].

His portrait, from an engraving of a picture by C.E. Marshall, was on the front page of the Illustrated London News, 2nd of July 1887.

This issue mainly covered the celebrations for the Queen's Jubilee and he was pictured in the uniform of a Yeoman of the Guard raising a glass of wine in a toast to the Queen's health. Underneath the original picture were the words, "The Queen, God bless her."

A close examination of the picture suggests he is probably holding a partizan [PB: ?] in his right hand, This appears to have been "blanked out" and the glass substituted.

(There is a copy of a later posed picture of him in the 11th Hussar file.)

Life after service

Marriage registered

George Loy Smith to Marianne Harriett(e) Gilchrist, December Quarter 1859, St Saviour.

1861 Census

Pound Place, Foots Cray, Bromley.

George L Smith, 44, Chelsea Pensioner, Yeoman of H.M. Royal Body Guard & Sergt Major of the West Kent Yeomanry, born Woolwich.

Marianne Smith, 35, born London.

Births registered

Margaret Marianne Smith, September Quarter 1861 Bromley.

Gertrude L.M. Smith, June Quarter 1866, Chipping N.

1871 Census

23, Laurel Grove, Penge.

George L Smith, 54, Chelsea Pensioner & Drill Master, born Woolwich.

Marianne Smith, 45, born Pimlico.

Margarette (sic) Smith, 9, scholar, born Foots Cray.

Gertrude Smith, 6, scholar, born Foots Cray.

1881 Census

23, Laurel Grove, Penge, Surrey.

The 1881 Census Return shows him as a Chelsea Pensioner, Drill Master and Yeoman of HM Body Guard, aged 64, born at Woolwich, Kent, with his wife, Marrianne H., 55, born in Pimlico, London, and two unmarried daughters.

A General Domestic Servant was also shown.

1881 Census

23, Laurel Grove, Penge.

George Loy Smith, 64, Chelsea Pensioner & Drill Master & Yeoman of H.M.Body Guard, born Woolwich.

Marianne H Smith, 55, born Pimlico.

Margaret M Smith, 16, born Foots Cray.

Gertrude L Smith, 16, born Foots Cray.

including 1 servant.

Death & burial

Died in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, on the 16th of October 1888.

Death registered

George Loy Smith, aged 71 years, December Quarter 1888, London C.

The "Deaths" notices column of the Beckenham and Penge Gazette shows only the following:

October 16th 1888. - Loy-Smith, of 25 Laurel Grove, Penge, aged 72 years. "One of the few survivors of the Light Brigade."

From the Sydenham and Penge Gazette, 27th of October 1888:

"At St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, at twenty minutes to twelve on Tuesday morning, the 16th inst., after a short but painful illness, there passed away one of the few survivors of the Balaclava Charge, and a very familiar figure in the hamlet of Penge, Mr George Loy-Smith, late of the 11th (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars, and the last who left the valley after the Charge.

Mr Smith had been suffering for some time from a painful illness and was persuaded to enter the hospital for the purpose of undergoing an operation by Dr. Langton, but he died before the operation could be performed.

Mrs. Smith informed the authorities of her husband's death and asked permission that a gun-carriage might be used to convey her husband to his last resting place. After some delay, the request was refused by the Duke of Cambridge.

Mr. Smith entered the Army some 55 years ago at the age of 16, and if his life had been spared until Thursday would have taken part in the celebrations marking the 34th anniversary of the memorable Charge, at Willis's Rooms.

His remains were interred at Elmer's End on Monday without any military honours, but amongst those who were noted around his grave was another survivor of the famous charge [PB: 1085, Henry Mugg, 17th Lancers]"

He was buried in Beckenham Cemetery (formerly the Crystal Palace Cemetery) on the 22nd of October in Grave No. 1529 Plot W4 Row 1 South. Also buried in the same grave was his wife, Marrianne, who died on the 17th of February 1912, aged 86 years.

His daughter, Margaret Loy-Smith, was also buried there on the 18th of October 1924.

The last registered owner of the plot was a Gertrude Loy-Smith, of No. 7 Buckingham Gate, Shoreham by Sea, Sussex.

A stone cross and kerb were erected over the grave, the inscription reading:

"In loving memory of George Loy Smith, late R.S.M. X1 P.A.O. Hussars. The last who returned up the valley after the glorious charge of the Light Brigade. Died October 16th 1888, aged 71 years."

At the base:

"God for Adam sinned. He lives - for Jesus Died." [sic?]

At the side of the cross plinth:

"Also of Marrianne, his wife, Died February 17th 1912, aged 86 years."

[There is no mention of the third person said to be buried there.]

The grave site is now (1989) very overgrown, but has recently been cleared sufficiently to enable a photograph to be taken. (There are copies of this in the 11th Hussar file.)

In his will, made on the 14th of December 1876 as George Loy James Smith, he bequeathed:

"the freehold of my house at No. 23, Laurel Grove, Penge, and my four shares in the Army and Navy Co-operative Society, and all my real and personal property to my wife, Marrianne Harriette Smith, after the payment of my funeral and other expenses, and at her decease I bequeath the freehold and other real and personal effects to my daughters, Margaret Marrianne Loy Smith and Gertrude Loy Smith in equal shares for their sole and absolute use and benefit and they shall not have power to assign their share in way of anticipation, and I appoint my said wife, Margaret Harriet Smith as my sole executrice.

The witnesses were H.W. Lindus, Solicitor, Penge, and Francis E. Palmoral, Royal Naval Cottage, Penge.

His personal effects totalled 221/10/- and from the naming of his wife on the gravestone must have been twice married.

His second wife, Marrianne Harriette Loy-Smith (widow) died at "Woodcote", Shoreham Beach, Sussex, on the 14th of February 1912.

In her will (made on the 2nd of January 1912) she appointed her daughter, Margaret Marrianne, of Woodcote, Shoreham Beach, Sussex, as the sole executrice and directed that after all her just debts had been paid:

"I give and bequeath all that I possess at the time of my death to my two daughters, Margaret Marrianne and Gertrude, to be divided equally between them."

The will was probated at London on the 24th of February 1912 by the sole executrice, the personal effects being worth 73/15/-.

Further information

1891 Census

25, Laurel Grove, Penge.

Marianne L Smith, widow, 61, Living on own means, born Pimlico.

Margaret L Smith, 29, Teacher of school, Drawing & Painting, born Sydenham.

Gertrude L Smith, 26, no occupation, born Sydenham.

1901 Census

25, Laurel Gr, Penge.

Marianne Loy Smith, wid, 75, Drawing Teacher School, born London.

Margaret Smith, 39, born Sidcup.

Gertrude Smith, 36, born Sidcup.

1911 Census

1, Cardigan Villas, The Green, Southwick, Sussex. [Self contained flat - 4 room]

Marianne Loy-Smith, 85, widow, Private Means, born London.

Margaret Loy-Smith, 49, Certificated drawing teacher, artist & fashion, born Sidcup.

Gertrude Loy-Smith, 46, Building & Letting furnished bungalows, born Sidcup.

Deaths registered

Marianne H Smith, aged 86 years, March Quarter 1912, Steyning.

Margaret M.L. Smith [daughter], aged 63 years, December Quarter 1924, Steyning.

Gertrude l Smith [daughter], aged 82 years, March Quarter 1947, Worthing.

Loy-Smith's memorabilia, Sheffield

In 1980 a request was made to a Mr. Skelton-Wallace of Sheffield for assistance in getting further information on the "Dickinson" (17th Lancers) medals which were in the City Museum there.

Resulting from this a comment was made by a member of the staff at the Museum that they had other items in store which had originally belonged to a member of the Light Brigade.

These turned out to be a remarkable collection of military memorabilia which had been donated to the Museum in 1899 by the widow of George Loy-Smith. These had remained undisturbed in boxes in the basement of the Museum since that time. (See copy of the letter in which the bequest was made, in the 11th Hussar file. Mrs. Smith was a native of Sheffield and a former school-teacher there).

One of the first things to come to light was the jacket and sash worn by him in the Crimea and Mr. Skelton-Wallace (a military tailor by profession) was able to influence the authorities on the importance of the collection and place it on display. This was done [1981], an exhibition being arranged in the "Bishop's House," together with items from the "Dickinson" bequest.

The jacket has the button taken from the Russian Hussar positioned the second from the bottom. It is of a similar type to the remainder, about one inch in diameter - but having the number "11" in raised lettering, whereas the English ones are stamped. Loy-Smith fully describes how this came about in his story of the Charge.

After his horse had been shot and he was making his way up the valley, he came upon some Russian wounded and picking up a carbine, approached them. One of the men he found belonged to the 11th Russian Hussars:

"The thought struck me that I should like to have one of the Eleventh Hussar buttons to mark the singular co-incidence. Stooping down, I took hold of one of his buttons and signified by signs that I should like one. He took hold of one and tried to pull it off, but failed; not wishing to give the button up however, I drew my sword - but thinking no doubt that I was going to kill him he uttered what must have been a prayer.

I shook my head, and bending over him, gently drew my sword forward and cut it off. The next day I cut a button of my own jacket and sewed on the other in its place, and where it still remains."

The bullet hole and blackened lace of the left cuff are still apparent on the jacket and is also mentioned in his narrative. There are few items however, directly identifiable with actually belonging to him. His spurs, haversack, a bandage found in the inside pocket of his jacket, a gun-spike said to have been given to him by an officer aide-de-camp just before the final advance at the Alma, three or four pencil sketches signed by him, and a painting of a camp and its occupants (named by a key-list).

One poignant item however, are some dried wild flowers in a frame, and said by him to have been picked on the battle-field of Balaclava when the regiment rode over it again on the 28th of March 1855.

Most of the other items are of a general character: Russian uniforms and items of equipment, souvenirs from churches and private houses, and being of a weight and size that creates a feeling that all were not brought back by him but built into a collection in later years by acquisition. The known fact of their having been on show at the Crystal Palace at some time would lend credence to this.

However, In his "Memoirs", published in 1987 as a Victorian R.S.M., he makes numerous references to his obtaining various items, either by helping himself to them or by purchase from fellow soldiers of anything he fancied.

Two examples of his search for souvenirs are his obtaining permission to go to the front on the fall of Sebastopol, "I brought back as many things to camp as I could carry; some I found myself and others were bought or given to me..." and (despite it being out of bounds) obtaining passes for himself and a fellow sergeant to enter Sebastopol and from which he brought back a whole list of things.

He also mentions going into a church of which nothing remained except bare walls:

"When standing on the raised part where the alter had been I little thought that the whole of the communion plate was buried underneath - (Something I learned afterwards when Sebastopol was given back to the Russians.)"

He quantifies [sic?] the possession of the gun-spike:

"It was at this time that an aide-de-camp galloped up to the 11th and called for the sergeant-majors, giving to each of us a gun-spike, saying, 'These are all we have', and adding, 'You may have an opportunity of using them presently."

What will happen to this collection in the future is not clear, the Museum authorities being very willing to lend the exhibition to the Regimental Museum of the Royal Hussars on a renewable time-basis, but the Regiment wishes to acquire it on a permanent basis.

1983: It would appear that the exhibition items are now on permanent loan in the Royal Hussars Regimental Museum at Winchester.

Memoirs: A Victorian RSM: From India to the Crimea (published 1987).

In 1987 his Memoirs were published by the Royal Hussars Museum under the title of A Victorian R.S.M.. This covers his career from his enlistment in 1833 to his landing in England in February of 1855. As an appendix there are various statistical records of the numbers involved, casualties, etc., and the account of the Charge as reprinted in the Regimental History (published in 1908.)

This seems to date from 1883, when he submitted the account, along with various drawings he had made in collaboration with members of his own and other regiments and submitted to officers of the 11th.

The whole seems to have been very severely edited, and one is left with the impression that much of interest has been left out.

He moves very quickly over his early years, except to say that he came from a service family, his father having served in the Peninsula and relatives had served in other Continental campaigns. He also refers to having lived with his grandmother near Sheffield, she having taken him from his mother when he was a baby.

Although his documents show him as having "No trade" on enlistment, he says he was apprenticed to a chemist and druggist some six months before his enlistment.

That he was allowed to do so is surprising in the fact that the Army was very strict on "surrendering" apprentices, although they usually claimed them back the moment their indentures were finished and even kept a special book in which all the names were recorded.

He also gives an explanation of why he reverted to Private on two occasions in 1834-35. The first occasion was because:

"I was very much dissatisfied at not being allowed to go (to India) especially as many were sent who had joined after I did. I was foolish enough to resign my rank of Corporal, which was permitted."

On the second occasion:

"Mine was the second name to be called from the list. I was also appointed Acting Sergeant but Rigby (another Corporal) and I, however, had to resign our ranks as full corporals, now being placed on a Private's pay."

He also refers to a brother, Corporal Bassett Smith, who died at Nottingham in 1851 and to whom brother non-commissioned officers erected a memorial. [See Further information, below].

Entry for the 1st of April 1855:

"On muster parade this morning the Colonel called me to the front of the regiment and presented me with the Victoria Medal, which carries an annuity of 20, and read the Queen's Warrant. He then addressed me, saying how he was highly pleased with my conduct during the whole campaign. You can be sure how highly gratified I was.

On one side of the medal are the words, 'For distinguished conduct in the field'. The ribbon is very pretty, being of red and blue."

Thursday, 20th September 1855:

"This is the anniversary of the battle of the Alma. We had a parade this afternoon, every man was present to receive his medal. The Colonel first presented the officers with theirs, then the non-commissioned officers and afterwards the privates. He then said that he should recommend us to wear the ribbon only for fear anything might happen to us in the field, which advice most men will follow."

Tuesday, 15th January 1856:

"We have just heard to our intense horror that Mr. Yates [PB: presumably Cornet? John Yates, 11th Hussars, who Loy-Smith loathed] is on his passage out.

Almost at the same time I learned that all men with over 20 years' service, who were ailing, were to be sent home as the war was considered to be virtually at an end, (all firing on our part and that of the Russians having ceased for some time). Having at this time nearly 23 years in the service, I determined to avail myself of this order, dearly as I loved the service and my regiment.

To come into close contact again with a man who had, as far as it lay in his power, deprived me of the privileges of my predecessors, and imposed on me duties that had never been performed by my rank, and whose duties I had been doing for many months was more than I could endure - the very thought made me sick at heart. I could stand anything but pointed humbug, so that I became really indisposed and went onto the sick report.

This was the first time since leaving home that I had been a single day away from my duty...

After being in the sick report for a few days, the surgeon of the regiment brought the general doctor to see me. Accordingly. on the 25th of January, I, in company with two more invalids of the 11th, embarked at Balaclava aboard the 'Thames', bound for Portsmouth."

Basset Loy Smith [brother]

References & acknowledgements

Numerous additional marriage, birth and death registrations, dates of GLS's membership of the Balaclava Commemoration Society, and Census information for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911, generously provided by Chris Poole.

New on the site Search Index of men S
For further information, or to express an interest in the project, please email the editors, Philip Boys & Roy Mills, via info@chargeofthelightbrigade.com