When the 20th Battalion, CEF was lifted in 1914, recruits came from southern Ontario, including many volunteers who had served in the military. One of these men was Alexander George Edwin Smith.
Smith was born on August 14, 1880 in the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Like many members of this community, he served in the local militia, the 37th Battalion, the Haldimand Rifles, where he held the rank of captain. When he volunteered for overseas service on November 13, 1914, despite his eighteen years in the militia, he was enlisted as a lieutenant.
In 1916 he was promoted to captain and commanded Company No. 4. On September 26, 1916, he led his company into an attack on behalf of the 8th Battalion. For his heroism during this attack, he received the Military Cross. The quote in the London Gazette reads as follows:
"For the remarkable gallantry in action." He proceeded with a group of bombers and captured an enemy trench and fifty prisoners, displaying the greatest courage everywhere.He was buried twice by shells, but stuck to his post. "
Injured during this action, he was evacuated to England where he wrote a letter to his father, in which he read in particular:
"You can tell Mabel (his wife) that I received the Military Cross for bravery on the ground of the greatest battle the world has ever known. Do not forget to tell Donnie and Harold what God allowed me, their dad, to go through and do. "
Due to the severity of his injuries, he was not returned to the front line when he recovered but instead was sent back to Canada. He became assistant adjutant-general of instruction for the Polish Blue Army, camped at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Nearly 23,000 strong men, this force had been recruited in the Polish diaspora in Canada and the United States and was officially part of the French army. The Blue Army was finally transferred to the Western Front, later fighting Ukrainian and Soviet troops in Poland itself. For his service to the Blue Army, Captain Smith was one of five Canadians to receive the Order of the Black Star of Poland.
Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, an Ojibwa from Parry Island who was nicknamed "Peggy," is often cited as the most decorated First Nations Veteran of the First World War. He received the military medal of two bars. However, the price of the Military Cross awarded to Captain Smith is the highest individual award received by one of the many First World War veterans, earning him the title in front of Corporal Pegahmagabow. Be that as it may, both are exceptionally brave men who deserve to be remembered by all Canadians for their bravery.
After the war, Captain Smith returned to the Six Nations Reserve and resumed his civilian occupation as an entrepreneur. Among his many children are Jay Silverheels, an actor known for his rendition of "Tonto" in the original television series "The Lone Ranger". Captain Smith died on October 22, 1954 at a veteran hospital in Buffalo, New York.