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Bridgeton's war hero          Pte.Henry May page 4 of 5


Private Henry May,  receives his VC from G.H. Laird in the Bridgeton Council Rooms, 1915

Glasgow had more than its fair share of heroes during the First World War but few could boast a Victoria Cross.

Private Henry May, a Bridgeton boy, won his VC for rescuing his injured commanding officer on the Western Front in France in 1914.

Despite withering German fire, Henry, who was 29 at the time, disobeyed orders to carry the injured officer from no-man’s land back to the safety of their own trenches.
When he arrived home at Central Station in July 1915 he was carried shoulder high through the streets by his former workmates from Forrest Frew’s mill in Bridgeton.  Henry May had been the first man from the Cameronians to earn a VC for thirty-five years.

civic reception in the Bridgeton Council Rooms, in 1915


Henry May officer
Henry was discharged from the Army on 28th August 1915 when his regular engagement of thirteen years had expired.
He rejoined in 1918 and lastly served as a temporary lieutenant in Archangel, North Russis in 1919 and returned home sick frm there on 17 Oct 1919.
He was admitted to the City Hospital Edinburgh and by 30 October he was fit again and resigned his commision on 15 Nov 1919

HOUSE of  LORDS Dinner, 1929
Dinner at the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, on 9th November 1929

In 1929 the then Prince of Wales, future Edward VIII, held a dinner for holders of the V.C. 
The dinner was held in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords and was quite a prestigious event. 
Three hundred and nineteen (319) VC holders attended, including Henry May. 


Extract from e-mail, 5th Feb.2003,  Iain Stewart
"....I've recently been in touch, through a friend of his, with Sergeant Ernest 'Smoky' Smith VC, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada who lives in Vancouver. Smokey has a photograph of the 1929 Dinner and a mate of his has scanned it for me and has sent it to me attached to an email. Looking at the image, I see that Henry May is very prominent sitting on the first table. I'm sure you can pick him out - second from the right, with the basket table decoration in front him. As far as I know this photograph was the only one taken of the event and for historical reasons is quite important for showing so many VC holders in one place."     Regards,  Iain Stewart   
             (The full list of attendees can be found at Iain's website).

                    Webmaister: what a wonderful 1929 photograph, thank you.


Extract from e-mail, 8th Feb.2003,  GlescaPal, Charlie McDonald   
"Wull...a great photo of the VC winners. A couple of year ago I was on the Somme for the First of July commemorations which I attend every year. I broke off from the main party and went to lay a wreath in the small village of Authuille where I had a memorial erected to the men of the 15th (Glasgow Tramways), 16th (Glasgow Boy's Brigade) & 17th (Glasgow Commercials) Battalions of the Highland Light Infantry about 7 year ago.  
Anyway , there I was sitting in the village pub and outside this big flash limo draws up which had Canadian flags on the bonnet. Thinking to myself it must be some fancy dan Canadian dignatory I just kept on drinking my beer. In comes these rather official looking FBI stereotypes and give the place the once over and then they stepped back out the door. I glanced out the window and out of the limo steps this wee man with a Glengarry on his head. I thought to myself "who is he"? Next thing I noticed was he had a Victoria Cross pinned to his chest. I immediately jumped up and asked one of his minders what the old guy was drinking and he replied " whisky"...I ordered a treble. On entering the pub I was introduced to none other than Smoky Smith the guy who posted the photo to Ian Stewart. I had my photograph taken with him and it now takes pride of place on my office wall. Smokey is a real gentleman.

Extract from guestbook, 14th May.2004,  Brian Seward, North Vancouver, Canada.   
"Would like you to know I am the gent who has the House of Lords photo. 
Smoky Smith's late wife gave it to me many years ago. .. and I sent a copy to the VC website... Just last week I re did Smoky's VC group ( its my hobby) as he is off to the D Day Show.. Good Luck to you all. I enjoy all the VC sites Cheers Brian Seward 
PS.  I won't give my age . I believe I was a water boy at the last supper"

Webmaister :- I e-mailed Mr.Seward thanking him and he kindly replied.................. 
Extract from his e-mail, 12th June 2004
Webmaister Wull. Nice to hear from you. I had a lot of interest in Glasgow as I stayed overnight a few times in the Service Club on Argyle St/?. I was three months in Campbelltown training RN 1944-45 and I well remember the train rides up from Manchester. Everybody in heavy Greatcoats (they got smelly when wet) Coaches jammed packed some wanted the window open, some shut. Then stagger to the Service kiosk for a free cuppa and a tabnab!. 
One had to stay overnight in Glasgow as the McBraynes Bus left either early morn or mid afternoon. I had a good buddy from Glasgow George Niven Brabender.  Never saw him again after I got demobbed. I then joined the MN and spent a lot of time in Glasgow, I am accused today of being a Scotsman I was with so many- particularly those from the Hebrides.  I jumped ship in Vancouver 1955 and eventually joined the Canadian Engineers 25 years with them grabbed a few medals myself and now retired with a hobby of collecting and mounting medals in my spare time. 
I have mounted Smoky Smith's gongs a couple of times. It is kinda scary having a VC in your house considering the worth! 
Regards Brian Seward, 
By the way I think I fell in love with a couple of Scots lassies up there.

Extract from guestbook, Aug.2005,  GlescaPal Ian Robertson, North Vancouver, Canada. 
 ........Sergeant “Smoky” Smith, a brave veteran of World War II, was given a full military funeral. 
He was also a veteran of the Korean War. He died this last week at age 92 and received the highest awards for bravery including the Victory Cross, presented by the Queen in 1944. 
This was the first Victoria Cross awarded to a non-commissioned officer for uncommon bravery when he single handedly knocked out German tanks and killed Nazi soldiers, who rushed at his position. He fought and killed them with his Tommy gun and the rest retreated, thus saving his own men of the Canadian Seaforth Highlander regiment.
“Smokey” came from Vancouver and was a proud volunteer of the Seaforth Regiment, who’s armory is just 15 minutes walk, down the hill from where we live. His body was flown back to Ottawa and given the highest honours given any soldier in almost half a century. He was returned to Vancouver and his coffin lay for a day in his old regiment hall where it was viewed by the many hundreds who came to honour him. His family members stood by the coffin while mourners greeted them.
Afterwards, his coffin was carried by an honour guard of fellow sergeants of the regiment. His body was then taken in an open carriage with military regiments from all over Canada, marching behind the flag draped coffin. He was then honored in a military church service and praised by senior military officers as being a special but ordinary soldier, whom he said, was just doing his duty. “Smokey” always said that the real heroes were those of his friends and others who died in action and never came back.

A Canadian Air force Squadron flew over “Smoky’s” last parade in a missing plane formation in his honour, and the Canadian navy did their part by taking his remains out in the Pacific where his ashes were scattered in the off shore waters of his beloved Canada. On this special day, “Smokey Smith” was a very special reminder to all who witnessed this 60th anniversary end of WW II hostilities of those many heroes from Canada, America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Commonwealth. They do not receive such military funerals. Nevertheless, All these veterans of war deserve our recognition. Lest we forget.
This date in August will become a permanent day of celebration/remembrance throughout Canada for all our veterans living and dead. Its about time.
“Smoky’s” VC and his many other medals could have been sold by his family to collectors for many thousands of dollars. But they did as “Smokey” would have done. They gave it to be displayed in his beloved Seaforth Highlander regimental hall and armory. Its what he would have wanted, because, real heroes don’t count the cost.

 It has given me great pleasure pay tribute to Bridgeton's war hero Henry May and through his webpages I have learned about Sergeant 'Smoky Smith' ... its been a real joy for me working on these webpages ........... Webmaister


Henry May


Newspaper articles

Family details Bridgeton & House of Lords Graveside




oor Forces tribute


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