Overlooked VC hero will be honoured after all

The government has said that it is investigating ways to honour foreign soldiers who won the Victoria Cross while serving in the British armed forces during the First World War.

The move comes in response to protests against plans to honour only British-born VC heroes.

The Department of Communities and Local Government announced last month that, to mark next year’s centenary anniversary of the start of the war, tribute paving stones would be laid in the home towns of 480 British VC winners.

The plan included the four UK-born Jewish medal recipients, but a fifth, Sergeant Issy Smith, would have been overlooked because he was born in Egypt.

Now the government says it is looking into “the most appropriate way to commemorate Commonwealth and overseas Victoria Cross winners. No hero will be forgotten.”

Last week, the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex) wrote to Communities Secretary urging him to ensure foreign-born heroes were honoured.

Henry Morris, the vice-president of Ajex, called on Mr Pickles to “reconsider your criteria and thereby avoid giving offence to many brave men.

“Ajex takes exception to the criteria adopted for laying out paving stones. In our view this will unfairly discriminate against many others who were awarded this honour.”

Born Ishroulch Shmeilowitz in Alexandria in 1890, Issy Smith came to Britain as a child and grew up in Manchester. He joined the British army in 1904 and served in the first battalion in the Manchester regiment, reaching the rank of sergeant.

He was awarded a VC for carrying “a wounded soldier 250 yards to safety while exposed to heavy machine gun fire” on April 26 1915.

He died in Melbourne, Australia in 1940, aged 49.

Last updated: 11:45am, September 4 2013