George Loy Smith was born in Woolwich, 27 March 1817, but had family in Sheffield and probably grew up there or nearby. In his diary he says that his grandmother "brought me up from an infant, taking me from my mother when I was a baby" and that she was buried "a few miles from Sheffield".
When he was 17 years old, George enlisted with the 11th Light Dragoons (later the 11th Regiment of Hussars, and Prince Albert's Own Hussars). After duties in India, England and Ireland, he set sail for the Crimean War in 1854, stopping at Constantinople and Varna.
George was one of the 600 in the Balaclava Charge, known as the Charge of the Light Brigade, ranked as Troop Sergeant-Major. His horse broke a leg during the charge, and George had to run to keep away from the Russian army.
George bought back a personal collection made up of objects gathered after the battles of Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and the siege of Sebastopol. The items are both military and civilian, including his own military issue clothing and gear. Some of the items were gathered by him personally, others he may have been given or bought from other soldiers.
George is said to have modelled for the "Balaclava", painted in 1876 by Lady Elizabeth Butler (Elizabeth Thompson), famous for her depictions of battles. George is seen mounted on a horse on the left of the picture. The original oil is in the collections of Manchester Art Gallery- prints are sometimes known as "After the Charge".
George's collection of items from the battlefield was exhibited pre 1889 at Crystal Palace, and "excited great interest". He died at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1888 aged 71, and his wife Marianne donated his collection of souvenirs from the war to Sheffield in 1889. George was buried at Beckenham Cemetery
"A Victorian RSM- from India to the Crimea", George Loy Smith, published by D J Costello, 1987
"Forgotten Heroes: the Charge of the Light Brigade" by Roy Dutton