Harry Smith was born in 1787, the son of a surgeon. He was 18 when he joined the army and fought in the Peninsular War as an officer of the 95th Rifle Regiment. He was at Corunna, and returned to Spain, fighting at the siege of Badajoz where he rescued two beautiful teenage Spanish girls from the rapacious British soldiers. One of the girls, Juana Maria Dolores de Leon became his wife, Lady Smith, who accompanied him on his campaigns and travels.
Smith was at Waterloo as Assistant QMG, and commanded the force in the Cape Colony in the 1834 Kaffir War. Whilst there he performed a riding feat that brought him some degree of fame; he rode from Capetown to Grahamstown, a distance of 600 miles, in 6 days. In 1840 he was appointed adjutant-general to the Queen's Army in India and took part in the Gwalior War in 1843. In the First Sikh War he commanded a division and was made a baronet for his victory at Aliwal.
He returned to South Africa as the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope from 1847 to 1852, and defeated the Boers at Boomplatz in 1848. The famous town of Ladysmith in Natal was named after his wife.
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