Born in Kingston, Ontario, ‘Brit’ Smith entered RMC in 1938 and graduated two years later with a commission in the Royal Canadian Artillery. He served with 8th Field Regiment in England, transferring to 4thField Regiment with which he landed at Normandy in July 1944, as part of 2ndCanadian Infantry Division.
The 2nd Canadian Division was part of LGen Guy Simonds’ II Canadian Corps and participated in both the capture of Verrières Ridge during Operation ATLANTIC and the breakup of the German defensive cordon during Operation SPRING. The fight for Verrières Ridge was particularly ferocious. With complete disregard for personal safety, Captain Smith, acting as a Forward Observation Officer (FOO), played a key role in repulsing four enemy attacks. For leadership under fire, he was awarded an immediate Military Cross. During Operation SPRING, he attacked with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry before being wounded by an anti-tank mine and machine gun fire.
Captain Smith was returned to Canada and hospitalized. During his convalescence, he married Sally Carruthers, his fiancée of four years. Post-war, Brit studied law at Osgoode Hall, and was called to the bar in 1948. He practiced law in Kingston, and was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1959. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) from RMC in 1989 and from Queen’s University in 2009.
As a hobby, he engaged in the development of Strathcona Park and other subdivisions and in 1954 incorporated Homestead Land Holdings Limited of which he is still Executive Chairman. Homestead has become one of the three largest residential rental organizations in Canada.
While practising law he joined the Princess of Wales Own Regiment (PWOR) as a company commander until 1954, later serving as the Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel from 1968-74 and as Honorary Colonel until 1985, returning to that appointment from 1992-95. He was an Executive Member of the RMC Club of Canada from 1957 until he became its President in 1983-84. During his term as President, he had Homestead build the new entrance to the College in collaboration with the Club.
In 1949, Brit was elected Kingston alderman, serving three terms. He acted as chairman of the United Way in 1967 and later became its Honorary Patron. In 2006 he was inducted into the Kingston Business Hall of Fame. He has chaired various fundraising campaigns and received several other awards in recognition of his community activities. He was made a life member of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1998.
Brit has honoured the past while continuing to promote the future through his writing, including a monograph for Canadian Military History on “A FOO at Troteval Farm: 20-21 July, 1944”; editing Kingston! Oh Kingston!, an anthology about early Kingston; and Legend of the Lake, the story of the building, launching, and foundering of the 22-Gun Brig Sloop Ontario in 1780.
Philanthropic support has been a mainstay of Brit’s work over the decades. His professional success enabled him to make multiple major donations through his Foundation, to help causes to which he is committed. Health care, education, diagnostic equipment and research have been causes he has tirelessly promoted and supported financially. He has made major donations to the Kingston Large Venue Entertainment Centre, the Grand Theatre, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, the RMC Foundation, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and numerous other organizations. He provided instrumental support for the building of a Hospice for Kingston, and supplied seed funding in anticipation of the building of a new Museum for RMC. At Queen’s University, he funded the Sally Smith Chair in Nursing and chairs in Surgery, Surgical Research and Orthopedic Research as well as providing support for sports.
In recognition of his exceptional contributions, Brit was awarded Membership of the Order of Canada in 2019.
Brit and his late wife Sally have three children, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Seven of Sally’s uncles graduated from RMC.
Soldier, Entrepreneur, Community Leader, Philanthropist