Miles Richard Smeeton
1906 - 1988
Smeeton was born in Hovingham, Yorkshire on March 5, 1906. He attended
Wellington College and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as an officer.
He joined the British army with the Green Howards (a Yorkshire regiment),
saw action in Africa and the Middle East where he received the Military
Cross (MC) and then transferred to the Hobson's Horse regiment with the
Indian Cavalry. During World War II he went to Burma with the Burma Theater
and obtained the rank of brigadier. Smeeton's brigade was in contact with
the Japanese when they officially surrendered and one of the General's
handed him his sword. When Smeeton left Burma, the sword went along with
him, rolled up in his bedding. For this campaign Smeeton was awarded the
Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Twenty years later while back in Tokyo,
Miles found that the colonel, who was writing the history of the war in
Burma and told him of his mission: to return the sword of surrender to
a general whose name he could not remember, but who was chief of staff
of the Japanese Thirty-third Corps. "Ah," said the colonel,
"that would be General Sawamoto. You have good fortune, for he has
only come up to Tokyo today. He is at the officers' club now. I will ring
up the club and tell him you have brought his sword." In an emotional
cermeony Smeeton was able to return the sword to the General.
In 1938 he married solo explorer Beryl Boxer and in 1939 they attempted to climb Tirich Mir in the Hindu Kush with Tenzing Norgay, at which time she reached the greatest height ever climbed by a woman (7,000m). After WWII they tried operating a small farm on Saltspring Island, purchasing land there (1943) sight unseen near Musgrave Landing and farming from 1946 to 1950. Unable to transfer some of their money from England, they returned to Britain in 1951 where they found a sailboat yacht called Tzu Hang. They taught themselves how to sail on their way to Spain, proceeding to the Canary Islands, through the Panama Canal and back to Saltspring Island where they again farmed (1952 to 1955). However, the call of the ocean eventaully lured them back onto the water and they sailed to many exotic locations around the world. During their time on Saltspring Island the Smeeton's joined the Vancouver Island section of the ACC and participated in a few of their trips. In 1953 he took twenty sections members over to Saturna Island on his yacht for some cliff climbing, 1954 over to Mayne Island and 1955 to Sansum Narrows. He also made an ascent of Mount Shuksan with Patrick Guilbride. For twenty years they sailed around the world and wrote about their adventures, recalling their first maritime adventures in the book titled The Sea Was Our Village (1973). Previous titles by Miles Smeeton were: Because the Horn is There, The Misty Isles, Sunrise to Windward, A Taste of the Hills and A Change of Jungle. Smeeton's oft-reprinted description of trying to round Cape Hope in their small boat, Once is Enough (1959), is considered a sailing classic although the couple have been criticized by seasoned sailors for their prideful foolishness at sea. He also wrote some whimsical titles for children: Moose Magic, Alligator Tales plus Competely Foxed. Beryl Smeeton wrote two books: The Stars my Blanket and Winter Shoes in Springtime. The former describes some of her remarkable pre-war adventures that included a thousand-mile trek on horseback in the eastern foothills of the Andes and a hike through the jungles of Burma and Thailand.
In 1973 the Smeeton's were awarded the Blue Water Medal for many years of voyaging in their forty-five foot ketch, covering thousands of miles in all latitudes, climaxed by an east to west rounding of Cape Horn, where they had twice previously been dismasted in 1968. Others who have received this award are Harold Tilman, Francis Chichester and John Guzzwell.
The Smeeton's raised their only daughter Clio aboard their boat and then eventually settled near Calgary in 1969. There the Smeeton's founded the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI) in 1971 and initiated the swift fox reintroduction program in Canada in 1972, six years before the species was declared extirpated in Canada. All animals held at the CEI are destined for reintroduction. They are not maintained for public exhibit, trade, or sale. Over the years of its existence the CEI has also been an integral part of the Canadian Wildlife Service's Trumpeter swan (Cygnus bucinnator) and wood bison (B.b.athabascae) reintroduction programs. The CEI is a family founded, charitable, not-for-profit organization devoted to breeding endangered species for reintroduction, wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and release, educating the public, monitoring habitat and species, and developing non-intrusive wildlife survey methods. The CEI also serves as a referee for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). CEI has received Public Recognition in the form of:
Award Government of Alberta 1980
The management of the CEI was taken over by Clio Smeeton. Beryl Smeeton passed away in Cochrane, Alberta on November 14, 1979 and Miles Smeeton died of a stroke in Calgary on September 23, 1988, at the age of eighty-three.
High Endeavours: The Extraordinary Life and Adventures of Miles and
Beryl Smeeton. Western Producer Prairie Books. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.