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Canadians Pay Respects to WWII War Hero

Canadians paid their final respects Tuesday to Ernest Alvia Smith, a Second World War hero who earned the Victoria Cross for his heroic fights with Germans in Italy.


Prime Minister Paul Martin and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson led the parade of dignitaries past Smith's coffin, which was lying in state in the foyer of the House of Commons for a daylong vigil.


Canada is holding a series of ceremonies this week for Smith, who died at his home in Vancouver on August 3 at the age of 91.


Flags on government buildings will fly at half-mast Tuesday, and books of condolences have been set up on Parliament Hill and at the Canadian War Museum.


Smith was born in New Westminster, British Columbia in 1914. He served with the Seaforth Highlanders during the Second World War, and earned recognition for his exploits one night in Italy, in October 1944.


During that night he disabled a German tank by gunfire, defeated a group of at least 10 German soldiers, killing four, while protecting one of his fallen comrades, all by himself.


He is the last surviving recipient of the British Victoria Cross, an award for bravery, valor, self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. Only 94 Canadians have won this recognition.


(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2005)

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