Monday, 21 October 2013

Digger Smith mans the big guns in France

'Is little 'eart 'as burned
To get right out an' 'ave a go,
An' sock it into some base foe.

1029 Gunner Frederick Thomas Smith, son of Ernest Albert and Elizabeth Smith, enlisted on 27 April 1917, almost two years to the day after his father was killed at the Gallipoli landing. He was nearly 19 and it must have been with a heavy heart that his mother signed the consent form allowing him to go overseas on active service. He sailed from Sydney on 9 November 1917 on board HMAT Demosthenes, the only Coburg man to go with the 14th Reinforcements, 36th Australian Heavy Artillery Group (Siege Artillery Brigade).

The kangaroo mascot of the Siege Brigade, 36th Heavy Artillery Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery, wearing a cut down service dress jacket with the Brigade badge on the collar. The kangaroo was presented to the West Australian Section of the Siege Brigade and taken to England and France. He did not survive very long, being affected by the cold of the 1915-1916 winters and was always worried by dogs. The photograph bears the inscription 'The Siege Train Regimental Pet'.
Image courtesy AWM, Image A02440.

Frederick Smith arrived in France in February 1918 where he served with the 2nd Australian Siege Battery until the end of the war.

An 8 inch Howitzer of the 1st Australian Siege Battery (formerly 54th Battery, 36th (Australian) Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery), in action at Voormezeele in September 1917.
Image courtesy AWM, Image E00659.

When the war was over, Frederick Smith remained in England until November 1919, attached to the War Records Section, based in the AIF’s Administrative Headquarters in Horseferry Road, London. 

London, England. June 1919. War Diaries Subsection of the Australian War Records Section. Clerical staff complete duplicate and triplicate copies of war diaries of the AIF. The former is passed to the British Government and the latter is used as a working copy.
Image courtesy AWM. Image D00627.

All Australian soldiers would have been familiar with Horseferry Road, pictured here in November 1917.
Exterior of the AIF and War Chest Club in Horseferry Road. The pavement and the street are crowded with troops on leave. The building to the right was later occupied by the Australian War Records Section, which gathered material to form the collections of what became the Australian War Memorial.
Image courtesy AWM, Image C01839. 

The AIF Administrative Headquarters, the Australian War Records Section and the AIF and War Chest Club were located on Horseferry Road, London. You,  too, can take a walk down Horseferry Road as it was in 1917 by viewing this video.

‘A walk through Horseferry Road’. Courtesy AWM, F00065.

Frederick Smith returned to Australia on board the Ypiranga in November 1919 and was discharged from the AIF in March 1920. He returned to live at the family home, 62 O’Hea Street, Coburg. Before the war he had been a clerk, but on his return he became a builder. He married a local girl, Elsie Douglas Landells, great-granddaughter of Coburg pioneer Adam Landells and they had two children. He remained in the area, moving to Reynold’s Parade where he lived until his death at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in September 1953 aged 55. 

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