Thursday, 17 October 2013

Digger Smith’s widow and children

This war 'as tested more than fightin' men.

Peter Stanley notes that about a fifth of the AIF’s men were married, so the war created over 10,000 widows. (Digger Smith and Australia’s Great War, p.310) One of those was Elizabeth Smith, widow of 177 Sergeant Ernest Albert Smith. She was 38 years old when her husband died. They’d been married nearly 20 years and had lived for much of that time in Coburg. Her husband had always been in secure employment and had invested in two local properties: their home at ‘Mathinna’, 44 Urquhart Street where they had lived for some years and their recently purchased home, ‘Bellevue’, 62 O’Hea Street.

Elizabeth had good reason to feel financially secure. On her husband’s death she received a pension of £70 per annum and her daughter received £13 per annum. However, unlike so many others who depended on the war pension, Ernest Smith had made his will in 1902, leaving her his estate which at the time of his death was valued at £600 plus the two properties valued at £750. The house in Urquhart Street was rented out, so this, too, brought in an income.

It was not all smooth sailing, though, because a second will was discovered in Ernest Smith’s paybook, a will he’d made out on his way to Gallipoli and which had somehow been overlooked. This meant that the probate that had been granted in December 1915 on the first will was revoked and it was not for another 12 months that the matter was resolved, mostly because he had sold 44 Urquhart Street but bought the house next door, which caused a legal tangle.

Argus, 10 August 1916, p.4.
(Note that Ernest Albert is called Ernest Walter in error in the first paragraph.) 

Elizabeth Smith did not marry again and lived on in Coburg until her death in September 1946 aged 69. Their children lived on into adulthood. Both attended Coburg High School. Son Frederick also went to war and his story will be told in the next blog entry. Daughter Ida married, moved to Melbourne suburb of Croydon and in 1967 claimed an Anzac Medallion as the sole surviving family member of Ernest Albert Smith. 

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