Indigenous Australian, Tom SMITH, 49th Infantry Battalion
When Tom (Thomas Henry) SMITH enlisted in the first AIF in May 1917, it was not for the first time. Tom had previously volunteered in 1915 but was rejected for being half-caste.
On this occasion Tom was in the company of two other Aboriginal recruits, Charlie Parker and Harry Harper, who were all accepted when they put their hands up at the Mitchell Show and Races.
They began their training as infantry men at Rifle Range camp, Enoggera just outside of Brisbane and embarked from Sydney on board the troopship ‘Medic’ in August 1917 with the 10th Reinforcements for the 49th Infantry Battalion.
During the voyage Tom Smith spent 3 days in the ships hospital recovering from Influenza.
Tom Smith arrived in England early October and trained at Codford Army camp for several months. In January 1918 he was hospitalised briefly with laryngitis before they embarked for France three weeks later.
When Tom Smith joined his Battalion, they were holding the front line north east of Strazeele, south of Ypres. During operations in April 1918 the 49th Battalion were near Blangy Tronville in what became known as the battle of Villers-Bretonneux, it was here that Tom Smith was wounded in action, receiving shell fragments to his face.
After treatment in hospital he returned his unit in the field two weeks later. At the end of the war Tom Smith was remustered as Temporary Driver until he returned to camp in England, where he waited to be returned home in July 1919.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: Smith, Thomas
- Embarkation roll: 10th Reinf. 49th Infantry Battalion
- Image: The Queenslander Pictorial, 15 September 1917
- One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
- View the whole Collection: Indigenous enlistment
- Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland