Indigenous Australian, Edward James SMITH, 54th Infantry Battalion
Edward SMITH was born in south western Queensland around 1895 to William Mark Smith and Margaret Edward Gordon. In April 1916 Smith was working as a shearer in the Brewarrina district, when he volunteered to serve with the first AIF.
He left Sydney in August with the 4th Reinforcements for the 54th Infantry Battalion aboard the troopship Boorara, arriving in England eight weeks later.
They spent several months receiving additional training and acclimatizing to the northern hemisphere before embarking for France, where they joined their battalion in the field, in the winter of December 1916.
The unit diaries for this period tell a story of appalling conditions and inadequate shelter as they operated in the front lines at Bernafay Wood. The men were housed in damp dug-outs and shelters and experience heavy enemy artillery activity during the day.
Company commanders worked to improved conditions as much as they could; carrying forward duck-boards and pumps, as in most places the mud was ‘at least a foot thick’.
Private Smith fell victim to the conditions and was admitted firstly to the Field Ambulance, then transferred via Ambulance Train to the 8th General Hospital at Rouen, to be treated for painful varicose veins. After several months recuperation, he rejoined his comrades as they were coming out of the front lines, at Ligny Thilloy, south of Bapaume.
Sketch map of enemy attack 15 May 1917, Unit Diary 54th Infantry Battalion
Four weeks later during the Second Battle of Bullecourt, Smith was wounded in action. Suffering multiple gun shot wounds to his right arm, thigh and leg he was evacuated to England and admitted to Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich for treatment.
Edward Smith was repatriated home in December 1917 where he was medically discharged.
Read more …
- SERVICE RECORD: SMITH, Edward James
- EMBARKATION ROLL: 4th Reinf. 54th Infantry Battalion
- UNIT DIARIES: 54th Infantry Battalion
- 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