Monday, 14 October 2013

Digger Smith goes to war

Wot did they know uv war first off,
   When they joined up?

177 Sergeant Ernest Albert Smith sailed with the first contingent on board HMAT Hororata on 19 October 1914 along with a number of other Coburg volunteers.

The Hororata was one of the ships assembled in King George Sound, Albany, Western
Australia, for the First Convoy which left on 1 November 1914 carrying Australian and New Zealand troops overseas.
Image courtesy AWM, Image H02015.

There are thirteen Albert Ernest Smiths in the NAA listings of World War One soldiers and six Ernest Albert Smiths. Of those, there are two Victorian Ernest Albert Smiths.

One of these was 45 year old Ernest Albert Smith of 62 O’Hea Street, Coburg. A one time warder at Pentridge Prison, on enlistment he was working as a clerk with the Victorian Education Department. He was born in West Ham, London in about 1870 and at some stage emigrated to Victoria where he married Elizabeth Mary Keys of Queenscliff in 1896. They settled in Urquhart Street, Coburg and he worked as a warder at Pentridge Prison. At some time in 1914, he changed jobs and began work as a clerk in the Victorian Education Department. Ernest and Elizabeth lost two children in infancy. At the time of his enlistment their son Frederick was 16 years old and their daughter Ida was 11.

Studio portrait of Ernest Albert Smith taken in 1914. 
Courtesy AWM, image P05248.123

On the day Ernest Smith enlisted, 18 August 1914, William John Symonds of Brunswick was just three men ahead of him. Symonds went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel and win a Victoria Cross. He survived the war and died in London in 1948. 

There were 70 Coburg and Brunswick men from the 7th Infantry Battalion on board the Hororata on the day it sailed, 46 as part of A Company, 14 in B Company, 7 in D Company, 2 in F Company and 1 in H Company. 

There was just one Digger Smith, though, Ernest Albert Smith.

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