Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Digger Smith is wounded at The Battle of Menin Road

Sez’e, ‘Yeh want to, an’ yeh ought to go. Wot’s stoppi’n’ yeh?’

3465 Private John Edward Smith enlisted in the 11th Reinforcements of the 6th Infantry Battalion and was transferred to the 7th Infantry Battalion in September 1916. He was an 18 year old Coburg baker, who was halfway through his apprenticeship with local businessman Thomas Passfield.

As an apprentice, John Smith had to get his employer’s permission to enlist, as can be seen in the following letter found in his service record.

John Edward Smith was the son of contractor John Andrew Smith and his wife Margaret Mary Quirk who lived in Alice Street, Coburg. He enlisted in July 1915 and served on the Western Front where he was wounded in the right wrist and the thorax on 20 September 1917 at Zilllebeke Bund near Ypres in Belgium. Known as the Battle of Menin Road, Smith was wounded on the first day of fighting.

The 14th Battalion of Australian Infantry resting at Zillebeke in the Ypres Sector, after having completed a strenuous period of fighting in the Third Battle of Ypres. Note the packs and rifles in the foreground.
Image courtesy AWM. Image E00959.

Soldiers running to take shelter from a heavy shellburst at Glencorse Wood in the Ypres salient.
Image courtesy AWM. Image E00737.

The 7th Battalion’s Unit Diary (available online at the Australian War Memorial website) indicates that 3 officers and 29 other ranks were killed during the battle. 2 officers and 11 other ranks died of wounds. 5 officers and 155 other ranks were wounded and 2 men were missing. One of the officers killed was VC winner Frederick Harold Tubb. John Edward Smith was among the wounded and was evacuated to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Millbank, London. He survived his wounds, returned to Australia where he continued to live in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and died in 1964 while living in the Merlynston area.

Battle of Menin Road, by H. Septimus Power. This image shows troops in a trench moving forward into battle zone during the Battle of Menin Road, Third Ypres, Western Front, 1917 on 20 September 1917.
Image courtesy AWM. ART03327.

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