20.4.2022 – ANZAC Special

20.4.2022 - ANZAC Special

A special Spotlight ANZAC presentation including diary entries of Roy Alfred Walter Smith, Darryn’s Great Uncle, and a special presentation by Gareth McCray OAM.


SONG: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – Eric Bogle – The Pogues

“And the Bank Played Waltzing Matilda”, A well known song written by Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle. Recounted by Bogle to the Sydney Morning Herald that a lot of people think the song is traditional, and that it was penned from experience of the war. Bogle wrote the song in 1971 after arriving in Australia a few years earlier – an oblique comment on the Vietnam War which was in full swing. Bogle recounts that at first the RSL thought the song was anti-soldier, but they have come full circle and see its certainly anti-war but not anti-soldier.

Now back to 1915, and we introduce Roy Alfed Walter Smith, my great Uncle who fought in Gallipoli and France. His brother Harold Edward Benjamin Smith also fought, sharing common accounts in their diaries. These diaries are held at the Australian War Memorial and my wife and I have visited and transcribed some of their words which I can share today.

Roy first enlisted in 1914 in the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force. Roy’s unit was the (Tropical Unit) 1st Battalion, G Company. This battalion of about a thousand men was briefly sent to New Guinea. After returning home from New Guinea Roy re-enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, 19th Battalion, D Company.

25th June 1915 “left Sydney by “Ceramic” at 5 pm. Left Liverpool 8:30 am by train and marched through Sydney streets to Wooloomooloo Bay where we embarked on ferry and went out to Ceramic. We got slightly mixed up marching through the streets on account of the civilians jamming in. On board are the 18th and 19th Battns and some reinforcements nearly 3000 in all.”

5th July 1915 “orderly sergeant with very little to do. Caused some excitement after tea by cutting the hair of all sergeants a few objected and caused some trouble finally ending up with an 18th Battn officer threatening to put us in the guard room – I attended a short lecture by the R.S.M. on “infantry in attack”.

11th July ” very hot – church parade was held in the morning. I took a few photos and spent most of the day reading. In the afternoon we had one of our general muck ups. Pillow fighting and making a nuisance in general. Still sleeping on top deck as the weather is very warm. Supposed to have crossed the equator.”

Now, we must remember that there was no conscription of Australians in World War 1, they were there as volunteers. However, there was much propaganda to assist with making up of the minds of young men like Roy and Harold. One such song written at the time is by Alfred Mansfield – Wake Up Australia. Now we play a 2015 rendition by baritone Michael Halliwell with piano accompaniment by David Miller.

SONG: Wake Up! Australia, Alfred Mansfield

Thank you for joining us for this special Spotlight presentation for Anzac Day. We are sharing diary entries of my Great Uncle Roy Alfred Walter Smith who fought at Gallipoli and France in World War 1.

Roy trained first in Cairo before travelling to Gallipoli part way through the campaign

23rd July 1915 – “arrived at Alexandria at daylight and went alongside wharf. All day was spent disembarking the troops. The left half of our battalion never left till 8:30 pm. I went into Alexandria for a few hours in the afternoon. It seems a lively place with a mixed population. After a six hours run in the train we arrived at our destination and marched out to camp all very tired. There are a number of british and Australian wounded troops at Alexandria, also plenty of slums.”

24 jul – had a look at our new camp. It is nothing but sand and only about ½ mile from Heliopolis. The 17th Battn are here also several other troops. Heliopolis is a suburb of Cairo and has some beautiful buildings. It is really the elite quarters. I went into Cairo by train and had a good look round. It is easily the most mixed city I have been to also the most immoral. There are thousands of troops everywhere.

18th Aug – still on our way. We are taking precautions against submarines and everyone sleeps with a lifebelt. We have news that we will be at Lemnos Island in the morning – no one seems to realise that we will be in action perhaps tomorrow. I have let the diary get behind and writing it up at 6 pm just prior to leaving Lemnos to make a landing.

19 aug – arrived at Lemnos at day break. The harbour is full of ships, hospital, troop and war ships. Every one is cheerful and quite prepared for action – we have 200 rounds and 2 days of rations and expect to be in action in the morning. I have been too busy to worry much. Today is the anniversary of the day we left Sydney Harbour for New Guinea.

20 aug – did not get away last night after all. Had a swim and got ready to move. Discovered that Frank Noble (Olive’s brother) was a cabin mate. At Sunset all the troops except the 20th battn went on board the S.S. Osmaneah and started on our way. Amid great enthusiasm after about three or four hours we arrived at Gaba Tepe where the first landing was affected. Camped for the night in a ravine. Firing going on all night.

21 aug – woke up and found ourselves in a rugged ravine which is tunnelled all through with dug outs, big guns and rifles shooting going on all day over our heads no one seems to take any notice of big guns. At about three o’clock we witnessed the most wonderful sight I have ever seen – all the warships and batteries opened fire and shells were bursting every where.

25 aug – were able to have a swim and saw Harold on the beach – it is rather risky swimming as “Beachy Bill” the big gun is at any time likely to open fire – we all look pictures not having had a shave as we only carry tucker and ammunition.

Another Australian song from the time of war is Heros of the Dardanelles by Reginald Stoneham. The Sydney Morning Herald described it as ‘a patriotic song which possesses a good deal of character in the opening strain’. The song references other songs popular with Australian and British soldiers at the time – ‘Australia Will Be There’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.’

The sheet music included the following note and additional lyrics: ‘Author’s Note – If England’s still at war with Germany, if Encore demanded, sing the following lines and also refrain – The lion and his fighting cubs are driving back the hun, the boys out there, they need you, and they wonder if you’ll come, go now, avenge the pals you knew, they’re calling for you there, your watchword, and one we all love well, Advance Australia Fair.’

Heros of the Dardanelles sung by Michael Halliwell with piano accompaniment by David Miller.

SONGHeros of the Dardanelles by Reginald Stoneham

Thank you for joining us for this special Spotlight presentation for Anzac Day. We are sharing diary entries of my Great Uncle Roy Alfred Walter Smith who fought at Gallipoli and France in World War 1.

Roy is now in the thick of fighting in Gallipoli in 1915.

30 aug – after putting in our first night in the trenches we have a fair idea of what this war means. Our lads acted very well and did good work. There are dead bodies of both our men and turks all round in some place hanging over the parapet it is absolutely impossible to try and describe the scene it is remarkable how we all take these things as a matter of course

31 aug – another day in the firing line – the turks trenches are only a few yards in front of us and a great number of bombs are used – out of about fifteen of my lads round me – one killed and six wounded. The shrapnell done a lot of damage in the afternoon and I don’t want another escape as I had. The casualty list today is very heavy. What with the smell of dead bodies, flies – no sleep and very little tucker, I won’t be sorry when our relief comes. Relieved at 9 pm.

1 sep – the casualty list for my platoon is three killed and eight wounded. Some very serious – the boys seem to have lost all respect for our officers – no wonder.

While going through hell, Roy’s writing in his diary show that he always tried to be lighthearted when possible, but also spoke quite plainly when needed.

9 sep – something gone wrong today. Eggs for breakfast and fresh meat for dinner

10 sep – did nothing most of the day except tried to keep off the flies. A fellow would not mind sharing his tucker with them but I object to them dining at the same time. At 5 pm we relieved A Coy in the Gurkha support trenches. Had a quiet night and not called out.

15 sep – woke up wet – rain of course and most every where but the sun is out again shining. All the lads look absolutely different to when they left. They look absolutely worn out – I think every one has had diarrhoea and dysentery. I am one of a few who are in good condition. Another shift this time on the side of a ridge of loose earth. The safest way to sleep would be to tie ourselves up with a rope.

18 sep – still the Reserve for the firing line on Popes post and doing plenty fatigues on rotten tucker. There is a lot of dissatisfaction in the company mainly due I think to the mens bellies not being full.

19 sep – trouble with the GC and compelled to go before the GC who would not listen so we (the sergeants) took the matter higher and at night everything was smoothed over and we are allowed to cook our own tucker and other privileges.

24 oct – I still have my morning roll call of fleas and lice but I am afraid the class is getting too big for me to handle

And so it went on at Gallipoli, flies, lice, fleas and all. ANZACs holding their ground, into December 1915 when a well-planned evacuation took place. Roy writes of the evacuation.

16 dec – hurried preparation for leaving going on – we are doing well out of it and living on the best – everything seems to be going well so far and the weather is still good but a trifle windy today. I hope luck sticks to us as bad weather means disaster. Plenty of aeroplanes about today.

17 dec – got word officially today that we were evacuating the peninsular also all the necessary precautions to be taken. We hear that our brigade is going to be the last to leave the Anzac area. All the boys are looking forward to having a spell and getting off safely.

Gallipoli, some 44,000 allied soldiers killed, at least 87,000 turks. Regarding the evacuation, over 5 nights, 36,000 troops were withdrawn to the waiting transport ships. The last party left in the early hours of 20 December from North Beach at Anzac. British and French forces remained at Helles until 9 January 1916.

ANZACs, Australian’s, New Zealanders, lost, maimed, some returned. We listen now to the tribute from New Zealander Father Chris Skinner, Sons of Gallipoli.

SONG: Sons of Gallipoli – Fr Chris Skinner

Thank you for joining us for this special Spotlight presentation for Anzac Day. We are sharing diary entries of my Great Uncle Roy Alfred Walter Smith who fought at Gallipoli and France in World War 1.

It’s now April 1916 and Roy is in Bois Grenier, south of Armentière, where the AIF were sent to the Nursery Trenches to learn battles methods of the Western Front.

5 apr 1916 – living quite well the French people are great on coffee and beer. Which are used every meal. I spend most of my time learning to “parle vous” and am getting quite the expert although they sometimes do not understand my classical French

9 apr – I was appointed acting sergt major

15 apr – went into the reserve trenches today. I went with the first party and took over from the 17th G.S.M. They are five trenches with plenty of dug outs made from heavy timber. It is very comfortable as we have a brazier and keep a fire going all day. We are the reserve company to the other three who are in the firing line. We are in quite a civilised locality on sap being known as Shaftesbury Avenue – London Bridge, White City etc.

17 apr – the reserve trenches are very comfortable except for the mud and slush. The saps are infested with rats which are nearly big enough to be used for transport purposes. The boys in the firing line tell me it is good fun to put Cheese on the end of a bayonet and when they get a bite to let go the trigger.

25 apr – Anzac day. The first thing to greet me about 2 am was that my old pal Jack Plummer had stopped a bullet in the foot while on patrol. I went to see Jack at the clearing hospital and found out the wound was not serious although the bullet was still in the foot. The OC has sent my name in for a commission in the engineers. The recommendation has gone through battalion alright. It certainly should be a good job.

3 may – I have got rather a big dugout in this part of the trench but about a hundred rats must have died somewhere here inside. Fortune smiled on me again today. A high explosive shell burst only a few yards from my dugout and covered all my belongings with mud but did no damage. It is very uncomfortable when Fritz commences to fling iron rations about hence a change of dugouts for me tomorrow.

We don’t often hear of the stories away from the front lines of war. It is heartening to read some diary entries of Roy’s from his time in London in 1916.

12 may – at last I am booked for “Blighty” although I can’t imagine I will be lucky enough to get there. At midday word came through to be ready by 1 pm. I did not feel safe until I was well out of range. We walked to a station called ?Stenewerck and camped in a hut there all night ready to catch the train in the morning at 5 am. It is a treat to know you are leaving the war if it is only for a few days.

14 may – arrived in London at 1 am and were met by Australians who took us round to Anzac HQ where we left our equipment and rifles and then had a fine supper provided by the ladies at the buffet. They found hotels for us all about five of us going to the Grafton.

15 may – visited the Commonwealth bank and replenished the necessary then met a friend and took a trip to Brighton. It does not compare with Manly. There are some fine promenades but there is quite a city there and the beach is minus breakers and sand.

16 may – my mate Tom Hill who I am staying with took me to meet a lady who took us all through the Guild Hall and the Tower of London which was very interesting. We were in the room where the princes were murdered also in Sir Walter Raleigh’s prison. We saw all the Crown jewels of England. In the afternoon we visited parliament house and were shown everything by Mr Murray MacDonald who took us into the house of Lords while they were sitting.

As so it went on, to and from the front line on the Western Front. Roy was promoted to second lieutenant in May 1917 before joining the corps school as a Lewis Gun Instructor. In September 1917 he reached the rank of lieutenant. He was able to bump into his brother Harold on a few occasions. Our time is short this morning otherwise I would share more of his diary entries we have transcribed.

Roy was fatally wounded on 8 October 1917; his brother Harold was killed in action on the same day. Roy died in hospital seven days later on 15 October 1917.

I now read from the book Fighting Nineteenth:

Incoming enemy fire was then traced to a trench in Daisy Wood, marked by a line of “coal-scuttle” German helmets. Taylor had them completely enfiladed and with covering fire from a Lewis gun, he and Lieutenant Roy Smith with eight men rushed the trench. A few Germans bolted, then a white flag was waved and fifteen of the enemy surrendered. The prisoners were unwilling to go to the Australian rear, as their own posts further back would shoot at them. Lieutenant Smith stood up to urge them to move, but he was mortally wounded and the captured men were sent back carrying him.

Roy’s grave in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. The families of the war dead chose an epitaph to be added to the grave stone below the cross. Roy’s family chose, “Highly esteemed by all who served with him.”

Choosing a final piece of music was difficult. We wanted to share lesser heard music emanating from the great war. In the end the choice was a piece by Ravel from his suite Le Tombeau de Couperin written between 1914 and 1917. The fourth movement Rigaudon was written by Ravel in memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin, two brothers and childhood friends of Ravel, killed by the same shell in November 1914. You will hear that the piece is more light-hearted than sombre. When asked about this Ravel explained that “The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence”.

MUSIC: Le Tombeau de Couperin IV Rigaudon, Maurice Ravel

Special ANZAC Presentation by Gareth McCray OAM