• The Smith Family - a family in mourning

Arthur SMITH and Sarah COLLINS married in the Melbourne area in 1883, and over the years were blessed with five children, four boys and a girl. However, in 1890 they lost their first born son at the age of 5, and then sadly in 1901, another son at the age of 9. When war broke out in 1914, Hugh Harold, their oldest surviving son, enlisted almost immediately – he was 26 years of age. Hugh had grown up and attended school in the area of his birth, the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond. He’d been a member of the Senior Cadets and had served 3½ years as an apprentice plumber with F. Monk of Richmond. He later moved to the Victorian country town of Bridgewater where members of his mother’s family lived, and there he worked as a shearer and played with the local football team. Hugh went into training at the Broadmeadows Camp with the 5th Battalion, and was assigned to A Company, 2nd Platoon. Six weeks later, on Wednesday the 21st October, they caught the train to Port Melbourne where they boarded the A3 Orvieto, and set sail as part of the 1st Convoy. On the 3rd of December 1914, A Coy formed an advance guard and disembarked at Port Said from where they proceeded to Cairo, while the rest of their battalion continued with the convoy to Alexandria. After further months of training at the Mena Camp, Hugh and his comrades finally embarked on the Novian on the 5th April 1915, en-route for Gallipoli. Four days later they were anchored in Mudros Harbour where more training and waiting ensued, till at last on the 24th of that month they were on the move again. Anchored off Gallipoli on that auspicious morning of the 25th April, A Coy finally left the Novian at 5.30am to take their part in the now famous landing. It’s not known how much of the fighting of that day that Hugh was involved in, but at some stage he was put out of action with an abdominal wound. Having been taken on board the temporary Hospital Ship Itonus, they were steaming their way back to Alexandria, when Hugh succumbed to his wound on the 28th. He was buried at sea and is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli. Arthur and Sarah had lost a third son. How must they have felt when only a few months after Hugh’s death, their only remaining son Cecil, wanted to enlist. As hard as it must have been for them, it seems they had accepted the inevitable, as they wrote out their permission, and Cecil enlisted on the 17th July 1915, aged only 18 years and 4 months. After leaving school, Cecil had taken on an apprenticeship with H.J. Corder, a Painter of Prahran, and was already in his 4th year. He had also spent 4 years in the Senior Cadets, but left it all behind to take his brother, Hugh’s place at war. After spending time at Seymour, Ballarat and Broadmeadows Camps, he sailed on board the Nestor, leaving Melbourne on the 11th October with the 11th Reinforcements of the 14th Battalion. Cecil wasn’t taken on strength with Jacka’s Mob until the 4th March 1916 at Tel-el-Kebir, but after 3 months of training with them in the desert, he set sail for France, landing in Marseilles on the 8th June. The battalion spent some time in Flanders before heading to the Somme. The day after Albert Jacka added a Military Cross to his Victoria Cross at Pozieres, Cecil went missing in action. It was 2 months to the day after his arrival in France, the 8th August 1916, and Arthur and Sarah had no more sons to give. After the war, the Graves Services Unit wrote to the family looking for any information that might help them trace his last resting place. Sarah, who had been widowed in 1919 wrote: Dear Sir. We are sorry to say that we have no particulars beyond what the military was able to supply, except that he was seen in a trench near Mouquet Farm just before the advance on 8th August 1916, as far as I can learn the boys that were with him are reported missing as well. Hoping your efforts will be crowned with success. I am, yours sincerely, Sarah Smith. Cecil Collins Smith (3497) is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. The fact that Sarah had lost all her sons is not completely true. Her daughter Muriel is registered as having married Harold METHER in 1920. Harold’s attestation papers in 1915 show him as unmarried, yet by the time he embarked 4 months later he was, and Mrs Muriel Mether was listed as his next of kin. So regardless of whether they were legally married or not at this stage, Sarah had gained a son-in-law, who did survive the war. Interestingly, the Smith and Mether families were both living at the same address in Richmond in 1915, and later both moved to Chelsea. Having been born in Port Melbourne in 1891 to Carl Gustaf Sigurd and Mary (nee Morton) Mether, Harold had gone on to become a rubber worker before enlisting. Previously rejected, Harold had been finally accepted into the AIF 3 days before Cecil Smith, on the 14th July 1915, and sailed with his younger brother John (Mether), and the 29th Battalion on the 10th November 1915 on board the A11 Ascanius, disembarking at Suez on the 7th December. Harold and the 29th Battalion set sail again on the 16th June 1916 on board the Tunisian, and landed in France on the 23rd, and it wasn’t long before they walked straight into the hell of Fromelles. Harold managed to survive the next two years of war without a scratch or a sick day. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 4th October 1917 and went into the 1st Anzac Corps School for the following 5 weeks. During an attack on enemy trenches at Morlancourt on the 29th July 1918, Harold received his first wound of the war, a gunshot wound to the left elbow. Returning to his battalion on the 12th September, he was again wounded 8 days later, this time a shell wound to his hip. The battalion was north of Mesnil, resting and training, so it’s possible this wound may have been received in a training accident. Perhaps fortunate for him, he was still in hospital when the battalion received the sad news that they had been disbanded, so he was partially spared the anguish that this caused amongst his mates. Returning to duty at the end of October, Harold saw out the war and the wait to return home with the 32nd Battalion. Embarking on the Kildonian Castle on the 21st March 1919, he arrived back in Melbourne on the 7th May and was discharged at the end of the following month. Still doing his bit, Harold knocked a couple of years of his age and re-enlisted in WW2. He served for 3½ years with the 10th Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps. Sarah was reunited with her husband, Arthur, during this 2nd bout of world conflict, in 1943 at the age of 84, and one can only wonder what her dying thoughts were in regard to the crazy world she was leaving behind. Notes on the Mether Family: 1. Muriel (whose first name was actually Beaten) died in 1973, with Harold joining her 2 years later. 2. Muriel & Harold had at least one daughter, born in 1935 – she went on to become a teacher, before joining the WRANS in 1957, then marrying 2 years later. 3. Harold’s brother John had been returned to Australia at the end of 1917 with acute nephritis, he died in 1957. 4. Their father Carl (apparently known as Charles) had been born in Finland in 1862 and had arrived in Australia in 1885, married their mother Mary in 1890 & been naturalized in 1905. Heather (Frev) Ford, 2008
    • Rhondagee
    • Tuesday, 7 August 2018

    Sarah and Arthur Smith were married in St Augustine’s Church Inglewood in 1883. Harold and Muriel were married at St Bartholomeus Church Burnley on the 25th August 1915. They had 2 children, Arthur born in 1931 and Hazel born in 1935. Arthur was a school teacher with the Victorian Education Department for over 40 years, he died in 2005. Hazel was a member of the WRANS. Rhonda Mether 2018