Army Museum of New South Wales
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1894. Born on 17th November 1894 at Young, New South Wales, Sydney Nestor Smith was the son of Joseph Henry Smith and his wife, Emily Jane Smith.
1914. A Labourer and still living at Young, Sydney Smith enlisted as a Private soldier in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1914. He had previously served over two years in the Commonwealth Cadet Corps and had also served for nine months in the Field Artillery (Militia).
1915. He embarked at Sydney on 11th February with the 2nd Reinforcements for the 13th Infantry Battalion AIF and joined the battalion at Cairo, Egypt about four weeks later.
On the afternoon of 25th April the battalion landed at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey and became heavily involved with establishing and defending the Anzac front line over the ensuing months. On 8th June Sydney was evacuated with a debilitating middle ear infection that caused him to return to Australia later in the year for probable for discharge from the AIF.
1916. Sydney Smith was declared fit for duty in January and re-embarked at Sydney on 8th March with the 15th Reinforcements for the 13th Battalion. He disembarked at Suez, Egypt and a period of re-training and acclimatisation followed. However, he did not then re-join the battalion which on 1st June embarked for France. Instead, he transferred to the ANZAC Provost Corps at Tel el Kebir, Egypt on 31st July, moving shortly after to England.
1917. Spending most of the year in England, Sydney re-joined the 13th Battalion on 18th December. At the time, the battalion was training was training at Moislains in the Somme Department, northern France.
1918. Sydney was with the 13th Battalion during its front line defensive operations in West Flanders, Belgium early in 1918 and front line defensive and limited offensive operations in the Somme Department, northern France from March to early August. For his actions on 2 May 1918 he was awarded the Military Medal …
‘For conspicuous gallantry near Villers-Bretonneux on 2 May 1918 when an officer was severely wounded by MG [machine gun] fire and lay within full view of the enemy. Privates Greenleaf [Leslie Webster Greenleaf] and Smith went to his assistance and carried him in at great personal risk. At this time our objective had been gained and consolidated. No Stretcher Bearers were available as they had made the last carry to the RAP [Regimental Aid Post] just at dawn and it was not possible to return at daylight. With the assistance of two other men they improvised a stretcher squad, and as the case was a serious one, carried through with it to the RAP This was done in broad daylight, and practically the whole route was under observation of enemy snipers who were very active’.
Greenleaf was also awarded the Military Medal. Sadly, the rescued officer, Captain Robert James Henderson, MC and Bar died of his wounds on 13th May. In July, Sydney Smith was appointed as a Lance Corporal but on 2nd August he suffered an accidental bullet wound to his neck near Cachy in the Somme Department. The injury caused him to be invalided to England.
In September, Sydney Smith and Mabel Constance Isbell married at Norwich, Norfolk, England.
1919. Sydney was detached to the Australian Army Postal Corps in February and he embarked at with his wife in September for return to Australia and discharge from the AIF.
1939. Sydney joined the Citizen Forces (Militia) in October as a result of the outbreak of war again the previous month. At the time, he was living in the Sydney suburb of Flemington and working as a Fitter’s Assistant. He was posted to 22nd Garrison Battalion which was one of a number of units raised for coastal defence and internal security including guarding prisoners of war. He was taken on strength in the Sydney area with the rank of Corporal.
1940-1944. During January 1940 Sydney was promoted to Lance Sergeant and in May 1941 transferred to the Prisoner of War (POW) Camp at Cowra in mid-western New South Wales as an Acting Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2). He was confirmed as a WO2 in August 1941 then commissioned in October of that year as a Probationary Lieutenant.
Sydney Smith’s other transfers during the Second World War were to the POW Camp at Hay in the New South Wales Riverina area in November 1942, to the POW Camp at Yanco also in the Riverina in September 1943 and in April 1944 to the POW Control Centre at Macksville on the New South Wales north coast. POW Control Centres were responsible for the supervision and provisioning of prisoners allocated to work on farms in each Control Centre.
Sydney retired from the Citizen Forces in November 1944.
1978. Sydney Nestor Smith passed away on 23rd June aged 83 at the War Veterans’ Home, Narrabeen, Sydney, his wife pre-deceasing him over 25 years earlier, on 21 December 1952.
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