Profile

SMITH, Cecil
(Service number 7/1005 (WWI); 403338 (WWII))

Aliases
First Rank Private (WWI); Sergeant (WWII) Last Rank Sergeant Major (WWI); Sergeant (WWII)

Birth

Date 1 February 1894 Place of Birth Pleasant Point

Enlistment Information

Date 17 December 1914 (WWI); 1940 (WWII) Age 20 (WWI); 46 (WWII)
Address at Enlistment Pleasant Point (WWI); Opie Street Waimate (WWII)
Occupation Coach Builder (WWI); Farmer (WWII)
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single (WWI); Married (WWII)
Next of Kin Mr Charles Smith (father) Pleasant Point, New Zealand
Religion Anglican
Medical Information 5 foot 5 1/4 inches tall, weight 130 pounds (59kgs), chest 32-34 1/2 inches, fair complexion, grey eyes, brown hair, false upper teeth, lower good

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army (WWI); RNZAF (WWII)
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 5th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Canterbury Mounted Rifles
Date 13 June 1915
Transport HMNZT 24 "Tahiti"
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With 8th South Canterbury Mounted Rifles (WWI); RNZAF (WWII)
Last Unit Served With 8th South Canterbury Mounted Rifles (WWI); RNZAF (WWII)

Military Awards

Campaigns Egypt, Balkans (Gallipoli), Western Europe (WWI); Home Service (WWII)
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal (WWI); NZ War Service Medal & 1939-1945 Star (WWII)
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date 9 September 1919 (WWI): 1946 (WWII) Reason End of engagement

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

8 August 1916 - Gunshot wounds to right hand. Admitted to No.27 General Hospital, Abassia; 30 Aug transferred to hospital Chaubra, Scarlet Fever. Discharged 27 November 1916; 12-23 December 1918 - admitted to No.28 Casulaty Clearing Station, Chanah (Turkey) - influenza.

Post-war Occupations

Coach Builder, Car Painter, Farmer

Death

Date 13 May 1971 Age 77 years
Place of Death Christchurch, New Zealand
Cause
Notices Dept of Internal Affairs, 25 May 1971
Memorial or Cemetery Salisbury Park Crematorium Timaru,
Memorial Reference No.589, Garden 21
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Cecil was born at Pleasant Point on 1 February 1894, the second son of Charles (1854-1925) and Elizabeth (nee Bennett, 1860-1942) Smith. Cecil’s father was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and had changed his name on arrival in New Zealand from Holger Christensen to Charles Smith. He was employed as a clerk at Pleasant Point, and was naturalised on 27 October 1921. Elizabeth, Cecil’s mother, was born in Cornwall, England, and married Charles in Christchurch on 2 February 1882. Cecil received his education at the Pleasant Point School where he passed his Standard 6 Proficiency Exam in 1908.

Cecil enlisted for war service on 17 December 1914, and at the time was employed as a coach builder with Mr J.C. Trengrove at Timaru, but gave his address as Pleasant Point. He nominated his father Charles as his next of kin and his personnel record describe him as being single, aged 20 years, 5 foot 5 ¼ inches tall, Anglican, weighing 130 pounds (59kgs), with a chest measuring 32–34½ inches, having a fair complexion, grey eyes, brown hair, and false upper teeth. On entering camp at Trentham he was posted to the 3rd Reinforcements of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. He now began a life of living in old ex-Zulu War bell tents, housing 8 to 12 men sleeping in a wheel formation with their feet pointing in towards the centre. During these weeks of intensive infantry training that followed Cecil was learning basic drills, shooting, bayonet fighting, map reading etc, along with getting plenty of hard physical exercise. During this time his performance was regarded as being worthy of promotion to Lance Corporal. In February Cecil was transferred to the newly formed 5th Reinforcements, Canterbury Mounted Rifles (CMR). Hi time was not all hard work though, as there was the odd spot of swimming in the local river, leave in Wellington, and inter-unit sports. In their final weeks they took part manoeuvres to practice what they had learned in training. Now ready for posting overseas, the men were issued with their full uniform.

Following a short period of embarkation leave came the march from Trentham through some of the streets of Wellington , and then on to the harbour. HMNZT 24 Maunganui, HMNZT 25 Tahiti and HMNZT 26 Aparima awaited the 2,299 troops that made the 5th Reinforcements CMR, and Number 2 Stationary Hospital that accompanied them. On 13 June 1915, Lance Cororal Smith boarded the Tahiti, beginning the journey to Suez, Egypt, in convoy with the other two ships. The trip to Albany was very rough and they lost six horses through sickness. At Albany they disembarked for a route march to stretch their legs. One day out from Albany the Maunganui was ordered to part company with the others and proceed directly to Egypt, while the Tahiti and Aparima proceeded to Colombo for refuelling. During the voyage the troops were occupied with cleaning, exercise, and rifle drills. Boxing was also a popular sport aboard. The ships passed through the Red Sea to Port Suez, where the Tahiti arrived on 1 August 1915. From there they took the train to the training base at Zeitoun where training continued day and night.

The CMR already on Gallipoli had suffered many casualties, and were in desperate need of reinforcements. On 3 October Cecil was posted to the 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles and joined what was left of the unit at Mudros, where they were having some well-earned rest from the peninsula. On 10 November the CMR embarked on HMT Osmanich to return to Anzac Cove where they took up positions in Waterfall Gully. On 27 November they relieved the Suffolk Yeomanry and part of the 162nd Brigade, on the northern side of the Aghyl Dere. By this stage the decision had been taken to evacuate the peninsula. The troops however still had the storms, snow, and the Turks to put up with for another few weeks, and had a miserable time of it. Finally between 15 and 20 December, the evacuation of 36,000 troops was successfully carried out. The final party of CMR left during the night of December 19-20, initially to Lemnos and from there embarked on HMT Hororata for Alexandria on 22 December. New Zealand lost 2,779 men during the campaign, about one sixth of those who fought there.

Cecil disembarked at Alexandra on 26 December 1915, thence returning by train to the camp at Zeitoun before taking part in the campaigns in the Sinia nad Palestine. Training resumed, and on 1 January he was promoted to temporary Corporal. On 23 January 1916 his unit took up a new defensive position on the Suez Canal, then moved to the front line in Palestine at the railhead at Ferrypost on 7 March. On 11 March the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division was established, and was soon referred to as the ANZAC Mounted Division by its officers and men. In April Cecil reverted rank back to Lance Corporal as the CMR was relieved and went back into training until 23 April, when they moved to Kantara in response to Ottoman raids near Katia. The next few months were spent patrolling and guarding wells over a wide area until 4 August when the Battle of Romani began after an attack by the Ottoman forces. On 9 August, the CMR was initially held in reserve, but was sent forward to support the Auckland Mounted Rifles to fight off determined Ottoman counter attacks at Bir el Abd. It was on this day that Cecil received gunshot wounds to his right hand, and was admitted to No.27 General Hospital at Abassia. This day’s fighting cost nine men killed and 22 wounded. Another six men were reported as wounded or missing.

On 30 August Cecil was transferred to hospital at Chaubra with scarlet fever. Three months later he was transferred back to base at Moascar. But after only a couple of weeks he was posted back to his unit in the field, on 15 December 1916. Promotion back to Corporal followed on 29 December.

The year 1917 saw the CMR and the rest of the Mounted Rifle Brigade (NZMR) take part in three battles for Gaza and, after two setbacks, the third battle was won. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force was now able to advance along the coast of Palestine towards modern day Tel Aviv, and towards Jerusalem through the Judean Hills. During this period Cecil was again promoted in the field, to Sergeant, on 29 July and then to Lance Sergeant on 13 September.

1918 saw the NZMR move east across Palestine into the Jordan Valley, but their first two raids on Amman were costly failures. On 27 May the 8th (SC) Squadron moved to the Desert Corps School of Instruction at Richon le Zion for a tour of duty, returning on 10 July. Fighting continued in the Jordan Valley/Bethlehem area, and on 24 September the Third Raid on Amman began. This raid reached Amman and took 7000 Ottoman prisoners. By this time so many men of the allied forces had been evacuated to hospital with malaria and influenza that it almost brought all military operations to a stop. It was fortunate for them that the Turkish forces were by this time almost finally defeated. Thousands from all sides were to die of the combined effects of influenza and malaria. Lance Sergeant Smith had a short break at the rest camp at Port Said in October, and returned in time for the armistice that came into effect on 31 October 1918, ending the war in the Middle East. In November Cecil’s unit was selected to be part of the Allied force of occupation on the Dardanelles peninsula, where they monitored Ottoman compliance with the terms of the armistice. So, on 27 November, the CMR embarked from Kantara aboard HMT “Huntscastle” and on 6 December landed oncve again at Gallipoli, where most of the men were billeted in a hospital on the eastern side of the peninsula. Signs of influenza had first appeared aboard ship on 1 December. In the following month 92 men were to be admitted to hospital, including Cecil who was admitted to No 28 CCS at Chanah (Turkey) from 12 to 23 December. From 25 December a party of CMR were sent to ANZAC Cove to tend the graves there until their return to Egypt aboard HMT “Norman” on 20 January 1919.

The return home to New Zealand was delayed because of a shortage of shipping, and the time was spent in taking classes to ease the troops back into ‘civvy street’ after their long period in the army. They were also tasked to help quell riots in Egypt where the population were angry at the lack of progress promised for independence after the war. During this time, on 20 March, Cecil was promoted once again to Squadron Sergeant Major. March and April 1919 was spent in suppressing rioting in the Nile Delta after martial law was put into force, after which they returned to Kafr el Sheik. On 17 June they took another step closer to home, when they moved to the demobilisation camp at Chevalier Island, Ismailia, where they were divided into two groups. One group was to await transport to return home in July, whilst Cecil’s group embarked on HMT “Ulimaroa” (ex-Suez), arriving home on 12 August 1919.

After having served a total of 4 years and 267 days, SSM Smith was discharged from the army on 9 September 1919. For this service he was later awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Later in 1967, he received the Gallipoli Lapel Badge and Medallion.

Later in 1919 Cecil was recorded as living at Waimate where he was employed by Anderson & Smith, Coach Builders. Then in 1925 he married Julia Annie Elcock (1908-1996), daughter of William and Annie Elizabeth Lewis (nee Brookes) Elcock. From 1928 to 1938 the family was living at Opie Street, Waimate, and Cecil had moved on to be employed as a car painter. Cecil served again, this time in the RNZAF during World War II from 1940 to 1946 with the rank of Sergeant. For this service he would have been awarded the New Zealand War Service Medal and the 1939-1945 Star. Following World War II Cecil and Julia are recorded as farming at Tua Marina in Marlborough from 1949 to 1957. From 1963 until Cecil’s death on 13 May 1971 at Christchurch, aged 77 years, the couple lived at 2A Belfield Street, Timaru. Cecil was cremated at the Salisbury Park Crematorium, Timaru. Julia, his wife later, died in Western Australia in 1996, and her ashes were later interred with husband Cecil.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [March 2019]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at http://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=236433; "Roll of Honour" in the Timaru Herald 22 August 1916 and "Returning soldiers" Timaru Herald 8 August 1919, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/; Salisbury Park Crematorium records at https://www.sccrematorium.co.nz/search; Assorted records at Ancestry.com [March 2019]

External Links

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Researched and Written by

Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG

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