Profile

SMITH, George James
(Service number 6/544)

Aliases aka Jansen
First Rank Private Last Rank Corporal

Birth

Date 20 October 1879 Place of Birth London, England

Enlistment Information

Date 17 August 1914 Age 34
Address at Enlistment Washdyke
Occupation Butcher
Previous Military Experience 3 yearS with London Naval Volunteers
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Emma Jansen (mother), 11 Lugar Street, Waverly, Sydney, Australia; later changed to Mrs Henrietta Smith (wife), 238 Victoria Dock Road, Custom House, London E16.
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information 5 foot 4 inches tall, weight 146 pounds (66 kgs), chest 34-371/2 inches, dark complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, teeth fair, tattoo of woman with wings on chest, Maltese Cross with crossed flags and 3 letters below on right forearm, basket of flowers on front forearm

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 2nd Canterbury Infantry Battalion
Date 15 October 1914
Transport HMNZT 11 Athenic
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 2nd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Egypt, Balkans (Gallipoli), Western Europe
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal
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 28 February 1919 Reason End of engagement

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

14 May 1915 - Gallipoli: gunshot wound to leg. Admitted to St George's Hospital, Malta. Transferred to Pembroke Convlescent Hospital, Malta 13 August 1915; 9 August to 5 October 1916 - admitted to NZ Convalescent Hospital, Codford; 12 January 1917 - Admitted to No.1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst - orchitis; 3 April to 23 August 1917 - Transferred to Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch.

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date Age
Place of Death
Cause
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

George was born in London on 20 October 1879, and arrived out here in New Zealand sometime in the early 1900s. It is not known if he was born under the name Jansen or Smith, but he married Henrietta Goodyear at Holloway, Islington, London on 28 April 1902 under the name George Smith. The only record of his parents is his mother, Mrs Emma Jansen of 11 Lugar Street, Waverly, Sydney, who was first nominated as his next of kin. He later made a Statutory Declaration at Sling Camp on July 12, 1918, declaring that when he enlisted, he was a single man as there were divorce actions proceeding. He was in fact, a married man with four children, and that his wife Henrietta Smith and children, resided at 238 Victoria Dock Road, Custom House, London.

When George enlisted at Timaru on 17 August 1914 his address was given as Washdyke, and he was working as a butcher at Smithfield Freezing Works. He was described as being 5 foot 4 inches tall, Roman Catholic, weighing 146 pounds (66 kgs), with a chest measuring 34-37½ inches, having a dark complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, and fair teeth. He also had several tattoos: a woman with wings on his chest; a Maltese Cross with crossed flags and three letters below on his right forearm; and a basket of flowers on his front forearm. His previous military experience consisted of having been a member of the London Naval Volunteers for three years. On Monday 17 August, after a civic farewell at the Drill Hall where they received the blessing of the Venerable Archdeacon Jacob, and were addressed by Major Foden in the absence of the Mayor, the recruits marched off to the Railway Station lead by the 2nd Regimental Band. A further address was given by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, who had just arrived, on the station platform before they boarded the second express of the day lead by Captain David Grant, commander of the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment. From Timaru they marched in to the Addington Showground’s which had been set up as a Mobilisation Camp for the Canterbury Military District. Here the men lived under canvas, and were issued with basic equipment, blankets and a rifle. Training began under the tuition of officers and non-commissioned officers who had gained their experience in the Territorial’s, and range practice was held at Redcliff’s with the local area used for route marching. At the beginning of September due to the effects of bad weather, the camp moved to the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s grounds next door for a few days, before again moving to Plumpton Park Trotting Ground at Sockburn on 7 September.

On 23 September 1914 the Athenic (HMNZT 11) was in Lyttelton and took on board units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force: mainly Headquarters, Mounted Rifles Brigade, two squadrons of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles and the Canterbury Infantry Battalion (less one Company). This consisted of 54 officers, 1,259 men and 339 horses. She then proceeded to Wellington and berthed there untill 16 October 1914, when it was judged safe to depart. The delay was caused by the presence in the South Pacific of enemy warships, and the lack of a suitable naval escort powerful enough to protect the convoy. In the meantime the troops living aboard ship were taken ashore daily for exercise, training on the Wellington hills, and also out to the Trentham rifle range. Finally on 16 October 1914, after the arrival of HMS Minotaur and the Japanese warship Ibuki, along with escorts HMS Psyche and HMS Philomel the Athenic sailed. The convoy included nine other transports, namely HMNZT 3 Maunganui, HMNZT 4 Tahiti, HMNZT 5 Ruapehu, HMNZT 6 Orari, HMNZT 7 Limerick, HMNZT 8 Star of India, HMNZT 9 Hawkes Bay, HMNZT 10 Arawa, and HMNZT 12 Waimana. The convoy was made up of 8,500 men, and about 4,000 horses, together known as the ‘Main Body’. It made its way to the Middle East by way of Hobart, Albany (where they joined the transports convoying the First Detachment of the Australian Imperial Forces), Colombo, Aden, and finally arrived in Alexandria to disembark the soldiers on 3 December 1914. The usual activities of physical training, rifle practice, sports etc, took place on the voyage, and the food was better than the camps, although spoiled at times by unskilled but good intentioned cooks. The SS Athenic was the largest troopship ever sent from New Zealand transporting New Zealand forces to the Middle East.

On arrival at Alexandria the NZEF was ordered to camp at Zeitoun, four miles out of Cairo. Here for administrative purposes, the Australian and NZEF became the New Zealand and Australian Division. Training continued independently with emphasis placed on field training to harden up the men. Latein January 1915, the Turks were advancing on the Suez Canal and the 2nd Canterbury Battalion, under command of Major Grant, was sent to Ismailia as general reserve, where they had their first experience of shell fire during the period of 2 to 4 February. They remained in position until the threat subsided, and on 26 February returning to Zeitoun where training re-commenced. On 12 April the battalion left Alexandria for the Dardanelles aboard the Lutzow, arriving at Mudros harbour on the morning of 15 April. Here they resumed battalion training and boat drill, but unsuitable weather did not allow for a proper disembarkation practice. Finally at 12.30pm on 25 April 1915, the 2nd Canterbury Battalion took part in the landings at ANZAC Cove, where they took up positions on Walkers Ridge. A short time later, on 5 May, the Canterbury Battalion re-embarked for Cape Helles, landing in the dark at 2am the next day. Cape Helles was very different to ANZAC – wet and swampy with water being plentiful. The battalion moved inland about a mile, making camp near Achi Baba. Ordered to attack across open ground at Krithia, the unit suffered many casualties and on 14 May Private Smith received a gunshot wound to his leg.

Evacuated to Malta, George was admitted to St George’s Hospital on 18 May until he was transferred to Pembroke Convalescent Hospital, Malta, on 13 August. By 9 October he was back in Egypt, attached to the strength of the NZ Advance Base at Mustapha, before rejoining his unit at Mudros on 28 October. George returned to his unit at ANZAC a day before General Birdwood received orders to proceed with the evacuation of ANZAC and Suvla on 8 December. At this time the Canterbury Battalion were at Cheshire Ridge, putting up with the Turks, rain, snow and stormy weather. By 20 December the last of the Battalion had left the peninsula, joining the rest at a camp near Mudros where they were to spend Christmas. On 26 December they boarded the Ascania, reaching Alexandria on the 29th. From here they left for Ismailia where they set up camp behind the Moascar Camp railway station.

January and February 1916 was fairly quiet for the Battalion, supplying guards for the reservoir, Railway Bridge and aerodrome, plus re-organising and re-equipping after the Gallipoli campaign. From March 6 to 21, they were guarding a portion of the Canal at Ferry Post before returning to Moascar. On 1 April Private Smith was attached to the gifts section, and on 29 July embarked on SS Arcadian for England, disembarking at Southampton on 9 August, where he was then admitted to the NZ Convalescent Hospital at Codford. On 5 October he was transferred to NZEF Headquarters at Southampton.

On 12 January George was admitted to 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst, suffering from orchitis. After some time, on 3 April, he was transferred to the Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch until 23 August 1917 when he was posted to the 4th Reserve Battalion Canterbury Regiment at Sling Camp. Between February and August 1918, he was transferred back and forwards between the 3rd and 4th Reserve Battalion, promoted to Lance Corporal in February, full Corporal in April, attended the 39th Physical & Bayonet Training course at Gosport, and the 46th Physical & Bayonet Training course at Aldershot, and underwent gas training at Chisildon. On 30 September 1918 he returned to France, marching in to camp at Etaples, before joining 2 Battalion, Canterbury Regiment on 7 October - just in time for the second Battle of Le Cateau, Battle of the Selle, and the Battle of the Sambre. After the successful capture of Le Quesnoy, the war was virtually over for the Canterbury Infantry, and it was not long before the long march through France and Belgium began towards the occupation of Cologne. On 26 December 1918 George was sent back to England on duty, and on 1 January 1919 was sent to the discharge depot at Torquay. From here he received his discharge from the New Zealand Army on 28 February 1919, as he was to remain in England.

After having served a total of 4 years and 196 days, on 16 May 1923, George was sent his war service medals which included the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Whatever happened to him and his family after his discharge is not known.

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=237303; "More farewells" in the Timaru Herald 18 Aug 1914, "Wounded" in the Colonist 25 June 1915 and Dominion 17 May 1915, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/

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Researched and Written by

Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG

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