Profile

SMITH, James Gordon
(Service number 3/105a)

Aliases
First Rank Private Last Rank Sergeant

Birth

Date 26 November 1894 Place of Birth Rangiora, New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date 19 August 1914 Age 19
Address at Enlistment Hobbs Street, Waimataitai, Timaru
Occupation Engineer
Previous Military Experience No 6 Mounted Field Ambulance
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr James Smith (father), Percival Street, Rangiora
Religion Anglican
Medical Information 5 foot 8 inches tall, weight 149 pounds (68kgs), chest 36-38 inches, fair complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, good teeth

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Mounted Field Ambulance
Date 16 October 1914
Transport HMNZT3 "Maunganui"
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With NZ Medical Corps
Last Unit Served With NZ Medical Corps

Military Awards

Campaigns Egypt, Gallipoli, England
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
Military Awards MID

Award Circumstances and Date

For valuable services rendered in connection with the war - NZEF Order 662 31 August 1918

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 18 April 1919 Reason End of engagement

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

13 August 1915 - Admitted to Mudros Hospital - enteritis. Transferred to Floriana Hospital, Malta, then on 22 September was transferred to England and admitted to 2nd Southern General Hospital, Southmeads Sector, Bristol with enteric and rheumatism.

Post-war Occupations

Bacteriologist Hamilton Hospital

Death

Date 21 September 1964 Age 96 years
Place of Death Taupo, New Zealand
Cause
Notices Dept of Internal Affairs, 10 July 1991
Memorial or Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

James, the son of James and Catherine Smith, was born at Rangiora on 26 November 1894. He was educated at the local Rangiora School and probably went on to complete secondary education, as when he enlisted at Timaru on19 August 1914 his occupation was given as engineer.

Prior to his enlistment James had been a territorial member of the 6th Mounted Field Ambulance. He was employed by local Timaru engineering firm, Wallace and Cooper, who gave him a send-off and presentation before leaving for camp on the same day he enlisted. He nominated his father, also James, of Percival Street in Rangiora as his next of kin, as he enlisted as a single man. He was described as being aged 19 years of age, 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighing 149 pounds (68kgs), chest measuring 36 to 38 inches, of fair complexion with brown eyes, brown hair and his teeth were good. Leaving Timaru on the mid-day train as part of a small medical corps group, he marched into camp at the Addington Showground’s on arrival in Christchurch which had been set up as a Mobilisation Camp for the Canterbury Military District. The Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance was recruited in Christchurch, Headquarters of the No. 6 Mounted and the 3rd Field Ambulances. The N.C.O.'s and other ranks were almost exclusively volunteers from the Territorial Force. The officers were, in the case of the senior ranks, all volunteer officers with long service; some of them had seen active service in the South African war, all had undergone territorial training. The men of the Mounted Unit were sent up to Awapuni Race Course near Palmerston North, which was to become the Medical Corps Depot for New Zealand.

Embarkation was to have taken place at the end of August, but owing to naval considerations it was postponed until the 24 September. The Mounted Field Ambulance embarked on HMNZT3 Maunganui with their horses and transports, but further instructions were received to delay sailing for some weeks, and the Force did not ultimately take its departure until October 16. The original destination was Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plain where a contingent of New Zealanders, then domiciled in or visiting England, were mustering while a certain number of New Zealand medical officers were already serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France. The delay of their transport was caused by the presence of enemy warships in the South Pacific and the lack of a suitable naval escort powerful enough to protect the convoy. The postponement gave valuable time to further equipping the Force and full use of the time was made by the Field Medical Units in instructing and training their men. Finally, on 16 October 1914, the transports were able to sail. The Japanese warship Ibuki and the HMS Minotaur joined the HMS Psyche and HMS Philomel as escorts. James’ transport, the Maunganui sailed across the globe in convoy with nine other transports: the HMNZT 4 Tahiti, HMNZT 5 Ruapehu, HMNZT 6 Orari, HMNZT 7 Limerick, HMNZT 8 Star of India, HMNZT 9 Hawkes Bay, HMNZT10 Arawa, HMNZT 11 Athenic, and HMNZT 12 Waimana. The convoy was made up of 8,500 men, and about 4,000 horses, which 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. They also called at Colombo and Aden before finally arriving 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.

After arrival at Alexandria the troops were 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, and training of medical units commenced in sectional, company and brigade operations, continuing until February. As well as field training, there was a camp hospital to run, and in early January there was a mild outbreak of smallpox which required the whole Division to be re-vaccinated. Late in January 1915, the Turks were advancing on the Suez Canal, so the mounted medical units went into the field to support the detachments sent to oppose them. The main duties they carried out was to treat the wounded Turks as there was only one NZ death, and one wounded. When all signs of activity on the Suez Canal front had subsided, the Brigade and the Ambulance, now blooded and a bit heady from their first smell of powder, returned to camp at Zeitoun where training continued.

The main medical units left Alexandria in early April 1915 for Mudros. On 12 June James left Egypt for the Dardanelles. By this time Gastro-intestinal disorders had become serious, with the rations at first being blamed. During the Armistice the men were so desperate they had swapped their army biscuits for rye bread with the Turks. It was not long before the middle of June that the first cases of Enteric or Typhoid were being reported. On 13 August James was admitted to Mudros Hospital suffering from Enteritis from where he was immediately put on board the Hospital Ship Guilford Castle. On 14 August he was transferred to the SS Andana for transfer to Malta where he was admitted to the Floriana Hospital on 21 August. From here on 22 September he was put on board the troopship Northlands for transfer to England, being incorrectly recorded as “Gunner Smith NZ Artillery”. On arrival he was admitted to the 2nd Southern General Hospital, Southmeads Sector, Bristol, on 2 October with the diagnosis of Enteric and Rheumatism.

After what seems like a long recovery, on 10 April 1916, he was attached to the strength of the NZ Base Depot Hornchurch. Now followed many transfers and promotions within England where he served at several posts: 20 June to 4th London General Hospital, 6 September to NZ Convalescent Hospital Camp Hornchurch; 26 April 1917, promoted to temporary Corporal while employed as NCO in charge of the Laboratory; promoted to Corporal on 13 October; 18 January 1918, transferred to 2 NZ General Hospital Walton on Thames; 8 February transferred back to NZ Convalescent Hospital Hornchurch; and on 1 March, promoted to temporary Sergeant. During this period, on 10 April 1918, he married Miss Deborah Berry Lawrence at St Stephens Church, Dulwich. Finally, on 31 August 1918, he was brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War for valuable services rendered in connection with the War – NZEF Order 662 31 August 1918. Promotion to Sergeant followed on 9 December

On 19 December 1918 James was discharged on leave, to report to Torquay on 10 January 1919 for return to New Zealand on 3 February with Draft 222 on SS Athenic. Aboard were 748 all ranks and 184 soldiers’ wives, who arrived at Wellington 20 March 1919. Sergeant Smith was discharged from the army on 18 April, 1919, and later was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal along with his being Mentioned in Despatches.

After the war James went to Hamilton in December 1921, where he started the first laboratory at Waikato Hospital. He became known as “Bugs” Smith, and was to work there for 44 years. The NZ Herald reported on 10 March 1925 that a private company, The Hamilton Vaccine Company Ltd, was being registered in Auckland. James Gordon Smith was a shareholder in this company which was to deal in vaccines and veterinary preparations of all kinds suitable for cows, horses, sheep, pigs and other animals, and in particular, vaccine for treatment of mammitis in dairy cows. From 1928 to 1949 James’ address was recorded as Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, occupation Bacteriologist. From 1954 to 1963 he was listed at 120 Pembroke Street, Hamilton, still working as a Bacteriologist. Finally from 1969 to 1981 he was retired and lived at 16 MacFarlane Street, Hamilton. His wife Deborah died at Hamilton on 21 September 1964, and is buried in the Hamilton Park Cemetery. James died at Taupo on 23 June 1991, aged 96 years, but it is not known where he is buried.

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=237775; "Dominion war news. Last draft" in the Timaru Herald 20 August 1914, "Last nights list" in the New Zealand Times 15 Oct 1915, "Hospital progress reports" in the New Zealand Times 3 November 1915, "mentioned in despatches" in the New Zealand Times 15 January 1919, "Coming home" in the New Zealand Times 8 March 1919, "Company registration. Private Hamilton concern" in the New Zealand Herald 10 March 1925, and "Contagious Mammitis" in the Northern Advocate 6 May 1925

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Researched and Written by

Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG

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