Edward James SMITH #2225

Indigenous Australian, Edward James SMITH, 54th Infantry Battalion

He left Sydney in August with the 4th Reinforcements for the 54th Infantry Battalion aboard the troopship Boorara, arriving in England eight weeks later.

They spent several months receiving additional training and acclimatizing to the northern hemisphere before embarking for France, where they joined their battalion in the field, in the winter of December 1916.

The unit diaries for this period tell a story of appalling conditions and inadequate shelter as they operated in the front lines at Bernafay Wood.  The men were housed in damp dug-outs and shelters and experience heavy enemy artillery activity during the day.

Company commanders worked to improved conditions as much as they could; carrying forward duck-boards and pumps, as in most places the mud was 'at least a foot thick'.

Private Smith fell victim to the conditions and was admitted firstly to the Field Ambulance, then transferred via Ambulance Train to the 8th General Hospital at Rouen, to be treated for painful varicose veins. After several months recuperation, he rejoined his comrades as they were coming out of the front lines, at Ligny Thilloy, south of Bapaume.

Sketch map of enemy attack 15 May 1917, Unit Diary 54th Infantry Battalion

Edward Smith was repatriated home in December 1917 where he was medically discharged.

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Marg Powell & Des Crump

** Thanks to Michael Bell & Sandra Smith, Australian War Memorial for referring this soldier's story to us
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