Brig. Walter Smith - introduction




persona non grata

file note

Walter Edmund Smith post-WWIIWalter Edmond (also Edmund) Smith was born 30 March 1895 in Sydney, Australia. He was inspired at an early age by a parade along George Street of cavalry about to depart for the Boer War, and later joined his school's cadet unit aged 10, serving in the Junior and Senior Cadets with last rank of Cadet 1st Lieut. 

WWI: He volunteered shortly after Australia joined the war, service number 166, was accorded the rank of Corporal, and within two weeks sailed for the German Protectorate of New Guinea with the AN&MEF (Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force) and took part in the first Australian military action of the War. His first letter home:

18 August 1914
A. Company, 1st Australian Imperial Contingent of Victoria Barracks

Dear Mother,

Just a line to let you know that I am off at last. We left the show grounds this morning about 10:15, marched to Port Macquarie and took a steamer to Cockatoo Docks where we have embarked. We are leaving about 12:00 o'clock tonight by the Berrima, a P&O liner. I saw aunt Lottie at Darlinghurst as we  marched down. But of course I could not speak. We are very comfortable aboard and I think that taking things all round we will be treated very well. Hoping you are all well and that I will soon hear from you.

I remain your loving son,
PS when addressing letters, write Corporal Smith W. E.
PS there are 500 Naval men (reserves) leaving by the same ship...

In 1916 he served in the AIF in France and Belgium on the Western Front and took part in the battle of Fromelles, Battle of Polygon Wood, and Battle of Mont St Quentin also known as the attack on Péronne. He was awarded the MC twice (first for Polygon Wood (1917); then for Péronne (1918)). The battle for Péronne in August 1918 is regraded as Australia's greatest (or perhaps only) victory in Europe in WWI. Smith, then a captain, got the job of conducting Australian Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, and the Editor of the London Times around the Péronne battlefield the Saturday after the battle.

Between the wars: he formed engineering company WE Smith Engineering Pty Ltd, which initially engaged in marine and general engineering then after WWII specialised in building heat exchangers for the emerging Australian petro-chemical industry.

WWII: 1939 - early 1942: he was responsible for coastal defences of the main war production area in Australia from Port Kembla south of Sydney (steel production) to Newcastle to the north (coal).  May 1942 - February 1943: he led the first force sent to Port Moresby and the Kokoda Track after the Battle of the Coral Sea.

After WWII: He managed WE Smith Engineering Pty Ltd. In about 1950 this firm moved from the Rocks area of Sydney to the arches under the northern ramp to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then in 1968 to Coffs Harbour about 450 kilometres north of Sydney.