The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX41228) Trooper Richard “Dickie” Smith, 2/7th Commando Squadron, AIF, Second World War

Place Oceania: New Guinea, Prince Alexander Ranges, Maprik
Accession Number PAFU2014/207.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 24 June 2014
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Blanch, the story for this day was on (VX41228) Trooper Richard “Dickie” Smith, 2/7th Commando Squadron, AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX41228 Trooper Richard “Dickie” Smith, 2/7th Commando Squadron, AIF
DOW 8 March 1945
Photograph: P07547.001

Story delivered 24 June 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Trooper Richard “Dickie” Smith.

Richard Smith was born on 14 July 1919 to Richard and Rose Smith at Balranald, New South Wales.

Smith grew up in Balranald, and after leaving school went to work in town as a grocer for Ernest Cornish’s grocery store.

He enlisted for service in the Second AIF aged 20, on 28 June 1940, and after his initial training joined the newly formed 2/22nd Battalion.

Smith and the 2/22nd Battalion were sent to Rabaul in April 1941 to join Lark Force. Their primary role was to report on Japanese movements through the islands to Australia’s north.

On 23 January 1942, following several weeks of Japanese air raids, 5,000 Japanese troops from the South Seas Force landed near Rabaul. Within a day the 1,400 men of Lark Force were overwhelmed and the commanding officer issued the order, “Every man for himself!” Over the next 11 weeks Smith made his way to the west coast of the island, where he and 399 other soldiers and 60 civilians were rescued.

After returning to Australia Smith was too wracked by illness to return immediately to active duty. He spent the next year recovering his health, after which he volunteered to join the 2/7th Commando Squadron. He underwent training in the Atherton Tablelands for three months before being posted in October 1944 to New Guinea to relieve American troops at Aitape.

Over the following months Smith and his unit took part in the Australian advance on Wewak. In the evening of 2 January, as the 2/7th Commando Squadron headed towards Maprik, the Australians were ambushed by the Japanese near the village of Walum. In the ensuing fight Smith was shot in the head, his brain left exposed.

Smith’s comrades carried him from the area and back to their camp. A makeshift operating table was quickly made. Over the next six hours a surgeon, aided by Smith’s colleagues, performed an intricate brain operation on Smith, after which he was evacuated through Aitape and then back to Australia.

Smith never recovered from his wound and died on 8 March 1945, aged 25. He was buried at the Rookwood Military Cemetery.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 others from the Second World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Trooper Richard Smith, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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