The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1225) Private Ernest Pearce Smiles, 4th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2016.2.318
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 13 November 2016
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
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 Michael Kelly, the story for this day was on (1225) Private Ernest Pearce Smiles, 4th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1225 Private Ernest Pearce Smiles, 4th Battalion, AIF
KIA 6 August 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 13 November 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Ernest Pearce Smiles.

Ernest Smiles was born in 1885 in Albury, New South Wales, one of ten children born to Thomas and Bridget Smiles. His father had been born in Queanbeyan, and had established a distinguished career as a printer and sports writer for the Albury Banner. Ernest attended St Patrick’s Boy’s School in Albury and went on to become a boundary rider.

Ernest enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force following his youngest brother Len, who had joined shortly after war broke out. Ernest Smiles was posted to the 13th Battalion, and underwent a brief period of training in Australia before being sent for overseas service. He was first sent to Egypt and met up with Len, who was serving with the 2nd Battalion. He also managed some sightseeing, and wrote of crossing the Nile, saying, “I might tell you the scenery along its banks is a perfect landscape, well worth seeing”, and compared the zoo and botanical gardens favourably with those in Sydney. He also wrote:

we were anxious to leave Australia to get here, and now we are anxious to leave here for the firing line. Of course there are some who would like to go back home, but not a Smiles until the war is over. It will be a pleasure to go back to our dear native land then.

Smiles was with the 13th Battalion when it landed on Gallipoli on the afternoon of 25 April 1915. He wrote:

we had a hot reception, the bullets floating through the air like swarms of bees, but we gave the Turks something to remember, and we will give them plenty more before this war is over. The casualties were heavy, but the Australians that landed in that terrible hail of lead made a name for themselves that will never die.

Private Smiles survived the chaos of that first day. In June he had gone in search of his brother only to discover Len had been wounded and sent to hospital in Egypt, and had died of his wounds on 2 May 1915, aged 20. Ernest wrote:

After being in the hospital for five days poor Len knew he was done, and told the chap to find the 13th Battalion when he returned to Gallipoli and enquire for me and tell me he was done … Poor fellow, he missed his VC and stopped a bullet.

Following the evacuation Ernest Smiles was transferred to the 4th Pioneer Battalion, and arrived in France in June 1916. By that stage his older brother Frank had also enlisted in the AIF and was serving in the 19th Battalion. The first major operation Ernest Smiles participated in was near the French village of Pozières. On 6 August 1916 Smiles was standing too close to a high-explosive artillery shell blast and was badly wounded in the arms and legs. He died of his wounds later that day at a nearby casualty clearing station. He was 29 years old.

Private Frank Smiles was reported missing in November; it was later determined that he had died of wounds while a prisoner of the Germans.

Ernest Smiles’ name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Ernest Pearce Smiles, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1225) Private Ernest Pearce Smiles, 4th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)