The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (501) Lance Sergeant Charles Edward Smith, 40th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.229
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 17 August 2019
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (501) Lance Sergeant Charles Edward Smith, 40th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

501 Lance Sergeant Charles Edward Smith, 40th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
KIA 12 October 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lance Sergeant Charles Edward Smith.

Charles Smith was born in July 1883 in Kingston, south of Hobart, the son of Hugh and Ann Rebecca Smith. He attended a state school in Hobart, and on leaving school became a gardener.

He married Ella Grace Holmes and by the time that he joined the Australian Imperial Force, the couple had six children.

Smith enlisted in the 40th Australian Infantry Battalion in February 1916 at Claremont. The 40th Battalion was raised in Tasmania, and spent several months training before leaving Australia. Smith embarked for England with the unit on the transport ship Berrima at the beginning of July 1916. Once in England, Smith trained at the army camps on the Salisbury Plain for two months. During this time, he wrote to his wife about his visit to Stonehenge, which was only a few kilometres from the camp.

In October 1916, Smith and the 40th Battalion sailed for France from Southampton. The winter of 1916 and 1917 was the first one the Australian troops weathered on the Western Front, and the men endured snow, ice, and mud. As the weather warmed up, British and Commonwealth forces began a push into Belgium, and the men of the 40th Battalion entered their first major battle at Messines. While marching to the front in the early days of June, the men of the 40th Battalion came under a German gas attack near Ploegsteert Wood. Smith and his comrades were forced to march while wearing bulky gas masks. Although this protected the troops from the horrific effects of chemical weapons, the extra weight exhausted them.

During the battle at Messines, Smith was as a sniper. His company commander later wrote to Ella to tell her he was impressed by her husband’s work on the battlefield. On 8 June, Smith was shot in the left hand and wounded. He was away from the front line and undergoing treatment for his wound for just one week before he returned to his unit. For his achievements in the action, Smith was promoted to lance corporal. The Australian forces at Messines had successfully captured their objectives in this battle, but were then subjected to a heavy German artillery bombardment lasting several days.

In early October 1917, the 40th Battalion took part in the British drive to push the Germans out of the Flanders region. The battalion was in the front line during the attack on Zonnebeke on 4 October, part of the offensive to take the high ridgeline of the village of Passchendaele. For his gallantry in this action, Smith was mentioned in the general orders by his lieutenant. In the days following the attack, Smith was promoted to the rank of lance sergeant.
On 12 October 1917, the Australians in the Ypres sector attacked the village of Passchendaele in indescribably muddy conditions. The mud slowed infantry movements and meant that there was less artillery available for the attack. Smith went into battle again as a sniper, but came under heavy machine-gun fire and was killed instantly. He was 33 years old.

Charles Smith was buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery, not far from where he was killed, alongside nearly 12,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the First World War.

In Hobart, he was survived by his wife Ella and their six children under the age of 16. His wife had the following epitaph inscribed on his headstone:
Greater love hath no man
Than to lay down his life
For others
Lance Sergeant Charles Edward Smith is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in 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 Lance Sergeant Charles Edward Smith, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

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