James CHURCHILL-SMITH MC & Bar, ED, MID

CHURCHILL-SMITH, James

Service Numbers: Officer, S2667
Enlisted: 11 May 1915, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: 49th Infantry Battalion
Born: Norwood, South Australia, 15 October 1894
Home Town: Prospect, Prospect, South Australia
Schooling: Miss Derrington's Private School, Kensington & Norwood Public School, School of Mines (Agriculture) & George Williams College, London (Accountancy)
Occupation: Clerk, Accountant
Died: Natural Causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 15 March 1968, aged 73 years
Cemetery: North Road Cemetery, Nailsworth, S.A.
James Churchill-Smith is buried in his family plot at the North Road Cemetery, Adelaide. Other members in the Churchill-Smith plot are: Ned (brother), James Snr (father), Margot (sister), Lucy (mother) and Xenia (wife)
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World War 1 Service

11 May 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Adelaide, South Australia
12 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
2 Sep 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Anchises, Adelaide
24 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli
20 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion
26 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion
1 Apr 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion
12 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
10 Oct 1916: Honoured Pozières, Military Cross
19 Oct 1916: Honoured Pozières, Bar to Military Cross
2 Apr 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
9 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, Messines
26 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, Polygon Wood
26 Sep 1917: Wounded Polygon Wood, Shell/ Shrapnel wound to head (7 places)
12 Jun 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, "Peaceful Penetration - Low-Cost, High-Gain Tactics on the Western Front"
19 Jul 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 13th Infantry Brigade Headquarters
25 Sep 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, SN Officer, 13th Infantry Brigade Headquarters
15 Oct 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion
19 Nov 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, SN Officer, 13th Infantry Brigade Headquarters
24 Nov 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, SN Officer, 49th Infantry Battalion
2 Mar 1920: Discharged AIF WW1

World War 2 Service

Date unknown: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, SN S2667, Australian Army Canteen Service, Homeland Defence - Militia and non deployed forces

World War 1 Service

Date unknown: Involvement 10th Infantry Battalion, Pozières

Military Cross Citation

On the 13th. 14th. and 15th August near MOUQUET FARM he displayed great bravery and devotion to duty by holding on to an isolated and exposed flank under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. He was repeatedly attacked but succeeded in driving the enemy off. His personal influence and example undoubtedly saved a serious situation.

Bar to Military Cross Citation

Near MOUQUET FARM on the afternoon of 2nd Sept. this Officer was sent to examine a trench which was so damaged as to be quite untenable by troops. Though repeatedly sniped at, he finished his reconnaissance & commenced at dusk to retrace it with tape for redigging through the night. The enemy were then heavily shelling the remains of the trench, and though two of the four men with him were casualties he personally continued working until the task was completed.

Showing 2 of 2 stories

Biography contributed by Joshua Hildyard

James Churchill-Smith was born on 15 October 1894 in Adelaide. He was hardly to know it then but he would end up serving in two World Wars with distinction. He would also leave behind one of the greatest legacies from World War One that South Australia has. During the war he wrote five diaries that covered his service from embarkation on 26 August 1915 as a second lieutenant to his disembarkation back in Australia on 1 January 1920 as Major. They are truly a state treasure.

James Churchill-Smith was born on 15 October 1894 in Adelaide. He was the third child and son of Mr James Churchill-Smith Senior (Snr) and Lucy Churchill-Smith (nee McManus.) The other children were:

1.       Sydney (Sid) Churchill-Smith (1890 – 1960) = Sid remained unmarried and worked in the stock and station business or most of his life in the far north and central Australia. He was buried at Darwin.

2.       Edgar (Ned) Churchill-Smith (1891 – 23 March 1915) = Ned was unmarried when he died at the Bethesda Hospital, Richmond, Melbourne.

3.       James (Junior) Churchill-Smith (15 October 1894 – 15 March 1968) = the only child to marry, James Jnr married Xenia Dove (1 March 1900 – 8 September 1967) on 24 April 1925 at Adelaide. James worked as a clerk before severing in World War One as a Major. He then became an accountant before serving in World War Two as a Major.

4.       Margot Churchill-Smith (2 April 1926 – 8 April 1926)

James’ father, James Churchill-Smith Snr (? - 3 October 1926) was a half brother to 12 Bagot children. Having been born in the UK he moved with his mother, Anne Smith (? - 16 February 1892) to Adelaide. On 30 July 1857, Anne Smith had married Edward Meade "Ned" Bagot, a member of the notable Bagot family in Australia and here the couple had 6 girls and 6 boys.

He was educated at St Peter’s College in Adelaide and spent most of his youth in the far north on Dalhousie Springs Station which had been owned by Ned Bagot. When he came of age he took up work with Ned Bagot in the stock and station business, which came under the title Bagot, Shakes & Lewis in 1888.

In 1872 James Churchill-Smith Snr and Edward Meade ‘Ted’ Bagot Jnr (the first child of Ned Bagot and his first wife; Mary,) brought between 600 and 1000 head of mixed Hereford and Shorthorn cattle from Adelaide to stock Undoolya Station opposite Alice Springs. James Churchill-Smith Snr kept a daily diary for the droving trip which has become one of the greatest feats in Australian droving history. The trip began on 13 March 1872 when they left North Adelaide the team arrived at Undoolya in March 1873.

After the trip, James Churchill-Smith Snr, been given increasing responsibility became the pioneering father of Undoolya Station where he soon built several small dwellings. Both Bagot Street and Smith Street in Alice Springs are named after the two men.

The diary was later published in 1968: James Churchill Smith's diary for 1872; some notes on overlanding cattle to the Northern Territory and the establishment of Undoolya Station.

After some time James Snr moved back to Adelaide to work as an accountant in the Bagot business.

James Churchill-Smith Jnr meanwhile, was educated at Miss Derrington's Private School before attending Kensington & Norwood Public School. He then went to the School of Mines for two years doing a course in agriculture.

He enlisted for service in the AIF on 11 May 1915. At the time he stated that he was single and working as a clerk. Indeed, since 1909 James Jnr had been working as a clerk for the office of Messrs W. L. Ware & Co. Living with his parents his address was 25 Victoria Street, Prospect, South Australia. He been a part of the school’s voluntary cadets, and at the inception of the compulsory military training scheme he had obtained a commission as a second lieutenant in the Senior Cadets. After he enlisted he applied for a commission which was eventually accepted. He was then allocated to the 8th Reinforcements of the 10th Battalion and took command of them at Mitcham Camp in Adelaide.

After a brief stint of training here, the 8th Reinforcements embarked upon RMS Morea on 26 August 1915. After a brief one day stay at Fremantle the ship sailed for Egypt. They arrived early on 21 September 1915 and disembarked at noon that day. The reinforcements immediately marched to Zeitoun Camp and began further training.  

Whilst the troops were training, however, Second Lieutenant James Churchill-Smith was notified that due to a shortage of officers on the Gallipoli peninsula he would land there without his men. In the evening of 24 October 1915 he landing on Gallipoli and the next day reported for duty with the 10th Battalion. He was posted as a platoon commander and saw out the rest of the Gallipoli Campaign which proved to be uneventful expect for when he volunteered to go out as a ‘patrol’ with one other man to locate a spot where 6 men could be hidden to stop Turkish patrols. This experienced saw Churchill-Smith experience his first real stunt. Sent out twice; 11 November and 13 November 1915 his second outing proved successful. He left Gallipoli on the night 21/22 November 1915 and arrived back in Egypt with the 10th Battalion on 30 December 1915. Seeing in an uneventful new year on 20 February 1916 James Churchill-Smith was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

With the AIF in Egypt, high command decided to expand and reorganise the AIF. In this process which became known as the doubling of the AIF the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Brigades from the First Division and the 4th Brigade were split in half to form the 4th and 5th Division. As such these two new divisions now had a core of experienced troops while fresh reinforcements from Australia finished them off. (Whilst this was happening the 3rd Division was already been created back in Australia.)

Consequently on 26 February 1916 Churchill-Smith and several other officers along with half of the NCO's and men from the 10th Battalion were transferred to the newly created 50th Battalion - a pup or sister battalion to the 10th Battalion.

More training followed to 'break in' the fresh recruits that had just arrived from Australia. On 1 April 1916 James Churchill-Smith was rewarded for his work with a promotion to the rank of Captain and became D Company's second in command. Finally on 5 June 1916 the 50th Battalion embarked at Alexandria and proceeded over the Mediterranean to join the fighting on the Western Front. They arrived at Marseille in Southern France on 12 June 1916 and soon after they entrained for Northern France and the Western Front.

The 50th Battalion was introduced to the Western Front fighting at Armentières in what was known as the nursery because of its relatively quiet fighting.

The 50th Battalion first real action came in August 1916, however. It occurred at Pozieres/ Mouquet Farm where after 5 weeks of fighting Australian forces had suffered 23,000 casualties - the worst ever total in 5 weeks. The 50th Battalion was heavily involved in fighting at Mouquet Farm from the 12th of August to the 16th of August when it was replaced by another Australian Battalion on 16th of August 1916. During these several days the Battalion endured some of the heaviest shelling they would ever encounter on the Western Front. In the words of another 50th Battalion Officer (Captain Armitage) the whole battalion endured ‘four days of hell and four nights of double hell.’

Originally, Captain Churchill-Smith was kept back during the attack on Mouquet Farm, however, Captain Hancock, then leading D Company was wounded on the 12 August 1916 and consequently Captain Churchill-Smith had to make his way to the front line. He found that D Company was completely isolated from the rest of the 50th Battalion on its right and a British unit on its left. He also found they were critically low on men with only about 20 Australian and 20 British troops. Over the day the isolated position was heavily shelled but Captain Churchill-Smith held on to it. On 15 August 20 reinforcements came under the command of Major Herbert and soon after an attack, D Company was linked up once again to both the Australian’s and British. That night the battalion was relieved by the 4th Australian Battalion. For his work during this operation on 10 October 1916 Captain James Churchill-Smith was awarded the Military Cross. 

After only a short break, however, the 50th Battalion was moved back into the line early September. On the night of the 2/3 September 1916 Captain James Churchill-Smith was placed in command of a small team that was tasked in tapping out a trench that had being almost totally destroyed by artillery fire. Whilst doing so his team came under intense sniping and artillery fire, however, he eventually finished the job.  For his work during this operation on 19 October 1916 Captain Churchill-Smith was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross.

Over the next couple of weeks the 50th Battalion was taken behind the lines where they were able to recover from their severe losses in August 1916. Although posted to the front line in early November 1916 they were only in the area until the end of the month before being completely withdrawn. The rest of 1916 would pass and 1917 began peacefully.

In February 1917, however, the Germans took the Allies by surprise, withdrawing from their front line to consolidate along the much stronger and straighter Hindenberg Line whilst also eliminating a very large salient from their line.  "Salient’s" are projections of territory into enemy land which leaves the defender (in this case the German's) vulnerable to being outflanked and cut off and hence the German's withdrew and consolidated their line. The speed of the process, however, took the Allies by surprise, as it was very well organised. To slow down the Allies even further whilst the German's retreated they fortified several isolated positions (Butte du Warlencourt = attacked by the 27th Battalion on 2 March 1917) and also several fortified towns. The aim of these defenced positions were to slow down the allies even further whilst also trying to inflict maximum causalities whilst preserving their own forces. The fortified towns that were closest to the Hindenberg Line were called 'The Outpost Villages.' The Australian Divisions began a cautious follow up which included the 4th Division and the 13th Brigade of which the 50th Battalion was a part of.

By the end of March the 50th Battalion was located near one of these Outpost Villages called Noreuil and an attack was planned to occur on 2 April 1917. An ambitious attack, this battle would be the first assault any AIF unit had undertaken that wasn't defined by Trench Warfare as all of the fighting occurred either in the town or surrounding hills. By the end of 3 April 1917, although the attack had been successful and the town captured the battalion had suffered 393 casualties. They had also lost 5 officers killed in action and several more wounded.

Captain James Churchill-Smith, now commanding officer of D Company lead the company which was located on extreme left flank of the 50th Battalion into the battle. Initially, progress was made, however, several mortar and machine gun positions located along the road leading into Noreuil slowed progress. Both Lieutenants Hoggarth and Bidstrup, platoon commanders in D Company, were Killed in Action whilst clearing these areas. Once past these areas, however, progress through the town of Noreuil of made relatively quickly. Emerging on the other side of the of town D Company, with C Company on its right found an trench that had been unmarked on their intelligence reports and which was just short of their final objective. Waiting for A Company to join them (A Company would mostly be surrounded and captured the German’s) both D and C Companies came under heavy fire from the German’s. Chaos ensured and the battle deteriorated quickly. Reinforcements had to be called but eventually both these reinforcements and an artillery barrage ended most German resistance by early next morning.

The Battalion was relived very soon after and they spent time in the resting zone recovering from their severe losses. The Allies, however, then turned their attention north to the Flanders in the second half of 1917. The start of this campaign was the Attack on Messines Ridge - a battle made famous by its blowing up of 19 mines under the German line on the ridge including under Hill 60. The 50th Battalion participated in the attack between 9 and 11 June 1917. 

The 50th Battalion's part in the Messines Ridge Operation was to attack and capture a section of 'Odd Trench.' On the night of 9/10 June 1917 the battalion attack failed to capture the trench due to heavy artillery and machine gun fire coming from several pill boxes that couldn't be destroyed. The enemy wire was also very thick had not been cut prior to the attack making advancement even harder. Captain James Churchill-Smith, however, commanding D Company on the far left of the battalion was able to exploit a weak point in the wire. After making inroads his company once again lost contact with the 50th Battalion on its right and the 51st on its left. He held this isolated position throughout the whole day until an assault was made the next night which connected up the front lines. On 11 June there was very little resistance by the Germans and some of their units had already begun retreating once again. The next day the 50th Battalion was withdrawn from the line.

With the success of the Messines Ridge campaign the Third Ypres campaign officially began to take the ground around the northern edge of Ypres in a series of ‘bite and hold attacks’. For the most part the 13th Infantry Brigade and the 50th Battalion weren't used in this campaign and they spent plenty of time in resting zones, camps and several rear trenches. Their first engagement, however, came in September with the Attack on Polygon Wood. A few days prior to the attack, on 23 September 1917 Captain Churchill-Smith was informed that he would be working as brigade liaison officer between the 13th Brigade and the brigade on their left. In this capacity he missed the fighting and was mostly in a pill box during the day. At 7pm on 26 September 1917, however, he was wounded in the head by a shell in 7 different places. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station in the rear of the line and operated on.

He was eventually taken to the 7th General Hospital near St Omer and was admitted on 28 September 1917. James Churchill-Smith spent quite some time here only being discharged on 19 October 1917. Meanwhile, the 50th Battalion continued to see limited service during the Third Ypres campaign until it ended in late October 1917 with the onset of winter, mud and rain thus rendering most operations impossible. Captain Churchill-Smith arrived back with the 50th Battalion at 10pm on 6 November 1917.

On 20 December 1917, Churchill-Smith got leave and proceeded over to London where he spent Christmas and New Year. On 4 January 1918 he was told to report to the Senior Officer’s School at Aldershot on 6 January. From then until 16 March 1918 he reported to this school and on 31 March 1918 he crossed back from England to France. He finally re-joined the 50th Battalion in the afternoon of 4 April 1918.

Meanwhile in late March 1918 the German Army unleashed its last major offensive of the war. At the time the 50th Battalion had not been on the front line but was rushed to the front line near Dernancourt where it was kept in reserve during the German attack on the town in early April 1918. Although with the battalion, the battalion as a whole saw no action.

Later in mid-April the German's were able to make a rush at Villers-Bretonneux – the last town before Amiens, making it a very strategic town to both side. On the night of the 24th/25th April 1918 the 50th Battalion attacked and ultimately recaptured the town of Villers-Bretonneux. Although they paid a heavy price this attack would go down in history as the 'Other ANZAC Day". Captain James Churchill didn’t take part in this attack as he was kept in the rear lines.

Throughout 1918 Captain James Churchill-Smith saw continued service with the 50th Battalion in multiple roles. On 19 July 1918 he was transferred to the 13th Brigade Headquarters as a Brigade Major Trainee. In the time he was with the 13th Brigade Headquarters he also took one several other roles.

Between late April and early August 1918 the 50th Battalion saw on and off service on the front line and took part in some minor attacks/ 'peaceful penetration' operations during this time. Then on 8 August the Allies launched their ‘Great Last Hundred Day Offensive’ which would end the war. The 50th Battalion played a minor role in this campaign with its last offensive action taking place in September 1918. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was signed and all guns fell silent on the Western Front. The War for the most part was over.

For James Churchill-Smith, however, there was still over an entire year before he would return to Australia. On 25 September 1918 he was finally promoted to the rank of Major. During the yearlong period of time he spent some of it in Belgium and France and some in England. He also had various transfers back and forth between the 50th Battalion and the 13th Brigade Headquarters during this time and for a time was the temporary commanding officer of the 49th Battalion. Of particular highlight was when Major Churchill-Smith escorted the Prince of Wales on a tour of the billets in the Belgium town where the 49th Battalion were staying.   

In April 1919 he took out two weeks leave where he ventured from Belgium to England and then to Southern France and Italy before heading back to Belgium. Finally in May 1919 he was allocated to quota 52 bound for Australia and they left France for the last time. On 2 June 1919 James Churchill-Smith began studying an accountancy course at George Williams College. On 15 November 1919 he embarked on S.S. Ypiranga in England and finally pulled into Outer Harbour in Australia on 1 January 1920.

Between the wars James Churchill-Smith became an accountant and on 24 April 1925 he married Xenia Dove.

James Churchill-Smith Snr died on 3 October 1926 and was buried at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide.

During World War Two James Churchill-Smith Jnr served as the Deputy Assistant Director (from 1939 to 1945) with the rank of Major in the Australian Army Canteen Service; South Australia Detachment. He was discharged on the 3rd of April 1945.

Lucy Churchill-Smith nee McManus died in 1959.

Xenia Dove who had married James Churchill-Smith Jnr had been born on 1 March 1900 and died on 8 September 1967. Also in 1967, James Churchill-Smith Jnr applied for his Gallipoli medallion. He died on 15 March, 1968 and rests in his family plot at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide.  

Awarded:

Military Cross and Bar

Efficiency Decoration

1914/15 Star: 275

British War Medal: 5094

Victory Medal: 5048

MID: oak leaf cluster

 

Nathan Rohrlach, 2015.

 

"CAPTAIN J. CHURCHILL-SMITH.

A cable announces that Captain James Churchill-Smith has received a bar for the military cross previously awarded him. Captain Smith is the third and youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Churchill-Smith, of Victoria-street, Prospect, and he attained the age of 22 years only a few weeks ago. He was born at Norwood, and was educated at Miss Derrington's private school, Kensington, and at the Norwood public school. He went through a two year's agricultural course at the Adelaide School of Mines and Industries. He entered the office of Messrs. W. L. Ware and Co. in 1900, and remained with that firm until his enlistment for overseas service. Captain Smith's first military experience was gained as a junior cadet. He obtained a commission when a senior cadet, and carried it with him on his entering the 79th Battalion of the Defence Forces. He acted as adjutant of the 79th from December, 1914, and secured a commission in the A.I.F. about April, 1916. He was with the forces on Gallipoli during the last month of the operations, and afterwards spent some time in Egypt. He went through a course of instruction in France, and received his second star. Later he was promoted to a captaincy. In August he was awarded the Military Cross for "great bravery and devotion to duty"." - from the Adelaide Chronicle 25 Nov 1916 (nla.gov.au)

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Biography

James Churchill-Smith was born on 15 October 1894 in Adelaide. He was hardly to know it then but he would end up serving in two World Wars with distinction. He would also leave behind one of the greatest legacies from World War One that South Australia has. During the war he wrote five diaries that covered his service from embarkation on 26 August 1915 as a second lieutenant to his disembarkation back in Australia on 1 January 1920 as Major. They are truly a state treasure.

James Churchill-Smith was born on 15 October 1894 in Adelaide. He was the third child and son of Mr James Churchill-Smith Senior (Snr) and Lucy Churchill-Smith (nee McManus.) The other children were:

1.       Sydney (Sid) Churchill-Smith (1890 – 1960) = Sid remained unmarried and worked in the stock and station business or most of his life in the far north and central Australia. He was buried at Darwin.

2.       Edgar (Ned) Churchill-Smith (1891 – 23 March 1915) = Ned was unmarried when he died at the Bethesda Hospital, Richmond, Melbourne.

3.       James (Junior) Churchill-Smith (15 October 1894 – 15 March 1968) = the only child to marry, James Jnr married Xenia Dove (1 March 1900 – 8 September 1967) on 24 April 1925 at Adelaide. James worked as a clerk before severing in World War One as a Major. He then became an accountant before serving in World War Two as a Major.

4.       Margot Churchill-Smith (2 April 1926 – 8 April 1926)

James’ father, James Churchill-Smith Snr (? - 3 October 1926) was a half brother to 12 Bagot children. Having been born in the UK he moved with his mother, Anne Smith (? - 16 February 1892) to Adelaide. On 30 July 1857, Anne Smith had married Edward Meade "Ned" Bagot, a member of the notable Bagot family in Australia and here the couple had 6 girls and 6 boys.

James Snr was educated at St Peter’s College in Adelaide and spent most of his youth in the far north on Dalhousie Springs Station which had been owned by Ned Bagot. When he came of age he took up work with Ned Bagot in the stock and station business, which came under the title Bagot, Shakes & Lewis in 1888.

In 1872 James Churchill-Smith Snr and Edward Meade ‘Ted’ Bagot Jnr (the first child of Ned Bagot and his first wife; Mary,) brought between 600 and 1000 head of mixed Hereford and Shorthorn cattle from Adelaide to stock Undoolya Station opposite Alice Springs. James Churchill-Smith Snr kept a daily diary for the droving trip which has become one of the greatest feats in Australian droving history. The trip began on 13 March 1872 when they left North Adelaide and the team arrived at Undoolya in March 1873.

After the trip, James Churchill-Smith Snr, been given increasing responsibility, became the pioneering father of Undoolya Station near Alice Springs where he soon built several small dwellings. Both Bagot Street and Smith Street in Alice Springs are named after the two men.

He later published his diary in 1968: James Churchill Smith's diary for 1872; some notes on overlanding cattle to the Northern Territory and the establishment of Undoolya Station.

After some time James Snr moved back to Adelaide to work as an accountant in the Bagot business.

James Churchill-Smith Jnr meanwhile, was educated at Miss Derrington's Private School before attending Kensington & Norwood Public School. He then went to the School of Mines for two years doing a course in agriculture. After completing the course he was employed at Messrs. W L Ware & Co Accountants in 1909 as an office boy. He remained with the firm until he enlisted in the AIF.

He enlisted for service in the AIF on 11 May 1915. At the time he stated that he was single and working as a clerk. Indeed, since 1909 James Jnr had been working as a clerk for the office of Messrs W. L. Ware & Co. Living with his parents his address was 25 Victoria Street, Prospect, South Australia. He been a part of the school’s voluntary cadets, and at the inception of the compulsory military training scheme he had obtained a commission as a second lieutenant in the Senior Cadets. After he enlisted he applied for a commission which was eventually accepted. He was then allocated to the 8th Reinforcements of the 10th Battalion and took command of them at Mitcham Camp in Adelaide.

After a brief stint of training here, the 8th Reinforcements embarked upon RMS Morea on 26 August 1915. After a brief one day stay at Fremantle the ship sailed for Egypt. They arrived early on 21 September 1915 and disembarked at noon that day. The reinforcements immediately marched to Zeitoun Camp and began further training.  

Whilst the troops were training, however, Second Lieutenant James Churchill-Smith was notified that due to a shortage of officers on the Gallipoli peninsula he would land there without his men. In the evening of 24 October 1915 he landing on Gallipoli and the next day reported for duty with the 10th Battalion. He was posted as a platoon commander and saw out the rest of the Gallipoli Campaign which proved to be uneventful expect for when he volunteered to go out as a ‘patrol’ with one other man to locate a spot where 6 men could be hidden to stop Turkish patrols. This experienced saw Churchill-Smith experience his first real stunt. Sent out twice; 11 November and 13 November 1915 his second outing proved successful. He left Gallipoli on the night 21/22 November 1915 and arrived back in Egypt with the 10th Battalion on 30 December 1915. Seeing in an uneventful new year on 20 February 1916 James Churchill-Smith was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

With the AIF in Egypt, high command decided to expand and reorganise the AIF. In this process which became known as the doubling of the AIF the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Brigades from the First Division and the 4th Brigade were split in half to form the 4th and 5th Division. As such these two new divisions now had a core of experienced troops while fresh reinforcements from Australia finished them off. (Whilst this was happening the 3rd Division was already been created back in Australia.)

Consequently on 26 February 1916 Churchill-Smith and several other officers along with half of the NCO's and men from the 10th Battalion were transferred to the newly created 50th Battalion - a pup or sister battalion to the 10th Battalion.

More training followed to 'break in' the fresh recruits that had just arrived from Australia. On 1 April 1916 James Churchill-Smith was rewarded for his work with a promotion to the rank of Captain and became D Company's second in command. Finally on 5 June 1916 the 50th Battalion embarked at Alexandria and proceeded over the Mediterranean to join the fighting on the Western Front. They arrived at Marseille in Southern France on 12 June 1916 and soon after they entrained for Northern France and the Western Front.

The 50th Battalion was introduced to the Western Front fighting at Armentières in what was known as the nursery because of its relatively quiet fighting.

The 50th Battalion first real action came in August 1916, however. It occurred at Pozieres/ Mouquet Farm where after 5 weeks of fighting Australian forces had suffered 23,000 casualties - the worst ever total in 5 weeks. The 50th Battalion was heavily involved in fighting at Mouquet Farm from the 12th of August to the 16th of August when it was replaced by another Australian Battalion on 16th of August 1916. During these several days the Battalion endured some of the heaviest shelling they would ever encounter on the Western Front. In the words of another 50th Battalion Officer (Captain Armitage) the whole battalion endured ‘four days of hell and four nights of double hell.’

Originally, Captain Churchill-Smith was kept back during the attack on Mouquet Farm, however, Captain Hancock, then leading D Company was wounded on the 12 August 1916 and consequently Captain Churchill-Smith had to make his way to the front line. He found that D Company was completely isolated from the rest of the 50th Battalion on its right and a British unit on its left. He also found they were critically low on men with only about 20 Australian and 20 British troops. Over the day the isolated position was heavily shelled but Captain Churchill-Smith held on to it. On 15 August 20 reinforcements came under the command of Major Herbert and soon after an attack, D Company was linked up once again to both the Australian’s and British. That night the battalion was relieved by the 4th Australian Battalion. For his work during this operation on 10 October 1916 Captain James Churchill-Smith was awarded the Military Cross. 

After only a short break, however, the 50th Battalion was moved back into the line early September. On the night of the 2/3 September 1916 Captain James Churchill-Smith was placed in command of a small team that was tasked in tapping out a trench that had being almost totally destroyed by artillery fire. Whilst doing so his team came under intense sniping and artillery fire, however, he eventually finished the job.  For his work during this operation on 19 October 1916 Captain Churchill-Smith was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross.

Over the next couple of weeks the 50th Battalion was taken behind the lines where they were able to recover from their severe losses in August 1916. Although posted to the front line in early November 1916 they were only in the area until the end of the month before being completely withdrawn. The rest of 1916 would pass and 1917 began peacefully.

In February 1917, however, the Germans took the Allies by surprise, withdrawing from their front line to consolidate along the much stronger and straighter Hindenberg Line whilst also eliminating a very large salient from their line.  "Salient’s" are projections of territory into enemy land which leaves the defender (in this case the German's) vulnerable to being outflanked and cut off and hence the German's withdrew and consolidated their line. The speed of the process, however, took the Allies by surprise, as it was very well organised. To slow down the Allies even further whilst the German's retreated they fortified several isolated positions (Butte du Warlencourt = attacked by the 27th Battalion on 2 March 1917) and also several fortified towns. The aim of these defenced positions were to slow down the allies even further whilst also trying to inflict maximum causalities whilst preserving their own forces. The fortified towns that were closest to the Hindenberg Line were called 'The Outpost Villages.' The Australian Divisions began a cautious follow up which included the 4th Division and the 13th Brigade of which the 50th Battalion was a part of.

By the end of March the 50th Battalion was located near one of these Outpost Villages called Noreuil and an attack was planned to occur on 2 April 1917. An ambitious attack, this battle would be the first assault any AIF unit had undertaken that wasn't defined by Trench Warfare as all of the fighting occurred either in the town or surrounding hills. By the end of 3 April 1917, although the attack had been successful and the town captured the battalion had suffered 393 casualties. They had also lost 5 officers killed in action and several more wounded.

Captain James Churchill-Smith, now commanding officer of D Company lead the company which was located on extreme left flank of the 50th Battalion into the battle. Initially, progress was made, however, several mortar and machine gun positions located along the road leading into Noreuil slowed progress. Both Lieutenants Hoggarth and Bidstrup, platoon commanders in D Company, were Killed in Action whilst clearing these areas. Once past these areas, however, progress through the town of Noreuil of made relatively quickly. Emerging on the other side of the of town D Company, with C Company on its right found an trench that had been unmarked on their intelligence reports and which was just short of their final objective. Waiting for A Company to join them (A Company would mostly be surrounded and captured the German’s) both D and C Companies came under heavy fire from the German’s. Chaos ensured and the battle deteriorated quickly. Reinforcements had to be called but eventually both these reinforcements and an artillery barrage ended most German resistance by early next morning.

The Battalion was relived very soon after and they spent time in the resting zone recovering from their severe losses. The Allies, however, then turned their attention north to the Flanders in the second half of 1917. The start of this campaign was the Attack on Messines Ridge - a battle made famous by its blowing up of 19 mines under the German line on the ridge including under Hill 60. The 50th Battalion participated in the attack between 9 and 11 June 1917. 

The 50th Battalion's part in the Messines Ridge Operation was to attack and capture a section of 'Odd Trench.' On the night of 9/10 June 1917 the battalion attack failed to capture the trench due to heavy artillery and machine gun fire coming from several pill boxes that couldn't be destroyed. The enemy wire was also very thick had not been cut prior to the attack making advancement even harder. Captain James Churchill-Smith, however, commanding D Company on the far left of the battalion was able to exploit a weak point in the wire. After making inroads his company once again lost contact with the 50th Battalion on its right and the 51st on its left. He held this isolated position throughout the whole day until an assault was made the next night which connected up the front lines. On 11 June there was very little resistance by the Germans and some of their units had already begun retreating once again. The next day the 50th Battalion was withdrawn from the line.

With the success of the Messines Ridge campaign the Third Ypres campaign officially began to take the ground around the northern edge of Ypres in a series of ‘bite and hold attacks’. For the most part the 13th Infantry Brigade and the 50th Battalion weren't used in this campaign and they spent plenty of time in resting zones, camps and several rear trenches. Their first engagement, however, came in September with the Attack on Polygon Wood. A few days prior to the attack, on 23 September 1917 Captain Churchill-Smith was informed that he would be working as brigade liaison officer between the 13th Brigade and the brigade on their left. In this capacity he missed the fighting and was mostly in a pill box during the day. At 7pm on 26 September 1917, however, he was wounded in the head by a shell in 7 different places. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station in the rear of the line and operated on.

He was eventually taken to the 7th General Hospital near St Omer and was admitted on 28 September 1917. James Churchill-Smith spent quite some time here only being discharged on 19 October 1917. Meanwhile, the 50th Battalion continued to see limited service during the Third Ypres campaign until it ended in late October 1917 with the onset of winter, mud and rain thus rendering most operations impossible. Captain Churchill-Smith arrived back with the 50th Battalion at 10pm on 6 November 1917.

On 20 December 1917, Churchill-Smith got leave and proceeded over to London where he spent Christmas and New Year. On 4 January 1918 he was told to report to the Senior Officer’s School at Aldershot on 6 January. From then until 16 March 1918 he reported to this school and on 31 March 1918 he crossed back from England to France. He finally re-joined the 50th Battalion in the afternoon of 4 April 1918.

Meanwhile in late March 1918 the German Army unleashed its last major offensive of the war. At the time the 50th Battalion had not been on the front line but was rushed to the front line near Dernancourt where it was kept in reserve during the German attack on the town in early April 1918. Although with the battalion, the battalion as a whole saw no action.

Later in mid-April the German's were able to make a rush at Villers-Bretonneux – the last town before Amiens, making it a very strategic town to both side. On the night of the 24th/25th April 1918 the 50th Battalion attacked and ultimately recaptured the town of Villers-Bretonneux. Although they paid a heavy price this attack would go down in history as the 'Other ANZAC Day". Captain James Churchill didn’t take part in this attack as he was kept in the rear lines.

Throughout 1918 Captain James Churchill-Smith saw continued service with the 50th Battalion in multiple roles. On 19 July 1918 he was transferred to the 13th Brigade Headquarters as a Brigade Major Trainee. In the time he was with the 13th Brigade Headquarters he also took one several other roles.

Between late April and early August 1918 the 50th Battalion saw on and off service on the front line and took part in some minor attacks/ 'peaceful penetration' operations during this time. Then on 8 August the Allies launched their ‘Great Last Hundred Day Offensive’ which would end the war. The 50th Battalion played a minor role in this campaign with its last offensive action taking place in September 1918. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was signed and all guns fell silent on the Western Front. The War for the most part was over.

For James Churchill-Smith, however, there was still over an entire year before he would return to Australia. On 25 September 1918 he was finally promoted to the rank of Major. During the yearlong period of time he spent some of it in Belgium and France and the other half in England. He also had various transfers back and forth between the 50th Battalion and the 13th Brigade Headquarters during this time and for a time was the temporary commanding officer of the 49th Battalion. Of particular highlight was when Major Churchill-Smith escorted the Prince of Wales on a tour of the billets in the Belgium town where the 49th Battalion were staying.   

In April 1919 he took out two weeks leave where he ventured from Belgium to England and then to Southern France and Italy before heading back to Belgium. Finally in May 1919 he was allocated to quota 52 bound for Australia some time later that year. On 2 June 1919 James Churchill-Smith began studying an accountancy course at George Williams College. On 15 November 1919 he embarked on S.S. Ypiranga in England and sailed back to Australia where the ship finally pulled into Outer Harbour on 1 January 1920. For infomation on his war service the reader is directed to read through the 5 diaries as these contain much more information than could be presented here. 

Between the wars James Churchill-Smith became an accountant and on 24 April 1925 he married Xenia Dove.

James Churchill-Smith Snr died on 3 October 1926 and was buried at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide.

During World War Two James Churchill-Smith Jnr served as the Deputy Assistant Director (from 1939 to 1945) with the rank of Major in the Australian Army Canteen Service; South Australia Detachment. He was discharged on the 3rd of April 1945.

Lucy Churchill-Smith nee McManus died in 1959.

Xenia Dove who had married James Churchill-Smith Jnr had been born on 1 March 1900 and died on 8 September 1967. Also in 1967, James Churchill-Smith Jnr applied for his Gallipoli medallion which in time was delivered. He died on 15 March, 1968 and rests in his family plot at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide. A keen player of tennis and billiards in particular he was missed by many. 

Awarded:

Military Cross and Bar

Efficiency Decoration

1914/15 Star: 275

British War Medal: 5094

Victory Medal: 5048

MID: oak leaf cluster

 

Nathan Rohrlach, 2015. ~ His duty done.

 

"CAPTAIN J. CHURCHILL-SMITH.

A cable announces that Captain James Churchill-Smith has received a bar for the military cross previously awarded him. Captain Smith is the third and youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Churchill-Smith, of Victoria-street, Prospect, and he attained the age of 22 years only a few weeks ago. He was born at Norwood, and was educated at Miss Derrington's private school, Kensington, and at the Norwood public school. He went through a two year's agricultural course at the Adelaide School of Mines and Industries. He entered the office of Messrs. W. L. Ware and Co. in 1909, and remained with that firm until his enlistment for overseas service. Captain Smith's first military experience was gained as a junior cadet. He obtained a commission when a senior cadet, and carried it with him on his entering the 79th Battalion of the Defence Forces. He acted as adjutant of the 79th from December, 1914, and secured a commission in the A.I.F. about April, 1916. He was with the forces on Gallipoli during the last month of the operations, and afterwards spent some time in Egypt. He went through a course of instruction in France, and received his second star. Later he was promoted to a captaincy. In August he was awarded the Military Cross for "great bravery and devotion to duty"." - from the Adelaide Chronicle 25 Nov 1916 (nla.gov.au)

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