Eric Wilkes TALBOT-SMITH MiD

Poppy

TALBOT-SMITH, Eric Wilkes

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 19 August 1914, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Kensington Park, South Australia, 28 April 1892
Home Town: Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: St Peter's College, Royal Military College, Duntroon
Occupation: Soldier (Royal Duntroon Military College)
Died: Killed in Action (Head wounds from bursting shrapnel), Gallipoli, 30 April 1915, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery
Row Q, Grave No. 431. His name is located at panel 60 in the Commemorative Area at the AWM
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board, Norwood War Memorial, Rose Park Burnside District Fallen Soldiers' Memorial, Rosslyn Park War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, Adelaide, South Australia
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
12 Mar 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, SN Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 10th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
Date unknown: Wounded 10th Infantry Battalion

In Memory of One Who Died - 'EWTS' by Leon Gellert

I mind they told me on a noisy hill
I sat and disbelieved, and shook my head:
“Impossible! Impossible! but still
these other men have died, and others bled”.
Knees clasped, I sat and thought, unheeding war.
The trees, the winds, the streets came back to me;
The laughter of his eyes, his home afar,
The memory of his hopes, his buoyancy,
His dreams, his jests, his moods of wistfulness,
The quaintness of his speech, his favourite song;
And this, -and this the end so pitiless!
The man we knew! The man we knew so long!
- To die-be dead-not move, and this was he!
I rose and oiled my rifle musingly.

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Biography

Born  Eric Wilkes SMITH  on  28 April 1892 in Kensington Park, South Australia
(SA Birth Record 1842 - 1906 Book: 500 Page: 110 District: Nor.)

Father Sydney Talbot SMITH and Mother Florence Oliver (nee CHETTLE). His father was a prominent solictor

Eric was in the first intake of officers at Duntroon Military College who were rushed through to graduate when the First World War was declared.

He was allocated to A Company of the 10th Infantry Battalion and was duly appointed to the Scouts, who were designated as the battalion skirmishers to move forward of the main body of the Battalion.

He had been ordered to find and destroy a battery of Turkish guns near Ari Burnu as part of the inital phase post-landing.  He and his men had reharsed 'spiking the guns' to render them incapable of being used by the Turks.

Charles Bean stated  
 "(Talbot) Smith raced across the beach with 32 scouts from the 10th Battalion and climbed up a scrub-covered slope, yelling, 'Come on boys, they can't hit you!' "

Smith was reportedly foremost in the bayonet charge that drove the Turks from the first hill, and captured several machine guns. He then took charge of his own battalion's machine guns and continued to fire until shrapnel burst overhead. All of his section were either killed or wounded. Smith had severe head wounds and was thought to be dead, Major Beevor approached and covered his face with a handkerchief  but the next morning he was discovered to be alive and evacuated.

He was Mentioned in Despatches for his bravery.

The Commanding officer of the 10th Battalion, Colonel Stanley Price Weir wrote: "I have no hesitation in reporting that no officer of my Battalion displayed greater bravery in the face of the enemy than Lieutenant Talbot Smith".

He was evacuated to Alexandria in Egypt on board a hospital ship. Captain Herbert was with him until he died, on board ship.

30/4/1915      Died of gun shot wounds to head, on board hospital ship Alexandris
                     15th General Hospital

21/5/1915       recorded in grave No. 431 Military Cemetery

His name is commemorated at Chatby Memorial, Egypt

24/8/1915     Special Mention In Despatches - by General Sir Ian Hamilton

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.  17/4/2015.  Lest we forget.

 

From the book Fallen Saints, by Robert Kearney

Eric Wilkes Talbot Smith was born in Adelaide on 28 April 1892. His education commenced at Canterbury House School, and then later, with his brother Donald, at the Collegiate School of St Peter.

Eric was an outstanding student and athlete who represented the School in various sports and was captain of the rifle team in 1910.

He entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1911 and while there was a member of the RMC Australian Rules football, rugby, tennis, hockey and cricket teams. He also served on many of the cadet committees before graduating in August 1914.

He took up his posting to the 10th Battalion and joined A Company on the day the Morphettville camp opened and throughout the battalion’s rigorous training regime at Morphettville was involved in the training of junior officers and NCOs and later during the voyage to Egypt was the acting Adjutant.

After disembarkation at Egypt, the battalion moved to Mena Camp where he returned to his role of scout commander and provided Colonel Weir with detailed field sketches and reports, which the CO found extremely useful on field exercises.

Weir demonstrated absolute trust in the young subaltern by appointing him to lead the battalion's scouts and allowing him to select his men from the best in the battalion.

In his last letter home, Eric said he had chosen a team made up almost entirely of ‘Old Saints’ and was training them in every aspect of scouting as well as ensuring they maintained the highest level of physical fitness.

On 7 May 1915, Colonel Weir wrote to tell Eric’s parents their son had died at his post while ‘bravely fighting for the Empire.’ He told them their son with his scouts was among the first to land on Sunday, April 25, at about 4.15 a.m., and went about his duties in a ‘fearless manner.’

Weir said he considered Eric’s wounds to be fatal from the outset but did not see him again after he was moved to the hospital ship, and did not learn of his death until 6 May.

More about Lieutenant Talbot Smith is revealed in this excerpt from a copy of a report Colonel Weir forwarded to Staff Captain Ross, 3rd Brigade HQ, shortly after the landing.

...He was about the first to land, and was in charge of the Bn Scouts. When scouting became impossible he took up his duty on the machine guns, and was working the same when he was wounded by shrapnel in the temple. The five men who were on the gun with him were either wounded or killed, but he bravely stuck to his post and fired his gun until thus severely wounded...

Because Eric had been in the battalion since its formation as a platoon commander, assistant adjutant, machine gun officer, and 'scoutmaster,' (of the Battalion's Scouts) it is unlikely there would have been a man in the battalion who did not know him or have had at least some dealings with him. 

Everyone in the battalion was shocked and saddened by the death of such a fine young officer, leader and man.  In his letter to Eric’s parents, Colonel Weir described their son as ‘a splendid officer’ who was energetic, most capable, resourceful and brave. He said their son had such a thorough knowledge of military subjects that in an emergency he could rely on him to fill the gap. Weir then recalled how as the 'Scoutmaster' on the battalion’s exercises at Mena, Eric had provided him with splendid information and sketches.

Private Herbert Bartholomaeus writing about the death of his platoon commander sometime later, referred to him as ‘brave a man as one could meet.’ Bartholomaeus said it did their hearts good to be with a man like Eric and described how as they were charging up the hill on that first morning he had been alongside Eric when he heard him call, ‘Come on Australians; give them the bayonet. That’s all they want.’  With a view to recommending Lieutenant Talbot Smith for a DSO, Colonel Weir instructed his adjutant, Captain Rumball to interview a number of wounded 10th Battalion men in H Ward of the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Cairo; while interviewing the ‘H Ward Boys’ Rumball recorded the following notes.

Landed 25th April with scouts at Anzac went forward with scouts, returned, reported, took over machine guns and advanced with Batt, he was heavily pressed. All his men killed or wounded, he continued to work a gun alone. When relief arrived he was found lying across the gun, thought to be dead, he was not removed for some hours.

Later found to be living and embarked on hospital ship. Died on way to Alexandria and was buried at sea. Captain Herbert of same Batt was with him till he died.
He was mentioned in Army Corps Routine Orders for conspicuous gallantry and valuable services 25 April-5 May, and received a special mention in General Sir Ian Hamilton’s despatches of 24 August 1915.

Red Cross eye witness statements: 

On 6 September 1915, Private George Ashenden told how Lieutenant Talbot Smith and another man had captured a machine gun to cover the withdrawal of the battalion and how when the man with him was killed the young officer had continued to operate the gun until wounded in the head. Ashenden said, ‘Talbot Smith was scoutmaster and had been doing marvellous work with his scouts having captured 3 Turkish guns within a short time of landing.’

He said after he saw the young officer fall he saw Major Beevor cover the Lieutenant’s face with a handkerchief and later heard he was brought in and was buried later at Alexandria but could not confirm it.

Lieutenant Noel Medway Loutit described in an interview on 12 September 1915 how Eric, one of the first to land, led his scouts forward and when reinforcements arrived joined them.  Loutit’s statement corroborates Ashenden's since he also stated how Talbot Smith took charge of a machine gun on a hill and was operating it when wounded. ‘He was taken back and put on a hospital ship and died as the boat was entering Alexandria Harbour.’

When writing about the Anzac landing in 1935, Captain George Mitchell, MC, DCM referred to Eric Talbot Smith as one of those ‘mighty men’ whose inspirational call of ‘Advance, Australia!’ towered in his and other men’s memories. For many soldiers, the incidents they would most like to remember are quickly forgotten yet those they would most like to forget are often burned into their memory for life.

Mitchell recalled how even in the midst of a blizzard of fire, with dead, bleeding and dying men around him, a few words spoken by a mate, just before a bullet ripped open the man’s skull stayed with him long after the war. ‘If this is war … War!’

Notice of Lieutenant Talbot Smith’s death published on 3 May 1915 made him the first reported South Australian casualty and that day at the Adelaide City Council meeting, it was agreed a letter of sympathy would be forward to his parents.

After the war, Lieutenant Talbot Smith’s sword was presented to the 10th Battalion where it remained on display in the officer’s mess until November 1987. That year when the 10th and 27th Battalions were linked to form 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment, the sword was passed to the incumbent Commanding Officer for safekeeping.

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