John Richard SMITH

Poppy

SMITH, John Richard

Service Number: SX11768
Enlisted: 15 March 1941, Wayville, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Moonta, South Australia, 26 July 1916
Home Town: Wardang Island , South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in action, Egypt, 24 October 1942, aged 26 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
Plot A2 Row E, Grave 9.
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Moonta War Memorial, Point Pearce Memorial and Flagpoles to Narungga Men and Women, Point Pearce Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

15 Mar 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN SX11768, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
15 Mar 1941: Enlisted Private, SN SX11768, Wayville, South Australia
15 Mar 1941: Involvement Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN SX11768, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
16 Mar 1941: Involvement Private, SN SX11768
24 Oct 1942: Involvement Private, SN SX11768, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN SX11768, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement

His Duty Nobly Done

John was born at Moonta to Frederick and Alice Victoria Smith on the 26th July 1916. He lived on Wardang Island, home to the Nharangga people and later transferred to the Point Pearce Mission. In John’s time sheep were stocked on the island and lime sand quarried across to the mainland on barges.
With the outbreak of WWII, aged 24 John enlisted initially at Port Victoria on the 1st February ‘41 then at Wayville, on the 15th March, giving his occupation as a labourer. He was allocated the number SX11768 in the newly formed 2/48th Battalion. Following pre-embarkation leave in March ’41 he was soon on the ‘Ile de France’, arriving in the Middle East on the 14th May. Conditions were quite different to the tranquillity back home with dust, flies, heat and being constantly under fire. He was to become one of the legendary Rats of Tobruk.
Five months later, aged just 26, John was killed in action in Egypt on the 24th October 1942 during a massive assault to ambitiously take the strategic position of Trig 29. The evening was described by John Glenn in ‘Tobruk to Tarakan’ as ‘an occasional burst from a machine gun disturbed the night of 24th October. Nevertheless, it was a busy time for the tired men. Little or no sleep could be had. A hot meal sent forward after dark was quickly swallowed. There was no time for yarning. Defences had to be improved, more digging and wiring done and patrols sent out.’ He later added that ‘the 2/48th had stirred up a real hornets’ nest.’ On that night alone 9 of the Battalion were killed and 20 wounded in action. Of these 16 were from South Australia and the remainder from Western Australia.
The Advertiser announced John’s death in November ’42: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith, of Moonta Mines, have been notified that their fourth son. Pte. J. R. Smith, has been killed in action in 2/48th Egypt. Pte. Smith enlisted from Port Victoria in 1941, and saw action at Tobruk and in Syria.’ The Chronicle also listed those killed with him, including SX8468 Pte. Patrick H. Hoare. 2/48th North Broken Hill (NSW); SX13570 Pte. Charles Holman, 2/48th Broken Hill; SX7771 Pte. Henry O. Lohmann, 2/48th Murray Bridge; SX6848 Cpt. Alfred F. Meyer. 2/48th Renmark: SX3149 Col. Arthur H. Peters. 2/48th Macclesfield; . SX11768 Pte. John R. Smith, 2/48th Wardang Island; SX13535 Pte. Allan L. Thessinger, 2/48th Jamestown.
Initially his fellow soldiers buried him in the field before he was then interred at the El Alamein Military War Cemetery in January ’43, Plot 9 Row J Grave 19 with three unknown Australian soldiers and others from the 2/7th, 2/13th, 2/23rd, 2/28th and 2/43rd. Finally, he and others killed with him were reinterred into their final resting place in the El Alamein War Cemetery in Plot A2 Row E, Grave 9. He rests with Privates Arthur G. Randall WX10146 and Robert T. Elliott SX7254, and Roy H. Merritt SX13495 of Millicent from his 2/48th Battalion who died at a similar time. John’s parents chose the tribute ‘His Duty Nobly Done’ for his headstone.
John’s medals were sent to his family in February, 1953 and consisted of the 1939/45 Star, Africa Star with 8th clasp, Defence Medal, War Medal and Australian Service Medal but initially were returned unclaimed before finally reaching his family.
The family remembered John on the anniversary of his death with notices in the Advertiser. SMITH. Pte. John. —ln memory of John, killed El Alamein. October 24. 1942. Resting in a soldier's grave, honored with Australia's brave. —Remembered by his father, mother, and sister (Kassie). SMITH. —In memory of John, killed El Alamein, October 24. 1942. Your cheerful smile and happy ways will linger with us always. —Remembered by Stan, Fred (AIF.). Claude, Arthur. SMITH. —In memory or our dear brother and uncle John, killed EI Alamein, October 24. 1942. Beneath a little cross a life sacrificed In glory. —inserted by Evelyn, Norman, Elaine, Norma, Kevin, Claude, Burnice and John. SMITH. —In memory of our dear brother and uncle, killed El Alamein, October 24. 1342. One ot the world's bravest and best. —inserted by his sister Lillian, Tom and children.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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