Jack “Bomber” Smith part 2

In part 1 of Jack’s army career, he was wounded in Crete. He received a gun shot wound to his right buttocks. We now follow him in the Pacific arena.

USS West Point (AP-23) being repainted for naval service, 2 June 1941 (19-N-24561).jpg
By Unknown author – U.S. Navy photo, USS West Point (AP-23) being repainted for naval service, 2 June 1941 19-N-24561, Public Domain, Link

On 12 March 1942, Jack was heading back to Australia via Adelaide on the USS West Point which had been the America before being refitted. Both behaviour and health of the troops was good on the journey home. They docked in Fremantle on 25 March then on to Outer Harbour in Adelaide on 30th.  D company was billeted out in Glenunga. No sooner was he back on Australian soil, than Jack was again AWOL for 10 days with more punishment, fines and forfeiture of pay. April, May and June the company was based at Ingleburn again. Many members had home leave.

On 4 July, D company were on their way to Brisbane then to camp at Peachester. Four days of continuous rain yet the troops still had to improve their camp and build a new road into camp. Each company chose their area to camp and because they had a lack of tents, log huts also had to be built. They had 7 days to get settled in. An assault course was built and platoons would go off on 5-7 day treks where they would travel 70-90 miles.

On 21 July, Jack was evacuated to the MDS (Main Dressing Station) for a consultation. His wounds must have still been painful for Jack as he was admitted to the 2/6th Australian Field Ambulance based in Queensland near Landsborough in July 1942. Three days later, he was discharged back to his unit. It was here in the hinterland of Queensland that the troops did a lot of jungle training ready for their move to Papua/New Guinea.

On 21 August they were moved to Deception Bay where again they had to set up their own camps. Because they were near a beach, troop members enjoyed fishing and swimming. Nothing exciting happened during September according to the unit diaries. To make sure each company had good defences at night, the HQ company formed a commando group and would raid companies and take prisoners. More training during October and November. A and B companies sent north but C and D companies stayed around Deception Bay. They took part in fire control and beach defences. At the end of December, D company were on a march where their communication abilities in the jungle were improving rapidly.

By mid November B company were already in New Guinea and many had lost condition on the voyage over and still needed to acclimate to the weather and conditions. On New Years Day they were at Oro Bay on the east coast of New Guinea. This is near the eastern end of the Kokoda Trail where the Australian and American forces had fought the Japanese on the beach front near Buna Gona.


By mid January, A company were at Milne Bay in the southern area of New Guinea. Troops are taking 2 quinine tablets as malaria is rife in the area. A company now at Oro Bay in late March were bombed by Japanese fighters. Both A and B company were now finding Japanese landing on the coast and heading inland to the smaller villages.

In January 1943, Jack and the D company go on night marches, watermanship exercises and field firing exercises. These continue through to 4 May when Jack and his unit were moved to Brisbane where they embarked on the ship Duntroon and headed to Port Moresby via Townsville. In the unit diary, it is mentioned that one person was AWL. Maybe this is Jack, this time for 6 weeks from 3 April until 19 May. They arrived in Port Moresby on 11 May. His court martial was on 10 Jun 1943. He was found guilty and given 3 months field punishment and loss of his ordinary pay. He was tried on the same day as Private Monks also from Tasmania and for the same amount of AWOL. Jack was moved to the New Guinea Forces Field Punishment Centre.

On 17 July, troops were told they would be embarking and heading to the east coast. But in the diaries it is mentioned they are at Boera which is north of Port Moresby. Jack was released from the centre on 27 August 1943.  A company in September were at Morobe on the east coast and were often bombed by the Japanese.

Early October, B company were looking at different ways to package the belts for the machine guns for trekking through the jungle. Weather was very hot and some soldiers were fainting at parades in the morning. Every Wednesday afternoon a mobile bath would arrive and each company had 15 minutes for every member to have a bath. They were to supply their own soap and towels.

On 18 October, D company were sent to Dona Dabu for two weeks for jungle training. Included here is a list of what they accomplished over that two weeks.

Unit diary on 2 November mentions A company is returning to Battalion HQ. On 26 November, the place Bootless Inlet is mentioned as being the map where the camp is situated. Each company had a certain area to defend. Looking on a present day map, this is just south east of Port Moresby.

Sundays were always church parade, followed by make and mend and rest day. But on December 18th, the 4th anniversary celebrations involved battalion sports for both individuals and companies. D company won with 38 points. I wonder which sports Jack took part in? He was posted on strength as an original member of the battalion.

Late December, troops were warned about the Guba winds which caused mini cyclones usually during January and February. Orders were given explaining what was expected from the troops. At the end of December the battalion was given orders of moving to the sea with only 24 hours notice.

Back to Australia

On 15 February 1944, the battalion was sent back to Queensland for rest and re-organization. They embarked on the USS Paul Chandler and in total 1195 personnel were on board. The weather was overcast and stormy when they sailed at 1839 hours that evening. Two days later they were navigating the Barrier Reef and on 20 February they anchored at Caloundra.

On 22 February, the South Australian and Tasmanian contingents were sent on 24 days leave. Three days later, the rest of the battalion were based at Tenterfield in New South Wales. By the end of June, everyone had moved again to Petrie which is just north of Brisbane.

On 19 April Jack was granted a week of leave without pay and he headed to Tasmania but failed to report to the L.T.D (Leave and Transit Depot) in Launceston.

The unit voted in the referendum on 19 August. This was the fourteen powers referendum and the federalisation of Aboriginal Affairs.

At the end of August, another move this time to Cairns area. They set up camp at Kairi near Atherton in the tablelands area of Queensland.

Back in Queensland Jack’s medical condition was reassessed in September 1944. He was classified as B2 which meant he was medically fit but had a permanent disability so could only be employed under certain conditions. On 19 October 1944, Jack was moved to 16 APSC for re-allocation. This was Australian Personnel Staging Camp. Jack was then based at 2/1 Australian Base workshops in Queensland.

In July 1945, Jack had been moved from Queensland to Tasmania, and a month later he was back in hospital with acute tonsillitis. This time he was at the 111 Australian General Hospital based at Merton Vale, Campbell Town.  Jack was finally discharged on 19 September 1945.


On his discharge papers, it says he served in the AIF continuously for a total of  2031 days of which 974 were in Australia and 852 were overseas. He had 124 days of field punishment which counts as non-effective service. Looking through the unit war diaries, Jack spent approximately six weeks fighting against the enemy throughout the entirety of his World War 2 service.

Jack was awarded the following medals but it is not known where the originals are and who has them as Jack had no children from his two marriages.

  • 1939/1945 Star
  • Africa Star
  • Pacific Star
  • War Medal
  • Defence Medal
  • Australian Service Medal 1939/1945

At some stage in 1946, he had to reapply for his discharge papers as he said they had probably been burnt accidentally.

In August 2000, Gayle Hildyard, his niece mentioned in a letter to the Defence Personnel Service, Army Medals Section, that a nephew was supposed to apply for the medals but it is unknown if these were claimed.

Jack “Bomber” Smith

My dad would occasionally take me up to his uncle’s house in North Hobart. His name was Jack Smith and he was the brother of dad’s mother Irene Wyatt nee Smith. From DNA testing they were actually half siblings but they were very close to each other.

In fact dad said his mother saved Jack from drowning when they were on Bruny Island. Jack also sent cards to Irene during WWII but these were often censored.

With us celebrating ANZAC Day this month, I thought I would do a post on my great uncle Jack “Bomber” Smith.

Bob, his mother Irene Smith and Jack, her brother.
Bob, his mother Irene and Jack, her brother.

This information is based on his service records held at the National Archives Australia and the unit diaries from the Australian War Memorial.

Jack was born in Scottsdale on 22 April 1918. At that time, his father was working as a sawyer in the Scottsdale area. The family moved around every few years to wherever Robert Smith could find work.

At the time Jack enlisted on 27 October 1939, his father was at Rose Valley, Oyster Cove in southern Tasmania. Jack was living with the Abery family at Sandfly. He was 21 years old and single. When he was discharged in 1945, he was described as dark complexion, black hair and black eyes. He also had scars or marks on the outer side of both legs. His darkness was because of his Samoan heritage.

Jack, with his service number of TX277, began his training at the newly created Brighton camp in Tasmania, as part of the 2/1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion, then moved to Newcastle camp in New South Wales. He spent about a month at Newcastle Hospital with venereal disease then moved to Ingleburn, which became the main training camp for New South Wales.

In April 1940, Jack was diagnosed with tonsillitis and was sent to hospital at Ingleburn.

In May 1940, Jack had committed two crimes:

  1. While acting as an escort to a prisoner under close arrest, he handed his rifle to the prisoner.
  2. Riding on a truck when ordered not to do so

The ship Queen Mary had sailed from New York to Sydney where it was fitted out as a troopship. In late May, whilst onboard the ship Queen Mary, heading to Gourock, Scotland, Jack was again in trouble for being AWOL 25 hours whilst at Cape Town. According to the unit diaries, 100 members of the battalion were given shore leave but due to extremely heavy swells they could not return to the ship and had to be accommodated elsewhere.  Even while on board ship, training with the machine guns continued along with spare time for deck games and picture evenings. Jack was part of the D Company and they had to man the guns at the rear of the ship.

The ship anchored in Scotland on 16 June, and by 19 June the battalion were at Tidworth on the Salisbury Plains for more training and patrolling as the British thought the Germans might invade across the channel. There were many air raid calls whilst here and Jack and the members of the battalion would have to head to the trenches or stand under the trees.

In September 1940, he was still at Tidworth army camp but again was AWOL for 8 days. His punishment was field punishment and forfeiture 8 days pay. As it was coming up to winter, they were moved to Colchester on 15 October where they were based in barracks rather than tents like at Tidworth. On 30 October, the King visited the camp.

It was on 18 November 1940, Jack and the Machine Gun Battalion headed off to the Middle East. This journey involved travelling by boat around the west coast of Africa where they arrived at Freetown, Sierre Leone on 29 November. The convoy crossed the equator at 1350 on 3 December. They tied up at the wharf at Durban and were given some leave over the period of 12-15 December.  During this voyage, boxing matches and sports days were held. The troops were given 2 bottles of beer as part of their Christmas cheer.

At 1700 on the 28 December, they arrived at Port Suez then to Kantara through the Suez Canal where, at 0915 the next day, they were  sent by rail to Ikingi Maryut, just west of Alexandria, Egypt. The troops had lots of problems with lack of water while at Ikingi as well as dust storms with very low visibility. All available transport was being used to cart water from local wells and the railway station.

From January 11, leave was given to head to Alexandria. The troops were reminded that alcohol often leads men into temptations which could mean they end up with venereal disease.

Remember always, the fit man is the only one the army has any use for.

Jack’s D Company were up early at 4am for a compass march on 22 January. By the end of January, their transport and water cartage vehicles had been collected from Port Said. Nothing exciting happened during February other than training and more vehicles being given to the company.

The first week of March included moving to a new camp site but still at Ikingi. The weather was showery which made the ground unsuitable for large transports. The last week of March involved packing everything up and heading to the wharf at Alexandria.

Jack finally sees action

On 7 April 1941, the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion was deployed to Greece.  They landed in three places Athens, Khalsis and Volos. By 12 April the New Zealand troops had joined them to form a column heading to Larissa. The A Company marched 60km further north to the Aliakmon River while B Company were at Servia Pass.  At the pass, they had 22 German planes attack them that afternoon. They were eventually surrounded by Germans and had to retreat. The troops at the pass were evacuated back to Larissa. On 19 April, D Company’s convoy were dive bombed and machine gunned by 38 Stukas for 20 minutes on the road between Pharsala and Lamia. Luckily, no loss of life but quite a bit of damage to equipment. On 20 April, they checked the German mechanised column about 10 miles south of Lamia by using machine gun fire and infantry then re joined the battalion south of Brallos. D Company joined the NZ brigade and settled in at Kriekouk north of Athens. For 3 days there was lots of bombing and machine gunning throughout the daylight hours but it was only the enemy trying to find information about troop numbers and positions so there was no fighting from D Company. But on 26 April a skirmish with the enemy occurred until the enemy retreated to find another road for their equipment.

They moved to the coast where they were picked up by destroyers on the night of the 26 April.  The evacuation included sinking of their transport ship Costa Rica on the 27th. A bombing attack at 2.30pm meant all personnel onboard had to abandon ship and Royal Navy destroyers picked them up and took them onto Crete where they landed at Souda Bay at 6.30pm but most did not have any equipment with them. These troops were eventually sent back to Egypt.

But D company arrived on Crete on April 28 with 5 officers and 137 from other ranks. They remained on Crete and from guns left on the island, they eventually had two extra guns built from spare parts, to ward off the German attack on 20 May. Many German parachutists arrived and also a bit of air activity from the enemy trying to find the Aussies. On May 21, the company moved from Georgeopoulis to Canea-Maleme area at 8pm. The bombing of Georgeopoulis started at 6pm until dark. Still no casualties to D Company.

In late May 1941, Jack was wounded in action around Crete. He received a gunshot wound in the right buttocks and was sent to the 2nd Australian General Hospital and then the Australian Convalescence Depot.  By the end of the fighting, 104 men from the 2/1st had died, were wounded or captured. I think this hospital was in Gaza, Palestine. Jack spent just over two months here before returning to the machine gun battalion on 16 August 1941. Again he was AWOL for a couple of days and had to forfeit his pay for 3 days and pay a fine. For the next few months, Jack was based at Gaza, then Damascus and Zaboud as part of defence forces based in these towns. Back to Gaza where it had been decided to draw down the number of troops in the Middle East due to Japan now entering the war in the Pacific.

Just before Christmas 1941, Jack sent greetings to his sister he called Rene.


Follow the rest of Jack’s time in the army in my next post.

Siblings in black and white

This time I do have some photos relating to my dad’s side of the tree – the Smith family.

This is my father as a young boy, his mother and her brother (actually her half brother). Nan was very close to her brother Jack, who we knew as Bomber. He lived not far from Nan and he served in WWII and would often send nan postcards and letters from wherever he was serving.

Three more siblings of my nan are Ruby, Jimmy and Max. I have my nan’s photo album and she has many black and white photos of her siblings and nieces and nephews.

Now looking to my mum’s side of the tree where we have lots of photos of sibling groups.

These two photos represent the three England sisters. My aunty Margaret and her older sister Iris who died aged 10, then the second photo is my aunty Margaret with her younger sister Phyllis, my mum who was born a month before Iris died.

My grandmother Hannah England nee Davey was always very close to her sister Elizabeth Boxhall nee Davey known as Lizzie.

In this photo they even look alike – Hannah on left and Lizzie on right. The two sisters also kept in close touch with their other siblings especially those who lived in southern Tasmania. Hannah and Lizzie would often be together at different events. This photo shows two of Lizzie’s children Reuben and George Boxhall playing on the beach.

Many of the Davey siblings got together at the wedding of my aunty Margaret in 1949. Pictured above are Frederick, Doris, Hannah, Lizzie and George. Frederick is the youngest of the siblings and was born a month before his father died in 1914.

I also have one on mum’s paternal side of her father Henry Lewis England with his sister Ruby May England. This was also taken at Margaret’s wedding.


Readers: How many black and white photos do you have of siblings?