20254 Rifleman Thomas Joseph Smith – New Zealand Rifle Brigade NZ(R)B

Thomas Joseph Smith was born in Otaki on 20th September 1898[i] the son of Magdeline (nee Stuart) and
Thomas Smith. Magdeline was known by the family as Mary.[ii]

The Smith family had moved from Otaki by the start of World War One with Thomas Snr and the family living at 9 Parliament Street, Wellington.[iii] To avoid confusion with his father, Thomas Joseph Smith was known as Terry Thomas Smith by his family and associates.[iv]

Terry was a well built young man standing at 5’ 11” (180.4 cm)
and weighing 164 lbs (73.4 kg) and he was employed, aged 17
as a guard on Somes Island, Wellington. Somes Island during
WW1 was used for the internment of enemy aliens.

On 30th April 1916 Terry Thomas Smith entered Trentham
Military camp. 20254 Private Smith listed his birth date as
20th September 1895 which made his apparent age 20 years
meeting recruitment requirements. Private Smith listed
his father Mr Thomas Smith, 9 Parliament Street, Wellington
as his next of kin.

                        Parade at Somes Island Internment Camp 

Following basic training Private Smith F Company, 16th Reinforcements embarked from New Zealand on 19th August
1916. Private Smith celebrated his eighteenth birthday while on the troopsship to England. On arrival in England the 16th Reinforcements were moved to Sling Camp on 25th October 1916 and Private Smith was attached C Company, 3rd Reserve Battalion NZ(R)B as Rifleman Smith.

The stay at Sling Military Training camp was short Rifleman Smith was shipped to France on 15th November 1916 and posted to C Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd NZ(R)B in  the Field on 11th December 1916.  Following the Battle of the Somme, the NZ Division was wintering over on the Lys enduring the cold of a European winter. There was a slow build-up in preparation for the next battle and Rifleman Smith spent time in the working battalion, building support structures, and on dump fatigues bringing up ammunition and supplies for the Battle of Messines not rejoining his unit until 16th June 1917 after the NZ(R)B had been withdrawn from
the battle.

As part of recreation Division Sports were organised in July 1917 and Rifleman Smith was released to attend, there is
no information to either as a participant or as a attendee. It was then back to the preparations for the next major action Passchendaele. Rifleman Smith again was detached to work with 2nd Field Company, New Zealand Engineers through
July 1917 but rejoined his  unit on 6th  August 1917. The  3rd Battalion NZ(R)B was in the lines in the Warneton Sector, 
to the north of the River Douve and the south east of Messines.

                    'At the time of taking over this sector the weather was wet and cold and the conditions generally
                    were worse than those experienced on the Somme. Owing to the excessive shelling, especially on
                    the left battalion area, which was on the forward slope of Messines Ridge, the communication-saps
                    had been completely destroyed. The front-line trenches were for the most part thigh-deep in mud,
                    devoid of duck-boards, and quite without shelter beyond the shallow little "cubbyholes" which had
                    been excavated in the sides and which possessed no other value than that they enabled those men
                    who were not immediately on duty, and were endeavouring to snatch a little sleep, to get their legs
                    out of the slimy mess.'[v] 

                                                                                            During the battalions stay in the sector they were subjected to intense                                                                                                shellfire and aerial activity. German aircraft were active in firing into
                                                                                            the trenches and also in bombing roads to the rear. It could have been                                                                                                either of these activities but on 21st August 1917 Rifleman was                                                                                                              reported wounded in action. Rifleman Smith was evacuated by the
                                                                                            No 3 Field Ambulance to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station                                                                                                  then to the rear and admitted on 22nd August 1917 to the No 6
                                                                                            General Hospital in Rouen with gunshot wound to the thigh and
                                                                                            facial injuries.
                                                                                            3rd Battalion NZ(R) soldiers evacuated a comrade  1917                                                                                    

Rifleman Smith was evacuated to England on 26th August 1917 and admitted on 27th August 1917 to the No 1 NZ
General Hospital at Brockenhurst, England.

Rifleman Smith remained at Brockenhurst until 10th October 1917 when he was transferred to the NZ Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch. Rifleman Smith on 20th October 1917 was then posted to the NZ Codford Depot and taken on as staff at the depot.  Rifleman Smith remained at Codford for the rest of his service eventually leaving England on 21st January 1919. Rifleman Smith was medically assessed on the return journey to New Zealand, the impact of two bouts of influenza where noted and he was granted extended leave on his return to New Zealand.

On 7th May 1919 Rifleman Smith was discharged from the NZEF ‘no longer physically fit for war service on account of
illness contacted on active service.’ Terry returned to civilian life but on 6th September 1919 re-enlisted as temporary permanent army staff, 591 Private Terry Thomas Smith, New Zealand Medical Corp based in the Featherston Military
Camp. On 29th December 1919 Private Smith was posted to the Trentham Military Camp, on 21st January 1920 he requested a discharged from the army[vi].

Terry married on 26th July 1920 Sarah Jane Steward the couple raise six children[vii].  It is probable that Sarah Jane Smith died in 1944 as Terry (Thomas) is listed as not leaving a widow on 17th December 1970 when he died in Titahi Bay.
Thomas Joseph Smith’s death was reported by Mrs Shirley Holmes, 60 Te Pene Avenue, Titahi Bay, Wellington who he
was living with, potentially his oldest daughter.

Due to a clerical error the wrong details were supplied to Department of
Internal Affairs, War Graves Division and Thomas Joseph Smith was given an
incorrect regimental number and has been buried as 47476 Private T J Smith,
Wellington Regiment. The supplied regimental number is for
47476 Private Henry John Smith who died in 1956 and is buried in Waipukarau,
Hawkes Bay.[viii]

Thomas Joseph Smith is buried in the Porirua Cemetery and a plaque with
the correct regimental number and regiment will be fitted to the grave.

Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Paperspast Online
Porirua Cemetery Records Online
The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade: NZETC

Somes Island prisoners on pararde: Alexander Turnbull 
3rd Battalion NZ(R)B: Royal RSA collection - National Library
Grave at Porirua: Melanie Macdonald
Troops moving up: Royal RSA Collection - National Library 

[i]     NZ BDM
[ii]    NZ BDM Death Certificate Thomas Joseph Smith 1970/38298
[iii]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 20254 Rifleman Terry Thomas Smith
[iv]   Gazette corrections,
[v]    The Warneton Sector: History of the NZ(R)B
[vi]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 20254 Rifleman Terry Thomas Smith
[vii]  NZ BDM Death  Certificate Thomas Joseph Smith 1970/38298
[viii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 47476 Private Henry John Smith  
Moving up to the front and Passchendaele 1917