74804 Trooper Wilfred (Wit) Gerald Smith – Wellington Mounted Rifles

Francis Wilson Smith came to New Zealand with his parents in the late 1840s. After serving in the militia, he was
granted land at Horokiwi. Francis Wilson Smith settled Tunapo, Paekakariki Hill in 1859.  Later his two younger brothers took up land at Paekakariki, and as Francis steadily increased his holdings, he and his brothers eventually farmed an extensive area from MacKay’s  Crossing south over the Paekakariki Hills to Horokiwi, and along the ridges to
Pukerua Bay[i].

Francis Wilson Smith married Frances Sarah Hathaway in 1864 and had a family of seven children with their oldest son
John Sidney Smith born in 1865[ii]. John Sidney Smith grew up on Tunapo and he later married Eva Florence Futter in
1895. The couple had three sons with the second son Wilfred (Wit) Gerald Smith born in Wellington on
8th August 1897.[iii]  Wit tried to enlist in 1916 when he was still 18 / 19 it is possible tried to join up with his older brother Frank Hathaway Smith[iv].

On turning 20 Wit again enlisted signing enlistment papers on 27th August 1917, his military papers note that he was a farmer working for his father and was living with his parents at Tunapo, Paekakariki.  Wit was serving with 6th Mounted Rifles prior to enlisting so elected to join the Mounted Rifles.

74804 Private Wilfred Gerald Smith entered military camp with the 39th Reinforcements on 6th March 1918. On 12th
March 1918 Private Smith was transferred to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) as Trooper Smith. Trooper Smith remained training with the 40th Reinforcements but was given Leave without Pay (LWP) on two separate a total of six weeks there is no documents to determine why. Trooper Smith was one of 451 men loaded on SS Moeraki on the
11th October 1918. Also sailing with the 40th Reinforcements was 74810 Trooper Thomas Windley a farmer from Porirua.

The 40th Reinforcements were offloaded at Sydney boarding the HMT Malta which was carrying Australian reinforcements to Egypt. The Malta was enroute to Ceylon (Shri Lanka) when on the 30th October 1918 news arrived that an armistice
had been signed with the Ottoman Empire ending conflict in the Middle East.

During recoaling in Ceylon the 40th Reinforcements were told of the 11th November 1918 Armistice in Europe, the war effectively was over. Following recoaling the HMT Malta continued towards Egypt,  after they had departed Celyon there was an outbreak of influenza on the ship. Trooper Smith was admitted to the ships hospital on 19th November 1918, another of the Reinforcements Trooper Windley noted in his diary on the same day:[v]

                '19th November 1918: All the deck covered with sick even had to convert the Sergeant’s
                mess into hospital. Only 7 left at our table out of 61 all the sick in hospital. Still very bad
                could hardly move.'

On arrival on the 22nd November 1918 the sick, including Trooper Smith where taken to hospital and the rest of the reinforcements were put into isolation until the influenza outbreak was considered over. Trooper Smith remained in hospital and then convalescent camp for a month and when he was considered fit was posted to the
Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR).

The WMR were at Rafah undergoing training and education to prepare the old hands for a return to civilian life.[vi]
There were also sports events arranged to try and prevent all the troops from getting bored. In March the WMR were moved from Rafah into Egypt where Martial Law had been declared in an attempt to suppress a nationalist revolt. The unrest was wide spread when the WMR was moving on 1st April from Quwensa in the Nile Delta to garrison Minuf,
Trooper Windley noted:[vii]

                    Left Quwesna for Minuf at 9 o’clock and had a bit of a scrap on the way.
                    When we had gone through a village (Sub ked Eahhak) the natives started chasing
                    us with stones and sticks so we turned and put a few shots in them – killed a few.  

On 26th June 1919 Trooper Smith was appointed as a temporary Corporal a rank he held while the last of the
NZ Mounted Rifles were being shipped back to New Zealand leaving Egypt on 30th June 1919. Arriving in New Zealand
on 14th September 1918 Corporal Smith was given one month’s during which he reverted to the ranks as Trooper Smith finally on 11th October 1918 Trooper Smith was discharged from the NZEF ‘ on termination of his period of engagement.’

Wit returned to farming but in WW1 joined the home guard, under the command of his older brother, 
T/Lieutenant W G Smith in 1941 was the Platoon Commander No2 Platoon, E Company, Otaki Battalion (Paekakariki).
In 1943 T/Lieutenant Smith resigned his commission[viii].

There is no record of Wit marrying and he died on 9th January 1980.

Wilfred and his brother Frank Smith are both listed on the
Pauatahanui Roll of Honour held in St Alban’s Church, Pauatahanui.[ix]

Paperspast online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Thomas Windley diary 1918 – 1919: unpublished
NZ at War, Mounted Rifle Units, Wellington Mounted Rifles: NZ History online.
Pauatahanui – a local history

Wilfred (Wit) Gerald Smith’s grave : Billion graves
Wellington Mounted Rifles at Jaffa 1917: National Library 
[i]     European Settlement and Subsistence
[ii]    NZ BDM
[iii]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 74804 Trooper Wilfred Gerald Smith
[iv]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 74804 Trooper Wilfred Gerald Smith
[v]    Windley diary 19th November 1918, unpublished
[vi]   NZ at War, Mounted Rifle Units, Wellington Mounted Rifles
[vii]  Windley Diary 
[viii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 74804 Trooper Wilfred Gerald Smith 
[ix]   Pauatahanui - a local history  

Wellington Mounted Rifles - Jaffa 1917