Cpl. Ernie Smith. RIP

In early 2008 the Editor was contacted by Bob Smith, the second oldest son of Ernie Smith RIP, now living in Melbourne Australia. Bob Smith in fact was born at the Bodmin Depot, where he and some of his siblings were billeted in the MQ, while Ernie showed the new National Service rookies the ropes – under the erstwhile Sjnt Cook. The co-incidence will not be lost on readers, as the Editor was posted to Bodmin into the 16th Intake in November 1953, in Sjnt Cook’s Platoon – with Corporal Budge. Ernie must have been instructing elsewhere at that time. Never the less, the 16th Intake was (almost) the last at Bodmin prior to posting to Crownhill Barracks, Plymouth and embarkation on the HMT Empire Clyde on February 19th 1954, bound for the West Indies.

We shall gradually piece together the military service history of Ernie Smith, which includes the 11th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers at Normandy, and the SLI. Some details that are known is that Ernie and family resided in the MQ at Bodmin Depot for some time – approximately 1951 – 1954 – and travelled on the HMT Empire Clyde to Kingston Jamaica. The Family was returned to the UK in 1956 when Ernie was demobbed.

(Son Bob writes): William Ernest Smith.

Born the first of 10 children 18th August 1926 in Widnes Lancashire. At 17 years of age Ernie asked his father (Charles Smith) to sign his sign up papers as he was under age, which was done without question. Within a couple of weeks Ernie found himself across the Irish Sea, flat out with basic training at Holywood in Northern Ireland. After which, training as Infantry leaders for a further 3 months extreme training. Ernie stayed and says in his memiors, “to say it was hard would be a gross understatement”

After all the hard training was complete a further 2 weeks of Commando training in Wales and in Northern Scotland was ordered. Ernie was then assigned to The Royal Scots Fusiliers 11th Battalion, a division of the Polar Bears. Shipped off to Belgium and while waiting for orders to head to the front line the 11th had their first taste of war whilst clearing coastal towns of booby traps and anti personnel mines. The loss of close friends was to harden Ernie and prepare him for what was yet to come. Nijmegan on the banks of the Rhine was one place that stood out to Ernie after realising that the enemy where either much younger than himself or old enough to be his grandfather.

War in Europe at an end and returned to England and Ernie was given the chance to help re-form the 1st Battalion of The Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (original 1DCLI was wiped out in Egypt). Ernie became part of the bugle platoon of 32 men. All 750 of 1DCLI along with a regiment of the Green Howards then boarded the SS Strathmore bound for Palestine. Service in EL Kantara, Gaza, Acre pronounced Akko, Hafia, Jerusalem and Megiddo. It was in Palestine that Ernie was to become corporal before returning to Britain.

It was 1949 when Ernie was married to Nancy Milne at Bodmin Barracks (which is where I was born in 1952). Ernie was then posted to Jamaica where in 1956 he returned to the UK and started his civilian life.

April 1963 had Ernie, Nancy and 5 children boarding the SS Stratheden heading for Australia. Dad passed away March 2008 and leaves, wife Nancy, sons Billy, Robert, Terry and Leslie along with daughter Nancy jnr. (End Bob’s tribute).

Bodmin Depot Officers and junior NCOs circa 1952

Ernie Smith sadly died in March 2008 after a long illness and leaves behind wife Nancy and a growing family of 5 children (4 boys and 1 girl) Billy, Robert, Terry, Leslie and Nancy, 25 Grandchildren and 39 great grandchildren, and the numbers are still growing. We offer this tribute to the father and old DCLI Soldier, whose memory will pass on down through the ranks of those who served with him.

Regular bloggers will recall that (until recently) we were able to access “1DCLI Supplementary” powered by Google Websites, that is now (unfortunately) no longer accessible for editing and monitoring purposes. That website in fact is closed and until re-publication of all the photos therein, are lost to view. Ernie’s Memoirs are the first extraction of photos to be re-published. Others will follow. We believe however, that this WordPress blogsite, with its attendant Picasa Album, will offer a far better interface for others to add comments and identify lost names and faces in many of the photos.

The Ernie Smith Picasa Album

The Smith Family Gathering in SE Queensland. June 2008

Photo above shows Mum Nancy centre, flanked rhs by Billy the Birthday Boy and lhs by Audrey Lovemore and then Robert Smith and Sheila Goddard. JJ Goddard to extreme rear, and lhs is family friend and Editor.



William Ernest Smith. 1926 – 2008. RIP.

Child hood can be good or it can be miserable, fortunately mine was to all counts quite enjoyable, considering what we had to go through. To begin with the year I was born (1926) was the start of the big depression, which lasted for about four years. I was only four years old when it ended so it is very hard to remember what happened during the depression. All I can go by is what Mam and Dad told us later on in life. It must have been very hard to bring up children in those days, what with no work to speak of for the men and having to live off welfare. As far as I can gather, Dad found a job driving a grocery van but the wages where that low he would have been better off on the welfare. He didn’t seem to mind, or so he said, the mere fact that he was working kept up his self esteem. This I learned from him when I was old enough to understand. Mind the depression didn’t stop them from having kids. Two of my sisters where born during that time, Doris and Annie came along about then. At that time we where living with Grandma and Grandad along with Mam’s two brothers Hugh and Harry, who for a long time I thought where my older brothers. Being a two bedroom house, one could see we where rather overcrowded. I think I was about seven or eight when we moved to a bigger house. It was a new house on a new estate but we where only there for a short time because the rent was too high and I think Marie had come along and probably Helen was on the way. With the low wages that Dad wages was getting, there was no way Mam could keep going. What Mam managed to do was exchange houses. She got an older house with lower rent. The house had two large bedrooms and one smaller one, which was mine. Mam and Dad had one of the large bedrooms and the girls had the other. I was destined to have seven sisters and two brothers.

There was something that we didn’t know when we moved into the house and that was the house walls where home to horrible bugs, nasty little creatures that would come out of the walls after one had gone to sleep and crawl over you and feed off your blood. The mere thought of them nowadays sends a shiver through me. We tried everything available to us to get rid of them but no matter what we did to the walls they still kept coming out. It wasn’t until Annie and myself got Diphtheria and the house was sealed up and fumigated for a couple of days that we finally got rid of them. Dad was then able to seal up all the holes and decorate properly. While all this was going on Annie and myself were in Crow Wood Isolation Hospital for just over a month, it was very unpleasant. We couldn’t have visitors, Mam and Dad had to stand outside the closed windows and just look at us, we could not hear a word that was said, it was all sign language. Annie was in the girl’s ward so our visitors where kept busy going between the wards. When, finally we where cured and allowed home it was a great feeling to see Mam and Dad at the door of the hospital, waiting to take us home. I never realized just how much they meant to me until I saw them that day, I think that was the first time, that I can remember, I was crying in fact I think we all where. Going back to school, it was great seeing all my pals again but, as regards the lessons there was over a month to catch up on and that wasn’t going to be easy.

In those days one had to catch up as best they could, or be punished for not doing so. I lost count of the number of times I had to go in front of the headmaster and get six of the best. Still I don’t think the punishment did me any harm, I probably deserved half of it. I think the worst part was that we where never given any homework to do, so that too made it hard for anyone to catch up with their schooling, not that we minded not getting homework. It meant that we had more time to ourselves for playing about.

At the top of our street was a large open field which we used when the amusement fair came to town. We where only three houses from the top of the street and there was no way we could get to sleep until it shut down at about twelve midnight, so a gang of us just wandered around the fair looking for girls.(we where getting to that age). I would have been about thirteen when the War broke out and quite some time we waited for something to happen, but nothing seemed to be happening, except for the Germans invading some country in Europe. Then things started happening at home, the German bombers started coming over, heading for Liverpool, they got a pasting every night. When they came over during the day we used to go outside and watch the dog fights in the sky, quite a few times we would see a bomber coming down in flames. Only once did one come down anywhere near us and that was in a field about half a mile away from our house, we went to see if we could get any souvenirs but it was too well guarded. (very disappointed). It was about that time that I started working at Todd Bros, spray painting storage drums, which I stuck at for about eight months. I left because in those days there was no such thing as face masks and I knew that, seeing as we where working in a booth, that sooner or later my lungs would be affected by the fumes. Dad got me a job at the same place he was working at. It was the I.C.I. Muspratts plant and my job was to stencil the names and address’s of firms onto 44 gallon drums of Sodium Sulphide. It was a back breaking job because the drums where on the ground and I had to go along rows of them bent over, almost double. It wasn’t to bad in summer but winter was a different story. One couldn’t wear gloves to do the job, and after half an hour my fingers and hands where blue turning black and I had to go back inside to the furnace to get some life back into my fingers. I think I stuck at that job for about two and a half years until I got fed up with both the job and my home life. Me being the only boy in the family I was always getting blamed for everything that happened, more than half the time it was my sister Doris that was doing things and blaming me. Well I was fed up with taking the punishment and there was still a war going on, so I decided, as I was still under age, to ask Dad if he would sign the papers to allow me to join the army. I think that really he was feeling sorry for me, so he agreed to sign the papers. THAT WAS THE DAY THAT ALTERED MY LIFE.

Whilst waiting for my call up, life still had to go on and I had my work to go to. All this time my mates at work where giving me encouragement but I was wandering whether I had done the right thing. After all I would be going away to war and after reading what was going on over the other side, also learning that uncle Harry had been wounded at Anzio Beach Head, I was beginning to have a bit of a scared feeling. Never the less the day of my call up arrived and I found myself starting my new life on a train heading for Scotland. I spent a day and a night at a transit camp in Stranraer and then boarded the ferry from there to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Apart from riding the ferry across the Mersey River, this was my first experience on a fairly big boat, on what was to be, up to then my worst journey on the water. I can honestly tell you that if someone had picked me up and threw me over the I would have thanked them, yes I was that sea sick. I had at that time, never been so glad to be on solid ground as when we landed at Belfast Quay. We had a short train ride to go, about twenty miles to reach our destination, that being the Barracks at Holywood (spelt with one L) That was to be our home for the next six months.

Our first day was one of non stop activity. We where examined from top to toe, stabbed with numerous needles, large and small, given haircuts that had no hair left on the head longer than half an inch. From then on it had to be kept that way, which meant one haircut every ten days. We where kitted out with enough clothing and gear for two men and had to carry it all while being marched back to our quarters. We could hardly see where we where going, it was piled up that high.

We had already been assigned our quarters, which was a hut large enough to hold thirty recruits and two instructors. Our first day of instruction was taken up on fitting our battle gear correctly. That was necessary as we would have to carry everywhere because it would contain everything that we would need to survive and if it was fitted correctly it would be very uncomfortable. The days after that, were very hectic from breakfast to dinner. We had forty minutes training then ten minutes to get back to the barracks room and get changed for the next period of our training. It was really hard times because non of us were fit enough to keep up the pace, we had to push ourselves hard. Our instructors were of the old school and they knew how to keep us going, what is commonly known as a boot up the backside. It wasn’t too long, maybe a couple of weeks before we could say that the pushing we got was really paying dividends. We were beginning to feel fitter, if one looked around the rest of the squad, one could see a kind of healthy glow in their faces. We were even finding our training a lot easier and were starting to enjoy it. Our instructors were not wearing their boots out so much kicking our backsides. Once we were able to go out in the evenings things began to get a little more pleasant. We couldn’t go after the Irish colleens simply because we didn’t have enough pay to do so. Our pay was fourteen shillings a week, of which seven shillings was taken out and sent to my mother, two shillings was taken for my credits ( a sort of bank account) which meant we only had five shillings with which to buy our cleaning materials, such as boot polish, blanco and brasso. Mind you we didn’t have to buy those every week so we could go to the movies now and then.

After six weeks training there was a general sort out in the intake. Those that were thought to be of lower standard were sent to their various Regiments and probably posted over to where the fighting was going on. The rest of us were to be kept on for a further four months for training as Infantry leaders. To fully describe the type of training we went through would take too long, but basically it consisted of learning how to handle men, the basics of all warfare, strategies of field tactics and being expert on all types of small arms used in infantry warfare. To say it was hard would be a gross understatement. We soon found out that our first six weeks was just to get us hardened up for what was to come. One could call those that where sent packing, the weakest link.

After the first three months we had our first seven day leave and what I had dreaded came along, it was the trip on the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer, but this time the waters of the Irish Sea were a lot calmer and we had quite a pleasant journey. We only hoped that it would be the same on the return journey. I had a very pleasant leave and being in uniform made me feel quite a bit important.

One thing I did find out was that whenever I met one my old friends, the first thing they would say was “when are you going back” that went on for my whole army life and, until I got used to it, it made me feel quite un welcome. Apparently all my army mates got asked the same question, which was a good talking point when we got together after our leave. Anyhow our seven day leave went all too quickly and we found ourselves once again on the ferry facing another rough crossing. There is one thing for sure and that is that I am really glad that I didn’t join the Navy. I am sure my life would have been very miserable, boy I sure do love dry land.

Our next three months consisted of harder training, but owing to our being a lot fitter it seemed easier than the first three months. Being Infantry we had to harden our feet because they were our only means of transport. That meant that we had to do a lot of route marches, each one at least twenty five miles. Needless to say, almost everyone of us had blisters on the bottom of our feet after every march. Apart from the marches there was the field exercises. Training in European warfare and Jungle warfare just in case needed and mock battles using the tactics that we had learned. Each one of us had to take turns being in command. When this was completed we where sent on for two weeks of Commando training in Wales and Northern Scotland. (BLOODY COLD). We often thought of those who didn’t make the second part of training and if they did go to the front and even if they were still alive as we had heard some horrific reports. We were then assigned to our own units.

My Regiment was The Royal Scots Fusiliers and I was sent to Edinborough until there was a call for reinforcements. As my regiment was fighting in Europe I knew that we would not be going to the Far East (thank God). At last the call came and we where sent on two weeks embarkation leave, which came and went all too quickly. On our return we boarded a train for Tilbury then by ship to Belgium. Whilst we where waiting to move to the front line, we where given the task of clearing the coastal towns of booby traps and anti-personnel mines. There was a couple of accidents and those where our first taste of war. It isn’t very nice to have ones close friends with arms and legs blown away. I think we where purposely given those jobs to get us acclimatized to what it was going to be like up the front line. It sure did the trick, we were all scared as hell. Finally we moved further up to a town called Nijmegen, which is on the banks of the Rhine river, on the outer bank is Germany. The camp we were in was a large paddock with the town on one side and a large forest on the other. Sorry to say but the forest was full of blueberry bushes and they were delicious, except for the fact that half of the camp came down with dysentery, me included. As we were under canvas and the toilets were just a trench with a six inch by twelve foot pole across it (very uncomfortable) we still had no choice but to put up with it. To make matters worse a couple of German saboteurs had managed to cross the river and blow up the ammunition dump that was situated about half a mile away. In a sense it was sort of amusing to see our boys diving for cover into their tents with shells and bullets flying overhead. At the time my partner and myself were on patrol around the perimeter of the camp, we had just reached the main road when it went off, needless to say we also dove for cover until we heard people shouting “SABOTEUR” what we saw was a car screaming down the road heading towards the bridge, we both raised our rifles he took the left and I took the right, took aim and fired our first shot in anger, the car never made it to the bridge, it went over the bank and the saboteurs were thrown out, one hit in the head and the other in the chest (both deceased) this was an incident that was to stay with me for life. I know we were trained for this but we are human and we had just taken life from two other humans. It was an older more experienced soldier that changed my thoughts when he told me that it does not get any easier to take a life but in this bloody war is a case of “Kill or be Killed” A special squad of sappers were called in to clean up the mess and we were put on special patrols just in case of more trouble.

The Division that my Regiment belonged to was the 11th Polar Bear Division and they had called for reinforcements for mopping up operations, in other words there where still some of the enemy left behind to cause a lot of trouble. They were nearly all young Hitler Youth and old members of the Home Guard, they were expendable. We were mostly young fellows ourselves and it didn’t seem quite right to kill off the young and the old, but then came a familiar voice “remember lads it’s kill or be killed” The horrors of war is not a subject that I am not at peace writing or for that fact even taking about, but I will say that war is EVIL but if it means freedom or evil then I will fight to eliminate evil. The rest of my stay in Europe was quite frightening and horrific, so I shall finish this part simply by saying “the rest is History”.

Anyhow the war in Europe came to an end and what was left of our Division returned to Nijmegen. There were just enough of us left out of one Brigade of four Battalions to form one Battalion. What was left of our Regiments were flown back to Britain in converted Lancaster bombers, when I say converted I mean that everything was taken out except the toilet, which was a tube in the middle of the floor, that was the one and only seat. We landed somewhere in the south of England and then transported to Uckfield camp in Sussex . It was here that we re-formed the 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry. Let me explain “Light Infantry” These Regiments were formed in the old days to travel fast and light, to be first into action and hold the position until the heavy stuff arrived, then to move on quickly to another position.
Me being a regular soldier had the choice of going back to The Royal Scots Fusiliers or staying to help re-form the DCLI. My choice was quite easy as most of my mates from our European experience where staying to re-form the DCLI. The reason for re-forming the DCLI is, that while the DCLI was serving in the Egyptian desert in a battle against the Italians, they were almost totally wiped out, only one soldier survived the battle. That soldier was so depressed by what had happened that he took his own life. This incident happened when we were stationed in Cyprus, he put the barrel of his Sten into his mouth and pulled the trigger. I had to send some men in to clean up, one could only imagine how troubled this poor soldier was and what horrors he had experienced during that ill fated battle.

Anyhow back to were we where, I received my transfer to the DCLI and began more extensive jungle training as the war with Japan was far from over. One day a notice went up on the board asking for men to form a bugle platoon, of course I volunteered, I thought that my chance of getting in was as good as the next man, so my name went in. The reason for forming a bugle platoon was that they were getting ready to re-form the whole band. That made everyone feel good because we all had that feeling that we were going to become a peace time army before long. Well before we finished our training the Japanese had surrendered and of course that changed everything, we were able to concentrate on our training to be buglers. It wasn’t long before we realized that something big was in the wind, far too many things were going on which where out of place with our ordinary daily life. Still we carried out our bugle training and were soon becoming very proficient at it, in fact we were just about ready to join the rest of the band. We still had other duties such as training to be stretcher bearers as well as messengers in case communications broke down and other tasks of that nature. Of course there was a daily duty bugler who had to sound reveille, morning orderly sgts call, company calls, cookhouse calls for meals, defaulters for naughty boys, first post at 9.30am, last post at 10pm and lights out at 10.30pm. We had to sound those calls at four or five different positions around the barracks and our turnout had to be better than first class. We were there to set an example to the rest. As it was gradually converting to peace time there was more discipline as regards to turn out and stature. No more walking or slouching, one had to march about everywhere, OR ELSE. We were still not 100% sure of where we were going but we were preparing ourselves to go to Asia to have a go at the Japanese, that, we were not looking forward to. Fortunately because of the two atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese surrendered. That was the start of fear of nuclear war, we wanted no part of it, plus we wanted to start our peace time army. Our bugle platoon was going great guns, the whole thirty two of us could march and play as one. We were told that we sounded great and that lifted our spirits a lot. By this time rumors were going around that we were going to be on the move. It was all spit and polish, so we had an idea that where we were going was very important to Britain. Everything we had was packed away and sent to Tilbury docks on the Thames, we followed close behind to get ready to board the SS Strathmore, to where, we didn’t know. When we came out of the sheds where our kits were stored we got the shock of our lives. Never had we seen such a large vessel so close up and actually sitting on the water. We had to strain our necks to see the top of the ship. We boarded the ship, all 750 of us along with the same number of the Green Howards Regiment, plus some odds and sods. I think there was a total of over 2000 men and women, not including the crew, that will give you an idea on the size of this ship.We said goodbye to the shores of England with us buglers sounding Retreat while the band played Auld Lang Sine, both were played in perfect harmony. We had rehearsed it for days, eight hours a day, bleeding hard work.

Our first port of call was Gibraltar, We were not allowed to get off the ship, we just stood on deck and looked at the enormous rock. Next port was Malta, apart from the port itself the rest looked like the Australian outback. Once again we had to stay on board and be entertained by young boys in the bum boats diving for coins that we threw into the water from a great height. We then set sail for Port Said at the mouth of the Suez canal. We duly arrived there and disembarked, we headed for a transit camp at Port Tofick, fortunately we only stayed there for about a week until another ship arrived so we could board and head down the Suez. We made slow progress down but it was worth it to see the green of Egypt instead of the dry and arid desert that we expected to see. We were soon to be very disillusioned about the green when we landed. We then headed by train to a small town called El Kantara which was made up of small mud houses that blended in with the sand, which was all around us. We then proceeded to another camp which was situated between the Nile and the Suez in the Western desert. There we really saw sand, miles and miles of it. We were stuck in the bloody desert with just tents and an open air dining area. We could just about stand on the flies while we were eating, at least we could beat them off but no way could we beat of the hawks flying overhead when they dove down to steal the food from our plates, which was in very short supply. Food supplies were that short that when we ate our oranges we did so complete with peel. I can tell you it gave us a taste of what the boys went through when the war was on over here. Anyhow we were only there for just over a week, then we were on a train again, this time to Gaza then by truck to a camp about three miles from Acre (pronounced Akko). This port is mentioned in the Bible. Founded before 1500BC, conquered by the Arabs in 638AD then held by the Crusaders 1104AD until 1291AD. We spent our first Christmas there in comparative warmth, although it was winter the climate was quite pleasant. One of our first duties was a ceremonial march through the town along with a unit of the RAF and a unit from the Armoured Corps. The idea was to impress the population of our strength and smartness. The Lord Mayor of the town took the salute at the march past and it was a very proud moment for us Buglers to be leading the parade. Bringing up the rear, because their pace was the same as ours, was a unit of a Sikh Regiment, we were to some really great Hockey games with them.

We stayed at this camp for around six months during which time the Rifle companies would take it turn about patrolling the hills looking for trouble makers. They would stay out on patrol for a week at a time and it was our job to go out every night to keep up their supplies, we used to have one hell of a time finding our way in the dark and boy was it dark. While one company was on patrol the others were no being idle. Apart from our everyday training, about once a week we would be woken at 3am and taken to a Jewish settlement, there we would block off all entries and exits and wait until dawn. Led by officers, we would then go into the settlement and wake everyone and make them wait outside whilst we searched their home for hidden weapons and munitions. It was a rotten thing to do but it had to be done as some of the thing that we found would make your hair curl. Another very unpleasant task we had to do was when we received a message from the navy that there was an illegal immigrant ship in the area, we sat and we waited for it to beach itself, then we rounded those that came ashore. It wasn’t a very pleasant task but once again it had to be done. They were then taken to the port of Hafia, then across to Cyprus. Cyprus had a very large detention centre that could accommodate a few thousand, at least until they were processed. We didn’t realize it but we were to find out a lot more about those camps later on.

While in Gaza we got word that the King David hotel had been bombed by terrorists. Being Light Infantry we were able to be at the scene within an hour. We then set up camp at the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem. Within a couple of hours of the message we had patrols out looking for signs of more trouble. We only found one man and he was dead, unfortunately for him he did not get out quick enough after setting the bomb.

During daylight hours we saw lots of areas of interest, most impressionable was right next to our camp, it was the Garden of Gethsemane which was the scene of the agony and the arrest of Jesus, we were permitted to visit it when off duty. At night it was a totally different story altogether. We were lucky that our camp was at the foot of the mount as during the night hours machine guns would start firing from high points across into the old city of Jerusalem and the sky would be filled with tracer bullets, it was quite a sight. For that reason we Buglers could only sound off the calls during the daylight hours because we had to do sound off calls from the high tower of the Star of Greece monastery which was on the edge of our camp sites. Our patrols went out in search of the sites where the machine guns were firing from, without much success. We didn’t even know if it was Jews or Arabs that were doing the shooting. After about a month, when things had settled down a bit we were sent to a place called Megiddo, which in it’s Greek form means Armageddon, where according to “Revelations 16” a great battle of prophecy is fought. Exactly what we were there for, we didn’t know but while we were there we became attached to the Guards Brigade we were to find out later, why. The Battalion still had to send out patrols and go out on exercises in order to keep up our fitness and fighting strength. Megiddo was an important town in ancient Palestine in that it overlooked the Valley of Jezreel, another name for the Plain of Esdraelon which is supposed to be the site of the great battle of Prophecy, that would end mankind as we know it (Armageddon). Since 1918 when General Allenby defeated the Turks at Megiddo it had become a British outpost, until 1948 when it became part of Israel. From Megiddo we went out as an advance work party to Trans Jordan (now known as Jordan). We had to set up four sites, three for the Guard Battalions and one for our own Battalion.

These sites consisted of tents for living in, tents for dining in and tents for toilets which were twelve feet long by two and a half feet wide with eight feet deep holes (which we of course had to dig). These sites were assembled on the edge of the wilderness that Jesus wandered for forty days and nights. It was in this wilderness that the Guard Battalions did their exercises. The idea was that we Buglers were to be taken out to lonely spots with smoke canisters and wait until we saw one of the Battalions (I can tell you that it was an eerie and lonely wait). When we saw any movement we would set the smoke canisters off so as to indicate to advancing troops the position in which they were to attack, which was in itself a fearsome sight as seen from our point of view.
Unfortunately in March 2008 before Ernie had the chance to complete his writings, he passed away after a long illness and will always be sadly missed by us, his family.
In order to keep Ernie’s story original I have completed it word for word as he wrote it.
After Ernie’s return from service in the Middle East he married a young Scottish lass named Nancy Milne, served until 1956 in Jamaica and after retiring from the DCLI he settled in Australia with wife Nancy, sons Billy, Robert, Terry, Leslie and daughter Nancy.


20 Responses to CPL. ERNIE SMITH. RIP

  1. Robert Smith says:

    My family and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and safe New Year.

  2. Terry Hawes says:

    Hello Bob,

    Thanks for your reply. You said your Mum appreciated some of my memories so I’ve found some more. I hope it’s all right to send to your personal email, I don’t think the contents would be of much general interest, although Derek seemed to hint that they might be.

    People tell me I have a fantastic memory. I can remember things that happened in 1935 (George V Jubilee) but not where I put a clean pair of socks ten seconds ago. So I might have got some of the following wrong, it’s been a long time. Let me say first that I’m sure your Mum and Dad would have been great running that home, strict, no-nonsense, but also kindness and with humour. Those kids were lucky. I don’t think your Dad ever told me that he had been a bugler. I would have been most interested. Makes me wonder for the first time what sort of musical education buglers would have apart from learning to blow the instrument, which is hard enough I know, I played the french horn for some years.

    To go back to 1950; your Dad went on leave just before I was demobbed so there was no time for a lesson to correct his last piece of work. On his final day he gave up his morning break to see me to go over an essay on the police, which he had spoken of going into. Looking back I’m afraid I probably did my usual thing of going for all the mistakes and not giving enough credit for the time and trouble he must have taken with it. However I’m sure that would have only made him determined to do better with the next chap.

    About a year later, visiting friends on the south coast I realised that it was an opportunity to revisit Borden and see if anyone I had known was still there. (The Somersets had left in 1950). Not many in the barracks, but I did see Olive, the girl at the cafe where my colleague and I often went in the evening to snack and chat. Nancy may be interested to know that my colleague, Stuart Hosie, came from Aberdeen, 500 and something Creighton Rd. I’ve never tried to find out whether he’s a relation of he politician of that name. Mostly we got on well enough but he could be an awkward cuss at times. On a 48-hour no way could he get home and back by public transport so he went on a motor bike 500 miles to Aberdeen, no crash helmet or safety clothing in those days! Wonder he didn’t kill himself. He got me on the back once for a short time.

    To continue: when I got to Borden (now 1951) I walked straight into the barracks, past the guard unchallenged, into the education block and up the stairs and into the office. Imagine getting away with that now! Strangely the first thing I saw was a pile of education certificates, the top one saying; Corporal W.E.Smith passed 2nd class certificate of education.

    I gathered from some NCOs who I didn’t know, that your Dad had gone off duty and was at home, and they gave me the address. How I ever found the nerve to intrude on them I don’t know, perhaps a case of ‘started so I’ll finish’ or ‘In for penny…’ Any way I found the house and knocked. Your Dad opened the door and I said at once that I realised I was butting in uninvited and would go away if not convenient, but he asked me to come in and made me welcome and Nancy said ‘It’s quite all right, we’re pleased to see you. We don’t often have people in or words to that effect. I sat with them for something like 45 minutes and had a cup of tea. There was Billy of course, a toddler and a puppy and a corporal from a neighbouring house came in to borrow a DIY tool I think. I told your Dad about his pass certificate and asked whether he was still planning on going into the police.’No’, he said ‘someone had talked him out of it!

    They asked me about Bodmin which of course I knew having been at the RAEC training course there for three months in 1949. I remembered that like Rome, it was built on hills, and that we were ordered to take our capes at all times because ‘when it rains here it rains horizontally’. It did. I remembered the little cinema in the town where they showed films up to ten years old. I saw several masterpieces of the 40’s there which I was too young to see when they first came out. While we were talking we spoke for a time about some NCOs who had been at Borden when I was there and I gathered that Nancy had also been in the services. They asked what the married quarters at Bodmin were like, but I wasn’t able to tell them having no knowledge of that. I apologised again when I said goodbye and Nancy again said it was quite all right.

    I gave your Dad my college address and asked him to write sometime and tell me how they were getting on.He said he would, but Nancy said he wouldn’t and she was right. He didn’t. However, I didn’t write to him either, which I could easily have done.I expect we both had too many other things to think about. I always assumed his name was Bill. We weren’t on first name terms of course. Possibly he told me Billy was named after him.

    A few lines about me. You could skip this. Having the degree and diploma and after various jobs I was for thirty years Head of Music at a North London further education college where I stayed till I retired in 1995. Among other duties this involved running full and part time courses in music and organising the choirs,orchestra, opera company, student musical theatre and concert band. I didn’t conduct all these myself of course! The job gave me thirty years of fulfillment and satisfaction, not to mention a share of headaches, heartaches and frustrations.

    During that time I was very lucky to direct full stage performances of nearly a hundred operas and musicals,some well known, others interesting rarities that I didn’t think I’d ever see,let alone conduct. Nearly twenty of the lighter pieces i wrote or co-wrote myself and some of these have been performed quite widely by professional, amateur and student groups in the UK and parts of the continent. There are several entries about one of them on the internet ‘His Excellency a new score and recording’ probably only of interest to people into that kind of thing. If you do get that far, the voice of ‘Arthur Sullivan’ is mine (slightly put on). ‘W.S.Gilbert’ is an actor from the Hoddesdon players (also put on.) I am still in touch with some of my ex-students, some very close friends including the parents of my ‘great grandson’!

    I’m glad that in an idle moment I put into the computer a few names I remembered from the past, including your Dad’s, with this result.
    It’s good to know that Ernie Smith prospered in civvies and retirement and that he had independence and dignity to the last. Any chance of a photo or two to complete the archive? The one on the website is all uniform and decorations, not much of the man. If this is at all a problem please don’t bother. Coming from a clan of mostly small families myself I’m both a bit envious and in awe of your large family. It seems wonderful to me.

    So all the very best to all those members I don’t know and never will including yourself, and of course to Nancy. Hope you’ve had the patience to read all this! Terry

    • Robert Smith says:

      Hi Terry, it is great to hear from you again, every time I get contact from yourself or anyone that knew Dad I read the comments to Mum and it is quite amazing how a single comment can jog the memory. Your comment on the visit you had with Mum and Dad is the one that started the ball rolling with Mum and although she tends to loose track with up to date issues, yesteryear memories just roll out like they were yesterday. Might I say that since I have been a member of this wonderful site, I have learned more about my parents than I thought I knew.

      I was very impressed and must congratulate you on your successful achievements in your life. I did get the chance to listen to your voice and also bought the CD of His Excellence and can honestly say that I enjoyed it very much. Even though your voice was put on a bit it was a good feeling to put a voice to the name. I will put a couple of later photos of both Dad and Mum and see if it works.
      All the very best. Bob

  3. Bob Smith says:

    On behalf of the Smith family I would like to wish all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year.

    • Thanks Bob. In return and on behalf of we few LI bloggers remaining, we echo your best wishes and trust that the entire Smith Family has a great holiday break, keeps safe on the roads and keeps in touch in 2014.

      Derek, Audrey and all the LI Family in OZ and elsewhere.

  4. Terry Hawes says:

    I was delighted to come across his website. I was an RAEC instructor (OK no laughing) at Borden in 1950 and I remember him as one of the NCOs it was a pleasure to teach. I loaned him some HG Wells paperbacks when he said he was following the radio serial “The War of the Worlds” and I remember seeing him play basket ball when he seemed to score more than any other player and the officer complimented him. I met Nancy once. They had a baby who must have been Billy. I remember quite a few things about him because I can remember trivia back to 1935, but not where I put a clean pair of socks ten seconds ago.

    Just for the record, I went to Cambridge and got a Master of Arts in Music and ARCM. One occasion when I asked him about his past service, he with typical modesty, made out that nothing much happened. I’m glad to read the details and to know that he had a long and fruitful career. I don’t know whether anyone will read this, but my regards to Nancy who won’t remember me, and to Billy (who didn’t talk at the time). A great guy. Terry Hawes

    • Hello Terry. Many thanks for your input, its great to have a memoir from so long ago for one of our LI Mates. The family now live in Melbourne and Billy (I think) not far away from me in Brisbane. I last met ’em all on Billy’s birthday a few years back. I’ll drop an email to Bob in Melbourne to alert him to your comments.

    • Bob Smith says:

      Hi Terry. My family were delighted to read your message about Dad. Mum remembers how Dad was right into “War of the Worlds” and yes it was my older brother Billy (born there in 1950) that was with them. I was born at the Bodmin Barracks in 1952. Dad only ever spoke to us about some of his times in Jamaica (DCLI), he would not talk to us regarding anything to do with the War (RSF) as he believed that we should not be put through any of the horrors of war. We finally talked him into writing his story down but he still insisted in keeping a lid on anything that he considered a horror. I have since read a book written by a private in the same regiment as Dad (Royal Scots Fusiliers) at the same time in Europe and yes Dad did leave a lot out of his writings.

      My older brother Billy is living in Queensland, not to far from Derek and Audrey with younger brother Terry in NSW. I live in Melbourne as do my sister Nancy and our beautiful Mother now 83 years young. We met up with Derek and John Goddard at Billy’s place for a BBQ and Bill’s birthday. What an honor and absolute pleasure it was and very exciting to meet up with two of Dad’s army friends. Since joining up with the DCLI site I have spoken to some incredible people like, Derek, John and Swanny (God rest his wonderful soul) and now a gentleman named Terry Hawes. I look forward to further messages regarding your time with Dad and others in the DCLI. Thank You. Bob Smith

      • G’Day Bob & Family

        Great news to hear from Terry. Shows the power of the web site when we get responses such as this. I guessed that you’d all be excited to make contact. Thanks also for your return email. Seasons Greetings back to you all. Regards to all the Family.

        Derek and Audrey

      • Terry Hawes says:

        Hi Bob, I haven’t worked out who’s who in your family but I’m replying to you. Thanks for your response to my comment. The first thing that struck me about Ernie’s life was how beautifully it was written (hope this doesn’t sound patronising). It was clear, to the point, friendly and informal with touches of humour and compassion which were very moving. If there were any question of publication I consider that this could go into print with very little alteration. Of course it’s better than the work he did within me at Borden that was in 1950. I know he got his second class certificate about a year later.

        We RAEC types were mostly kids from school just waiting to get out and go to university. The army must have been really desperate for instructors to take us snotty nosed 6th formers and make us acting temporary sergeants (or whatever) after three months’ training plus ten basic. The men we were teaching, like your dad, had experience of hardship and danger and qualities of endurance and leadership which I certainly didn’t have. They should gave been teaching us.

        I saw your dad play basketball once. (I think it was the only time in my life I voluntarily watched a team game). He was a dynamo of nervous energy and seemed to be able to be everywhere at once. I don’t know how many tries (?) he scored but at the end the officer said ‘Well played, Corporal Smith’ and he said ‘Thank you, sir’ As a corporal he wouldn’t have been team captain, I suppose, but he was easily the best player there.

        I wouldn’t want to exaggerate how much I knew your dad. I taught him for an hour twice a week with about half a dozen other corporals. We might exchange a few words at the end of the lesson (about HG Wells) for instance and we might meet by chance somewhere in the barracks, when we always seemed to find something to grin at or make light of. I can’t imagine what at this length of time.

        There was Captain Duckworth’s large dog like something out of The Hound of the Baskervilles which went with him everywhere. In meetings it sat at the front in an easy chair with the officers. (The O.Rs had wooden chairs.) Or the adjutant’s laugh ‘Hyulk, hyulk’ like Goofy.

        The more I read the more I admire. He was a young man who by his own effort pulled himself out of what could be described as a disadvantaged background and made quite something of himself, doing a responsible and arduous job, respected and liked by many. I remember him for his likeableness and sense of humour, perhaps not the first qualities he would show to the squaddies. I wouldn’t know.

        I’m in my 19th year of retirement after a career as a musician, reminds me, he also was bugler! He never told me that. Was there anything the man couldn’t do? patriarch, angler, marksman)

        I’ll end with best wishes for Christmas and New Year to the family, only one of whom was born when I knew dad. I’d be grateful if anyone could send me a few lines about his civilian life and retirement. I’m sorry he suffered a long illness but I’m sure he bore it with fortitude and humour. Nancy, after all these years I apologise. I never did say a proper ‘thank you’ for the cup of tea.

        Terry Hawes.

        • Bob Smith says:

          Hi Terry, I apologise for the delay in answering you. I got a great thrill in seeing my beautiful mothers face when I showed her your message, she was very excited and we talked and talked about those times. I learn more about DCLI days from Mum each time I receive a message.

          As a family we left for Australia in April 1963, where the day after arriving Dad went to work in the building trade but was not too keen with it. After about a month he went to work as a guillotine operator in the printing trade. He must have enjoyed it as he did this until he was about 55 at which time both Dad and Mum spent the next 8 years as cottage parents for Burwood Boys Home. It was then that we saw a completely different side to our parents. Retirement was out of the question for Dad and after a family discussion they both went on to working with these deserted and neglected kids at St John’s Home for boys and girls for a further 12 years. At around 75 years of age he decided to retire (in a fashion). Both Dad and Mum kept in touch with some of the more troubled kids just to see how they were getting on with life.

          Dad battled cancer for the last twenty years of his life but as with the horrors of the war he did not talk about it too much about it. We would take him to his appointments and on the way home he would tell us it went well, then it was back to having a chat about everything else but the cancer, even down to the day he passed away he was as fit and happy as always. He called to Mum to let her know that he was struggling a little with his legs and my brother Billy asked him to put his arm around him to help out. Dad in his proud way told Billy that he can and will do it himself, which he did, he sat on the couch and passed away.

          Terry, he carried his military pride and independence with him for his entire life. My only regret is that we were not computer savvy enough when he was alive as he would have loved to have met with Derek and John in Queensland and to have heard from some wonderful old friends from his DCLI days. I have just recently received a Facebook message from Sylvia Scott the daughter of RSM Harold Royffe.
          Regards Bob

      • Terry Hawes says:

        Hello Bob, I’m wondering if you ever got the reply I sent to your kind message just before Christmas last year. It did not appear on my ‘sent’ page and not knowing how websites worked I sent another almost identical (I hadn’t kept a copy). Then I sent a third’ explaining why I’d sent two! (Not wishing to appear a complete idiot.) So you may have up to three from me! You said you’d like some more mementos about your dad. which is what I sent, although pointing out that I’d only known him for six or seven months. Could you just let me know whether you got any of these messages.

        A word or two about his civvy life and retirement would round off my memories of him. It occurs to me that in my messages I was writing in a familiar and informal tone to people I don’t know, who don’t know me and are never going to. If anything I wrote seemed inappropriate or lacking respect this was certainly not intended. The more I learn about ‘Corporal Smith’ the more I find to admire and respect. Best wishes. Terry Hawes.

        ED: G’Day Terry. Your comments to these pages are either published at the ‘header’ of the comment list OR as a continuance of a ‘thread’ if you hit the “reply” feature. Usually a ‘new’ comment is held in moderation until the system accepts your IP address. In this latest example of your efforts, the comment has been published immediately because of that immediate recognition. I’m guessing that your referred 3 comments didn’t even leave your PC for some reason, ‘cos there’s naught here held in limbo. Your email address is removed.

        • Terry Hawes says:

          Thanks editor. So how do I get a comment to Bob Smith? Having started I’d like to complete the exchange.

          Terry Hawes.

          ED: Hello Terry, now I see your problem, you are “missing” emails from your PC, not losing ’em on this blog site – correct? I was under the impression that you wished to ‘thread’ comments for all readers to view. I shall forward Bob’s email address to you for direct communication. However, if you had successfully emailed before, Bob’s email address would have been captured on your PC.

          PS: After reading again the earlier comments, I ponder that maybe you are under the impression that Bob Smith is the recipient of your correspondence to this weblog site!! Not so. All comments appear for public scrutiny (after mediation) and are received by me (Editor) for management and correction where required.

          • Terry Hawes says:

            Dear Editor. Thanks for your replies and your help. I had to get someone more computer literate (and younger) than I am to explain it and I still don’t understand, about weblogs and threads for instance. However my second and third comments are now on view and Bob Smith can see them and reply if he wants to. You said you’d forward his email address but I can’t find anything relative to that on your messages unless I am again getting it wrong which is quite possible. Could you let me have his email address? I may try to contact him sometime, unless of course he would rather I didn’t. All rather a lot of palaver about events 63 years ago, but as the man says I’ve started so I’ll finish. Best wishes. Terry Hawes.

            ED: Hello Terry, last February 18th I emailed you direct with Bob’s email address and have repeated that today. You need to read the address bar in your gmail. Bob has your email address, so ’tis up to him (and you) to communicate directly with each other. I do not publish email addresses for public view on this blogsite. Regards. Derek Lovemore Editor.

            NB: You need to be aware that you are ‘threading’ replies to your earlier Comments, which are tailing all previous comments and will NOT be seen unless a reader scrolls down the page. For best exposure simply log in a fresh Comment.

            • Terry Hawes says:

              Dear Derek. Just to let you know that it finally dawned on me how to get Bob Smith’s email. Easy of course and without help from my computer-wise friend! I see that my comments are now on the web and Bob Smith has responded giving me some more details about his Dad’s life in Australia. Apparently Nancy appreciated some of my reminiscences so if I contact him again it might be on his own email as I don’t think further memories would be of much general interest. Thanks again for your help. I am so pleased to have found this website because it rounds off my memories of ‘Corporal Smith’. All the best, Terry

              ED: Well Done Terry, persistence pays off!! The Ernie Smith page will always remain open on the modified weblog site, so if you so choose in the future, your additional comments will be on display for all to read. Often we have found that the reminiscences of one reader will trigger a response from another.

            • Terry Hawes says:

              Hello Derek, I’ve just sent you the email I sent to Bob Smith recently. I meant to add that I don’t think it’s of much general interest but by all means print it if you think it is. Best wishes, Terry Hawes

              ED: Thanks Terry, as is obvious your comment has been posted up to the site and might be read by all readers who follow this segment of an Old Mate’s history. Last weekend I had lunch with John Goddard (“B” Company bugler in Jamaica 1954) who also accompanied me some 6 years ago to visit with the Smith Family here in SEQ. Bob in Melbourne is in touch and no doubt we shall all meet up again in due course – age permitting!


    Hello Bob & Family

    Our best wishes to you all while we are (temporarily) in Melbourne for the Christmas break. Audrey and I are staying with our son and his family in Box Hill – facing several days of extended celebrations while we are here – returning to Brisbane on Thursday 27th. Your recent email making re-contact is a welcome surprise with good new of you all, especially your Mum, whom we remember very well. We hope that only good health stays with you all.

    Sad news I regret about Swanny – read the latest on General Chatters and Well Wishers.

    Best Regards to All

    Derek & Audrey

  6. Robert Smith says:

    Hi Swanny, thank you for your comments. I did not quite realise how respected a soldier Dad was, but after reading his memoirs (all 30 odd pages) and then to receive comments like you have posted, has opened my eyes even more. As I have told Derek, when I eventually finish typing Dad’s memoirs I can email it to you, if you wish. I thought the best way was to shorten it for the website, as I don’t think Dad would have liked me to publish the horrors of war. If by chance my wife Karen and I can get someone to look after things here, we hope to get to the UK and would love to catch up with you.

    Thanks again Swanny.

  7. Swanny Swanson says:

    What a good write up of Cpl Ernie Smith, I wrote to his son in a previous blog after his passing saying what a good example of a soldier his father was to all the recruits he help train in the Bodmin Depot. He was always strict but fair and as an instructor he could not be equalled.

    I will always have wonderful memories of Cpl Ernie Smith, again I am biased as my father was like Ernie, a proud Scotsman serving in the first world war in the Seaforth Highlanders and I salute both these men for helping me through 25 years Military Service.

    (RIP) Cpl Ernie Smith my DCLI Instructor and early mentor.

  8. Editor in Brisbane says:


    We are honoured to be invited to record a small pictorial history of Cpl Ernie Smith on this blog site, where we hope, other DCLI’ians who served with Ernie at Bodmin and Jamaica, and earlier postings, will add to the memories. The main family reside in Melbourne Australia, with son Billy and his respective family living in SE Queensland, about 110 kms from Brisbane. The Goddards and the Lovemores are occasional visitors, when the southern family visit.

    We cordially invite others to record their anecdotes and memories here and to also amend or add comment to the photos shown on the Picasa Album.

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