Nov 112011
Today’s moment of reflection at 11.00am on the 11/11/11 gives us a chance to remember and thank all those who have served and those who continue to serve in the military.
Today I am particularly thinking of my grandfather Leslie Smith who died during WW2. He was serving in the Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders when he was injured in a training accident, became a quadriplegic and died of his injuries 14 December 1944.
1813543, Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders
Husband of Lilian Smith, father of David, of Crayford, Kent.

Remembered with honour
Inveresk Parish Churchyard Scotland

Unfortunately we don’t have a photo of Leslie in uniform.  Leslie died when my father was four years old so he had no real memories of his father. My Grandmother died when I was 12 and she never spoke of her husband to me and only rarely spoke of her life in England. 
In  many ways Leslie was never quite a solid, real person to me. Certainly I knew some things about him, he was a qualified cabinet maker who was halfway through an Antique Restorers’ apprenticeship when war was declared.  
He was very good with his hands and rode a motorcycle with a side-car for grandma. He was in the Salvation Army band. He had a sense of humour which was demonstrated during a meal with his new in-laws when he had set up a magnet under the table and when they reached for the salt and pepper shakers he would move them away. He made a beautiful doll’s house as a present for Dad’s cousin Jean during the war, which I have been lucky enough to see and admire.

When I spoke with some of my father’s relatives their memory of Leslie was that “he was a lovely man, always ready to help anyone”
This loss of people and family and their future potential lives together is the saddest thing about war and the loss of life.
Leslie, Lilian and David Smith about 1940 Dartford Kent.
But we will remember them and they will live on.
Sep 042011
The Proud Parents

 I lost my father David Smith nearly eight years ago on the 26th November 2003, so Fathers Day is a day of memory for me and today I’d like to share some of my Dad’s early life and how this shaped him into the man he became.

My Dad was born 16 February 1940 in Dartford, Kent England. He was the first, and due to World War 2, the only child of Leslie and Lilian Maud Smith. Leslie and Lilian were both Salvation Army and both played in the band.

Leslie was a cabinet maker who was part way through an apprenticeship as an antique restorer when the War was declared. He was initially rejected for the Army and went to work at Vickers Armstrong factory in Crayford. This was a reserved occupation and he stayed there until he was accepted into the Army on 10/07/1941. 

While Leslie was in the Army, Lilian looked after David and ran a boarding house. She had a vegetable garden and one of the family stories was she had just spent an afternoon planting cabbages and that night the Germans did a bombing raid, a not uncommon thing when you lived on the approach to London. In fact over 200,000 incendiary bombs, 6000 high explosive and 200 oil bombs fell on Dartford with over 13 000 homes damaged.

Lilian was so concerned about her vegetables that she went outside and was shouting at the aircraft until suddenly she was being shot at and she came to her senses and fell flat to the ground then ran for safety. Afterwards it was found that bullet marks were along both sides of where she was laying.

Lilian’s father and mother Robert & Alice Philpott & David

Leslie died 14 December 1944 after a training accident with the Argylle and Sutherland Highlanders.

Life was tough for Lilian and David even with her supportive family. 

Leslie’s brother Frank had emigrated to Australia in the 1920s and wrote of better conditions there so Lilian decided to become a Ten Pound Pom 

They emigrated in 1949 to Sydney. They stayed with Frank and his family for a while then Lilian worked at the People’s Palace in Sydney while Dad stayed for a while at the Salvation Army Orphanage in Goulburn.

Dad and  his dog in Goulburn

Housing was very hard to find at this time but eventually a house became available in Goulburn and then  Dad and Lilian were back together again.

Life still wasn’t easy but they worked hard growing vegetables and carnations which they sold to Lilian’s workmates and to restaurants in town. Dad collected bottles around town and returned them and also had a job cleaning the bakery stables which were behind their house.

Lilian was very careful with her money with the dream of buying a home for David and herself and saved every cent she could. 

Lilian’s father Robert Henry Philpott died on Christmas Day 1953 and my grandmother decided to go back to England to be with her mother and family at this difficult time.

They spent a year in Tonbridge with the family. Dad had been used to being quite independent in Australia and had some trouble coping with the more restrictive life in England so he was quite happy when they came back to Australia at the end of the year. Lilian used her savings and some money from her father to buy that home for them at Manly.

He joined the New South Railways as a junior ans worked over much of the network for the next few years. Then when he didn’t get called up for National Service he decided to join the Army regardless. While in the Army he was transferred to Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane. He attended the Salvation Army at Mitchelton and one day went on a church picnic and that was how he met my mother. But that is a story for another day.