ahead of Anzac Day,Gembrook RSL president remembers late father’s story

Gembrook RSL sub-branch president Norm Smith with an image of his late father, Arthur Smith, who was held as a prisoner of war in the Second World War. PICTURE: TYLER WRIGHT

By Tyler Wright

Ahead of Anzac Day commemorations this year, Gembrook local and RSL sub-branch president Norm Smith is remembering his late father, Arthur Smith.

Arthur Smith joined the army on 31 March, 1940, sailing to the Middle East in the 6th division 2/8th battalion before being transferred to Greece and Crete, Mr Smith said.

“He was on the ship, what they called the Costa Rica. It got sunk… he landed in Crete, wounded on June the first, 1941. Captured on June the first, 1941,” Mr Smith said.

“He was in a Stalag 7A prisoner war camp in Germany. He was in hospital. He was looked after by [Harold] Bader from 2nd 11th Battalion from West Australia. He looked after him right through… he was there the day he died.”

In a letter written to Norm’s mother on 8 November 1942, Harold Bader told her her husband was “quite conscious right to the end” and was “always thinking of the kiddies and of home life”.

“Right to the last his thoughts and words were for you and the kiddies and he asked the medical orderly to tell you not to worry, and even though he not return to you in person he would always be with you in spirit,” Mr Bader’s letter read.

Despite only being six years old the last time he saw his father, Mr Smith said he knows his dad came from Sunderland, England.

“We lived in a place called Launching Place Road and [dad] carried my three-year-old sister up on his shoulders,” he said.

“He got a Mr Casey’s bus in 1940, and 17 years later I took over driving for Mr Casey’s.

“I drove in Gembrook for 42 and a half years.”

Mr Smith completed national service in 1952, becoming an official member of the Gembrook RSL in the mid-1970s.