SX9743 Driver Donald Lindquist SMITH
Donald Lindquist SMITH was born at Victor Harbor on 1 July 1920, the third of four children of Carl Peter Leopold Lindquist SMITH and Jane SMITH (nee TICKLIE). His father has served in the AIF during the First World War, whilst his uncle, Albert Thomas TICKLIE, had been killed in action. Albert had been awarded a Military Medal for bravery.
Age 20 when he enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 26 July 1940, Don’s three brothers also enlisted in the army. Allan Gunnar Lindquist SMITH (born 18 Dec 1910, enlisted on 3 November 1939), Charles August Lindquist SMITH (born 4 July 1912, enlisted on 13 June 1940 whilst Dudley Arthur SMITH (born 22 Jan 1925) enlisted on 25 May 1943, age 18.
Don was posted to the 2/8th Field Ambulance on 8 October 1940. The unit was granted pre-embarkation leave in late November 1940 and sailed aboard HMAT A72 on 29 December 1940 from Port Melbourne. In the same convoy was the Mauretania, which carried the 2/43rd Battalion and the 2/3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. The troops disembarked at Port Tewfik, Egypt on 3 February 1941.
The 2/8th Field Ambulance formed part of the 9th Australian Division, which was based at Cyrenaica, Libya. It served as a garrison force and was to complete its training and reorganisation. They were under-equipped and only partly trained, when on 24 March 1941, the German led offensive began. Most of the Division’s artillery and cavalry units had not arrived by this time. The 9th Division’s commander, General Lesley Morsehead, ordered units to withdraw from the frontier, moving 260 kms back towards Benghazi.
In order to achieve this, the 2/13th Battalion was used as a rear guard and undertook the Division’s first action of the war when the Germans attacked their positions in the Er Regima Pass. Supported by British artillery, the Battalion, managed to delay a German force of about 3,000 men mounted in lorries and accompanied by armoured cars and tanks. They were unable to prevent the Germans from outflanking them and gradually they were forced to pull back just as they were faced with encirclement. In this action the 2/13th Battalion suffered five killed and 93 wounded or captured.
Two days after the action at Er Regima Pass, the 9th Division was ordered to fall back along the coast road towards Tobruk, what was later called the Benghazi Handicap. Due to the speed of the Axis advance and the division’s lack of transport, confusion reined and many Australians were captured.
Don’s son Gavin recounted to us an incident that his father had described some years earlier:
‘During the retreat, Don was driving a jeep accompanied by an officer of the 2/8th and a few soldiers, when as described before; there was confusion amongst the retreating troops. The officer had instructed Don to follow a number of vehicles but Don’s “gut feeling” was that the vehicles in front were heading in the wrong direction. Don quite strongly stated they were going the wrong way; his information was quite different from what the officer had been told. Don’s will prevailed and they set off on their own route. When they harboured up for the night, they later learned that 42 members of the 2/8th Field Ambulance had been captured; all those men had taken the wrong route, having been lured by a decoy German dressed as a British military policeman into a trap at El Fetai near Derna’.
Don served at Tobruk until the Australian units were withdrawn in October 1941 for reorganisation and garrison duties in Palestine and Syria. The unit later served in the First Battle of El Alamein (July 1942 and the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein (October 1942). The four months that the 9th Division had been involved in the fighting around El Alamein cost them 1,225 killed, 3,638 wounded and 946 captured.
The 9th Division returned to Australia in February 1943, whereupon all members of the Division were granted three weeks leave.
On return from leave, the 2/8th was based on the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland where it began reorganising and re-training for jungle warfare. Whilst on pre-embarkation leave, Don married Edna May ELLIS on 17 July 1943. The unit sailed from Cairns on 26 July aboard the ship SS Van der Lijn and disembarked at Milne Bay three days later.
Don served in the campaigns there until 31 March 1944. During this time he was evacuated suffering with malaria on 6 November (17 days) and dengue fever on 15 December (6 days). He embarked from Port Moresby on 21 March 1944 and arrived at Townsville four days later. Granted leave, he was admitted to hospital on 22 May suffering with a relapse of malaria. He was discharged from hospital on 14 June only to be readmitted with further relapses on 17 June and 3 July 1944.
On 19 November 1944, Don was detached for duty with the RAAF’s No 4 Initial Training School at Mt Breckan, Victor Harbor. He remained there until 15 May 1945 when he returned to Wayville. Medically reclassified as B2, he was discharged on 4 August 1945.
After the war, Don SMITH was the district Shell fuel agent. He continued to suffer from bouts of malaria and ill health. He was president of the Victor Harbor RSL in 1961-1962 and 1970-1971. Don died on 27 June 1998, age 78, and was interred in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.
Noel Eric Francis Arblaster served as VX19783 Driver N.E.F. Arblaster in the 2nd AIF overseas in the Pacific campaign.
Service file of SX9743 Donald Lindquist SMITH purchased from the National Archives of Australia
Information supplied by Gavin SMITH, son of Donald Lindquist SMITH.
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, May 2014.