Meet the Rat of Tobruk who dug for mines with a bayonet

PAYING RESPECTS: Second World War veterans Lloyd Jones and Tom Smith attend the 2015 Anzac commemoration service at the grounds of Fromelles Manor.
PAYING RESPECTS: Second World War veterans Lloyd Jones and Tom Smith attend the 2015 Anzac commemoration service at the grounds of Fromelles Manor. Marc Stapelberg

ANZAC DAY came early for residents of Fromelles Manor in Lismore.

General manager Matthew Ashby said many residents were unable to attend the regular commemorations in town so the residential care centre holds its own annual service.

One of the residents in attendance was Tom Smith; one of only 10 of the Rats of Tobruk still alive in NSW.

Mr Smith grew up in Kyogle and was originally due to be shipped out to Singapore with the 8th Battalion, but a soldier died in his barracks with a mysterious disease before he was deployed. He was therefore quarantined and fate sent him instead to the Middle East.

Tom Smith was a sapper (combat engineer) whose main role was clearing mines in front of the artillery regiments. He described the process of crawling around on his hands and knees, poking at the ground with a bayonet.

"We knew just how far to push it in," he said.

At the Battle of El Alamein the mine clearers were two kilometres in front of the tanks and the rifles, leading the way in a campaign that turned out to be a major turning point for the Allies in Egypt.

At Tobruk, he was one of 14,000 Australians that held the Libyan port for months "without relief" from the German-Italian Afrika Korps.

Mr Smith said he used to go to Sydney to march with the other 'Rats', but he has been unable to for the past four or five years.

Anzac Day commemorates not just the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli in 1915, but also marks the 100,000 Australians who have died in all wars.

But Mr Smith has his own Gallipoli connection, with his uncle Harold Hayes killed in battle there and mistakenly buried in the New Zealand cemetery.

Another uncle, Mark Hayes, was awarded a Military Cross for services in France.

Topics:  anzac-centenary anzac day rats of tobruk veteran

Ballina council votes to expand shark net trial

Ballina Shire Council has supported the trial of shark nets.

Today's vote is a big win for shark net supporters

'I will still surf on the North Coast': Greens MLC

Greens MLC Justin Field

He says shark nets give a false sense of security

North Coast film industry slams scrapping of course fee subsidies

Screenworks General manager Ken Crouch slams the government's VET shake-up.

Our booming screen industry is not a 'lifestyle choice'

Local Partners

Exterminate! Exterminate! The Daleks are coming

BCC Lismore will be screening a limited-run theatrical special presentation event of Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks animated series from Saturday, November 12.

This is one of the most celebrated Doctor Who stories

Top 5 in entertainment this week

FULL VOICE: Dorian Mode performing the Nat 'King' Cole Tribute Show.

Here's what's happening across the Northern Rivers this week

Tom Cruise credits success to Scientology

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise credits his success to Scientology

Hacksaw Ridge leads AACTA Awards nominations

Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer in a scene from the movie Hacksaw Ridge.

MEL Gibson's wartime drama opens in cinemas next week.

Top 5 events at Tropical Fruits 2016

IT'S ON: Tropical Fruits Festival over New Years.

Festival guide hits the streets this weekend

ABBA to reunite for virtual live experience


ABBA have confirmed they are to reunite - in virtual reality form

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals