News

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



'I didn't even know what a mum was': Celeb on Byron cult

Former The Bachelor Australia contestant Keira Maguire.

Keira Maguire reveals her past to I'm A Celebrity camp mate

Pacific Hwy fully reopens after truck inferno

Emergency services cleaning up the remains of a truck fire that erupted on the Pacific Hwy northbound near Watsons Ln. February 20, 2017.

Pacific Highway fully reopen after truck fire

Special strike force captures alleged ice dealer

90 grams of crystal methamphetamine was found in a car on the Coffs Coast. Detective Inspector Darren Jameson said the drug is cloudy and of poor quality and posed a significant risk to meth users.

22 JULY 2015

Photo Gemima Harvey/Coffs Coast Advocate

Accused Wardell man, 42, to face Lismore Court today

Local Partners

Paul Murray listens to regions

The man who can talk underwater is ready to listen and broadcast it back to the pollies.

'I didn't even know what a mum was': Celeb on Byron cult

Former The Bachelor Australia contestant Keira Maguire.

Keira Maguire reveals her past to I'm A Celebrity camp mate

Why Hollywood’s siding with Brad Pitt over Angelina Jolie

Jolie may have the kids, but Pitt has custody of Hollywood

Tensions high at pointy end of MKR's round two

Things are really heating up on My Kitchen Rules.

Games are being played around the My Kitchen Rules table

Jungle Jay sent packing from I'm a Celebrity

I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Here! contestant Jay Laga'aia with Keira.

BIG friendly giant Jay Laga'aia has been eliminated from I'm A Celeb

Carson Kressley brings 'camp' to I'm a Celebrity jungle

"I am not all Park Avenue and daffodils” ... Carson Kressley.

Meet the "campest” campmate to star on I'm a Celebrity.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi mystery already solved

FILE- This undated file photo provided by Disney shows Daisey Ridley as Rey, left, and John Boyega as Finn, in a scene from the film, \"Star Wars: The Force Awakens.\" Hasbro said it is changing its Star Wars Monopoly set after an 8-year-old girl became upset that Rey, the movie's female heroine, was not included as a figure along with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. (Disney/Lucasfilm via AP, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

A key mystery surrounding the title of episode eight has been solved

Potential home buyers punished for doing the 'right thing'

Should I go to university or buy a house?

Proposed $21 million airpark in holding pattern

A front view of the proposed new aviation museum at Evans Head.

Late businessman's dream on hold ... for now

Clarence River island paradise selling for $5M

Former Ballina councillor Margaret Howes is selling her island getaway.

GALLERY: Tropical getaway with beaches and airstrip put on market.

Bidding could start at $1.4M for sought after property

Farrell McCrohon's Jojo Newby rides on a property recently listed at Buccarumbi

One of largest rural properties on market to go under hammer today

What $11.9m can get you on Coast's most exclusive street

29-31 Wyuna Drive Noosaville Qld 4566

This is what a cool $11.9m can get you

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!