Romley ‘Rom’ Rutherford Smith

August 4, 2015

SMITH, Romley -‘Rom’ Rutherford- – – – SPC 1909-1912

DoB:- – 1894, Hawthorn, VIC

Father:- – Thomas Harrington Smith

Mother:- – Martha Ann, nee Rutherford

Romley Rutherford -‘Rom’ Smith was a boarder at St Patrick’s from Melbourne. He was an exceptional student and in 1911 sat for and passed the Junior Public Examinations in ten subjects, with six Distinctions, which was a record for his class.

The College Annual of 1913 noted that Rom was a junior engineer in the Public Works Department while studying Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Service No:- 3598

Rank:- – Lance Corporal, later Honorary Sergeant

Unit:- – 3rd Pioneers

Rom Smith enlisted on 9 August 1917 at the age of 22. He was a single man, five feet, six and a half inches tall, with a fresh complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. He was studying Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

He embarked from Melbourne aboard the Nestor on 21 November 1917, and went via Egypt to Southampton where he disembarked on 2 February 1918. He underwent further training at Sutton Vemy before marching out with his unit to Rouelles, France in June 1918.

He was hospitalised with influenza in France for a month, but by August 1918 had rejoined his unit in time for the major offensive which began on 8 August. The battalion was withdrawn on 3 October.

Information from Rom Smith’s family reveals that Rom kept up his interest in engineering drawing, even while serving in France. Three of his sketches were submitted as a sample for him to be considered as a war artist. He was accepted, but the whereabouts of these sketches was not known until discovered by chance in 1984 in the Archives of the War Memorial in Canberra.

Rom Smith returned to Australia aboard the Raranga in September 1919, disembarking in Australia on 27 October.

After the war, Rom finished his Engineering qualifications, married, and spent his entire working life as a civil engineer. For seven years he was an engineer on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Romley Rutherford Smith died in Sydney on 11 March, 1955, at the age of 62. He was buried in Botany Cemetery, Sydney NSW.

Romley’s grandson, Andrew Gray followed Rom’s footsteps and attended St Patrick’s College between 1983 and 1987, being College Captain in his final year. On behalf of Romley’s extended family, Andrew has generously provided a copy of the diary that Rom kept in 1918.

One of the fascinating aspects of this diary is that it shows how much time was spent just wasting time. Often days would go by with entries such as, -‘ -¦ Nix doing -¦ doped practically all day -¦’. Interspersed would be eloquent descriptions of the countryside, -‘ -¦ July 1 Monday (day 182). Wander back along the Somme, pretty path amongst trees -¦ heard a skylark -¦’

What is very noticeable is the pared down language, the bald facts of illness, death and fear bluntly stated in a few sentences -“

– -‘-¦ July 5 Friday (day 186) -¦ have a swim about 9 -“ not too good -“ feel hot and feverish through night.

– July 6 Saturday (day 187). Not too clever this morning -“ go on sick parade. Temp 100 degrees odd, packed off in ambulance with trench fever -“ -dog’s disease- -¦ In Ward C (hospital) marquee, stretchers on floor.

– July 7 Sunday (day 188). Generally snookered with 103.2 temp, transferred D Ward -“ dinkum beds and sheets and fair people that call one -Sonny Boy- -¦’

– -‘August 20 Tuesday (day 232). Try to snooze in the trench -“ not very successful, and awake at about noon with sun beating straight down and flies crawling all over a bloke. Ration carrying (9sm to 2am) -“ a couple of very dead horses en route. Fritzie splathered a few shells over the road while we await the tucker. We prepare for a -hop-over-. Strewth! A dinkum digger in the hop the bags act -“ we’re going to see the goods now.

– August 21 Wednesday (day 233). 4.45am zero hour and the barrage opens -“ big yellow moon behind, misty reddish in front relieved by fireworks, etc. About 6am hop over advance to dig in on slope -¦ machine gun and rifle fire mostly on left pretty solid -“ Marriott killed, Mr McConnell and Lewis also later -“ Miller, McGregor, Herring, Russell, Gatens also Steynes -¦ wounded -¦

– August 22 Thursday (day 234) -¦ feeling pretty snookered, and a rosy vision of the future is when one will be able to get a decent wash and sleep -¦’

– -‘November 11 Monday (day 315) -Dinkum oil- this morning, hostilities cease at 11am. Actually no more war but it’s hard to realise -¦ played football with A against D and win. Drizzly rain, mild celebrations composed of kids, crackers and a few Verey lights -¦

– November 12 Tuesday (day316) Usual sort of day -“ pay day today. Ted, Mell, and I wander out; finish up a character night by wobbling home slightly zig-zag and Ted and I serenade the people of the house by singing the -Marseillaise- en Francais Aussie -¦’