Australian World War 1 Army Identity Disc – Sgt. W.A. Smith 81

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Shown is an unofficial Australian World War 1 identity disc fashioned from a 32mm silver 10 Quirsh issued by Ottoman Turkey. It is holed and the reverse has been skimmed off. Engraved into the skimmed suface with “wiggle work” is:

11 A.L.H.

On the bottom left a palm frond or some other vegetation has also been engraved.

William Arkley Smith

William Arkley Smith

William Arkley Smith was born in Wales 31/1892. At some point his family emigrated to Australia and Willam, at that point a drover or farm manager, enlisted in Charleville, Queensland on 2/1/1915. Upon enlistment Smith was given the early service number of 81 and was taken into the strength of the 11th Light Horse Regiment in Enoggera on 24/3/1915. The same day he was promoted to corporal. After spending 3 months training in Australia he embarked on the HMAT A7 Medic in June 1915 and disembarked in Egypt on 23/7/1915. While in Egypt Smith became seriously ill with “pericardial adhesions” with his family being alerted of his plight in August 1915. He became so ill that he was returned to Australia on HMAT Beltana in October. After three months of rehabilitation in Australia he returned to duty in the 1st Military District (Queensland) in February 1916. At that point he was taken onto the strength of the 10th/11th LHR reserve and in July 1916 boarded the HMAT Mongolia for the middle east arriving in August where he was taken into the 3rd LHR and two months later returned to his original 11th Light Horse Regiment.

British Army map of the Gaza and Beersheba areas
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

In early October 1917 W.A. Smith’s unit, the 11th LHR was operating about 15 kilometers west of Beersheba in southern Palestine. These operations were the conducted in the lead up to the famous Battle of Beersheba on 31/10/1917. On October 2nd Smith led a party of five scouts in a reconnaissance of the Wadi el Sufi, about 12km NW of Beersheba. During that action he was recommended for, and awarded, the Military Medal. His commendation, found in the document “AWM28 2/127 ALH Book Recommendations June 1917 to Dec 1917” reads:

“For the gallant manner in which he led his party of five scouts during a reconnaissance of the Wadi el Sufi on 2nd Oct 1917 although under heavy fire at close range from about 900 enemy infantry, 3 machine guns and 2 field guns he went forward with determination and dash and carried out the work of reconnoitring the enemy’s position and of measuring the wells in the vicinity. He completed his reconnaissance under fire gaining valuable information and led his party back to safety.”

Wadi el Sufi Today – The gorge just north of the Wastwater Treatment Plant (Image courtesy Google Maps)

The 11 LHR Unit Diary notes on 9/10/17 that “An order was received today from Brigade that the Corps Commander has awarded the Military Medal to No. 81 Sgt SMITH”.

The remainder of Smith’s service saw him promoted to 2nd Lieutentant in late October 1917 and then 1st Lieutentant in April 1918. He damaged a knee badly in April 1918 spending a good deal of time rehabilitating from that injury. On July 22 1919 he boarded the ship Mowado and arrived back in Australia in August and was finally discharged in October. His records indicate he spent sometime tracking down his awarded Military Medal with letters from himself and his mother asking the Army where it was. It looks like he finally got his well earned award in early 1920.

Arkley Smith went on to serve again as a Lieutentant in World War 2 with Service Number N109301. He spent most of his almost three years of service with the VDC (Volunteer Defence Corps) in Queensland and was discharged in September 1943. Wiliam’s son, John Arkley Smith NX113331 also served in World War 2 as a trooper in the 2/4 Armoured Regt. Tragically he died of wounds in June 1945 in Bouganville just a few weeks before the end of the war.

William Arkley Smith passed away in March 1977 aged 85.

Coin Information

Reference Number:C092301


William Arkley Smith 81 – World War 1 Service Records
William Arkley Smith N109301 – World War 2 Service Records
William Arkley Smith 81 – Virtual War Memorial
John Arkley Smith NX113331 – Virtual War Memorial
11 Australia LHR Unit Diary October 1917
AWM28 2/127 ALH Book Recommendations June 1917 to Dec 1917

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