LIFE LOST: Brandy Creek resident, Private Robert ’Bobby’ Smail, was killed in action at Pozieres on July 25, 1916.
LIFE LOST: Brandy Creek resident, Private Robert ’Bobby’ Smail, was killed in action at Pozieres on July 25, 1916. Contributed

Ours one of 23,000 killed at Pozieres

ALMOST to the day 100 years ago, Private Robert Smail, of the 5th Reinforcement and 12 Battalion, was killed in action at Pozieres, France.

Mr Smail was born on May 18, 1891 in Hughenden to parents Robert and Bessie. He became separated from his father and lived with foster parents Robert and Clara Barr in Brandy Creek, and he attended the Bowen and Mt Marlow State Schools.

His occupation until he enlisted in the Royal Australian Army in March 1915 was listed as a lighthouse keeper at Dent Island.

A Mr Reid tutored Mr Smail in Morse code and he became skilled in semaphore (flag) communication.

After enlisting at Mackay, Mr Smail embarked for the war from Brisbane on board the Warilda.

From November to December in 1915, he was hospitalised in Cairo with the mumps, and in 1916 he was posted to Zetioun in Egypt with the 7th Training Battalion.

Later in March of the same year, he embarked from Alexandria on the Corsican and disembarked from Marseilles a week later.

Almost four months later on July 25, 1916, he was killed in action at Pozieres.

From late July to early September, British and Australian troops fought major battle at Pozieres, which is near the Somme.

Although classified as an Allied victory, the Australians suffered 23,000 casualties and the British 8000. Australia's official historian Charles Bean wrote: "The Pozieres battle ridge is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth".

According to Red Cross files, Mr Smail was struck by a bullet that passed through his body and then wounded another man, who was the informant of the Red Cross. Mr Smail's medals were sent home to his biological father in Townsville, as per Army protocol, even though he had listed his foster father as his next of kin.


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