THIS week's photo is of Raymond Henry Smith and his mates doing picket duty. They are posing with the two men on the latrine detail - an unwanted job in any army. These troops were in the Northern Territory acclimatising and retraining to later serve in New Guinea after serving in North Africa, where the men ended up as the Rats of Tobruk.
Raymond, known to most as Ray, was born in Bathurst on November 14, 1914. He was educated at Bathurst Public School. Ray met the woman who would become his wife when she worked in the catering room at the Bathurst Railway Station. He enlisted in Paddington on June 12, 1940, listing Ruby Smith as his next of kin. He was assigned to 2/3 Australian Pioneer Battalion.
This photo will be one of 700 on display at the Bathurst Remembers World War Two Exhibition 2020, marking VP Day and the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two. The event will take place in the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre and will be open to the public from Friday, August 14 to Monday, August 17 this year. Opening hours will be from 9am to 5pm.
This is a World War Two exhibition which will consist of Snapshots of World War Two, with some 500 enlarged photos of battlefields, training, home front, etc., and the 100 photos with the Wall of Valour - World War Two servicemen and women with an association with Bathurst who enlisted and served.
There will also be more than 2000 military and World War Two memorabilia items from guest exhibitors. There will be other activities by the Bathurst RSL Sub Branch and others over the four days. As well, there will be visiting pupils and students from Bathurst and district schools.
After Ray and his battalion endured Rommel's siege, they were returned from Africa by ship to Australia. In the following months, the men were in a semi-permanent camp which would have a reasonable latrine block. However, in a bivouac-type camp, the latrine site would have been shifted every few weeks. These would have comprised pits dug to a depth of four to six feet. Usually, the departing battalions leaving the lines were tasked with filling in their own latrines with soil and digging new pits a bit further away for the incoming relieving force. The job was also given as a punishment for some army misdemeanours.
Usually, each company would assign two or three diggers for "sanitary duties", the task being much despised among the troops. These men would heavily dose the latrine with quick lime most days. Ray recalled that: "One didn't line up for the toilet too long as there was always an all-pervading stink, and it was deemed a hazardous place to loiter. Sometimes the enemy overseas could identify intensified activity in the latrines and order the area to be bombarded by artillery. Still in all most soldiers remember the repugnant smell of the latrines."
In any war, the infantry was the workhorse of the military. They were not only faced with engaging the enemy, but were invariably required to do physical labour on the frontlines. This usually involved conveying rations, clothing, ammunition and weapons and medicines which were essential in winning the war. During World War Two, a total of 730,000 personnel enlisted in the Australian Army, which was about one in 10 of our nation's population.
After the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Malaya late in 1941, Australia was forced to change its army command structure early in 1942. In July 1942, General Sir Thomas Blamey assumed command of the military forces after the army was expanded in response to the Japanese threat to Australia. During this time, the army's strength consisted of 11 infantry divisions. Six combat divisions were retrained and acclimatised to become jungle divisions in early 1943 and 1944 to serve in the South West Pacific.
If you have a photo of a World War Two soldier or nurse who has a Bathurst association, contact Alan McRae on 6331 5404 or email@example.com.