September 2012

Gallipoli – 95th Anniversary – 25 April 2010

Lone Pine Dawn Service

The Hon Alan Griffin MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

“Though Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick (the man with the donkey) is best known, many other soldiers at Gallipoli acted with selfless devotion and duty to their fellows.

One such man was Private Edward Joseph Smalley, a stretcher bearer with D-Company, 3rd Battalion. He was from Sydney, 36 years old, a railway worker who was married with a young son.

His mates called him the ‘Gunga Din’ of the battalion, after the ever-present, tireless water-bearer in the Kipling poem of the same name.

The 3rd Battalion’s history described him:

He was unassuming – a square-faced, determined-looking chap, practically unknown outside his own company … He worked for weeks on the Peninsula as never a human being worked before. The cry of a wounded man would always bring Smalley to his side. The call for men for fatigue always found Smalley. His strength and energy were superhuman. Everyone admired and wondered at him. I saw him on many occasions going round quickly cleaning the rifles of the men who were sleeping, after coming off post. ‘What about a sleep yourself, Smalley?’ I used to ask him; but his only reply was, ‘I’m all right, sir, these poor fellows are tired’.

I remember him before the charge at Lone Pine, covered all over with field dressings, ‘to fix up some of the poor chaps,’ as he put it. He was hit in the stomach going over, and died almost immediately, saying only, ‘Leave me, leave me, I’m done’. And so passed one of the most self-sacrificing, noble, and courageous men who ever wore the Australian uniform.

Wren, E. Randwick to Hargicourt: History of the 3rd Battalion, AIF, Sydney, Ronald G. McDonald (1935)

Edward had been promoted to Lance Corporal for bravery in the field, but he died before the promotion was gazetted.

A notation on the service record of 975 Private Edward Joseph Smalley states tersely, ‘body not recovered’. Like so many of the missing, his name is among those listed on the Lone Pine Memorial.”


The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 April 1927, Page 8.


It is becoming more evident during the course of my research that sometimes the Australian War Memorial (AWM) Roll of Honour records, by virtue of the data provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), do not correctly state the: 1) place of death; 2) date of death; and/or 3) cause of death, for those who have died during wartime and were buried at sea.

I have written previously about the burials of those who die whilst at sea and in those cases the “official” record matches the historical record. However, there has been discovered an instance where these two versions of recorded events differ quite dramatically.

In research material published by Heather Ford, in issue No. 40 (September 2012) of Digger magazine, published and distributed in Australia by the Families and Friends of the First AIF Inc, she writes about the burial at sea of No. 2093 Pte. DONOVAN Patrick whilst being repatriated home wounded to Australia on-board H.M.A.T. (also H.M.A.H.S.) Kanowna. Now normally this would not be such a significant event as many soldiers, sailors and civilians during WW1 where upon their death were buried at sea when the distance to a port of call was too great. But as is the case with Pte. DONOVAN the “official” record of his place of death is significantly different to that of his actual place of death.

Pte. DONOVAN had suffered greatly during his short time in service. He was sick twice, in quick succession, whilst stationed at Gallipoli with Abdominal Pains (19/6/15) and Rheumatism (30/6/15). He was then medically evacuated to Cairo with a G.S.W. (gun shot wound) to his groin on 13/8/1915. In March 1916 he rejoined the Battalion and was posted to France where very quickly he was again medically evacuated, this time to England, and admitted to hospital due to “insantiy” in June 1916. After many months in a mental hospital in England Pte. DONOVAN was discharged from the AIF as suffering from “Delusional Insanity” and embarked on H.M.A.H.S. Kanowna on 9/9/1916 at Southampton.

The Kanowna sailed from England down the cost of Europe, through the Mediterranean Sea and Suez Canal, and on to the port of Suez, where more patients were embarked before their journey onto Colombo (Sri Lanka). It is during this leg of their journey to Colombo that Pte. DONOVAN dies on-board the Kanowna on 27/9/1916 and is buried at sea. Disturbingly, in his service record there is no information to state how he actually died or what he actually died of, although the role of honour “official” record states illness. Also, it would appear that his death was not reported until 31/10/1916 when the Final Voyage Report was submitted in Sydney. Interestingly, even ‘The AIF Project‘, a source I’ve often come to rely upon in the past, only states his “fate” as Returned to Australia 9 September 1916.

The really disappointing outcome from his death is that in his service record there are numerous letters and reports backwards and forwards between his family and officials, and between officials themselves inquiring about his personal possession (whilst still important) but none of these inquire as to his outcome (what he died of or where he was “buried”). To confuse the matter even more his name appears on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France even though he didn’t actually die in France, and the location of his “burial” is known, albeit at sea.

Interestingly, this appears to not be an isolated problem. I have found another example of a 3rd Battalion soldier (i’m sure there are probably more) who was “buried at sea” but the official record states otherwise: Lieut CADELL, Thomas Leonard – Buried at sea on 22 June 1915, but official record states Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey as place of death and his name appears on the Lone Pine Memorial.

In Chapter XIV, Section IV, Volume III – Special Problems and Services of the Australian Army Medical Services Office History, Colonel A. G. Butler records details of the transport of soldiers by sea. He writes in the section titled Mortality “of the 5,444 members of the A.I.F. who died from disease or accidental injury outside Australia, 482 died at sea”, now this does necessarily mean “buried at sea”, just that succumb to their wound, injuries or illness at sea. Whilst there are quite details records of the causes of death of soldiers for Kanowna’s sister ship Karoola, Colonel Butler records specifically that “[f]or the Kanowna detailed statistical records are non-existent” so this means the cause of Pte. Donovan’s death may never been known.