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May 24, 2012
Historic diary donated
CMDR Greg Swinden
A VALUABLE part of a family's his-
tory has been generously donated
to the Australian War Memorial, in
the form of the World War I diary of
ABDVR Laurie John Smee.
ABDVR Smee's grandson Martin
Smee parted with the diary on April 18
when it was officially handed over.
ABDVR Smee served in the lit-
tle-known RAN Bridging Train at
Gallipoli in 1915.
The diary covered his service in
the Bridging Train from March 1915
until July 1917 including the unit's
five months of service at Suvla Bay,
just to the north of Anzac Cove, from
August to December 1915.
This is the only Bridging Train
diary held by the War Memorial
and complements the unit's official
ABDVR Smee was born and bred
in South Australia and ran away to sea
when he was 17.
He served in various merchant
ships before joining the Royal Navy,
in England, in 1909 where he served
in several British cruisers until he left
in late 1913.
In March 1915 he joined the
Bridging Train then being formed in
The Bridging Train was being pre-
pared to work as an engineering unit
on the Western Front, but in August
1915 was diverted to the Gallipoli
Peninsula to work with British troops.
Here the 300 men of the RAN
Bridging Train were based at
Kangaroo Beach and operated the
wharves that all men and supplies
were landed across.
They also carried out a wide range
of other engineering duties and were
under constant shell fire.
Four men were killed and another
60 wounded during their five months
on the peninsula.
The Bridging Train was the last
Australian unit to leave Gallipoli as
they were required to keep the evacu-
ation wharves in good repair and did
not depart until some hours after the
last Australian soldiers had left Anzac
Cove to the south.
The Bridging Train then served in
the Middle East, operating the bridges
over the Suez Canal, from February
1916 until May 1917 when th
ABDVR Smee's diary is a
and all' description of the con
he and his mates endured on
This ranged from their daily
stories of men being killed or w
ed, the many near misses from
fire and snipers, and the inev
complaints about the food an
By donating this diary
Australian War Memorial, the
family has now ensured tha
was once only read by a few
family friends is now available
Australians and the diary will b
served for future generations to
E HISTORY: Martin Smee hands over the war diary of his grandfather, AB
ee (inset), to Australian War Memorial curator Kerrie Leech.
Photo: LAC Leigh Cameron
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