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Three centuries spanned: life story of Ted Smout launched.

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DVA 2 Wednesday, 24 January 2001

Three Centries Spanned: Life Story of Ted Smout Launched

As Australians mark the Centenary of Federation and look back on a century of nationhood, Queensland World War I veteran Ted Smout has released his biography, telling the story of a life spanning three centuries.

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, today officially launched Three Centuries Spanned at Brisbane’s Victoria Barracks, in the presence of 103�year-old Mr Smout and his family, including his 94-year-old brother Arthur Smout, the book’s author.

“At a time when Australians, especially young people, are increasingly interested in learning more of their wartime heritage, there is a growing appreciation of the need to record and preserve the stories of our servicemen and women for future generations,” he said.

“That is why the life story of an Australian like Ted Smout is so important and I would like to congratulate Arthur Smout for persuading his brother to publish his biography.”

Mr Scott said the book was a straightforward account of Mr Smout’s life, but offered glimpses of the humour, character and values that were the essence of the Australian Digger.

“Like how he and two friends transferred into the Medical Corps to avoid being separated because of a British Army edict that mateship was not good for discipline,” he said.

“And his account of the horrific conditions endured on the Western Front, an experience that continued to affect Ted even after his return home from the war.

“But important as it was, World War I took up only a few years of Ted Smout’s life, and so this is more than just a war story.”

Three Centuries Spanned also tells the story of Mr Smout’s life after the war, his successful business career and his dedication to community work, including 65 years as a member of Legacy.

“It also highlights the important and active role Ted Smout continues to play as one of the our few remaining WWI Diggers in helping new generations to better understand Australia’s wartime history,” Mr Scott said.

“Ted Smout has been honoured with many awards, including the Medal of the Order of Australia, the 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal and France’s Legion of Honour.

“The release of his biography will give readers a new perspective on the contribution made to our nation by this great Australian.”

Three Centuries Spanned is available by writing to:

11 Brighton Terrace, Sandgate  Queensland  4017.

Media Contact:   Mark Croxford   02 6277 7820   or    0408 645 787

Excerpts from Three Centuries Spanned


… the officer in charge, acting on a directive from British Army Headquarters that “mateship was not good for discipline,” ordered that we three mates be allocated to separate units.  When we were told of this we sought a transfer to the Artillery, but we were advised there were no vacancies.  However, we learned there were vacancies in the Australian Army Medical Corps.  So the three of us applied for a transfer and we were accepted in the AAMC.

The Western Front

We heard the approaching direct hit of a bomb, which sounded like a steam engine blowing off steam.  Then the thud, but no explosion … the 200lb bomb, a converted shell with finds attached, had failed to explode … A couple of hours later another plane came over targeting the officers billet, being aware the previous bomb had not detonated, and dropped a stick of bombs which demolished the building and our house … Although I did not realise it at the time, my exposure to that concentrated bombing probably caused my delayed shell shock which surfaced after my return to work in Australia.

Armistice Day

We were then in Foucaucourt-Hors-Nesle, a small village with one estaminet.  We had a great night of celebration, with drinks “on the house”.  The day AFTER the Armistice was signed, I and many other Aussies took off for Paris A.W.L. (Absent Without Leave).  As I was well supplied with French francs and could speak French fluently I looked forward to some happy days ahead … Altogether I had an enjoyable ten days in Paris until I was picked up by a British military policeman.  For this misdemeanour I was fined fourteen days pay, which I thought rather tough, as the war was over.  But it was worth it!

World War II

… when Aussie diggers returned by ship to Brisbane, they disembarked at the New Farm wharf and were driven through the city … to the “demobbing” depot at Greenslopes.  Wives and sweethearts were barred from the cars and had to find their own way over to Greenslopes.

On one occasion a member of the Prudential staff was among the returnees, and I was there to welcome him home.  His wife was also at the wharf and naturally expected to join him in my car … I told the person in charge that I would undertake to put her out of the car at the first corner.  True to my promise I stopped at the first corner and asked her to leave the car.  The tears flowed again but she left the car.  I immediately opened the car door and invited her to get in.  I had kept my promise to put her out at the first corner, but I had not made any promise not to let her enter my car after that.


World War I, 1914-1918, was supposed to be the war to end all wars.  Then World War II erupted in 1939 and lasted for six years.  It also failed to secure everlasting world peace.  Just looking at the TV screen, showing almost weekly outbreaks of war in various localities of the world makes one wonder if universal peace and goodwill is achievable.  At least Australia, being an island, is not plagued with border disputes, as in other continents, and we have shown we have the good sense not to become embroiled in interstate disputes.

The last word

To the inevitable question “what do you look forward to in the future?” I have one simple answer: “To keep breathing.”

Reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Ted Smout OAM, ASM, Legion of Honour (Fr) and the author, Mr Arthur Smout.


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