Frank Smiles was born in Albury, New South Wales, in 1883. He was one of ten children born to Thomas and Bridget Smiles. Thomas had been born in Queanbeyan, and began working with a newspaper in Tumut before moving to Albury, where he established a distinguished career as a printer and sports writer for the Albury Banner. Frank Smiles attended St Patrick’s Boys School in Albury and went on to become a tradesman.
Frank enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in February 1915, following some months after his younger brothers, Len and Pearce. He was posted to the 19th Battalion and after period of training left Australia on the troopship Ceramic in June 1915.
Smiles arrived on Gallipoli in August 1915. Little is known of his experience there, although he probably participated in the last action of the August Offensive at Hill 60.
His youngest brother, Len, was wounded on the day of the landing and died a few days later in hospital in Alexandria.
His other brother Pearce wrote:
“we gave the Turks something to remember, and we will give them plenty more before this war is over. The casualties were heavy, but the Australians that landed in that terrible hail of lead made a name for themselves that will never die.”
Frank Smiles came through Gallipoli unscathed and was sent to France in March 1916.
The 19th Battalion fought its first major battle on the Western Front near Pozières in July and August 1916.
Here, Frank’s brother, Pearce, died of wounds he suffered as the result of an artillery blast.
Frank’s battalion was fortunate to avoid the heavy casualties suffered by others in its division, and was sent to the quieter “nursery sector” while the other battalions recovered.
By November 1916, the 19th Battalion was back on the Somme near the village of Flers. On the 14th of November it attacked a German trench; it was successful in capturing its part of the objective line, but suffered more than 370 casualties as a result.
One of those missing after the operation was Private Frank Smiles.
A later investigation revealed that he had broken both of his legs during the attack and had had to be left behind. The Germans confirmed that Smiles had died of his wounds on the 2nd of December 1916 while a prisoner of war.
All three Smiles brothers would never return to their family in Albury.
Private Frank Smiles and his brothers, Privates Leonard Kerry Smiles and Ernest Pearce Smiles, are listed on the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll, among more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War.
Dr Meleah Hampton, Historian, Military History Section