Karori - Frederick Smith

Frederick Smith volunteered in 1917 and was wounded in action in France, a month before the Armistice.


Frederick was born in Wellington on 25 February 1896.

Fred's family were among the earliest British settlers to Wellington. His grandfather, William Smith, was born in Wellington in 1843. His parents had nine children, but four of them died at or soon after birth. His mother, who was English, died with the last baby just before the war started.

His uncle was William Hardham a well-known Wellingtonian who was awarded a Victoria Cross during the Boer War, and was an influence in Fred's decision to be involved in the war.

He grew up in the Wellington suburb of Karori, and attended Karori School.

When the District Education Inspector visited the school on the 22nd of October, 1906, Fred was 10 years old and in Standard 4. The Inspector noted that Fred had “weak eyes”.

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force

Ten years later, when the First World War was well underway, the military medical officer who examined the 20-year-old Fred on 8 February, 1917, didn’t see anything wrong with his vision. He gave him a score of 6 out of 6 for both his eyes, and declared that he was fit for service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Fred, who had been living in Henderson Street in Karori and working as a storeman at the Defence Department, was accepted into the army as a gunner.

Fred embarked from Wellington with the 32nd Reinforcements on 21 November 1917, on the troopship Maunganui. After just over six weeks at sea, he berthed at Southampton, England, and marched into the Field Artillery's training depot at Ewshott on 8 January 1918. He was sent to France on 28 March, disembarking at Etaples.

Wounded in action 

While in France, Fred became a member of the 103rd Battery of the NZFA's First Brigade. On 8 October 1918, about a month before the signing of the Armistice, he was wounded in action, receiving a gunshot wound to his left hand.

After treatment in France he returned to England, eventually setting sail for New Zealand on the troopship Arawa on 4 October 1919 – nearly a year after the war had ended.

He disembarked at Auckland on 15 November, and a month later was discharged from the army.

After the war

Fred married Constance Priscilla Luxton in 1926.

He was involved with the Returned Services' Association, and in the early 1940s was Secretary of the Hutt Valley branch.

Fred died at Lower Hutt on 17 October 1971.

Find out more

  • Fred is one of the ‘Berry Boys’, around 120 New Zealand soldiers who had their photo taken at the Berry & Co. photography studio in Cuba Street, Wellington, before heading overseas to fight in World War One.
  • Details of New Zealand soldiers’ activity in World War One can be found by examining their digitised defence personnel file, most of which can be accessed online via the Archives NZ catalogue.

Image references

  1. 'Frederick Smith', Berry & Co Photographers. 1919. Te Papa. See Frederick's individual page on the Te Papa website.
  2. Group portrait of pupils, and a teacher, of Karori School, Wellington. Mrs Gwen McGavin per K M Wood: Photographs relating to the Kilmister family and Karori. Ref: 1/2-147320-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 
  3. Wellington District Education Board Class Schedule, Karori School, 1905. Accessible at Archives NZ.
  4. Frederick’s Certificate of Medical Examination, from his Defence Personnel Record, digitised and accessible online via Archives NZ.
  5. Frederick’s Active Service Casualty Form, from his Defence Personnel Record, digitised and accessible online via Archives NZ.
  6. 'Wounded; Admitted to Hospital', Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1918. Accessed on Papers Past.
  7. The ship Arawa. Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/1-002507-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.