Frederick Ernest Smale

Frederick Ernest Smale

Frederick Ernest Smale, No. 37477

Tunnelling Company, New Zealand Engineers

Died of disease, 4 April 1918

Born in New South Wales in 1894, Frederick Ernest Smale was the fourth of George and Thomasine Smale’s six children. In the early 1900s the family emigrated to New Zealand and George took up work as a miner at Karangahake, near Waihī. George died in a mining accident in 1908, but this did not stop Frederick from following in his father’s footsteps. As a young man he attended the Karangahake School of Mines, where he was a top pupil and in 1915 won a scholarship.

Frederick was working as a mine surveyor for the Waihi Gold Mining Company when he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in October 1916. A month later he left New Zealand as part of reinforcements for the Tunnelling Company that was serving on the Western Front.

Frederick joined the Tunnellers in France in early May 1917, following the Battle of Arras in which they had played a key role. The company built roads and dug trenches around Arras, work they continued into 1918. Military life seems to have suited Frederick. He was promoted to lance-corporal in December 1917 and to second corporal two months later.  

In early March 1918 he fell ill with trench fever, a highly contagious disease transmitted by lice in the trenches. His condition deteriorated and later that month he was evacuated to No. 2 London General Hospital in England. By 3 April he was considered ‘dangerously ill’. The following day, Frederick died from typhoid. He was 24 years old.

Frederick is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England, and he is remembered on the Tunnelling Company Memorial in Waihī. Until the 1930s, the Smale family placed notices in local newspapers on the anniversary of his death. The first one, in 1919, expressed his mother’s grief:

‘A precious one from us is gone,

A voice we loved is stilled,

A place is vacant in our homes

Which never can be filled.

Our hearts still cling to memory dear,

And love outliveth death.’[1]

Further information:

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph - record

Commonwealth War Graves Commission - record

'Mining Fatality', Waihi Daily Telegraph, 28 November 1906, p. 2

'School of Mines', Ohinemuri Gazette, 27 March 1914, p. 2

'School of Mines', Ohinemuri Gazette, 17 February 1915, p. 3

'On Active Service', Auckland Star, 9 April 1918, p. 8

'Local and General', Thames Star, 12 April 1918, p. 2

'Roll of Honour', Auckland Star, 31 May 1918, p. 4

'In Memoriam', New Zealand Herald, 4 April 1919, p. 1

J.C. Neill (ed.), The New Zealand Tunnelling Company 1915–1919, Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, Auckland, 1922


[1] New Zealand Herald, 4 April 1919, p. 1.

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