Peter Stanley

Digger Smith

Australia’s Great War

The events of World War One vastly feature Australia’s Great War events as well. This is as a result of that, WWI was the first major battle Australia got involved in. This is thanks to the ongoing colonization of Australia by Great Britain. For Australia, this war was the costliest as regards the terms of casualties and deaths. Over 60, 000 people were reported killed of the 416,809 enlisted men. 156,000 were reported wounded, taken prisoner or gassed out in this war as well.

All these people from a net population of fewer than five million people. By the end of the year 1916, another 5,533 casualties were suffered in a matter of 24 hours and another 40,000 Australian lives mudded beneath the earth surface from the Western Front. 

Digger Smith serves to provide a solid ground to understanding the height of war terror that occurred during the War. Particularly the extent to which the Australians, Turks and New Zealanders suffered from it.  

To Peter Stanley, the idea for Digger Smith came from a research aimed at another book titled Men of Mont St Quentin. The author of this book – C.J Dennis was fed updates from Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in snippets by Frank Roberts. This is thanks to Dennis’s close friendship with the Roberts’s. Not long after Frank was killed in the war at Mont St Quentin, Digger Smith was published by Dennis. 

Peter Stanley took his time to read this book out of his natural curiosity, hoping to learn from the experience Frank had. But to his surprise, not much of Frank’s experience at the war front was related in the book. And why would it? The book was about a maimed war returnee. Rather, the book was scribed together in an entirely novel fashion. Presenting what in Peter’s opinion was a fertile approach to Australia’s Great War experience for the Australians. 

Above that, what was clouded in mystery was why Dennis named his main character Smith. Smith might as well be a random name in another country at another time. But, given the circumstance of the Australian Great War, Smith was a name that typically portrayed everyman. But the real question is, who could have been the real Digger Smith. By investigating the role the Smiths played in the war, there is a bleak of promising success at determining who Digger Smith was – as suggested by a preliminary digging. 

But then, over 5,000 uniforms were donned by Smiths during the war. And in fact, about half that number served using Smith as an alias. Peter then realised that it is admissible to apply the question to all existing Smiths – not just to the ones in uniform. And also, for the idea to show a reflection of a wholly Australian experience, it had to cover the Schmidt as well. 

Peter’s idea made headway when Diana Hill from Murdoch showed her interest in it. But, between 2009 and 2010, the research moved into thin air, just like smoke. Then, the book made an appearance in 2011.