Charles Gordon, the son of William and Sarah Jane Nowell Hill, was born on 18 April 1885 at Penfield. William was born in Cornwall, England, immigrating to Australia on the ship Constance in 1850. William became a farmer at Penfield. Their farm was compulsory acquired to become part of the Salisbury Ammunition Factory during WWII. William and Jane had six boys and three girls, all born at Penfield, Charles being the youngest.
Charles an enthusiast cricketer was a member of the Thebarton Club. As an adult he joined the Police force. In 1909 he married Elsie Westhoven and resided at Hyde Park, Adelaide.
He enlisted on April Fool’s day 1916, almost 31 years old and was placed in the 50th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements. The battalion became part of the 13th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division and was dubbed “Hurcombe’s Hungry Half Hundred”, after its first CO, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Hurcombe. He left Adelaide on 13 July 1916 bound for England.
After arriving in France, the 50th fought in its first major battle at Mouquet Farm between 13 and 15 August and suffered heavily. For three months he lived in Rollestone Camp, England where he was offered the “nice cosy job of Regimental Policeman”. Charles turned down the position in order “to do his bit in France.” On 1 December 1916 he boarded the “Prince Henrietta” at Folkstone and travelled to Etaples, France. He joined his unit there fourteen days later. He fought in France for six months but at the Battle of Messines he was killed in action on 10th June 1917.
He is commemorated at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium.
In the diary of Lance Corporal George Pedlar he writes “I mentioned about losing two of my best pals in the Messines attack. One of them was Charles Smitham, who used to be a policeman in Adelaide. He was a fellow who could always find something dry to say and to make one laugh. He was not the gamest of fellows in the line, but I will give him credit for doing his best”.
His wife, Elsie remarried.
A memorial to Charles has been placed in the Zoar cemetery, where his parents and other members of his family are buried. Charles’ brother, George named a son in honour of Charles, Gordon Charles Smitham, born on 11 August 1924.
References: Hurcombe’s Hungry Half Hundred; a memorial history of the 50th Battalion AIF 1916-1919.
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