Wartime banknote a tale of service

By Roger Moroney

For many years Ernest Smith carried around a banknote in his wallet.

Nothing too unusual in that, but it was no ordinary banknote - Mr Smith had folded it up and tucked into the back of his wallet back in 1943.

Until about 15 years ago no one in the family knew it was there.

"He carried it around all his working life," his son Neville Smith said.

"He brought it out one day and asked me if I could get it laminated. That was the first time I knew anything about it."

What he saw was a 20-franc note - issued by the Banque de L'Indochine - which Ernest Smith, then a platoon sergeant, had got signed by all the members of his mortar platoon who were based in Noumea, New Caledonia.

The names are faded now, but the note was the memorial link Mr Smith was able to carry around with him through the years.

As his son Neville said, it has a strong significance this Anzac Day as it was 70 years ago that his father's platoon, and the rest of the Kiwi division troops, effectively wrapped up their service in that part of the Pacific.

To commemorate that part of WWII a group of veterans have returned to New Caledonia to take part in Anzac Day services there tomorrow.

Sadly, Mr Smith will not be among them.

He died in September 2009.

But he kept his link to his service years through hanging on to the signed banknote, which his son now proudly looks after.

Ernest Smith was living in Dannevirke and was 20 years old when, like all his mates, he decided to join up in November 1940 as an infantryman with the 3rd Division, 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

He went off to Waiouru as well as Trentham Camp where he took part in mortar training before being sent off to New Caledonia, which was the centre of troop preparation and garrison duty.

He became a platoon sergeant in mortar combat training, and it was when the platoon was told they would be leaving that region that he grabbed the banknote and got each and every one of his comrades to sign it for him.

And he tucked it away in his wallet and there it stayed until he decided to get Neville, who was in the printing business, to get it laminated for him.

After returning home Ernest married local girl Phyllis Garnett in 1946 and they headed off to Wellington for a few years where they ran a cake shop in Newtown.

In 1950 they returned to the Bay and he worked for Watties until he retired.

Neville has retained the military link in the family through his navy liaison role as Lieutenant Commander.

He and his brother Kevin, who is travelling down from Matamata, with be at tomorrow's Dawn Service in Napier along with two grand-daughters.

"And we'll get out dad's banknote later and everyone can have a look at it."

Fine weather and an annually growing awareness of the importance of Anzac Day is expected to result in good turn-outs at services across Hawke's Bay tomorrow.

"We are expecting good numbers, and as in past years we are also expecting to see a strong turn-out and young people, and that is very heartening," Hawke's Bay, East Coast and Wairarapa RSA District president John Purcell said.


Napier and Districts

6am: Napier Dawn Parade at the Sound Shell Colonnade

6am: Taradale Lone Pine Dawn Service, Puketapu Rd.

9.30am: Eskdale Memorial Service, Eskdale Church.

9.30am: Taradale Memorial Service, Taradale War Memorial, Gloucester St.

11am: Napier Civic Service at Memorial Square.

Hastings and Districts

5.30am: Dawn Parade, Hastings Cenotaph.

6.30am: Waimarama Anzac Service, Waimarama Fire Station.

9.30am: Clive/Haumoana Anzac Parade, Clive War Memorial.

9.30am: Maraekakaho Anzac service, Maraekakaho Hall.

10am: HB Hospital Soldiers Memorial Service

Central Hawke's Bay

5.45am: Waipukurau Dawn Service at the War Memorial

5.45am: Otane Dawn Service at Higgins St Cenotaph

9am: Hatuma Rd Memorial Service

9am: Ongaonga Cenotaph Service

9am: Tikokino Cenotaph Service

9am: Omakere Cenotaph Pourerere Beach Rd

9am: Te Hauke, 28th Maori Battalion Te Hauke Marae

10am: Takapau Cenotaph

10.30am: 28 Maori Battalion Rongamaraeroa Marae, Porangahau

11am: Civic Service Waipawa Primary School Hall - then march to Clocktower Cenotaph

11am: Porangahau Hall Service

Wairoa and Districts

6am: Wairoa Dawn Service Kaiuku Marae

9.30am: Anzac Service at Taihoa Marae

11.15am: Wairoa Civic Service and wreath laying


- Hawkes Bay Today

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