Region loses its last POW Frank Smith

Much-loved: Narromine's Frank Smith was farewelled in a funeral on Friday. He was 96 years of age. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

Much-loved: Narromine's Frank Smith was farewelled in a funeral on Friday. He was 96 years of age. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

The region has lost its last surviving Changi prisoner after Narromine resident Frank Smith died recently, aged 97.

Francis Clem Smith passed away on Wednesday, July 5, at Royal North Shore Hospital surrounded by his family and his funeral was held in Narromine on Friday.

His daughter Wendy Hood said Frank lived a tough life but embraced every challenge thrown at him and he left the world a better place.

“Dad was an easy-going person who treated everyone with respect and without judgment, with a strong sense of community, family and a commitment to the Australian way of life,” Ms Hood said.

Frank was born in Narromine at his family’s property Home Rule on January 16, 1921.

The sixth of 10 children born to Georgina Drew and Nelson Smith, he spent a large amount of his childhood, from the age of six, in foster care after his mother died during childbirth.

Frank was reunited with his family at the age of 14 but after the outbreak of the Second World War, he and three brothers enlisted in the Australian Army.

He was a member of the 2/20th Battalion, the 22nd Brigade of the 8th division where he was a Bren Gun Carrier.

Frank received jungle training in Malaysia before moving to Mersing, a fortified town that was preparing for Japanese invasion, on August 28, 1941.

The following year he was guarding a building in Singapore when he was informed he was a prisoner of war. 

He spent the next three-and-a-half years at Changi Prison, along with his three brothers, and worked on the Burma Railway for the 11 months it was built. Unfortunately his brother Bob died while working on the railway.

Despite the horrific conditions, Frank survived and once the British had control of Changi, he and a friend Dickie Bye escaped to watch the Japanese formally surrender. 

Dressed only in the g-string that formed his prison attire, Frank watched as Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten hoisted the Union Jack.

After the war Frank returned to Narromine and in 1948 he met Pam Gregory, a “bit of a good sort” who would go on to become his much-loved wife.

They married on October 14, 1950, and had three children, Marilyn, Wendy and Sue. He later had eight grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, with one more to be born soon.

Frank and his brother George went on to start a successful water drilling and windmill repair business that still operates.

As well as working hard on the business, Frank was an active member of the RSL and Legacy and was a proud rugby league supporter.

He also bought a boat and became passionate about water-skiing, later buying a bigger boat and eventually helping to establish the Narromine Ski Club, of which he later became a life member.

His daughter Wendy said as a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, cousin and friend, Frank would be greatly missed.