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Record of Service:
Vincent Thomas Charles Smith 337062 Sergeant NZ SAS.
1934 to 1988.
Vince Smith was born in Papakura on the 22nd of November 1934 to the late Roland Smith and Dorothy Smith. Vince had two brothers Roland and Michael and two sisters Rosemary and Sharon. On completing two years secondary education at Mt Albert Grammar School Vince joined the work force as a farm hand.
His first association with the armed forces was when he was called up for National service. On completing National Service Vince left the Infantry and worked as a professional deer culler as he loved to hunt and be out in the bush or high in the hills.
He was also a good rugby player and while he was hunting out of Cromwell his team on the west coast would pay for his travel to Greymouth weekly so he could play for them.
He was also very keen on kayaking, winning a national title and enjoyed many outdoors pursuits especially when it involved deer and pig hunting, Vince was also very good with training and working hunting dogs.
He was married in 1965 and had three children to wife Judith. Marlene born in 1968, Carl born in 1969 and Lee born in 1971, all of whom spent much of their younger years growing up around military bases.
Vince rejoined the army again after his national service serving with the Infantry and then the Regimental Police in Malaya where his reputation for being a tough and respected serviceman was well known. It was during this period of service that Vince chased and captured an offender over rooftops who had stabbed a US service man, for this Vince received a medal for his bravery. He soon become bored and restless with his RP duties and didn't find opium den raids and bar checks the action he was looking for so he changed back to the infantry in Malaya and completed his time in the jungle where he was far more at home.
On returning to New Zealand he got out of the army and worked again in Civi Street until he volunteered for SAS selection course number 13 in which he passed and served with the NZ SAS undertaking specialist warfare training courses and instructing as well as operational roles. During this time he saw active service in Borneo and Vietnam where his skill and determination was tested once again and he was well respected by his peers for being a quiet professional that could be counted on when the going got tough.
One of his fellow patrol members from Vietnam told me you always knew your back was safe when Vince was there and he was the type that could think under extreme stress and calmly make the right decisions and see them through.
He was a man of few words that led by example and never had to be asked to assist; he was always first to step up with out having to be asked.
There was a story about Vince on a patrol in Borneo in a Special Forces Association magazine some years ago after his death outlying just how professional he was.
It outlined how while on a patrol on a disused track, voices were heard coming towards them leaving no time for anything but take to an immediate position on or beside the track. Vince being the closest to the approaching voices had to initiate any action. He rose to feet, raised his weapon, and in a slit fraction of a second identified the approaching subjects as not being the enemy and took the necessary action rather than opening fire on them. He was a true professional who had genuine respect for life and was controlled and cool in his actions. After Vietnam Vince worked in various jobs including Lion Nathan Breweries and then as a water raceman and hydatids officer. While working as a water raceman traveling on the back of a landrover with his father-in-law and boss up front they were involved in a accident that saw the landrover roll 200 metres down a hill off the road. Vince was thrown from the back of the landrover breaking an arm and a leg. His boss managed to escape with a broken leg and his father-in-law was trapped in the vehicle upsidedown with all his weight on his compressed and injured neck. Vince managed to move around and put his back to the landrover teetering on rolling over on him and used all his strength and determination to lift that vehicle over so he could free his father-in-law. To this day his father-in-law knows Vince saved his life in an act of super-human strength and determination.
Vince also owned the Middle Pub in Winton, a pub renowned for fighting, that is until he became the owner. There was only one fight from when he took over and after he sorted them out, there was never another fight in the pub.
Then Vince worked in the pathology department of the medical school assisting with post-mortems. He then worked for Hope and Sons funeral directors as an undertaker before moving his family to Perth where he worked for a Perth based undertaker before joining the Australian Air force as a general serviceman. He also served in the capacity of an Area Defence Guard and later trained and graduated as an Air force dog handler.
After resigning from the Australian Air force Vince moved his family back to New Zealand and worked again as an undertaker at Hope and Son's until his tragic death in 1988.
His sons always shared in their dad's interests from an early age with Carl spending four years in the School Army Cadets in Australia and both Carl and Lee training in CQB at the Todd Group and working crowd control.
Lee moved through the ranks at the Todd Group to instructor level and competed in Sport Fighting winning the New Zealand Reality Heavy Weight Title.
Carl recalls his Dad as hardcore, hard working and very loyal to his family and friends. Carl himself now a very experienced hunter can remember his Dad teaching them how to survive in the bush, what you could eat, how to find water and track and trap game. Vince also taught them small boating skills and diving, going out through the surf in their rubber inflatable He always treated all three children equally extending the offer to sons and daughter to enjoy the outdoors pursuits and learn from him. He taught his children how to be alert in public situations and how to recognise trouble before it happened and take the necessary action.
Vince did not like violence even though he was well used to it and he did not like his sons to get into unnecessary fights. He was a loyal and devoted husband and father that held extremely high values and morals and spoke little of his SAS service and what he had done and seen. Fiercely protective of his family and very security conscious, Carl can remember at a Christmas function when living in Australia, a much younger man was speaking disrespectfully of his mother and of Vince dealing out quick and definite justice as no one disrespected his family and he was their loyal devoted guardian.
While he did not like to fight he believed through his CQB training that you should never start it but always finish it. Vince learnt his CQB from Shocker Shaw while in the SAS and never forgot those hard learnt lessons throughout his life.
Vince had little to do with anything military after finally retiring from the Armed Forces and only those who served with him would know exact details of his individual experiences and that was the way he liked it, some things best kept between those that were there.
Honours and Awards
Vietnamese Campaign Medal
General Service Medal Borneo and Malaya
I finish with a poem that is fitting of Vince Smith. From the legendary 22 Chaplain Jack Stanley:
I Got Your Back
I am a small and precious child, my dads been sent to fight... I am a caring mother. My son has gone to war... I am a strong and loving wife, with a husband soon to go. I am a soldier... Serving Proudly, standing tall.
The only place I'll see his face, is in my dreams at night.
He will be gone too many days for my young mind to keep track.
I may be sad, but I am proud.
My daddy's got your back.
My mind is filled with worries that I have never known before.
Everyday I try to keep my thoughts from turning black.
I may be scared, but I am proud.
My son's got your back.
There are times I'm terrified in a way most will never know.
I bite my lip, and force a smile as I watch my husband pack...
My heart may break, but I am proud.
My husband's got your back...
I fight for freedom, yours and mine by answering this call.
I do my job while knowing, the thanks it sometimes lacks.
Say a prayer that I'll come home.
It's me who's got your back.
I am a caring mother. My son has gone to war...
I am a strong and loving wife, with a husband soon to go.
I am a soldier... Serving Proudly, standing tall.