Born in Brisbane, Queensland, he joined the AAMC at the age of 17, lying about his age to enlist. During an engagement near the Somme River on 21 April 1918, Smout was an eyewitness to the final moments in the life and career of the famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (aka the "Red Baron"), whose aeroplane had landed nearby after he was fatally shot. Smout reported that von Richthofen's last word was "kaputt" ("broken") just before he died. Smout said later in life that he resisted the temptation to souvenir the Red Baron's boots and Iron Cross. He was discharged on 8 September 1919.
He was awarded France's highest honour, being made a Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion d'Honneur in 1998 and also received the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community. A regular participant in Anzac Day marches, Smout became one of the most celebrated war veterans in Queensland as Australia’s last surviving WWI veteran. He died at 106 years old, leaving a widow of 69 years, Ella and son Dr Westall "Westy" Smout a WWII "Bomber Navigator" veteran.
According to historical journalist Jonathan King, "Ted Smout's legacy is in the hundreds of newspaper articles written about him, the book he wrote Three Centuries Spanned, hours and hours of video footage instructing Australians not to get involved in conflicts like Iraq or Afghanistan. His main message always was we should not glorify war. It was a mistake to fight in a far flung battle that had nothing to do with Australia, and he pleaded with the nation never to do it again."
He appeared in the series People's Century discussing his recollections of the First World War in the episode "Killing Fields". Because of his eyewitness account of Richthofen death, he also often appeared in the media. Some of his last known footage was talking in 2002 (aged about 104) for the Discovery Channel detective-documentary film about the Red Baron's death.
Death and Honours
He died in 2004, aged 106. The Ted Smout Memorial Bridge was opened in 2010 in his honour.
Honours and awards
- Medal of the Order of Australia (awarded 6 June 1978)
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
- 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal (awarded 21 April 1999)
- Centenary Medal (awarded 1 January 2002)
- Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur (awarded 4 July 1998)
- Ted Smout Memorial Bridge named in his honour (14 July 2009)
- Unsolved History: Death of the Red Baron, 2002, Produced by Termite Art Productions for Discovery Channel
- Ted Smout: 1898 - 2004, 7:30 Report, 23 June 2004
- National Archives of Australia Service Record for Sgt E.D. Smout, Regt Number 12947