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MAJOR R.E. SMITH, SECRETARY, CRADLE MOUNTAIN RESERVE BOARD & GUSTAV WEINDORFER

The On His Majesty’s Service cover has a printed WWW 2 Government advertisement "Lend to Defend Buy War Savings Certificates" and it is addressed to Major R.E. Smith, Secretary, Cradle Mountain Reserve Board, 17 Trevallyn Crescent, Launceston. The sender is identified as the Lands and Surveys Department, Hobart. The red 2½d KGVI stamp, which has a ‘T’ perfin, is cancelled with a roller cancel and a boxed HOBART/ 8-PM/ 2 19 MCH 2/ 1945/ TAS AUST. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Ronald Edgar Smith was born in Ulverstone, Tasmania the fifth child of James "Philosopher" Smith and Mary Jane (née Pleas) Love on 25 July 1881, the second son of their six children, 3 sons and 3 daughters, all born from 1875 until 1884. He married Selina Kathleen and they had 2 children, a daughter Edith Margaret and a son Ronald Albert Heath. In his application to join the A.I.F. on 16.5.15, he gave the following information: Education: Taught at home (by a governess and his father), except for 6 months at Ulverstone school. Army experience: Had previous experience from 1901 to March 1915 as 2nd Lieut & finally Captain. His present civil occupation was given as a farmer. D.O.B. 25 July 1881, present age 33 years 9 months. Present address: Westwood, Forth. Next of kin wife Selina Kathleen Smith. Height: 5 ft 10½ in. Weight: 140 lbs.

 

Biographical data are sparse on Ronald Smith, but his funeral was well publicized in 2 Tasmanian newspapers, The Advocate and The Examiner on 2 June 1969 at the age of 87, dying suddenly at Latrobe, Tasmania. He was a noted Tasmanian historian and on his return to Australia from World War One he was always called ‘Major’, although I never saw confirmation of this rank. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Selina Kathleen, but survived by 2 sons, Ronald of Devonport and Charles of Launceston. He was buried at Latrobe General Cemetery.

He was described as a great collector of historical letters, magazines and manuscripts. After the war he took up a farm at Clayton Rivulet, near Ulverstone, but his old war wounds forced him to retire. He divided his time between Cradle Mountain where he held about 450 acres, and sorting and indexing his father’s (James "Philosopher" Smith) records. There is no mention of his daughter who lived in Melbourne (and may have predeceased him). All this information was taken from my paper at this website, and the paper can be found in the category ‘Armed Forces’.

Gustav and Kate Weindorfer, Ronald Smith and Smith’s mother purchased three 200 acres of contiguous land at Cradle Valley. Weindorfer was born in Austria in 1874 and migrated to Australia, first to Fremantle, W.A. in1900, later to Melbourne where he met Kate Cowle in 1903. They both moved to Tasmania where they married in 1906. Both were interested in climbing and botanical pursuits and in 1910 it is recorded that Gustav and Kate and friends Ronald Smith with Walter Black climbed Cradle Mountain and Gustav proclaimed on the summit "This must be a national park for the people for all time"... he determined to "build a chalet and get a road and then people will come from everywhere to see this place." In 1912 Gustav began building his chalet ‘Waldheim’. This association of Weindorfer with "Major’ Ronald E. Smith is recorded in several places in Dr. Debbie Quarmby’s PhD thesis competed at Murdoch University in 2006, which has provided me with text and a photo of ‘Waldheim’ (Figure 2).

Weindorfer and a small group of supporters including Major R.E. Smith, campaigned actively to have the Cradle Mountain area preserved. The poor condition pf the Cradle Mountain Road was a n impediment to develoing the reserve’s potential. Albert Ogilvie, who became Labor Premier in 1934, visited the Cradle Mountain reserve and in recognition of its tourist potential, allocated a total of £11,600. The most active member of the Cradle Mountain Reserve Board in lobbying for this money was Ronald Smith. Both Smith and Weindorfer planned to sell timber from their adjoining blocks. With this in mind the 2 men had an "in-principle agreement with a timber merchant, which triggered a question of Smith’s motivation for pushing for improvements to the access. Smith, in his position of Secretary of the Cradle Mountain Reserve Board, successfully lobbied through the 1930sfor money to upgrade the access and by 1941 the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair Reserve was an established tourist destination.

In 1937, Ronald Smith seeing that his long-standing position as Secretary of the Cradle Mountain Board would be compromised, he wrote to the proprietor of the King Billy Timber Mill, as follows: "I am not giving it any consideration, as timber carting on the Cradle Mountain Road, over which it would have to be taken, is not allowed. If at any time the Government should desire the timber to be exploited, I would go into the matter." The cover sent to him shows that he was still in that position in 1945. The map of mid-west Tasmania shows the position of the Cradle Mountain (Figure 3).

 
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