Brigadier Annie Smyth | The Salvation Army

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Brigadier Annie Smyth

Posted May 1, 2009

Annie Smyth, a qualified teacher and graduate of Victoria University, had been influenced to join the Salvation Army by the example of her older sister Rosamund, who had become a Salvationist after General William Booth’s 1891 visit to New Zealand. Annie felt a call to officership and after passing through the Army’s Training College in Melbourne in 1905 she was asked to go to Japan where the Salvation Army had commenced work in 1895. Annie responded willingly and was the first New Zealand officer to undertake overseas missionary service, mastering the language and giving 34 years of devoted labour to the Army’s work in Japan.

In 1940 Brigadier Smyth was reluctantly required to return to New Zealand from Japan, and though she was now past retiring age, she pleaded to be given command of a corps. There were a number of corps without officers because of the war-time shortage of male officers. The Brigadier was sent to Wairoa and her sister Rosamund was allowed to accompany her as a companion.

The quiet retiring Rosamund and the energetic zealous Annie became respected members of the Wairoa community. Then tragedy struck in August 1942 when an unknown assailant brutally murdered the two sisters with an axe. The bodies were not discovered until some days after the murders, and despite one of the most intensive police investigations in New Zealand history, the culprit has never been discovered and the motive for the murder has remained a mystery.

Brigadier Annie Smyth, aside from the shocking circumstances of her death, is remembered as one of New Zealand’s most distinctive and dedicated officers.