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Ivor Phillip Warne-Smith (1897–1960)

by Dave Nadel

This article was published:

Ivor Phillip Scharrer Warne-Smith (1897-1960), Australian Rules footballer, was born on 29 October 1897 in North Sydney, third of four sons of Victorian-born parents Charles Warne-Smith (previously Smith), journalist, and his wife Naomi, née Scharrer. The family later moved to Brighton, Melbourne. Ivor was educated at Wesley College where he excelled at football, cricket, athletics and tennis; he was public schools' cricket champion in 1914. Claiming to be aged 18, on 14 May 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served at Gallipoli (1915) with the 7th Battalion and on the Western Front (1916-18) with the 15th Machine-Gun Company and the 5th Machine-Gun Battalion. In December 1917 he was commissioned and in March 1918 promoted lieutenant. Gassed in April, he was wounded in the head and leg in September. Both his elder brothers were killed in action in France. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in Melbourne on 2 July 1919.

That year Warne-Smith began his career with the Victorian Football League, playing eight games with the Melbourne club. In 1920 he moved to Latrobe, Tasmania, to grow apples. Appointed captain-coach (1922) of the town's football team, he led it to premierships in 1922 and 1924. He also captained the North-Western Football Union's representative team and was runner-up for the 1923 and 1924 Cheel medal for the union's best and fairest player. On 18 January 1922 at a civil ceremony in Melbourne he had married Marjorie Clements.

In 1925 Warne-Smith returned to Victoria. Richmond attempted to bring him back to the V.F.L. but Melbourne insisted that he was still their player. Resuming with his old club that year, he was to take the field in 146 games and kick 110 goals. In 1926 Melbourne won the premiership and Warne-Smith the Brownlow medal, the V.F.L.'s award for best and fairest player. Two years later he won a second Brownlow, the first man to do so. He was captain-coach in 1928-31 and non-playing coach in 1932 though he briefly came out of retirement as a player during the season. Additionally, he represented Victoria on six occasions, several as State captain.

Warne-Smith was 5 ft 11½ ins (182 cm) tall and weighed 12 st. 7 lb. (79 kg). He performed well in almost any position, including the ruck, but many of his best games were as a centre-man. An intelligent player, he could kick with either foot, take high marks and change the direction of the game with his handball. After he stopped playing he wrote regularly on football for the Argus. His main source of income was his job with the Vacuum Oil Co. Pty Ltd. Having joined the company in 1926, he was superintendent of its Yarraville terminal for many years then executive-assistant to the Victorian operations manager.

On 1 August 1940 Warne-Smith was commissioned lieutenant, Australian Army Service Corps, A.I.F. He served in the Middle East (1941-42) with I Corps Petrol Park and in the Northern Territory (1942-43) with the Bulk Issue Petrol and Oil Depot. Promoted major, he commanded the 1st Bulk Petroleum Storage Company in New Guinea (1943-44) and the 4th B.P.S.C. in New Guinea and Borneo (1944-45). For his leadership during the Borneo operations, he was mentioned in dispatches. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 3 October 1945 in Melbourne.

From 1949 until his death Warne-Smith served as chairman of selectors for Melbourne and helped Norm Smith steer the club to premierships in 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1959. Warne-Smith sat on the committee of the Melbourne Cricket Club and played with M.C.C. teams, hitting a century at the age of 58. Ill health forced him to retire from Vacuum Oil in 1959. The Warne-Smiths lived at Brighton and Armadale before moving to Mount Martha. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and son, he died of coronary vascular disease on 4 March 1960 at Newport and was cremated. His friends remembered him as a gentlemanly, charming and unassuming man who never boasted of his achievements.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Donnelly, Football Guide: 1947 (Launc, Tas, 1947)
  • E. C. H. Taylor, 100 Years of Football (Melb, 1957)
  • K. Pinchin, A Century of Tasmanian Football 1879-1979 (Hob, 1979)
  • G. Hobbs, 125 Yrs of the Melbourne Demons (Melb, 1984)
  • R. Holmesby and J. Main, The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers (Melb, 1998)
  • L. Carroll, The Grand Old Flag (Melb, 1999)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 7 Mar 1918
  • Age (Melbourne), 30 Jan 1959, 7 Mar 1960
  • Herald (Melbourne), 8 Mar 1960
  • private information.

Citation details

Dave Nadel, 'Warne-Smith, Ivor Phillip (1897–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Smith, Ivor Warne

29 October, 1897
North Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


4 March, 1960 (aged 62)
Newport, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.