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HOME
Chapter 1
The First A.I.F.
Chapter 2
Citations & Awards
Chapter 3
Gallipoli Landing
Chapter 4
Life in the Trenches
Chapter 5
Pozieres
Chapter 6
Bullecourt - Bert’s death
Chapter 7
Letters
Chapter 8
Letters 2
Chapter 9.1
Stories from the Front
Chapter 9.2
More Stories from the Front
Chapter 9.3
War Weddings
Chapter 10
Extracts from C.E.W. Bean
Chapter 11
Extracts from H.R. Williams
Chapter 12
"Red & White Diamond"
Chapter 13
Capt. V.E. Smythe notes
Chapter 14
Reflections
Chapter 15
W.W.I. photographs
Chapter 16
Royal Australian Navy
Chapter 17
2nd A.I.F
Chapter 18
Family who served our country
Chapter 19
Letters, cards, papers
Chapter 20
Peace!
Chapter 21
Conclusion - Post War
Chapter 22
The Next Generations

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credit

These pages were written by Margaret Johnston with help from her family and friends.

 

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in supervising the whole battalion front at great personal risk, after all other company commanders and many platoon officers had become casualties. His personal reconnaissance materially aided the clearing of the wood.'

I was informed by a Historian at the A.W.M. that Daisy Wood was about 900 yards south of the present position of Tyne Cot Cemetery but neither his Battalion nor the one his brother was in were with those that actually captured that area and the large blockhouses. Dairy Wood, where his brother Capt V.E. Smythe's 56th Bn. was fighting was a little closer than Daisy Wood.

 

PERCY ELLESMERE SMYTHE

2nd Lieut. – 24h Bn. Date of Recommendation for Military Cross... 13th September 1918... Army Form W. 3121

'AT MT. ST. QUENTIN near PERONNE during the operations on the 1st Sept. 1918, this officer displayed marked courage.

When the advance was held up by an enemy machine gun, he pushed forward, and working to a flank in the face of heavy shell and machine gun fire, rushed the post, killed four of the enemy, captured the gun together with three prisoners.

Later when leading a bombing party down a trench, a barbed wire block was encountered.

2nd Lieut. SMYTHE remained at the block and sniped the enemy enabling his party to withdraw to a more favourable position from which they were able to continue the advance.

His parents were advised of the Award on 11 July 1919

'This officer displayed conspicuous courage and skill during operations at Mont. St. Quentin on 1st September 1918. When the advance was held up by a hostile machine gun, he pushed forward, and working to a flank in face of heavy shell and machine-gun fire, rushed the post, killing four of the enemy and capturing the gun with three prisoners, thus enabling the advance to continue.'

LETTER FROM GENERAL BIRDWOOD TO PERCY DATED 5 March, 1919

'Have only now been advised of the award to you of the Military Cross in recognition of your exceptionally good and gallant work in our operations at Mont St. Quentin on 1st September last, and write to congratulate you most heartily on this well merited honour. When the advance was held up by machine gun fire, you displayed great courage and initiative in pushing forward to the flank of the post, which you then rushed under heavy fire from artillery and machine guns, and captured the machine gun and three of the crew. The success of your gallant action enabled the advance to be continued. Thank you very much for your splendid work and with my kind regards and good wishes.'
See Chapter 9 for further details

 

VERNON ERLE SMYTHE

Born 20 August 1894 and shown as enlisting on 27 August 1914 3rd Bn. – 2/Lieut. 11 May 1915 – Lieut 7 August 1915 – Capt. 30 May 1916 – transferred to 4th Bn. 19 December 1915 - Transferred – to 56th Bn. 10 February 1916 – wounded 2 April 1917.

VERNON ERLE SMYTHE, Lieut. 3rd Battalion- 6 August, 1915 Lone Pine.

'Did extremely good work as Acting Adjutant and Signalling officer to the 4th Battalion on Lone Pine and in establishing telephone communication with Brigade HQ across the open in daylight.' Order of Merit. (Shown on reference card as M.I.D. - Mentioned in Despatches)

A copy of a letter from Base Records to his father dated 19 April 1916 is as follows:-

MENTIONED IN DESPATCHES

I have the honour to submit herewith the name of Lieutenant V. E. Smythe, 3rd Battalion, whose services I wish to bring to your Lordship’s notice in connection with the operations described in my despatch of 11 December, 1915. Signed --- Base Records.

VERNON ERLE SMYTHE, Captain - Awarded Military Cross From Army Form W3121 dated 9 March, 1917

During the period the battalion has been in France Captain Smythe has been continually with the battalion and distinguished himself during the Fromelles action last July, when he ‘personally supervised the digging of a communication trench across “No Man’s Land’ under very heavy shell fire.

This Officer has been conspicuous in carrying out difficult tasks during the time the battalion has been in the Somme area.

He also did good work at Gallipoli.

Message sent to his parents - again much abbreviated.

AWARDED THE MILITARY CROSS

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve the above mentioned reward for distinguished service in the field.

VERNON ERLE SMYTHE, Captain – 56th Bn. Date of Recommendation for the Silver Medal 3 February, 1917 Army Form W. 3121

'This officer left Australia with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Australian division, in the ranks, and won his Commission on the Gallipoli Peninsula, shortly after the Landing. Captain Smythe served throughout the Gallipoli Campaign from the Landing until the Evacuation. He did very excellent work as Signalling Officer during the Lone Pine operations and was personally responsible for running telephone wires across “No Man's Land” and so keeping communication between our front lines and the captured Turkish positions. For this work he was strongly recommended but did not receive any award. During the period the Battalion has been in France Captain Smythe has been continually with the Battalion, and again distinguished himself during the Fromelles operations last July, when he personally supervised the digging of a communication trench across “No Man’s Land”, under heavy fire. This officer has been very conspicuous in carrying out many difficult tasks during the time the Battalion has been in the Somme area, and I cannot recommend him too highly for the Silver Medal.'

VERNON ERLE SMYTHE, Captain - 56th Bn.

Following the above Recommendation for the Silver Medal - The Recommendation for the Military Cross dated... 9th March 1917... from Army form W 3121, gives a somewhat abbreviated report to the one above:-

'During the period the Battalion has been in France Captain Smythe has been continually with the Battalion, and distinguished himself during the Fromelles operations last July, when he personally supervised the digging of a communication trench across “No Man’s Land” under heavy shell fire.

This Officer has been very conspicuous in carrying out difficult tasks during the time in the Battalion has been in the Somme area. He also did good work in Gallipoli.'
see Chapter 9 for details

VERNON ERLE SMYTHE, Captain – 56th Bn. Date of Recommendation for the Bar to the Military Cross ... 5 October 1917 from Army Form 3121.

'Throughout the advance this Officer set a splendid example to his men. He was always in the front of the advance and displayed great skill and leadership in keeping his men in their formation. After capturing the final objective when another senior officer had been killed he organised consolidation of the left sector, supervising construction of posts under heavy fire. He inspired great confidence in his men by his personal disregard of danger and cheerfulness and it was owing to his efforts that a large counter attack was beaten off. He would not rest until all danger was passed and was on active duty for the first 24 hours. The late Commanding Officer and the O.C. of the Battalion’s right sector (Captain Plemley) also spoke in highest terms of Captain SMYTHE’S soldierly qualities and powers of leadership. In addition to this three N.C.O’s of his and the adjoining Company asked permission to give evidence to this affect saying how much his splendid example inspired them and his men.

'I consider him worthy of a Distinguished Service Order or at least a bar to his Military Cross.'

Date and place of action 26 Sept. – 1 Oct. 1917. POLYGON WOOD EAST OF YPRES.

The much abbreviated notice sent to his wife 0n 10 September 1918 read:

AWARDED A BAR TO THE MILITARY CROSS

CAPTAIN VERNON ERLE SMYTHE

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was always in front of the advance and displayed skill and leadership of a high order. After the capture of the final objective, he organised the defence and supervised the construction of posts under heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire. He showed fine soldierly qualities and inspired confidence by his cheerfulness and disregard of danger. It was chiefly owing to his efforts that a strong counter attack was driven off.
See Chapter 9 for further details


NOTE: I heard from someone (probably my mother) that Vern had been recommended for a Victoria Cross (this was not correct - he was recommended for a D.S.O.). A contact at from A.W.M. advised that his Commander – a Lieut. Col. who may have made the recommendation, died before this was signed and a Bar to the M.C. was probably authorised up the line.

Whilst our family is very proud of our uncles' achievements, we acknowledge that many, many other soldiers and officers carried out similar courageous actions. Unfortunately, they were often not seen or reported and if they were, did not fit the strict protocol necessary for the awarding of medals or recognition for bravery. Sometimes, the Officers /witnesses necessary were killed before investigations were finalised. There were so many 'unsung' heroes.

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