The First A.I.F.
Citations & Awards
Life in the Trenches
Bullecourt - Bert’s death
Stories from the Front
More Stories from the Front
Extracts from C.E.W. Bean
Extracts from H.R. Williams
"Red & White Diamond"
Capt. V.E. Smythe notes
Royal Australian Navy
Family who served our country
Letters, cards, papers
Conclusion - Post War
The Next Generations
These pages were written by Margaret Johnston with help from her family and friends.
ANZAC CITATIONS and AWARDS
24th & 56th Battalions
My cousin Betty Smythe (Percy’s daughter) visited the War Memorial at Canberra prior to 27 March 2000 to check on the Smythe’s awards, as detailed there. They differed to the reports sent to the next of kin which were much abbreviated.
(I have included the details that she was given with the recommendation that I downloaded from the Australian War Memorial site from Army Form W. 3121)
EDWARD VIVIAN SMYTHE
Viv was born 13 May, 1891 – 2nd Lieut. 24 May 1915 - Lieut. 25 August 1916 – Capt. 19 May 1917 and in W.W.II the 2nd Garrison Battalion 12 October 1939. It stated that he was a Major but no date of commissioning to that rank is known. (I found later on his service documents that he was shown as a T/Major on 2/7/1919)
EDWARD VIVIAN SMYTHE, Lieut. - 24th Bn. Date of Recommendation for Mentioned in Despatches... 1917... Army Form W. 3121
'A very plucky young officer who has shown great enterprise in action, and as a patrol leader. His cheery manner in action has a marked effect on his men.'
Below is the report from the 24th Battalion Diary that led to the award. Viv wrote home details of this action and also it is also covered in C.W.E. BEAN’s Volume 4, Ch. 12, Page 437 (Second Battle of Bullecourt)
“On seeing that the 5th Bde had failed to enter trench, Lt. Smythe worked to the right along the trench establishing strong posts to the right of the road. To do this much bombing had to be done. A trench mortar was placed in position about 200? left of the sunken road covering the right flank and bombing parties”.
EDWARD VIVIAN SMYTHE, Lieut. - 24th Bn. Date of Recommendation for Military Cross ...9 March, 1917...Army Form W. 3121
'For Gallant and skilful handling of his Platoon in action at DINKUM SPUR near WARLENCOURT on 26th February 1917. He organised a strong patrol and held GAMP TRENCH under close range machine Gun enfilade fire until relieved in the evening. Accurate and valuable reports were received from this post throughout the day, and the possession of a footing near MALT TRENCH was of great value in the subsequent operations. See Chapter 9 for details
I noted details of the award of Viv’s Military Cross (event took place during the German withdrawal from the Somme to Arras and Bullecourt) on the “Casualty Form - Active Service)
The following was sent to his wife.
‘Awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He organised a strong patrol and maintained his position under heavy fire until relieved. He set a splendid example of courage and determination throughout.’
See Chapter 9 for further details
EDWARD VIVIAN SMYTHE, Captain, MC 24th Bt. Date of Recommendation for Bar to Military Cross... 14 October, 1917... Army Form W. 3121.
'For conspicuous bravery near Broodseinde in leading his coy in the attack on DAISY WOOD on the 9th Oct. Throughout the day, he, at great personal risk supervised the whole Battalion front as all other Company Commanders and many platoon Officers had become casualties. His sound judgement made communication with all the Company’s possible. And at all times he kept in close touch with Battalion Headquarters. His personal reconnaissance materially aided the clearing of DAISY WOOD. Thoroughness and clear initiative inspired all ranks to offer material resistance to the enemy and eventually permitted the formation of a strong defensive line.'
The official letter to his wife for his Bar to the Military Cross (much abbreviated to the above report) at Daisy Wood is a follows: (See Bean, Volume 4, Ch. 21, Pages 898-9.):-
'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.