Introduction

Ted and Annie Smythe lived in Jerilderie in western NSW with their nine children: four boys Bert, Viv, Percy and Vern; three girls Viola, Ida and Rita; then two more boys Eric and Gordon.

They moved to Sydney in 1912 so that their oldest daughter could attend Fort St High School and their younger children could have better opportunities for education and work.

The four older boys helped with finance for the deposit to build a very modest four-roomed cottage in Kogarah that they named Koppin Yarratt. They had all left school before the age of 12 and had joined the Post Master General's office where they learnt Morse Code and educated themselves to gain promotions.

All four boys enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) because they felt it was their duty. Bert and Vern were first in August 1914 followed by Viv and Perce in May 1915.

Bert (aged 25) and Vern (20) sailed on the "Euripides" on 20 October 1914 and were at the landing at Gallipoli with the 3rd Battalion.

Percy (21) sailed on the "Orsova"  on 14 July 1915, as part of the 7th Reinforcements for the 3rd Battalion.

Viv (23) attended Officer Training and had married his long-time sweetheart Clytie, before sailing on the "Euripides" on 2 November 1915.

Bert and Vern spent a few months training in Egypt before taking part in the historic 25 April 1915 landing at Gallipoli Peninsula. As a crack shot and an expert signaller, (had been in Australian Rifles for nearly 8 years) he was always in the front lines and in danger. After being injured in the right shoulder a couple of weeks later, he was sent to Blighty (England), where Percy Morgan another signaller, also wounded, introduced him to his mother, an English widow of 60. A correspondence began between Mrs Morgan and Mrs Smythe and all four boys stayed with her when injured or on leave. Mrs Morgan provided a second home and became like a mother to them. They often used her address in England to receive mail, as it was more reliable than army post. She was especially fond of Bert, more so after the death of her own son, Percy.

After a second short stint at Gallipoli, Bert was seconded to a Training Corps in England, although he felt he wanted to get back into the action. He was not happy conducting training in safety in England, when his three brothers were in danger in France.

Vern left Australia with Bert on the "Euripides" and also landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was promoted in the field to 2nd Lieutenant in May, aged just 20 years old. After Gallipoli, he was transferred to the 56th Battalion and saw action at Fromelles, where he was awarded his first Military Cross.

Percy arrived at Gallipoli when the Lone Pine Campaign was under way and the three brothers met in the dugouts at Shrapnel Gully. Percy was invalided out to Malta a few weeks later, when he became ill with chest problems that continued from that time onwards. At the end of the Gallipoli campaign, most troops ermbarked for the battlefields in France and Belgium.

Viv sailed to Egypt and was part of the 17th Battalion, where he was involved in action against Arabs, then after transfer to the 24th Battalion before it was sent on deployment to France he saw action near Armentieres, then Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, Bullecourt, Warlencourt (where he was awarded his first M.C.) and the 3rd battle of Ypres (and awarded a bar to his M.C.)

In 1916 Viv, Percy and Vern were all in France near the Belgian border and managed to make contact. In May, Vern was again promoted to the rank of Captain and later was awarded a bar to his M.C. at Polygon Wood. The main front of the war was now along the Somme River and they were all involved in the battles. Percy was awarded a M.C. at Mt. St. Quentin.  

Bert was redeployed to France in 1917 and rejoined the 3rd Battalion and sadly was killed in action at Bullecourt two months later. His diary and letters home became very precious to his family.

The three Smythe boys who survived the war, returned to Australia with five Military Crosses and two MID’s. A proud record.

 

 

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The Homefolk: Eric, Ida, Rita, Annie, Ted, Gordon. Kogarah ca 1915

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These 400 pages of letters remained in the care of one of the decendants for nearly 90 years and were only recently rediscovered. Thankfully the letters and other documents and photos were well preserved & survived intact to reveal their secrets.

The transcriptions have been done as accurately as possible and spelling mistakes and abbreviations have been left in. All notations in square brackets and/or italics are editor's notes. Where pages were damaged or words unreadable, there appears ##.

 

 

 

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