9 July & 18 August 1915

 

The following two letters are taken from “Dixons in the Great War” by Simon Dixon.

9/7/15 Letter from Vernie Smyth to GN (George Norman Dixon, a family friend who enlisted on 26 August 1915) sent from Gallipoli. Fate of Ralph (his brother) still uncertain.

Dear old Dickie,
I hasten to reply to your letter - received half and hour ago. - and to tell you to buck up. You're feeling it keenly - having to stay at home while your mates are out here and it hurts. You think you are a slacker. That's all Tommy Rot and I should have given you credit for knowing it. Dash it all man, do you want everyone to come to the war? Who the dickens would you leave behind to attend to the business of the country, so that when we people get back we shall find a prosperous and wealthy country, and plenty of work, instead of an insolvent and bedraggled country with thousands of unemployed? Do you imagine that I, or anybody else wishes to go back home just to swell the ranks of the unemployed? If you do you're jolly well mistaken.
I think that every business man has a very urgent duty in this way, a duty which is really more responsible than that of the ordinary soldier. Just think over these facts Dickie, and never let me here you grumble again because the duty set you is not to your taste. We can't all pick the special bit of duty which might suit our particular dainty taste, you know. And anyhow, never let it be said that a Dixon was downhearted!
I know what you feel old man and sympathise with you. I have the same feeling here. Because I have not been wounded, I have a sort of idea that I am taking an unfair advantage of the men in the firing line. This, even tho' dozens of men have been shot all round me. I seem to think that because I am unwounded, that I haven't been in any dangerous places. The feeling is absurd and ridiculous, and I know it, but still it exists.
When I read of a man getting a VC or DCM I feel quite small because I have not done anything that merits such a reward. In my saner moments I think to myself what a darned ass I am. I hope you have a few sane moments now and then! Now I've given you a good talking to, I'll get on to other subjects.
I suppose Anne told you I could not locate Ralph? I'm pretty sure he has gone to England, and I guess you have heard from him ere this. Most of the casualties of the first few days were taken to England, where, I believe, they get splendid attention. Ralph was hit in the neck I am told, but I could not learn whether the wound was bad or not. I sincerely hope not. Once our wounded leave here, we lose all touch with them, so probably the first news I'll get of Ralph will be thro' Anne. When that news does come, I'm hoping it will be good news.
Oh Dickie, old man, I'm so sorry I won't be there to see you happily married, and to wish you all sorts of happiness and success for your future life, but believe me, that I send these wishes to you and Jessie from here, and they are honest and hearty wishes. I feel sure that you are going to have a happy and successful life. Go on Dickie old chap, and may God bless you both. I intended to send you something nic e for a wedding present, but the Unspeakable one has very unreasonably been doing his utmost to limit and hamper my movements. However he can't delay me for long & I will send you along the present from Constantinople. I will be a bit late , but that can't be helped.
You're a funny beggar Dickie. You always surmise that other people tell me all the news, and therefore there's no need to repeat it. You're lazy, - undeniably so! and you shelter behind a flimsy excuse like that. Oh, you're an artful dodger, but I'll get even with you.
Thanks for your four hints, which I will profit by. As for the "Turkish Delight" in C'nople - well, the Egyptian equivalent in cairo failed to tangle me, so I have no qualms about the Turkish Capital's fascinations. My abstinence from this sort of indulgence is one of my pet points of honour, and I'd rather stand up in front of John Turk & let him drill a hole thr' me, than defile my body - and worse - my mind, in this manner.
Thanks for your wishes re my commission. I think the good wishes of my friends must have something to do with the promotion, for you all wished me the same thing. If the war lasts any length of time - which I hope it doesn't - I hope to go further. At present I'm resting on my oars, but will set out for the next star after a while.
It's a case of hitching my wagon to the stars eh? Of course, unless the war lasts for several years, I cannot hope to go above two stars. However, if I return home with but one, I'll be well satisfied. I'm keeping in splendid health and am feeling very fit. I have to get up for an hour every morning at 3am, so at 4am I grab my towel and toddle off down to the beach for my morning dip. It's glorious & makes one feel so strong & exhilarated. After coming out I have a careful hunt thro' my clothes for any sign of life; generally manage to find one or two enemies. Germans, Turks, Austrians & fleas! of the four, the last named are the most vicious and troublesome.It is only by repeatedly counter-attacking that one can hope to overcome them. They are not body lice, thank goodness.
Everything is very quiet just at present. They've made several severe local attacks at different positions of the line, but failed to do anything except add to their casualty lists. Things may liven up after the 16th when they bare going to have a few holy days. I guess we're ready for them. Greece may be doing something after the 20th and Italy may have a go at the Turk. Anyhow things promise to liven up a bit which is a jolly good job for montony is about the worst thing a soldier has to put up with.
Well Norm, old chap,I must ring off else I'll be using all my paper on you. Again let me wish you the very best of happiness for your future life and let me tell you you're a lucky beggar. Send me a small copy of the bridal photo please Norm. Give my kindest regards to all at home and accept same yourself.
From your sincere chum,
Vernie

18/8/15 Letter from Vernie Smyth to (George) Norman re fate of Ralph.

Dear old Norm,
….In the earlier days there were so many different reports about Ralph, and he had been seen in so many different hospitals that official enquiries were set on foot to try and ascertain just what had happened him and where he was. The result of these enquiries was a report from Chaplain Green to the effect he had buried No. 886 R. Dixon 3rdBn on 26th may, along with several other bodies, which had been placed out of the way during the rush of the first few days and subsequently been forgotten until someone stumbled across them. Following this report out, the Field Station denied having any record of Ralph's death, and he was still on the list as wounded. This was as far as we could get in the official enquiries.

From enquiries I had made, I learned that Ralph was wounded on the first day, and was removed from the trenches, still wounded, two days afterwards. Consequently I came to the conclusion that he had been sent on board the hospital ship and was OK, especially as a returned wounded man stated he had seen him on board. If Chaplain Green's report is correct (& now, I'm sadly afraid it is) poor Ralph must have passed away while being carried down to the beach, and was placed, along with the other men, temporarily out of the way, until time could be found to bury them. They were, however, overlooked until 26th May. When I heard Chaplain Green's report, I told Anne all about it, but left it to her discretion as to whether she told you or not, for at that time I utterly scouted the idea that Ralph was dead … I am very much afraid that poor old Ralph has indeed gone. If I could possibly give you hope I would do so, Norm old friend, but your cable has killed all my hopes. You say he is in hospital at Achi Baba. I don't know where you got that from … Achi baba is still TurkishTerritory. I have been hoping against hope, but, old boy, I'm afraid we've lost good old Ralph… I don't know what to say Norm old chap.
It's not necessay to formally offer my sympathy, for you know how I feel about it. Had he lived he'd have made a splendid soldier, and I'm sure for the short time he was in the fight, he fought as one. I sent his diary home the day before we left the … Did you get it. Good bye old chap. Will write again.

Yours in sorrow,
Vernie


 

 

 

 

 

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