15 May 1915
This is a red – letter day for me, for this morning I become a commissioned officer and henceforth am Lieut Smythe V.E., etc. On the strength of this I am sending you a cable with the good news and in it I am asking you to write to ## & Fred to let them know. They will be delighted, as you all will be. You will tell Flo, without being asked, therefore I did not mention her in the cable. My officer was shot last Sunday & is seriously wounded, so the Colonel recommended me for appt as 2nd Lieut and acting signalling officer. I hope they don’t make me permanent Sig. officer, because I would rather be in the firing line, where there is much more chance of promotion. I think I’d have got my commission even if the officer was not shot, for he had done splendid work, and was pretty sure of getting his promotion, and in that case I’d have got his place. I’m glad of this, for it seems rotten to get promotion by another’s misfortune. I can now write more than one page and my letters will not be censored, altho’ I cannot give any forbidden news as we are put on our honour not to. Also we must put our signatures on the envelopes as a guarantee that we have written nothing of a censorable nature. Have heard nothing from Bert yet, as we have had no mail lately. The chances are that I shall not hear from him till he returns to us. He is either at Lemnos, Alexandria, or Cairo. Probably Lemnos, as he’s only slightly wounded. I hope he gets back soon, for while there’s fighting there’s good chance of promotion, and from what I can hear Bert was doing good work when he got hit.
One of my mates has been specially mentioned in despatches, and I think he’s good for a D.C.M. Have heard nothing of Ralph Dixon; I hope he’s not badly wounded; he’ll be cut up about it, for he was very anxious to win promotion.
It’s rather a remarkable thing that not one of the signalling section has been killed. Four of them have been grazed, but after being patched up they were able to keep to their duty. This is a most beautiful place and we get a superb sunset every afternoon. I drew a sketch of part of the battle ground, but will not be able to send it through. The last mail we got contained a nice big letter each for B & I from you which I will answer in brief. Was very sorry to hear of Percy’s misfortune. You’d have thought the Dept would have been decent enough to have over looked it especially under the circumstances in which he took the day off. If he’d have gone off, to have a spree I suppose nothing would have been said. They’re a lot of bally rotters. Has he secured any other work yet? and what at? I hope he gets a good job. Does he still think of leaving Australia? It’s rotten to think that he should be dismissed just as he was to sit for the Senior’s exam. Oh well, tis an ill wind that blows no good, so let’s hope he’ll get something better by change. The Smythes are a pretty hard lot to crack! Am glad to know that Viv is returning to Sydney, - in fact he’s probably there now. It will be better for all concerned. Just fancy Percy meeting old Laugy! What a chat they must have had. As you say, “Amurika” is the dizzy limit alright. I wonder what they’re going to do about the Lusitania business. I suppose President Wilson will send a wire to the Kaiser telling him he’s a naughty man and should not do such rude things! America! Always boasting of their liberty. They’re about the rottenest nation on this earth. Maisie is not in that rotten country Mum. She’s in Canada, thank goodness. I had a nice letter from her by last mail. She is gradually getting better. I’d like to be able to go home thro Canada after the war so that I could call on her. It would be lovely. Did I tell you that I lost all my kit on the third day. I didn’t mind loosing my kit so much, as it is fairly easily replaced but I was sorry to lost my camera, and a bundle of envelopes. I had already taken a couple of photos of the scene of this our first battle, and I could now get plenty of interesting photos. I was sorry to lose the envelopes also. I’ve only got two left so until I get more I’ll have to use cartridge cases, with a card board label, such as many of the chaps are now using.
I also got a nice letter from Mrs Fox. When you see her tell her I’ll write to her before long. She must by now have given me up as a bad job for I have not written to her for such a long time. But Bert keeps her well posted, and now that he’s laid up for a while, he will be able to give you all the news. I hope he brings some envelopes back with him.
Well Mum, there’s little else to tell, as I cannot give you any news as to our whereabouts, movements etc. Oh, by the way, my salary now is, I think, seventeen and sixpence (17/6) per day, three and six 3/6 field allowance, and 3/- per day deferred. Bit of an improvement eh? If the war lasts any length of time, as it seems likely to, I ought to have a decent nest egg on my return. It’ll be a bit of a shock to drop back to about £3.10.0 per week on my return, wont it? Am glad to learn that all at home are O.K. and hope next letter will bring news of Percy having secured good employment. Best love & wishes to all, and regards to Trewallyn folk.
Your loving son Vernie.
P.S. While at Kenso, Norm Dixon introduced us to a couple of his cousins – very nice girls – and they wrote to Ralph saying that the people of the nice boys they had met at Kenso, were living a few houses away form them in Kogarah! Perhaps you have made their acquaintance?