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In this one, Verdi and 3rd Division take us through the Battle of St Quentin Canal with the Americans of the 27th & 30th Divisions, through Armistice and on to the early post war period. Of particular interest is the episode where Verdi treks through the old battlefields to find his cousin's grave and on his Aunt's request....…
 
When some of our men went to bury the dead after the Battle of Mont St Quentin, when they were lifting up some of the dead bodies, bombs would explode and many of our men were killed this way. He laid these traps for us – placing a bomb under a dead soldier and when the body was lifted the catch from bomb would be released and the bomb exploded. Th…
 
The Australian 3rd Division Memorial sits above the town of Sailly-le-Sec for a good reason.... "We eventually arrived at Heilly. Passed a few stragglers – Tommies – the remnants of Gough’s British Fifth Army, which had been overtaken by disaster. The citizens had evacuated Heilly before we arrived. Here we dumped our packs and belongings and got i…
 
We were each given a tin of fruit and a tin of preserved sausages for our Christmas dinner. My pal and I were hungry, so we both opened our tins and ate half the contents for breakfast, putting the remainder in the tin on a shelf in our dugout – covering them with a board with a stone on it. The rats were very bad in the trenches and dugouts. As we…
 
"Men do not go into battle sad and gloomy (as many civilian people wrongly imagine). They are quite the opposite, even though they know the dreadful things they have to face and that some of them are going to their death," Verdi Schwinghammer describes the Battle of Broodseinde, part of 3rd Ypres in this, the second part of his memoirs.…
 
An ANZAC Day Special .... well kind of! The first part of a 7 part series from the memoirs of Verdi Schwinghammer. Here is a taste of it, "That night a big air raid took place and we enjoyed watching our guns shooting at the German planes – which were caught and held in the searchlights – several close hits being secured. No bombs fell on us but on…
 
Simpson was the most famous 'Anzac' of all. On the second day of the Gallipoli Campaign, Jack found a small donkey, wrapped a red cross band around its forehead and started ferrying wounded men down to the beach. For three weeks he did this, slogging through the bullet and shrapnel wrapped gullies until finally... But who was John Simpson Kirkpatri…
 
This is a very short episode on the Glosters and their part at Fromelles. Short because? Well, unfortunately I can't find any written accounts of the battle by these boys. Famous war poet Ivor Gurney was in their sister battalion over to the right and one of his poems sounds just like Fromelles.By Phil Mannell
 
Leon Gellert, a 23 year old Physical Education Teacher from Leabrook, South Australia is considered to be the best Great War poet from Australia. This episode focuses on his war experience and his poems. I watched the place where they had scaled the height, The height whereon they bled so bitterly Throughout each day and through each blistered nigh…
 
To the right of the Australian 5th Division at Fromelles was the 61st Division of the BEF. These were second line territorial troops that had never seen action before. They had slightly different problems to the Australians but both Divisions suffered from bad generalship and primary among these bad generals was Lieutenant General Sir Richard Hakin…
 
Pompey Elliott's Australian 15th Brigade attacked the unbreakable 'Sugarloaf' on 19 July 1916. This is the story of this disastrous attack. Teddy Roosevelt befriended one of the survivors. Hear T.R.'s words and hear his friends description of Fromelles. This is some of what he wrote: "I lay for half an hour with my arms around the neck of a boy wit…
 
13 year, 11 month old Leonard Jackson was able to fool the enlistment officers and go overseas to Egypt but his father Joe wasn't fooled. It was impossible to find the lad among all the thousands of recruits in khaki so Joe enlisted and followed the boy. Instead of bringing Len home, Joe joined him in the 55th Battalion and both fought at Fromelles…
 
'The sergeant comes up shouting, "Hey! Haven't y' gone yet? Got cold feet?" "Cold feet yourself," Ted retorts. And then seeing Bert, who has been missing for some time, Ted produces a note-book and calls, "Here you are, Bert, write your next-of-kin's name and address." There is no farewell. They grasp their rifles, and Ted slings the phone over his…
 
"A young sergeant led a section that passed in artillery formation, and I shall never forget that godlike youth while life shall last. To think of him now is an inspiration, for he was Australia, young, handsome, earnest, and grim. His eyes were lit with the flame of duty, and he never flinched beneath the swish of shrapnel that Fritz had now direc…
 
Jim finishes his wartime recollections with descriptions of his time as a "guest" of the Ottoman Empire after his capture at Es Salt in May 1918. Jim describes the conditions in the prison camp, working on the Berlin Baghdad Railway, lice, poor food, bad clothing, other prisoners and the Turkish guards. He also recounts his repatriation, first to A…
 
In 1973 Keith Tidswell placed a microphone in front of his grandfather, cameleer, light horseman and field ambulanceman. Over an hour later Jim had recounted his training, the trip over, a little about Beersheba, Es Salt and... Well, that is as far as we get in this episode. It's a "ripper of a yarn" as Jim might have said but you'll have to wait f…
 
In late October 1914, English born missionary, Reverend Cox was assaulted and flogged with a cane by several Germans and a Belgian on the island of New Ireland. What followed was one of the few blemishes on the career of Major General William Holmes. The Germans went so far as to ask the US Ambassador to London enquire about the punishment without …
 
Although a minuscule battle by WW1 standards, about 37 men were killed in the Battle of Pita Paka, the fight to take the German colony of New Guinea in September 1914. Bill Lane was amongst the fighting: "Owing to the thickness of the bush, a few of us got separated from the mob. With shooting go on all around, we not knowing whether it was the ene…
 
Who were the first Australians to die in World War 1? They were British soldiers, "Old Contemptibles" actually, but what next? Gallipoli? No! Australia fought its first land battle at New Guinea....“If your Ministers desire and feel themselves able to seize German wireless stations at Yap in Marshall Islands, Nauru on Pleasant Island, and New Guine…
 
In the final 5oth episode of Percy Smythe's diary we interview his niece, WW2 WAAF veteran, Margaret Clarke and great niece and creator of the Smythe Family History website, Jacqui Kennedy. We also hear Percy's daughter Betty's account of his and Dorrie's later years, read by another great niece, Vivienne Smythe. The last minute will leave you numb…
 
At a concert on board the ship home a scene had a "map of Australia depicted by boxes placed together with lights in them. Behind was a tableau, a "digger" just arriving home, met by his mother and his grey-headed old father, the latter holding a little child in his arms. It was very touching, and brought a choking pain into one's throat and a dimn…
 
Percy contemplates the great peace celebrations at London in 1919, "It marked the end of the years of cruel warfare and dreary hardships. It meant a lot to me. Those gaudy cloths and things expressed the joyous relief and thankfulness of thousands and millions of my fellow beings that the war is over and Peace is signed. All the people were rejoici…
 
An English wedding... On again , off again. Finally after some deceitful behaviour from Dorrie's parents, the young couple have to go to Scotland to be married. A returned Chaplain from a Scottish Infantry Battalion handles the service and greatly helps the young lovers. This one covers the lead up to the wedding, the happy day and the honeymoon at…
 
The aftermath of war..... "I saw something in the window of a house which caught my attention. It appeared to be a cut-out poster or picture of a hideous face like the cartoons one sees of mad Bolsheviks, thick grizzled beard and a mop of grizzled hair, and a horrible expression on the face. As I walked past looking at it in wonder at the very hide…
 
This one is wide and varied. Percy writes something that I have read over an over again in these diaries. To him, Armistice Day was a relief rather than a cause for merriment, and that is not just because Percy isn't a party animal, it was common among the majority of the soldiers. I love Percy's description of Christmas and the farewell dinners ..…
 
I have no doubt that this is the best from Percy Smythe, absolutely full on account of one of the main defeats of the Germans in 1918. Don't believe me? Here is an extract; "A heavy, probably a 9.2 inch, had evidently landed fair in the trench. The carnage was awful. Dead, wounded, and dying, all lay huddled and twisted together in grotesque little…
 
Percy: "I ordered the men to get the Hun gun, but again nobody seemed willing to go forward. I decided to go over first to encourage them, and sprang up on to the earth block. As I did so, a man called out, "Don't go over! There's a bomb not gone off!" The words were immediately followed by an explosion three yards in front of me! It was one of our…
 
August 8th, 1918. Here is a some of what Percy saw, "Moving on from Villers Bretonneux, we passed the wrecked aerodrome that we could see from the Villers line at the time of the Hamel stunt, the former front line and the late No-man's-land, then the old German front line. A few dead Germans lay singly here and there along the way. A couple of supp…
 
Wait for Zero Hour in the Battle of Hamel. Percy experienced this one from the sidelines. Learn about camouflage counter battery work, tanks, new kinds of shells, sneezing gas, German prisoners and much more. Here is a bit of it: "Suddenly the captain sat up and exclaimed, "It's quarter of a minute past zero and the bombardment hasn't started!" We …
 
Percy gets a letter from his old friend, Jack Elliott, and you can guess the response from the Episode title! Here is a bit of what Percy wrote back: "Jack, if you've got any manhood left in you, cut adrift from that miserable soulless lot of cowards and come over here and do your duty as a man and a true Australian, and as a Christian." Take that …
 
Frustration and more frustration, bloaters again and more bloaters. Percy does something to Dorrie and is full of remorse, what it was, who knows? The engagement is on and off. Nonchalant brother Viv turns up .... Well, it's Viv's way, or.... Luckily, he didn't keep King George waiting! Finally, Percy passes and gets ready to go back to France.…
 
In this episode, Percy continues officer training. He practices code, unfortunately no one seems to be able to break it. I guess that means he knew what he was doing. He spends his third Christmas away from home, this one much more pleasant than the first two... He is with his ummm, fiancee, Dorothy. Three of the Aussies are suspended from the Offi…
 
In this episode Percy is at Cambridge training to be an officer. He and Dorrie are busted by her Dad and have a lot of explaining to do. He visits his new sister-in-law, Mary near Londonderry in Ireland and is pleasantly surprised to spend a few days there also with brother, Vern. Okay, no fighting, except maybe with his would be father-in-law, but…
 
Once the sighing whine of a shell in flight ended with a savage hiss and an explosion just behind our dug-out, and I felt the sandbag wall heave in several inches. "That one nearly smashed our dug-out," I remarked, thinking it was a H.E., but the next moment a strong smell of gas rushed in. "Get your respirator on!" I yelled at Gus, making a grab f…
 
Wouldn't you know it, Percy found his soul mate and then gets whisked back to war. Nevermind, he wants that promotion so he can afford a house for his "little girl" when the war is over. The parting is sad, well isn't it always, and then he has to sit out for a few lonely days in Southampton. Brother Vern causes him a real scare but Percy finds out…
 
This one starts with Percy coming back from leave and within two days he looks up Dorothy, the jewel of a girl he met on the train. Not a slow worker, our Perce, they are engaged in less than a month! Okay, so there are no battles in this one, except of the father - suitor kind, but this is probably the most significant thing to happen to Percy in …
 
"He felt no pain and knew nothing of the terror of approaching the brink!" So wrote one of the Smythe brothers to Percy. Which brother dies? Well, you'll have to listen. That letter is read in this episode by a real digger not me and that is another reason to listen. Percy is still in England and the anxiety over his brothers heighten. He loses one…
 
Bickering soldiers, solving disputes, isolation for mumps, drunk soldiers, "F* the Ordinance Officer. Take me to the Ordinance Officer." This one covers a three month period in camp and looking around old Blighty. Meeting up with brothers Viv and Vern, but not Bert. Pictures from home and from Vern's new wife. Meanwhile the 24th Battalion does the …
 
Well, Percy is in Blighty at the 1st Southern General Hospital at Edgebaston when he hears disturbing news about an old mate from the 3rd Battalion who was killed in his sleep. He recovers fairly quickly at the 3rd Australian Auxillary Hospital and gets furlough, when he finally catches up with brother Bert and meets the alter-matriarch of the fami…
 
Do you have queer ideas of warfare? Met young Burrows, and asked him had he seen any Germans while on post. "Yes," he, "had seen a few." One he observed was putting up barbed wire entanglements. "And did you shoot at him?" I asked. "No." "Why didn't you?" "Well, he was about three hundred yards away." I was staggered. Burrows, of course, was a new …
 
We get descriptions of the Battle of Fromelles, although painfully brief, from brother Vern, a good look at Delville Wood and the aftermath of the Flers engagement. Here is a bit of what Percy has to say; "Turned off to the left, to some old disused trenches, near where was a wrecked "tank", one of those Hun-dreaded monsters which are the latest de…
 
A nice quiet little stint in the Ypres Salient for our armed plebeians is a prelude to a return to the Somme. Anyway, Perce has a fight with rats, dangling wires and a Tommy sentry before he realises that he and three mates were left behind. The boys give their opinion on the Conscription Referendum in no uncertain terms to a couple politicians. No…
 
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