Ross Smith, image courtesy State Library of South Australia B6101
Smith, Ross – March 1918
Mar 12th 1918
My dearest Mother.
Your letters of Jan 1st & 8th came a few days ago together with several papers. I do look forward to your letters Maw & love hearing your news.
We are advancing again so there is lots of work to be done. To-day was very cloudy & another man & I were the only ones out but by means of dodging in & out of the clouds we managed to get a good report of the enemy’s movements & see what they were doing. Aeroplanes have made a wonderful difference to war & almost any big move that the Turks make is sure to be seen by us.
It is not nearly so cold up aloft now as it was a month or two ago & the days are getting longer. I don’t think it will be so hot this summer now that we are off the desert & in decent country.
I went to Jerusalem a few days ago. I had to go up on business so flew a machine & put in a few hours of sight seeing, & saw all I wanted to. It’s a filthy place & full of smells & holy places. I did all the sights as quickly as possible & really only went to see them so that I could say that I had. Our landing ground \at Jerusalem/ is on what is supposed to be the field of Judas Iscariot.
Next night, Mar 13th
I went to bed after I had written that much last night as I was a bit tired, having spent about 5 hours of yesterday in the air. We fly much higher now than we used to & it’s very tiring if one is up long. One day I was up very high, about 19,000 ft., & of course almost froze. Breathing is difficult up there & one’s ears ache & so forth. My fingers got very cold & I started slapping them on my knees to get them warm & after I stopped I was quite puffed from the exertion of just doing that! My machine is going beautifully & never gives me any “anxious moments” over the lines. I always fly it myself & never let anyone else fly it if I can help it, consequently I know my engine very well & we get on famously together.
Aeroplanes are like horses in some respects and if I fly a machine much I always get very attached to it. … My luck has been right out lately and I haven’t scrapped a Hun for ages. They much prefer to run these days & I haven’t even seen a Hun in the air when I’ve been out for about 2 months. … Lately, Mustard & I have amused ourselves by taking out a bomb or two with us when we go on a job. Mustard carries them in his cockpit & when we see a decent target he leans out with the bomb & I tell him when to drop it. Its great sport & causes much scuttling about of the old Turk. We got a direct hit onto Amman railway station (on the Hejaz railway) a few days ago with a bomb we took out. Of course we do that quite unofficially & never say anything about it in our reports but it’s most amusing to see the Turks ducking for cover as we come along. … We are taught to believe that vengeance belongs to the Lord I know, but ever since Colin went I’ve felt like killing every Turk I see. That’s also why I want to meet a few Huns. You’ll think me very bloodthirsty Maw but I can’t help it, it must be some of your Highland blood I think.
Another mail came to-day with your letter of Jan 21st…Thanks very much for your Congratulations Maw, I knew you’d be pleased about my Bar & Captaincy…
Very much love dear from your loving son
Purple stamp PASSED BY CENSOR No 3025
Mar 29th 1918
My dearest Mother.
Only a few lines to tell you I’m well & very busy. We are doing another stunt, attacking Amman & everything is going very well. The enclosed photos are some Capt. Hurley took, don’t let any newspaper people see them! My machine is going very nicely, I did a late job yesterday & had to land in the dark. Away behind the lines I met 15 Huns (I was on my own) but they did not attack & I thought they were a few too many for me so we all went our various ways peacefully. …
With my best love to you & Paw from
Your loving son Ross.
Purple stamp PASSED BY CENSOR No 3025
Mar 31st 1918.
Your letters always seem to arrive when I want them most. … I was doing a patrol over our troops who were coming back from Amman and the weather was pretty rotten. … it was fairly clear over the troops so I was able to keep a good eye on them & watch for any Huns coming along to bomb them. My old Brigade & Regt. were down below me somewhere and I felt rather thrilled when I thought that I was sitting up above them & looking after them. It was jolly cold at 12,000 ft. & my thrills didn’t last very long.
Patrolling is not the best of jobs. You are sent out to patrol over a certain area & once you get your height you just tootle back & forwards & slowly freeze. All the time too you’ve got to watch the air above & below for hostile machines and after a bit you begin to see black specks all over the place. … I had to go through several rain & hail storms & the hail made rather a mess of my propeller. To-day, by the way, is Easter Sunday & even if I wasn’t in Jerusalem I flew over it. It was rather funny,
I thought about it being Easter Sunday when I was on patrol, & then I thought I’d better sing a hymn! so I sang “Nearer my God to Thee” as being the most appropriate. Unfortunately I could only remember about 4 lines but I sang them over several times to make up. After that I sang some rag-time, I often do, the engine is a fine accompaniment & quite drowns all the noise I make…
We lost another machine a week or so ago. Austin (a Flt. Commander) & Lee, his observer were in it & we have heard in a very vague way that they are prisoners, but we expect to hear more from the Huns any day. …
Your 2 packets containing cigarettes, socks & a hankie also came to-day as well as the papers. …
I have no “after effects” from my crash except & fine scar on my leg & one on my right cheek. I’m entitled to a gold bar for that as an aeroplane crash counts as wounded but I don’t think I’ll wear it. I’ve never worn anything like that because I don’t think its necessary while on service but I’ll wear everything I’m entitled to when I go back to Australia. …
[this letter was finished on 1 April 1918]