Ross Smith, image courtesy State Library of South Australia B6101
Smith, Ross – August 1918
Aug. 11th 1918.
My dearest Mother,
…I went down to Cairo for a dinner to Gen. Borton who arrived from England on the 8th by air. Gen. Borton is in command of our Bgde & used to be C.O. of our Wing some time ago so I have known him for some time. He went on leave \to England/ about 3 months ago & flew back to Egypt on one of the big Hanley Page bombing machines… they broke the world’s record as regards a long distance flight & had no trouble at all on the way. It was decided to give the General a dinner on his arrival and Major Addison & I were asked from this Sqdn….
The dinner was a great success & a crowd of us formed a “rough end” at the end of one table & we were mostly all the General’s oldest flying officers. There were the usual toasts & speeches & then the General came down to have a drink with the “rough end”, as he put it.
It was very nice getting a mail when I got home… Very many thanks Maw, Sutherland & I had some of the cake this morning & it is very good, as usual…
Thanks also Maw for your cable of congratulations which reached me 3 days after you sent it. I knew you would be pleased about my D.F.C. By the way, that is tacked onto my name now so I’m Smith M.C. D.F.C. which sounds very swanky, does’nt it.
I posted you a small parcel a few days ago containing some curios & things & I put a list inside explaining them all, the pcl. is sewn up in aeroplane fabric that the wings are covered with…
I have done just over 500 hours as a pilot now so altogether I have spent nearly a month in the air…
We had a fine concert here last night by our own company in one of the big hangars. We have got a good orchestra too & have a real stage & scenery & lights etc. Some of the men are awfully good …
The news from France the last few days has been very good & I think we are really beginning to win now & I hope next year will see peace again. I spend most of my time these days in thinking of my coming leave home & wondering when I will be able to get away, I wish it was to-morrow.
Goodnight Maw & very much love from
Your loving son Ruff.
I’m enclosing the other photo of Hogarth’s grave.
Aug 22nd 1918.
My Dearest Mother,
By the above you will see that I am in Cairo again and I have many things to tell you. Firstly I must say that I’m afraid my proposed trip to Australia is not at all likely to come off for some time. I know you will be horribly disappointed and I am too, but when I tell you why I can’t come I’m sure you will be very proud of me.
You remember me telling you in my last letter about a big machine I came down to see the General land in. That is my machine now & that’s what I’m in Cairo about.
I think it is the greatest honour I’ve ever had to be selected from all the other pilots in Egypt & Palestine to fly this machine, and Gen. Salmond told me the day I got here that I was the “selected pilot for the machine.” I’m more proud of that than I’ve ever been of any of my decorations& it’s also very nice to think that an Australian has got the job before all the other people…
I had to come to Cairo to take over the machine & be shown how everything works. … We were up last night, it was full moon & you can’t imagine anything more beautiful & wonderful than Cairo & the Nile by moonlight from 5,000 ft.! It is such a huge machine too, but you have no doubt seen pictures of them….
I’m having a fine time in Cairo & everyone is being particularly decent to me & MacLaren & I swank round in a big Crossley touring car which is supplied by the Brigade people…
It’s quite hot in Cairo & this afternoon I’m writing this in my room with the shutters closed & a small electric lamp on my table. I don’t think I’ll be going back to the Sqdn. for about 5 days so I’m having a nice change & a good rest as well…
Very much love Mother dearest from Ruff.
Aug 22nd 1918.
My dearest Mother.
I’m giving this to Lt. Braine who is going to Australia soon & he will post it to you when he arrives. I have just written you a long letter telling you about my new machine. It is the big Hanley Page that Gen. Borton flew out from England, & I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve been selected to fly it. I am only going to do bombing with it and all at night too so there will be no danger & being shot down by Huns or archies. It is a really wonderful machine & weighs about 3½ tons!! There is practically no danger of being let down on it as it has 2 Rolls Royce engines each of 350 Horse Power & I will carry a crew of 3 men who will be gunners. I can also carry 16 – 112 lb. bombs (nearly a Ton!) so the old Turk is in for a rotten time. It is just like a small ship inside & a person can walk about comfortably & the span of its wings is over 100 ft.
The pilot’s seat is in a sort of cabin built away out in front & a gunner sits near me & 2 more gunners some distance back & behind the engines. My seat is in front of the engines & that’s what makes it so nice to fly, because there is no hot air or oily smell blowing back on me all the time. There are all sorts of little things too such as wireless, electric light, navigation lights for night flying like a ship has, electric things for warming my clothing & dozens of other things as well. It is a most wonderful machine & its quite easy to fly too and I’m awfully happy its going to be mine…
Very much love from your loving son Ruff.