Attention: An inspection of the Overseas BVRC Contingent by Governor Bernard, June 22, 1940 at Prospect Garrison. Major Anthony Smith is standing in the front rank, far left. *Photo supplied
Attention: An inspection of the Overseas BVRC Contingent by Governor Bernard, June 22, 1940 at Prospect Garrison. Major Anthony Smith is standing in the front rank, far left. *Photo supplied
Major Toby Smith’s letters to his wife Faith and their five children give a compelling account of a Bermudian’s experience in the World War Two. Here, we publish, selected extracts, which provide a taste of Major Smith’s experiences and the basic plot of his story.

Compiled by James Whittaker.

July 8, 1940 — a German U-Boat attacks and nearly destroys Major Smith’s ship

Lots of excitement today as two German U boats attacked us and got one of the tanker-freighters a short distance from us. It was sort of scary for a while with depth charges going off all over the place.

It had one good effect on me though, and that is that you must not try and cross the ocean with the children while there are still submarines around as it is far too dangerous and I would never be able to forgive myself if anything happened.

In addition, the mental worry to you, darling, would be too much and it is a great strain, for you never know what is going to happen. I don’t know if they got the subs or not, but they must have made it very unpleasant for them for a while. As far as I know, the crew of the ship sunk was saved, but it was very tragic to see a fine ship going down.

It is not as nice as yesterday, as it is rather cloudy with occasional showers and the wind is cold. I have just come off gun watch and go on this evening again at 8:00pm. So, this afternoon, I will try and get some sleep and perhaps play some deck tennis.

Dec. 25, 1941 — missing his family on Christmas Day

Here it is Christmas Day and my heart and thoughts are with you. I have been listening to a broadcast of greetings to every part of the Empire for absent friends and loved ones and I had to hang my head over this letter because I couldn’t stop crying and I didn’t want anyone in the Mess to see me. You will think me a most miserable man together, when really I am not, but I just miss you all.

The King will be speaking in a few minutes and I expect you will be listening too. I have asked any of the men who want to come in to hear him.

The King has just spoken and it was so inspiring yet so simple.

Aug. 16, 1942 — ‘why I went to war’

…It may sound ridiculous, but my work and efforts are helping—even if ever so little. Some critics might say that I was wrong to leave you and the babies.

My answer is they wouldn’t say it if they had heard the terrifying, anticipatory drone of enemy planes, the roar of anti-aircraft guns, the fluttering scream of bombs, the crash of bombs followed by the almost dead silence which follows. And I would tell them that this isn’t that rather indefinite “place,” the battlefield. These are the towns, villages, valleys, hills and roads of England, of people like you, women, children and old fellows. God being willing, I hope you and the children will never bear them like so many of the people of this country have. Do you suppose that German planes will stop murdering our people by our wishing it? No. I know you realise as well as I do that the only thing that will stop them is to defeat them, smash them and destroy the evil itself—Germany.

And whose job is it to stop them? Well it is everyone’s job—everyone with a sense of decency. For selfish, smug analyses of the war, criticism and the like only play us into the Germans lap. I often think I am a fool, an idiotic fool, but you are my love, and the children our very own, and I realise that I had to come and do my bit. And if you have ever read what the Germans have done, and are doing in Europe—all of it—but particularly in Poland and Greece—tens of thousands of the people—people like us, dear, starving to death, being shot, murdered for nothing more than that they loved their homes just like us. We will be together again and separation is better than life under Germans I believe…

April, 1944 — ‘for King and Country’

Do you remember how I first saw you and searched and searched until I found you; my visit to you in Philadelphia; your return to Bermuda and what I shall never, never forget the day we were crossing the little white bridge near ‘Miamba’ and our first kiss. Do you remember? I was so excited that I didn’t know what to do. Then our getting engaged, your return to America and my seeing you again there – your return to Bermuda, then our wedding.

Then our happy times, our worries, then the wonders of our babies. The joys and problems, tears and happiness and all the time we loved one another and we managed to get along somehow. How, I am not sure, but I feel certain that a great many of our problems were due to the fact that we steadfastly loved and believed in one another.

Then my feeling that I should go to join up in England; I often think that it was wrong, very wrong and then I am certain that I would have hated myself for not doing something to help dear old England. And in the final analysis,  I am certain that little though it has been, I have done best by coming here and I can say with some pride – I have served my King and Country – and woe betide the man who laughs at me. May God grant us both health and strength to see the end of the war and may the day when we can be together come soon. Please hear our prayer O Christ, and please take care of, and keep happy and well my darling and brave wife and our dear children.

Oct. 10, 1944 – final words from the Front

I am very well and am so glad to be back with our battalion again.

Everything is quiet around here and the Jerries are apparently taking a rest; for which I am thankful, as it has given us a chance to clean up, rest and play some games. We have been able to play football, although we are only a short distance from the enemy.

Yesterday, I had a game and enjoyed it very much. It was not a very skillful game, but most amusing as we all played in gym shoes and of course you can’t kick the ball very hard with soft shoes….

We are in a barn and we eat on some crates which I think they use for storing apples or other fruit in. At the moment, we are lucky and everyone is under cover and the men sleep on straw in the barns, but I don’t suppose we will always be lucky like this…..

Had an interesting experience this morning when two rather queer looking Dutchmen turned up at my cook house and asked for a meal. One of them had some German paratroop equipment so I sent them to Battalion HQ. They were queer looking blokes and you never know who you can trust around this place as they are “folly” with the Germans as well as with us….

I am very well darling, only a bit anxious to get mail, so hope there is a big lot of it arriving for me soon. All my love to you, sweetheart; God bless and keep you and the children. Oceans of kisses to you all.

Oct. 15, 1944 — killed at the hour of victory
Condolence letter to Faith Smith

I am afraid you will by now have heard from the War Office, the very sad news about your husband’s death in action on 14th October.

Letters are of small comfort, I am afraid in times of sorrow, but I felt that I must write to say how very deeply we all feel for you and your family at the present time. Your husband was killed whilst most gallantly leading his men in an attack on a wood, which the Battalion were ordered to take. Thanks to his very fine example his men went on to take their final objective in the face of great difficulty….

His death will leave a very large gap with us here. It seems so very sad that he should have been killed in the hour of his Company’s victory.

He was buried after the battle by our own, and his grave is registered and well cared for. I cannot tell you, for security reasons, it’s exact locality, but this will be sent to you before long.

I would like to say how very much we all sympathise with you over your great loss.

Lt. Col. Cecil L. Fairbank, 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment