Steyr M1912 Pistol : Lieutenant E V Smythe, 24th Battalion, AIF

Accession Number REL/02582.001
Collection type Technology
Object type Firearm
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1917: Bullecourt
Place made Austria
Date made 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Steyr M1912 9mm semi-automatic pistol. It has a top slide incorporating a bridge charger guide and an exposed hammer. The magazine is integral with the butt. The left side is marked with STEYR 1916 and the serial number 399 . It has checkered wood grips and a lanyard slot on the butt. The trigger guard is marked Wr 16.

History / Summary

This pistol was captured by Lieutenant Edward Vivian Smythe, 24th Battalion AIF in the trenches of the Hindenberg Line at Bullecourt on 3 May 1917 while blocking the flank from attack.

Smythe, leading his company, captured the section of OG1 trench in front of Bullecourt. During his occupation of the section of trench he acquired this pistol.

For an account of Smythe's actions see the 'Official History of Australia in the war of 1914-18; Vol IV, The AIF in France 1917', from page 437.

Born in Victoria in 1891, Edward Vivian Smythe served in both World Wars. During the First World War he served as an officer with 24 Battalion, AIF, reaching the rank of major. He was awarded a Military Cross (MC) at Warlencourt, France, in 1917, and a bar to his MC at Broodseinde, Belgium, in 1918. He was also mentioned in despatches. The recommendation for his MC reads 'For gallant and skilful handling of his Platoon in action at DINKUM SPUR near WARLENCOURT on 26th February 1917. He organised a strong patrol and held GAMP TRENCH under close range Machine Gun enfilade fire until relived in the evening. Accurate and valuable reports were received from this post throughout the day, and the possession of a footing near MALT TRENCH was of great value in the subsequent operations.' The recommendation for the bar to his MC reads 'For conspicuous gallantry near Broodseinde in leading his Coy in the attack on DAISY WOOD on the 9th Oct. Throughout the day, he, at great personal risk supervised the whole Battalion front as all other Company Commanders and many platoon Officers had become casualties. His sound judgement made communication with all Companies possible, and at all times he kept in close touch with Battalion Headquarters. His personal reconnaissance materially aided the clearing of DAISY WOOD. Thoroughness and clear initiative inspired all ranks to offer material resistance to the enemy and eventually permitted the formation of a strong defensive line.' During the Second World War Smythe served with 2 Garrison Battalion at prisoner of war camps at Cowra from 1942-1943, and at Hay from 1943-1945. In 1945 he transferred to the military administration in New Guinea and was involved in the repatriation of Japanese, Korean and Formosan (Taiwanese) Prisoners Of War (POW). He also conducted local courts martial and investigated local war crimes. He was discharged in Rabaul in 1947 and remained in New Guinea working for the Post and Telegraph Service until his retirement in 1961.

The Austro-Hungarian Steyr M1912 pistol was introduced into service in 1912. Using the 9mm Steyr round it saw service primarily with Austro-Hungarian forces on the Western and Italian Fronts during the First World War. Around 10,000 were issued to German units during the war.

This limited issue to the millions strong German Army made them quite a rare weapon on the Western Front in particular when compared to the more common, better known and recognised Luger P08 and C96 'Broom handle' Mauser pistols.