The BSF

Two soldiers of a Scottish regiment at the door of a farm building among the mountains of Macedonia which they have made their home. (c) IWM
Two Scottish soldiers at the door of a farm building among the mountains of Macedonia which they have made their home. (C) IWM

The British Salonika Force (BSF) – also known as the British Salonika Army (BSA) – was commanded by Lieutenant General George Milne from May 1916, following General Sir Bryan Mahon’s posting to Egypt.

At its height – late 1916 to early 1917 – it comprised six infantry divisions, grouped into two corps. These were:

  • XII Corps: 22nd, 26th, 60th Divisions
  • XVI Corps: 10th, 27th, 28th Divisions

This made it a mixture of Regular, New Army and Territorial formations, with battalions of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh origin. The Force’s mounted element was provided by yeomanry and cyclists. The only crucial weakness lay in artillery, especially howitzers. In support were Royal Engineers, British, Maltese and local labour battalions, Army Service Corps (ASC), Indian and Maltese muleteers, RAMC, Canadian, New Zealand and volunteer medical services. Air support was provided by:

  • Nos. 17 and 47 Squadrons, RFC
  • No. 17 Kite Balloon Section.

A third squadron – No. 150 – was formed during 1918. RNAS aircraft based at Stavros and on the island of Thasos also assisted with operations.
THE BRITISH ARMY IN SALONIKA DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Two British infantrymen attempt to deepen a trench using pick and shovel in the rocky terrain around Doiran, 1917. THE BRITISH ARMY IN SALONIKA DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR. © IWM (HU 81087)


Find out more:

You will find a more detailed order of battle of the BSF on this website, although this is by no means exhaustive. The sources for this – which will provide more information – are as follows:

  • Order of Battle of the British Salonika Army by Vivian John, published in ‘The New Mosquito’, September 2005 (NM12);
  • British Infantry of the Salonika Campaign, 1915-18 by Robin Braysher, published in ‘The New Mosquito’, April 2005 (NM11);
  • The two volume Official History of the Great War, Military Operations in Macedonia, by Captain Cyril Falls, published in 1933 and 1935, which provide details of the BSF in December 1916 and 14 September 1918. This is available as a reprint from Naval and Military Press;
  • Under the Devil’s Eye by SCS Chairman Alan Wakefield and founding editor Simon Moody; this excellent account of the campaign and the experiences of the BSF which shows the BSF at its strongest in March 1917, is published by Pen and Sword Books;
  • the excellent The Long, Long Trail website;
  • Unit War Diaries held at The National Archives in Kew although, sadly, those for the Salonika campaign have not been digitised.