On a visit to the Allied Cemetery in Thessaloniki in April 2016, I was struck by two graves from 1916, both non-battle casualties. I offer them here for Armistice Day.
Ghylam Hyder, Indian Mule Corps
Perhaps because they were in the support services rather than famous fighting regiments, Empire troops – including from the Indian Army – who supported the British Salonika Force tend to be overlooked. The Indian Mule Corps does not sound especially glamorous but the terrain and almost non-existent roads made mule transport invaluable. Private Hyder is recorded as having served with the 31st Battalion.
Private Hyder’s death on 21 January 1916 was possibly through an accident but more likely of illness brought on by the bitter Macedonian winter.
The CWGC website records that he was the son of Umar Din, of Simliala, Thana Rajoya, Avally, Tehsil Abbottabad, Hazara, so near the Khyber Pass (now Pakistan). He was a very long way from home.
Olive Smith, Scottish Women’s Hospitals
Olive Smith was known to me before visiting Thessaloniki, having come across her in the diary of her colleague, Ishobel Ross (published in 1988 as Little Grey Partridge by Abedeen University Press; ISBN 0-08-036419-5).
Born in Northumberland in 1880, Olive was a distinguished physical training instructor in Scotland before volunteering with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Sadly, she fell ill only weeks after stating work in a hospital on Lake Ostrovo, north of Salonika, in support of the Serbian Army. Ishobel Ross describes her death (there is some discrepancy between the date of death in the diary and as recorded by CWGC):
3 October 1916: … One of our girls, Olive Smith, is very ill.
5 October 1916: … We have just heard that Smithy’s condition is much worse. We don’t know what is wrong.
6 October 1916: Smithy died of malignant malaria last night. It is awful – we can’t realize it yet. We had a short funeral service in the Reception tent this morning … She is to be buried in Salonika.
7 October 1916: Dr Bennett came back from Salonika … and told us all about the funeral. There was a Serbian guard of honour, and several emblems of flowers. Among them was one from the Third Serbian Army tied up in red, white and blue ribbon on which was written ‘In memory of a generous English friend who gave her life for us’… Dr Bennett read us the oration that Captain Stephanovitch gave over Smith’s coffin first in English and then in Serbian. They are words I would always want to remember so I am writing down part of it.
Friends, it is a sad duty which I have to perform, to say the last adieu to a generous friend of our people, to say it in the names of all those whom she came to help and for whom she suffered death. Through unselfish devotion and pity for our pains and sufferings, she came to us from her great country, she came to soften the hard fate of a small and most unhappy people, and she shared it to the last.