The ‘Away from the Western Front’ project has been running since early 2017 and will continue until the start of 2019. It uses the stories of individual men and women to highlight the First World War campaigns in the Middle East, Italy, Africa and the Balkans.
Two sub-projects relate to the Salonika Campaign and the Salonika Campaign Society has been able to provide expert advice. Both are being run at National Trust properties with links to the campaign and we have received these updates.
Sandham Memorial Chapel
‘Salonika Stories’ is based at the Sandham Memorial Chapel near Newbury. The chapel was dedicated to Harry Sandham, who died in 1920 from the effects of malaria caught while he was in Salonika. Stanley Spencer’s spectacular paintings offer a highly personal view of the campaign but many visitors leave without appreciating the historical context – the Salonika Campaign itself. The project aims to provide a stronger focus on the campaign through a short film to be made available to visitors, and through a community arts project involving military veterans, through the homeless charity Alabaré, based in Salisbury. The veterans will study the Salonika Campaign and relate this to their own experiences of war and the impact this has on their personal lives. We are grateful for the support we have received from Alan Wakefield, who has provided historical text for the website, a script for the film, and will meet the participants to discuss the campaign and its significance.
‘Castle Drogo to Salonika’ is based in Devon, at the castellated granite country mansion overlooking the eastern slopes of Dartmoor, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was being built during the First World War and one of the labourers, William George Arscott, signed up to the Devonshire Regiment and went to fight in the Salonika Campaign. He was killed on 29th January 1918 and is buried in the Sarigol Military Cemetery. Using research carried out by staff and volunteers, Arscott’s story is being brought to a wider audience by working with young people at Okehampton College during the autumn term 2017, in time for a performance / exhibition at Drogo in January 2018. We were delighted to receive support from the Salonika Campaign Society: Vivian John visited the site to discuss the historical context in April 2017, providing detailed information about the regiment. The SCS followed this up by providing DVDs of the ‘Mosquito’ and of trench maps, which will provide essential material for the students as they develop their activities.
‘Away from the Western Front’ is also including the stories of individuals within the project, mostly from family researchers who have expressed interest in ‘Away from the Western Front’. One such story is that of Lt Joseph Bamford, Royal Flying Corps, from Kilrea in Northern Ireland, who was shot down behind enemy lines near Prilep (was Serbia, now FYROM) in August 1917. The project team has also made contact with the grandson of a nurse of the Scottish Women’s Hospital, who is currently collecting details in order to meet the students working with Castle Drogo project.
The project is able to offer a platform for other individuals who have researched relatives’ stories. To find out more, please visit the ‘Away from the Western Front’ website: awayfromthewesternfront.org/