Dear Members and Friends,
As I sit writing this over Easter, the world is in the grip of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you and your families are keeping well and that you are getting used to the social and commercial lock-down that is currently in place. Like many of you, I’ve been working from home since mid-March and coming to terms with only seeing work colleagues, friends and family online. Thankfully we live in an age of remarkable communications technology enabling us to maintain instant contact across the globe from our living rooms. One can only imagine what the men and women of the BSF would have given for anything approaching this level of modern comms.
Now that the lock-down and consequences of COVID-19 appear to inevitably stretch into the future, I want, on behalf of the Committee to update you on how this situation affects the SCS. Firstly, we are fast approaching the time when the first New Mosquito of the year puts in an appearance. Well, the new edition is in hand and just receiving its final edit before going off to the printers. Although the printers are still at work there is likely to be some delay in the production and distribution of the NM so, the journal is on its way but, much like home leave from Salonika, we can’t say for certain when it will be available! If the delay looks to be extensive we may take the decision to make the NM available as a pdf, sending on the paper copy when printed.
In terms of the planned September battlefield tour and the AGM on Saturday 3 October, we still plan to run these events. However, there are many variables involved, particularly with regard to the tour, and everything will depend on domestic and international travel arrangements and whether restrictions on social gatherings have been lifted. Therefore, we will not be issuing a paper copy of the AGM booking form this year but instead will send a copy to members via email or post if we get the green light. So, please keep the date in your diary and your fingers crossed that we will get to hear Jen Gash’s talk ‘In the Footsteps of Stanley Spencer’, regarding her visit to the Salonika battlefields in 2018 and commission to produce a painting for the Imperial War Museum. Likewise the tour. We already have interest from enough people to make trip viable so, if interested, please let me know. I will update members of the tour party individually and general updates will appear on the SCS website and on the Salonika 1915-1918 Facebook page. Rest assured, if we don’t go this year, we plan to be following the same itinerary in 2021.
For those of you with some time on your hands I hope you will take the opportunity to do that bit of Salonika Campaign research you’ve always been meaning to undertake but never had sufficient opportunity. Remember, our journal editor, Ian Cochrane, is always on the hunt for new material. To assist, I believe The National Archives are making all the First World War service records, which usually sit behind Ancestry and other pay walls, freely available online for the duration of the lock-down. Additionally, there is some great online content out there for us First World War history buffs, including an extensive series of audio podcasts and filmed lectures produced by the Western Front Association. These include some Salonika content with contributions by Stephen Sandford on 10th (Irish) Division and myself on the experiences of British troops during the campaign. Sadly, my podcast does sound like it was recorded at the bottom of a well but it’s the content that counts!
Finally, I’d like to ask for your help with a project. The year 2022 will mark the Centenary of the founding of the Salonika Reunion Association. To mark this, I would like the SCS to come up with an inventory of surviving SRA material; objects, paperwork, photographs and memorabilia, whether this be in private hands or in museums and archives. Likewise, it would be good to hear of anything that members know has been lost. Building up such a record, would I feel, be a valuable piece of work and a tribute to the veterans and their wonderful organisation.
In the meantime, keep checking the Society website and Salonika 1915-1918 Facebook page for updates. Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you again when the world returns to more normal times.