We wish all our Greek members, friends and visitors all the very best on this, their national day.
I don’t suppose those who served with the British Salonika Force had many happy memories of Macedonia, what with the climate, mountains, dust, flies, mosquitoes and malaria, recalcitrant mules, not to mention the boredom, lack of leave and having to take on ‘Johnny Bulgar’. And yet, through the post-war Salonika Reunion Association, veterans showed a real affection for Greece and its people. The final issue of the SRA’s publication (May 1969), The Mosquito, describes some of its links with Greece, re-established after the difficult years of the Second World War.
But this last war caused a new epic to be written, for a new love was born between the Greek and British peoples. This found expression in the SRA School and Village adoption schemes, which have done immeasurable good and for which our Association will be remembered for long years to come. An Association motto appeared in Greek letters on the front page of The Mosquito. The two words (pronounced Aeoni Filis) mean “Friends for Ever” or ‘Eternal Friendship.”
From 1955 onwards, seven pilgramage parties, totalling 371 men and women … have gone out to Salonika and up-country, all paying their own travel and other expenses; and in June of this year , a further 50 will be making yet another trip. Many individual members too, have re-visited Salonika. These reunions have established an inseperable bond between the two peoples, and quite a correspondence has been carried on between our own members and Greeks, including students of the 3rd Gymnasium School.G E Willis, OBE, JP, Editor of ‘The Mosquito’ (formerly Army Cyclist Corps)
The Society sent hundreds of items to the 3rd Gymnasium in Salonika, from pencils and paper, to sports and science equipment and even a duplicating machine. Another project was the support of the village of Mavroplayia, to the east of Lake Doiran. A visit in 1952 identified difficulties for the villages which the SRA did its best to resolve. The story is told by Billy Reeves, formerly of the ASC:
… we found water to be in short supply; that the villagers had no lamps and could only cook over charcoal. We thereupon shipped one mile of steel pipe which enabled water to be piped from a nearby spring. We sent hurricane lamps to each family. We designed and had made a kettle which boiled its quart of water, burning only dry rubbish. Each family received one. More recent despatches have included sewing machines, wool, cottons, threads, toys … A donation of £50 has also recently gone to help repair the church roof.
The Editor finishes with this comment:
There is no nobler gift that we can bring to a troubled world today than to make some contribution towards the well-being of others. That’s the way to get the best out of life. Apart from the humane objective the SRA Adoption Schemes have done a tremendous amount of good towards mutual goodwill between the people of Greece and Great Britain.