Farewell parade of the last British troops in Greece on 22 January …

… 1950!

I acquired this press photo (publication unknown) which shows the 1st Battalion, The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, headed by their band, marching through the streets of Thessaloniki, following a ceremonial farewell parade.

The occasion was recorded in the regimental journal, The Wasp (Vol. XII, No. 5, March 1950):

The 1st Battalion, the last British unit in Greece, said its official farewell in Aristotle Square, Salonika, with Colours flying and Drums beating on the cold morning of Sunday 22nd January 1950.

The Battalion’s actual departure, several weeks later, was described in the next issue of The Wasp (No. 6, June 1950):

The 1st Battalion finally left Cavalry Barracks, Salonika, Greece for the last time and were taken down to the docks in Greek Army transport, where they embarked on HT Empire Windrush. The ship sailed first light on Sunday morning, 5th February, passing Salonika and the barracks as she sailed past Bedford Point.

They landed in England early on the 17th and, after a parade on the quayside for their Regimental Colonel – with band, colours and a guard of honour – they were taken by train (pulled by the Regimental engine!) to Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

This is a reminder that ‘our’ Salonika campaign wasn’t the last time that British troops found themselves in Greece, northern Greece in particular. They would be back during the Second World War and the early Cold War, so some families ended up with a double Salonika connection. Mine is one of them. My grandfather was there with the BSF from 1915-1917 and just thirty years later, his son (my father) was there with the Band of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, although several years earlier than the above event. I have another story with a similar connection which I will be sharing soon.

Regimental Band of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, C. in C.’s (MELF) Guard, Salonika, February 1947.

The question is, which was the last unit of the BSF to leave Salonika? And when was it? My guess is 1919, but did they leave with colours flying and drums beating?

Author: Robin B

Robin's interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Fred, who served as a cyclist with the BSF from 1915 to 1917, mainly in the Struma valley. Robin joined the SCS in 2003 and served on the committee for 18 years as journal and web editor. Opinions expressed in these posts are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society.

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