Air Raid!

All was peaceful on Tuesday, February 27th, 1917, until shortly after 4 o’clock in the afternoon, there suddenly appeared what looked like a flock of geese coming from the north. Within seconds, it was realised that they were enemy planes – 15 of them flying in echelon formation. They made straight for Summer Hill camp and the town, dropping one or two bombs on the way on remount depôts.

Met by heavy shellfire from our Naval gunners, the raiders were compelled to remain at considerable altitude. As the last bombs fell, a couple of British planes attacked them, and they fled whence they had come.. In the pursuit one German machine was brought down near Karasuli and the pilot was taken prisoner.

Report in a London newspaper read: Ten bombs were dropped on Salonika without doing any military damage worth mentioning, except the destruction of a motor-lorry. An underestimate of human life anyway, for there were about 1,100 British and Allied casualties, 37 killed and 172 injured at Summer Hill where a marquee was hit and caught fire. It was full of British troops about to go on leave and about 30 were killed/ Five men were killed in a cookhouse, three in a shallow trench which had a direct hit, while 27 mules lost their lives at the 42nd Remount depôt.

Five days later more German planes paid a visit to Salonika, when bombs fell close to three hospitals, although clear markings indicated the nature of their sites. No one was injured but there were some lucky escapes.

This account is taken from the final publication of the Salonika Reunion Association, Salonika Memories 1915-1919 (May 1969 p20). The Official History (1933, pp296-297), though, tells a different story of this latter raid, claiming 64 casualties, mainly in No. 29 General Hospital. There is a photograph in the IWM’s marvellous online collection which shows a damaged hospital marquee from this raid.

The Official History (1933, pp296-297) describes the lack of anti-aircraft guns and fighters to deal with German bombers flying in from Hudova in the Vardar valley (near Strumica, now in North Macedonia) during early 1917. However, additional machines from the Royal Naval Air Service proved to be a great help and there was only one further significant air raid, on 5 April 1917. On 11 May it was discovered that the hangars at Hudova had been dismantled and the German bombers were not seen on this front again.

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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