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.
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.
For the first time in many years I am supposed to be going to a pantomime this Christmas but, as I write this on the 20th, it’s not looking especially hopeful for ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’ at Norwich Theatre Royal. A pity as I was looking forward to it, particularly as ‘Dick Whittington’ was the first of the pantos put on for 28th Division by 85th Field Ambulance in 1915. The whole show was put together in just a fortnight, which was quite an achievement. However, 28th Division wasn’t the only BSF division to have multiple talented men in its ranks.
One of the amazing survivals from the collection of Herbert Price (ASC) – which has been donated to the Society – is this football programme from a ‘Grand International Charity Football Match’ played on Boxing Day, 1918.
The Society is very pleased to have been given a collection of photographs which belonged to Private John Gilchrist of 244 Mechanical Transport Company, Army Service Corps. In the year ahead we hope to scan these – along with other donated collections – so they can be made available to members. As a teaser, here is a seasonal photograph showing pigs and turkeys at an ASC camp in Salonika being fattened up for Christmas.
I’m sorry for my tardiness in reminding you of this but, in truth, December has rather taken me by surprise this year. Anyway, I heartily recommend Great War Huts seasonal Hutvent Calendar. These are short but fascinating films on various aspects of the First World War, released daily on the Great War Huts YouTube channel. Although it’s already the 16th, you can easily catch-up with them and, unlike chocolate-filled advent calendars, they are non-fattening!
I am currently reading a fascinating book: Frontline Cookbook: Battlefield Recipes from the Second World War, edited by Andrew Robertshaw in association with the Royal Logistics Corps Museum (Spellmount, 2012). In a section on the origins of the Army Catering Corps (p.26), I came across this:
One Development within the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) [note: the ASC did not become ‘Royal’ until 1918] was a new appointment for officers. Their responsibility was catering and by January 1916 there were fourteen Catering Instructors who were distributed throughout the UK. By 1918 the number of instructors had expanded to forty and although the main Army School of Cookery was at Aldershot there were schools of instruction in all the theatres of war. These included Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Salonika and, from 1918, Russia. After the Armistice, the Catering Section was gradually disbanded and by June 1923 there was a single Inspector of Catering at the War Office.
This sent me to the online catalogue of The National Archives at Kew to find the official war diary of this school of instruction in Salonika and here it is:
You will note that it is listed as ‘Army School of Cookery’ from August 1917, alongside some other interesting schools of instruction and lines of communication troops. Of course, war diaries from the Macedonian campaign have not been digitised so, unless you want to pay for this to be done, you will need to visit Kew to see it. It’s a neglected subject that probably warrants further investigation.
It’s worth mentioning that Andrew Robertshaw has also written a volume on the First World War – Feeding Tommy: Battlefield Recipes from the First World War (Spellmount, 2013). Perversely I am reading them in reverse order. The Society has been given some collections of photos belonging to ASC soldiers in the campaign, which include images of cooks at work, so I’m saving this book for when I start investigating these.
Finally, I found this comment (p.91) which I am sure would have applied equally to the soldiers of 1914-18:
… British servicemen do not respond to a diet that lacks tea. So great was the British need to furnish their troops with an adequate supply of tea throughout the war that during one season in 1942-43 the Ministry of Defence bought India’s entire crop of tea for use in the armed forces.
Photographs of the impressive war memorial at Clitheroe Castle in Lancashire. Clitheroe was in the recruiting area of the East Lancashire Regiment which provided a battalion – 9th (Service) Battalion – for the British Salonika Force (22nd Division, 65th Brigade), which was formed in Preston in September, 1914.