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“It’s Panto time again” “Oh no it isn’t!”

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.

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Grand International Charity Football Match, Boxing Day 1918

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.

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Seasons greetings to all our members, friends and visitors!

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.

Continue reading “Seasons greetings to all our members, friends and visitors!”

It’s Hutvent Calendar time again!

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!

Continue reading “It’s Hutvent Calendar time again!”

Army School of Cookery, Salonika

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.


An Indian cook grinding pepper in a Turkish shell case. The shell was fired into their camp when stationed in Egypt. Salonika, March, 1917. An Indian cook grinding pepper in a Turkish shell case. The shell was fired into their camp when stationed in Egypt. Salonika, March, 1917. [click on image to see full size] © IWM (Q 32818)

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.

Anyone fancy a cuppa?

Webinar Talks on WW1

The Western Front Association has a series of webinar talks in December. These are free and open to all. The webinars are all on Monday evenings at 8pm UK time.

‘Tank Corps operations during the German Spring Offensive of 1918’ – 6th December, Geoffrey Vesey Holt

Some 204 tired Mark IV tanks and the 36 new Medium ‘A’ Whippet tanks, manned by just converted crews, would, given their number alone, not be able to make a decisive contribution to the defences during the German offensive in the spring of 1918. Nevertheless, as this talk will show, and thanks to the surprisingly good Tank Corps records, they did play a useful role. To register for this event please click here:  Tank Corps operations

‘The Christmas Day Truce of 1914’. – 13th December, Gordon Corrigan

On Christmas Day all along the Western Front there were sporadic instances of carol singing by both sides, leading to meetings in no-man’s-land, fraternisation, exchange of gifts and even at least one football match. This talk explains what really happened and not only what its affects were, but what they were thought to be. To register for this event please click here: The Christmas Day Truce

‘Big Hands, Little Maps’: Operational Art and its genesis on the Western Front. – Monday 20th December, Lt Col Simon Shepard

This presentation sees the return of Lt Col Simon Shepard who will be exploring the development of the Operational Level of War and in particular the term now known as Operational Art.  Simon will trace its development on the Western Front via the BEF and latterly via the combined conduct of the Allied Armies during later stages of 1918. To register for this event please click here: Big Hands, Little Maps

A recent request for help – was it you?

The society received a request for help recently, looking for information about a relative who served in Salonika. On average we get similar requests at a rate of about one a week, via the contact form on this website.

We were able to find a little bit of information and we would love to share this.

However, on this occasion, our enquirer entered his email details incorrectly and, as he is not a member of the society, we have no other information with which to identify him. Without the correct email address, and only a not-uncommon name to identify him, it makes it near-impossible for us to reply.

So, if you have recently requested information about a very close relative who served with the Church Army in Salonika, please get in touch via the contact page here – using your correct email address of course!

Church Army – Open to all © IWM (Art.IWM PST 13266)

Remembrance at Whitehall and Sandham Memorial Chapel, November 2021

Easing of COVID restrictions enabled the Society to participate and lay wreaths in two services this year: at the Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey; and at Sandham Memorial Chapel.

Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey

This year the Field was formally opened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Patron of the RBL Poppy Factory. The SCS had its remembrance plot in the location opposite the west door of St Margaret’s Church. The Society was represented by Chair, Alan Wakefield, and Jonathan Saunders. With excellent weather throughout the opening ceremony, it was good to be back at the Field in person after last year’s event being held behind closed doors due to COVID-19. Thanks to all those members who continue to support the SCS remembrance plot through planting crosses of remembrance and making donations to the Poppy Appeal.

Sandham Memorial Chapel

For the second year a memorial service was held at Sandham Memorial Chapel. A gathering of approximately 40 people took part in the act of Remembrance. This was led by Reverend Mark Christian himself a veteran army chaplain. The exhortation was read by David Innes. Wreaths were laid at the entrance to the chapel by the National Trust, Salonika Campaign Society and Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum. Individuals laid Poppy Crosses too. The ladies of the WI produced a net covered with poppies in different styles. This will be placed on the altar of the parish church. After the service, tea, coffee and cake were served by the volunteers of the Chapel. The exhibition was made available as well as viewings of Stanley Spencer’s paintings inside of the Chapel walls. Some SCS members then retired to The Carpenters Arms for lunch. Next year a larger gathering is being planned at the Chapel by the National Trust.


With thanks to Alan Wakefield, Darren Rolfe, and Keith Roberts for words and pictures.