“With the Serbs in Macedonia.”

Many thanks to Society member Keith Roberts for information about this book, With the Serbs in Macedonia.

Its author, Douglas Walshe, was an officer in one of the British Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport Companies sent to drive small Ford trucks with equipment, food and ammunition to the Serbian army. The book can be found in digital format on the SCS map disk, and is also free of charge to download on the Internet Archive.

Keith recently took delivery of a printed edition complete with an intact dustjacket. Now rather ‘grubby’, the book is the original 1920 edition and amazingly, says Keith, the “book has never been read. How can I tell? The pages have not been cut.” Says Keith, “it is easy reading, and surely worth an hour or two of anybody’s time.”

I agree with that, having just started it myself. Something of the tone of the writing can be heard in the opening pages, “Here, as far as our men are concerned, there are no records of days and nights in waterlogged trenches under concentrated shell-fire, and no pulse-stirring descriptions of hand-to-hand encounters and bayonet charges. We never fired a shot at anything more exciting than a petrol tin for revolver practice, or a wild goose or duck for a dinner that usually remained in the air. But we did our job, and we saw a little of the Balkans. Mainly married and mostly of inferior physique, we ‘carried on’ – when there was any carrying on to be done.”

The online version of With the Serbs in Macedonia can be found here.

Triumph in the Balkans. Anglo-French Co-operation in Macedonia during the First World War

I am grateful to society member Harry Fecitt for bringing to members’ attention this MA dissertation, Triumph in the Balkans. Anglo-French Co-operation in Macedonia during the First World War.

The work has four chapters: Chapter I. The origins of the Salonika Expedition; Chapter II. In the shadow of Sarrail; Chapter III. Guillaumat’s groundwork for success; and Chapter IV. The year of victory. It has comprehensive notes and appendices, and many illustrations.

The dissertation is free to download but an email address is required to sign up to Academia.edu. It can be found here.

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?

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)

Salonika campaign bibliography – Updated!

A photograph of a selection of books about the Salonika campaign

In keeping with our intention to publish occasional updates to the bibliography, as close as possible to the anniversary of the Bulgarian Armistice in late September 1918, we are very pleased to announce the arrival of a new and updated version of the comprehensive bibliography for the Salonika campaign.

You can find out more and download, free of charge, the updated bibliography here.

Stretcher-bearers

I was listening a while ago to an oral history on the Imperial War Museum’s site from an unnamed British stretcher bearer on the Struma Front. He may have been forgotten but he lives alongside more remembered company in the form of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and artist Stanley Spencer, both of whom served as stretcher-bearers in the campaign.

Stretcher Bearers – Stanley Spencer. Source: IWM

The Great War Stories: Luton’s Greatest has an account by Private Robinson who in Gallipoli, faced challenges that stretcher-bearers in Salonika would have found very similar,
“People have no idea what difficulties and dangers have to be overcome in evacuating wounded. The hilly nature of the country does away with the idea of mechanical transport, and every case has to be carried to other hospitals on the beach on stretchers.”

Perhaps it’s because many conscientious objectors signed up for medical, rather than military service, that many accounts of the lives and work of stretcher-bearers have not survived. Maybe, but that’s just speculation on my part… However, one set of diaries has not only survived but been re-discovered by author Sara Woodall, great-niece of the author of the diaries.

Sara discovered her great-uncle’s diaries while at home in Cambridge and was astounded to find both written accounts and accomplished illustrations. The author of these diaries was Bernard Eyre Walker, a stretcher-bearer for the British Expeditionary Force and later one of Cumbria’s leading painters.

The existence of the diaries is something of a miracle in itself. Forced to retreat by a German attack, Bernard had to abandon the diaries in a field hospital. The diaries were later picked up by a German soldier and taken to Belgium, before eventually making their way home to Bernard in Keswick.

Illustrations by Bernard Eyre Walker from his war-time diaries.

Sara has edited and published the diaries, complete with 140 of Bernard’s illustrations from the trenches. I haven’t read the diaries myself, and it’s not an account of stretcher- bearers in Salonika, but it’s a primary source of a largely unrecorded aspect of the time and likely to have a wide appeal. There’s more about the book here.

The book is available on amazon.co.uk or you can order it directly from Sara at jdt.woodall@btopenworld.com or from the address below.

A Voice From the Trenches 1914-1918   From the Diaries and Sketchbooks of Bernard Eyre Walker. Edited by Sara Woodall. Price £19.95 (+ £3.10 p&p) from Sara Woodall, 17 High Street, Great Eversden, Cambridge, CB23 1HN

Now Online! ‘Military Operations Macedonia’

Readers will be very grateful to SCS member Keith Roberts, and Great War Forum member ‘maureenE’, for pointing out the online availability of two major texts related to the Salonika Campaign.

Military Operations Macedonia Volumes One and Two, by Captain Cyril Falls* were part of the series History of the Great War and based on official documents. Free, immediate, and online access to these texts is a wonderful benefit to anyone interested in the Salonika Campaign.

The digital versions of Volume 1 (1933) From the Outbreak of War to the Spring of 1917, and Volume 2 (1935) From the Spring of 1917 to the End of the War both contain the full text. However, both volumes are missing the maps which were originally in separate cases.  Many of these maps are, however, available from the society here, albeit for a relatively small charge.

Both volumes are available on two sites: Internet Archive and Google Books. My preference is to use Google Books, I find the search tool a little easier to use, but that’s a personal choice.  Either way, it’s a great that we now have these texts online for all.

Archive.org

Google Books


*Author Cyril Bentham Falls CBE was a British army officer turned military historian and journalist. After completing his military service, he began writing military histories. From 1923 to the outbreak of war in 1939 he researched and wrote several volumes of the British Government’s ‘Official History of the War’, including the two-volume history of the Macedonian campaign.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Falls

Great War Huts – Hospital Blues

The latest video offering from the excellent Great War Huts seems particularly relevant to the Salonika campaign – Hospital Blues: The British Hospital Uniforms of the First World War. Given the high sickness rates in the BSF, not to mention wounds and accidents, many men would have found themselves in hospital blues.

Continue reading “Great War Huts – Hospital Blues”

Faces of Salonika : Edward Gallon

My thanks go to Edward’s grandson, David , not just for contacting me about Edward’s story and sending some splendid photos to share here, but also for his great patience. I’m ashamed to say that he first got in touch in early 2018 and only now have I published this! I know there are others out there who have submitted material to me so, I hope that this will reassure you – I may be slow but I will get there in the end!

Continue reading “Faces of Salonika : Edward Gallon”

Remarkable Women of the Salonika Campaign

One of the better known aspects of the Salonika campaign is the role of the remarkable women of the Scottish Women’s Hospital – particularly the assistance they gave to the Serbians – and of other women volunteers and medical staff who served. International Women’s Day is good opportunity to remember their achievements and sacrifice.

Continue reading “Remarkable Women of the Salonika Campaign”