“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.

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.

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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.

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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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New Book: ‘Iant’ – a novel based on the life of a man who served in the Salonika Campaign

Author Steve Blandford got in touch with the society recently to share news of his new novel, Iant. Much of the novel is set in Salonika and is based on his grandfather’s experiences. As I haven’t read it (yet), it’s best to leave the introduction to Steve himself:

Iant – a novel by Steve Blandford

“My recently published novel Iant was inspired by my grandfather, David Owen, who died in 1956, aged 59. I knew little about him as I was two when he died, but the few stories I was told stayed with me and I finally got around to weaving some of these into a novel.

Some of what I was told concerned his service in and around Salonika during the later part of the First World War.

I am not a historian of course, though I have tried to base what I have written on some credible writing about the Salonika Campaign. If I have made errors then I apologise, though it is important to reiterate that Iant is a work of fiction.

What became clear to me as I began to write this section of the book was how little is known about this part of the war, at least by the wider public. I was finishing a new draft of Iant during the celebrations of 2018 and little was made of the Salonika Campaign in the wider media. I felt pleased therefore that I had perhaps made a very small contribution at least to a wider sense of a fascinating time and place where so many died and suffered.

The story of Iant Evans is only partly a story of a young man sent to fight of course. I was also very interested in the impact of such experiences on men and women who returned to the small places from which they came. How did they try and remake their lives and relationships?

In the case of my grandfather, one thing he coped with was the terror of temporary blindness, though in the novel this leads him to a very different set of experiences. His blindness became the inspiration for the cover of the book which was produced by my daughter, Beth Blandford, an illustrator whose work can be found via @blandoodles. The book therefore provides a thread across three generations.”


I’ve often wondered about the emotional and physical impact of the campaign on my own grandfather, a 16 year-old enlistee from rural Gloucestershire, who returned home in December 1918 seriously ill with malaria , so I very much look forward to reading Steve’s exploration of Iant’s war service and post-war life.

The book can be purchased from Cambria Books or as a paperback or e-book from Amazon.

A final thought from Steve: “I am so glad to have been put in touch with the Salonika Campaign Society. The scope of what it seems to have achieved looks remarkable. If anyone would like to contact me about Iant please do get in touch.”

The 4th best church in the UK …

… is Sandham Memorial Chapel! That’s the opinion of Rachel Morley, Director of Friends of Friendless Churches. She was a guest of the podcast series, The Rest Is History, presented by historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook on 13 September. Rachel’s task was to list her top ten British churches, which is quite a task given that there are more than 16,000 in England alone!

Continue reading “The 4th best church in the UK …”