It is with regret I have to announce that, due to uncertainties caused by COVID-19, the decision has been taken to reschedule the annual SCS Battlefield Tour, as advertised, to September 2021. The main reason for reaching this decision is the issue of the Greece – North Macedonia border. This border is currently closed, as are Greece’s borders with Albania and Turkey, due to those countries having higher rates of COVID-19. At present there are no dates projected for reopening the border and the potential exists for the border, if opened, to be closed again at short notice. Therefore, it is all but impossible to organise the cross-border leg of the tour with any certainty of it being possible to cross into North Macedonia or to guarantee the group would be able to return to Greece for homeward flights. In addition, with our usual ground handler and transport being based in North Macedonia the border situation causes major logistical problems. There are also different COVID-19 related administrative regulations in place in the two countries, which helps make a two-country tour overly complicated.
Therefore, the SCS is investigating the possibility of running a Greece only tour this coming September. However, given the close proximity to the Greece – North Macedonian border, visits to Kajmakcalan and Korona (Krastali) will not be included. The proposed tour would instead focus on the Birdcage Line, Struma Valley and parts of the Vardar sector of the front. Whilst a Greece only tour is viable, there are lots of COVID-19 related hoops to jump through from arrival in Greece onwards. These range from the need for each traveller to have a valid Passenger Locator Form to enter the country, through the possibility of members of the tour group being selected for a COVID-19 test and needing to quarantine for 14 days if found positive, to possible limitations on the number of people able to congregate in a group in a public space. These issues are being looked into at present by local SCS contacts and we hope to be in a position to make a final decision on the viability of this year’s tour by Sunday 2 August.
As I sit writing this over Easter, the world is in the grip of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you and your families are keeping well and that you are getting used to the social and commercial lock-down that is currently in place. Like many of you, I’ve been working from home since mid-March and coming to terms with only seeing work colleagues, friends and family online. Thankfully we live in an age of remarkable communications technology enabling us to maintain instant contact across the globe from our living rooms. One can only imagine what the men and women of the BSF would have given for anything approaching this level of modern comms.
SCS member Keith Roberts has been compiling a list of books in English about the campaign. At present it is limited to books, so items from regimental journals and the like are not included. He has checked, amongst other things, the bibliographies in the better known books on the campaign and searched some online catalogues using key words.
A first version – with nearly 200 books listed – has been produced for review to make good any omissions. Once this review process is over we will make it available in a searchable format on this website – hopefully before the summer – with the expectation of providing occasional updates to capture further discoveries and new publications. This will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in this neglected campaign of the First World War.
If you think you might be able to add to this bibliography please contact Keith for a draft copy on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have been contacted by Phil, a volunteer on the Imperial War Museum’s War Memorials Register Project. They have a record of a memorial plaque that was placed in St John’s Church, Hanley, Staffordshire by the Salonika Reunion Association in memory of those who served and died in Salonika.
The church is now an antiques centre and Phil has spoken to the owner who has confirmed that the plaque is no longer there. He said that a number of plaques were removed during the period when the church was closed.
A quick search of The Mosquito – the publication of the SRA – has not revealed any mention of the church, the plaque or any dedication ceremony, so it remains a mystery. Does anyone out there know anything about the plaque? Please contact us if you do and we will pass the information onto Phil.
For the first time ever I visited the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance. It was a moving experience to wander around all the plots, actually on the 11th, and a particular pleasure to see the one dedicated to the Salonika campaign. If you would like to remember someone in ‘our’ plot, watch out for the announcements in The New Mosquito, The New Balkan News or online here. Or you can contact us nearer the time.
Members will be pleased to learn that the Honourable Ann Straker – granddaughter of Field Marshal George Milne, 1st Baron Milne – has agreed to become Patron of the Society. This re-establishes the link between the SCS and the family of the BSF’s Commander-in-Chief.