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
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:
“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.
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.”
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.
Unfortunately, the continuing uncertainty surrounding foreign travel has made the planning and potential running of a battlefield tour this year too complicated an undertaking for the Society. Therefore, we have decided to push the tour back to September next year, with provisional tour dates being 19 – 26 September 2022. We are proposing to keep the same itinerary, which means that, alongside visits to the Doiran and Kosturino battlefields, the Struma Valley and parts of the ‘Birdcage’ defence line, the tour will look to cover the Kajmakcalan battlefield and a visit to the area around the village of Krastali (now Korona) just to the west of Pip Ridge. As always, the tour dates aim to overlap with the ceremonies of commemoration at the Lembet Road Military Cemetery in Thessaloniki, at the Five-Nations Memorial, Polykastro, and Doiran Memorial and nearby Greek Military Cemetery. Anyone interested in potentially joining the tour in 2022 should contact the Chairman, Alan Wakefield.