Christmas in Salonika

SCS Chair, Alan Wakefield, has provided two contrasting accounts of Christmas 1915 from the BSF, showing the differences between being ‘up country’ and at the Base.

Captain Melville Rattray – 107th Field Company, Royal Engineers

‘Xmas Day, 1915, was a red letter day. It was not much of a holiday, for urgent works were carried out as usual for half the day. However, we got the afternoon and evening off. What made it a day to be remembered was that on that day we got the first mail we had had for five weeks – since leaving France – and also our first issue of fresh meat and bread: bully and biscuits having been our fare all the time. Half a rum issue also marked the day. Although Salonika was only seven miles away, great difficulty was experienced in getting up supplies, owing to the shocking roads and fearful weather.’

Private Richard Stratton – 15 Sanitation Section, Royal Army Medical Corps

‘We really had a very decent time for Christmas considering conditions, we are fortunate in having one or two very good cooks in our party – we built a special oven and had roast beef and chickens, with potatoes and bacon; puddings made on the spot and a really excellent cake – almonds, tangerines, biscuits, chestnuts to roast on a brazier, beer and lemonade according to taste etc etc. We had a game of football in the morning on quite a respectable bit of ground.’

Turkeys reared for the mess by British troops, Salonika, December, 1916. © IWM Q 32603
Turkeys reared for the mess by British troops, Salonika, December, 1916. © IWM Q 32603

Author: SCS Web Editor

Robin Braysher joined the SCS in 2003 and soon after became editor of the Society's journal - 'The New Mosquito' - a role he held until 2008. He then became the Society's web editor, a role he seems unable to shake off. His interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Fred, who served as a cyclist with the BSF from 1915 to 1917, mainly in the Struma valley. Opinions expressed in these posts are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society.