My thanks go to Ben Drew who, some months ago, sent us this fascinating account of his great uncle’s service in the Salonika campaign.
“My great uncle, Lt Vincent Drew, was deployed twice to the Balkans in WW1. He was initially a Dresser Anaesthetist with the 1st British Field Hospital in April 1915 and, after destroying all the medical supplies and petrol, took part in the Serbian Army retreat. He walked 390 miles over six weeks. He was with Madame Stobart’s hospital for some of the retreat. He was also assisted for some of the retreat by Alice and Claude Askew who wrote their account “The Stricken Land”. While in retreat he had dinner in Kruschevac with Prince Alexis Karageorgevitch of Serbia and he flew with Count Lareinty de Tholozan of the French Air Force – their aircraft was hit by ground fire and nearly downed. He managed to return to England in January 1916 where he received the Chevalier of the Order of St Sava from the Serbian Ambassador in London and a Silver Medal of the Serbian Red Cross for his medical assistance to the Serbian Army.”
Oxen-drawn transport and artillery of the Serbian Army during its retreat from Morava to the Adriatic Sea coast, November-December 1915. (click on image to see full size) © IWM (Q 52304)
“As he spoke fluent Serbian he was gazetted in Feb 1916 as a 2/Lt in the 8 Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and was made Officer Commanding XII Corp Observation Post on the Doiran Front. He was then promoted to full Lt and sent as Officer Interpreter to General Staff Intelligence XII Corps in Salonika and was responsible for interrogating prisoners and collecting intelligence material from the Bulgarian trenches. He was present at the destruction of the Bulgarian Army in the Rupel Pass by the RAF and was horrified by the carnage.”
Bulgarian prisoners entraining at a railhead. Balkan Front, August, 1916. (click on image to see full size) © IWM (Q 32232)
“As with most operational soldiers he caught malaria and was affected by it for most of his life. He was demobbed and returned to England in January 1919. He went to live in South Africa in 1923.”