Seasons greetings to all our members, friends and visitors!

The Society is very pleased to have been given a collection of photographs which belonged to Private John Gilchrist of 244 Mechanical Transport Company, Army Service Corps. In the year ahead we hope to scan these – along with other donated collections – so they can be made available to members. As a teaser, here is a seasonal photograph showing pigs and turkeys at an ASC camp in Salonika being fattened up for Christmas.

Continue reading “Seasons greetings to all our members, friends and visitors!”

Army School of Cookery, Salonika

I am currently reading a fascinating book: Frontline Cookbook: Battlefield Recipes from the Second World War, edited by Andrew Robertshaw in association with the Royal Logistics Corps Museum (Spellmount, 2012). In a section on the origins of the Army Catering Corps (p.26), I came across this:

One Development within the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) [note: the ASC did not become ‘Royal’ until 1918] was a new appointment for officers. Their responsibility was catering and by January 1916 there were fourteen Catering Instructors who were distributed throughout the UK. By 1918 the number of instructors had expanded to forty and although the main Army School of Cookery was at Aldershot there were schools of instruction in all the theatres of war. These included Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Salonika and, from 1918, Russia. After the Armistice, the Catering Section was gradually disbanded and by June 1923 there was a single Inspector of Catering at the War Office.

This sent me to the online catalogue of The National Archives at Kew to find the official war diary of this school of instruction in Salonika and here it is:

You will note that it is listed as ‘Army School of Cookery’ from August 1917, alongside some other interesting schools of instruction and lines of communication troops. Of course, war diaries from the Macedonian campaign have not been digitised so, unless you want to pay for this to be done, you will need to visit Kew to see it. It’s a neglected subject that probably warrants further investigation.

It’s worth mentioning that Andrew Robertshaw has also written a volume on the First World War – Feeding Tommy: Battlefield Recipes from the First World War (Spellmount, 2013). Perversely I am reading them in reverse order. The Society has been given some collections of photos belonging to ASC soldiers in the campaign, which include images of cooks at work, so I’m saving this book for when I start investigating these.


An Indian cook grinding pepper in a Turkish shell case. The shell was fired into their camp when stationed in Egypt. Salonika, March, 1917. An Indian cook grinding pepper in a Turkish shell case. The shell was fired into their camp when stationed in Egypt. Salonika, March, 1917. [click on image to see full size] © IWM (Q 32818)

Finally, I found this comment (p.91) which I am sure would have applied equally to the soldiers of 1914-18:

… British servicemen do not respond to a diet that lacks tea. So great was the British need to furnish their troops with an adequate supply of tea throughout the war that during one season in 1942-43 the Ministry of Defence bought India’s entire crop of tea for use in the armed forces.

Anyone fancy a cuppa?

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.”

Salonika campaign bibliography – Updated!

A photograph of a selection of books about the Salonika campaign

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.

Stretcher-bearers

I was listening a while ago to an oral history on the Imperial War Museum’s site from an unnamed British stretcher bearer on the Struma Front. He may have been forgotten but he lives alongside more remembered company in the form of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and artist Stanley Spencer, both of whom served as stretcher-bearers in the campaign.

Stretcher Bearers – Stanley Spencer. Source: IWM

The Great War Stories: Luton’s Greatest has an account by Private Robinson who in Gallipoli, faced challenges that stretcher-bearers in Salonika would have found very similar,
“People have no idea what difficulties and dangers have to be overcome in evacuating wounded. The hilly nature of the country does away with the idea of mechanical transport, and every case has to be carried to other hospitals on the beach on stretchers.”

Perhaps it’s because many conscientious objectors signed up for medical, rather than military service, that many accounts of the lives and work of stretcher-bearers have not survived. Maybe, but that’s just speculation on my part… However, one set of diaries has not only survived but been re-discovered by author Sara Woodall, great-niece of the author of the diaries.

Sara discovered her great-uncle’s diaries while at home in Cambridge and was astounded to find both written accounts and accomplished illustrations. The author of these diaries was Bernard Eyre Walker, a stretcher-bearer for the British Expeditionary Force and later one of Cumbria’s leading painters.

The existence of the diaries is something of a miracle in itself. Forced to retreat by a German attack, Bernard had to abandon the diaries in a field hospital. The diaries were later picked up by a German soldier and taken to Belgium, before eventually making their way home to Bernard in Keswick.

Illustrations by Bernard Eyre Walker from his war-time diaries.

Sara has edited and published the diaries, complete with 140 of Bernard’s illustrations from the trenches. I haven’t read the diaries myself, and it’s not an account of stretcher- bearers in Salonika, but it’s a primary source of a largely unrecorded aspect of the time and likely to have a wide appeal. There’s more about the book here.

The book is available on amazon.co.uk or you can order it directly from Sara at jdt.woodall@btopenworld.com or from the address below.

A Voice From the Trenches 1914-1918   From the Diaries and Sketchbooks of Bernard Eyre Walker. Edited by Sara Woodall. Price £19.95 (+ £3.10 p&p) from Sara Woodall, 17 High Street, Great Eversden, Cambridge, CB23 1HN

Now Online! ‘Military Operations Macedonia’

Readers will be very grateful to SCS member Keith Roberts, and Great War Forum member ‘maureenE’, for pointing out the online availability of two major texts related to the Salonika Campaign.

Military Operations Macedonia Volumes One and Two, by Captain Cyril Falls* were part of the series History of the Great War and based on official documents. Free, immediate, and online access to these texts is a wonderful benefit to anyone interested in the Salonika Campaign.

The digital versions of Volume 1 (1933) From the Outbreak of War to the Spring of 1917, and Volume 2 (1935) From the Spring of 1917 to the End of the War both contain the full text. However, both volumes are missing the maps which were originally in separate cases.  Many of these maps are, however, available from the society here, albeit for a relatively small charge.

Both volumes are available on two sites: Internet Archive and Google Books. My preference is to use Google Books, I find the search tool a little easier to use, but that’s a personal choice.  Either way, it’s a great that we now have these texts online for all.

Archive.org

Google Books


*Author Cyril Bentham Falls CBE was a British army officer turned military historian and journalist. After completing his military service, he began writing military histories. From 1923 to the outbreak of war in 1939 he researched and wrote several volumes of the British Government’s ‘Official History of the War’, including the two-volume history of the Macedonian campaign.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Falls

Faces of Salonika : Edward Gallon

My thanks go to Edward’s grandson, David , not just for contacting me about Edward’s story and sending some splendid photos to share here, but also for his great patience. I’m ashamed to say that he first got in touch in early 2018 and only now have I published this! I know there are others out there who have submitted material to me so, I hope that this will reassure you – I may be slow but I will get there in the end!

Continue reading “Faces of Salonika : Edward Gallon”

Sandham Memorial Chapel (NT) has re-opened to visitors

Given the size of the indoor spaces and in order to keep everyone safe, visits are limited to one ‘bubble’ per hour, so capacity is very limited. All of the slots for the first week were taken within 24 hours of booking opening!

You can find more information on the Sandham Memorial Chapel website and they’ve put together a specific page of information about what to expect from a visit: Sandham Memorial Chapel indoor reopening information | National Trust.

Thanks to Property Operations Manager, Paul Grist, for keeping us informed about developments at Sandham.