Australians and New Zealanders on the Serbian Front

My thanks go to Australian author Bojan Pajic for sharing a link with us to a fascinating article on the Australian War Memorial website about Australians and New Zealanders who served on the Serbian Front.

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Plant specimens collected on the Salonica Front

The New Mosquito of April 2015 (issue 31) contains a fascinating article by Dr James Wearn of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, entitled ‘Risking their lives to collect plants on the Salonika Front’. It is about the eight members of Kew Gardens’ staff who served in Salonika with the armed forces, but were able to collect plants as an extra-curricular activity.

Some while later I was contacted about this article by  Emeritus Professor Arne Strid, distinguished Swedish botanist and expert on Greek flora, whose two-volume Atlas of the Aegean Flora was published in 2016. Professor Strid provided additional interesting information about plant collecting in the region and kindly allowed me reproduce this here.

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Faces of Salonika : John Staple and friends

My thanks go to Simon and Christine Briggs for sharing a fascinating set of photos belonging to Christine’s grandfather, John Staple. John served with the Army Service Corps Remount Service in Salonika for two-and-a-half years.

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French film about the Salonika Campaign

I hope you have already taken a look at the film about the campaign, commissioned by Away from the Western Front, to add to that here is a French film – by France 24 English – that I have come across on YouTube which gives an outline of the campaign, with much interesting footage, from the French and Serbian perspective (so don’t expect much on the BSF). It’s a pity British broadcasters couldn’t come up with something similar for the centenary!

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Salonika Campaign in the News

It’s very rare that I listen to the late evening BBC radio news, so it was entirely fortunate that I was sitting in my car on Friday waiting for a delayed coach from Birmingham. This gave me the opportunity to hear an item by BBC correspondent, Allan Little, about the Second Battle of Doiran on the Radio Four ten o’clock bulletin. Continue reading “Salonika Campaign in the News”

‘The Brigade was on its own…’

Before continuing the story of the Brigade-Jouinot-Gambetta, I should mention that Serbian and British cavalry were also doing their bit, although the latter was in short supply (but that could be said about much of the BSF). Serbian cavalry entered Gradsko – a vital communications hub – on the 25th and the Derbyshire Yeomanry were following the retreating Bulgarians along the road to Strumica.

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17 September 1918

It was not until the early evening of 16 September that Serbian troops finally reached the summit of the Kozyak, having had attack after attack thrown back. Even then they came across a German battalion on the northern slopes, covering the withdrawal of the Bulgarian defenders, so keeping up momentum was difficult.

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Why Dobropolje?

That the Bulgarians and Germans were not expecting an assault on the Dobropolje is hardly surprising, given the nature of the terrain. Alan Palmer describes it thus, in ‘Defeat of Bulgaria – The Central Powers Begin to Crack’ (published in History of the First World War No. 107 by Purnell for BPC Publishing Ltd, London, in cooperation with the Imperial War Museum):

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‘… the success of the entire offensive depends upon rapid penetration …”

In his book Balkan Breakthrough – The Battle of Dobro Pole 1918  (Indiana University Press, 2010), Richard Hall writes that several days before the start of the offensive, Serbian soldiers were told by their high command: Continue reading “‘… the success of the entire offensive depends upon rapid penetration …””