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Bill and the ASC in Salonika

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Units supported by 801st MT Coy

Having completed my transcription and posts on the 801st MT Coy, I am now looking at the units they supported, particularly the Yeomanry, in this case the Surrey Yeomanry and the Derbyshire Yeomanry. I have acquired copies of their regimental history books, read the Surrey one and I have started a new thread 'Yeomanry in Salonika' on the 'Salonika and Balkans' sub forum, if anyone is interested.


As well as finishing transcribing the 801st war diary I have now finished posting about it on the Salonika and the Balkans sub forum. I have started putting together a book about my Grandfather's time in the Balkans, I think it will only be of interest to my family, he didn't get any medals, nor was he mentioned in dispatches and he missed most of the main battles and actions when he was an infantryman. I do sometimes wonder what the old boy would think about my interest in him, I hope he would have been pleased though.


Diary Transcription Complete

It's taken 5 months working weekends and evenings as family and other commitments have allowed but I have finally finished transcribing the 801st M.T. Company A.S.C. war diary. There are some place names, soldiers names and text that I am uncertain of, largely due to blurred images and poor handwriting, a difficult combination. As I progressed I have been posting questions and interesting information in a thread that can be viewed in the 'Salonika and the Balkans' sub forum, a very useful exercise that I still have still to complete, watch out for more posts. There follows now a period of analysis, how many men were in the unit what happened to them, what vehicles did they have, where was the unit at different times and so on. Finally I hope to put the story into a book for family and freinds but more of that later.


Progress on the 801st War Diary

Following on from my entry about my visit to Kew, I am now about half way through stranscribing the war diary of the 801st M.T. Coy. A.S.C. It took about 3 months to do the first year of the diary, bear in mind I have a full time job and a family. What I have found particularly useful was to start a topic in the 'Salonika and the Balkans' sub forum and post anything I found interesting along with queries about content. Thanks to the help of other members of the forum I have been able to interpret most of the content. I always post any names I find so that anyone searching for information will hopefully find the name. I thought an M.T. company might be boring after researching an infantry battalion but I was wrong it's just different and has helped me to get a better understanding of the Salonika campaign as whole.


First Visit to National Archives Kew

On Saturday 5th of October I caught the 07:55 train from Manchester to London along with my wife and son for a long weekend. We arrived at London Euston at 10:00 and took the underground to Earls Court and dropped off our cases at our hotel. Then back on the underground to Kew station where we split up, my wife and son heading for Kew Gardens while I took the short walk to the National Archives building arriving at around 11:30.

After leaving my belongings in a locker on the ground floor keeping just my camera and notepad in the clear bag provided, I went to the second floor to register and acquire a reader’s card. This consisted of filling in an online form of the usual personal information and details of the 2 forms of identification I had brought with me. This was followed by a short video showing the correct way to handle documents. I then handed over my identification documents to the registration desk where they were checked, I signed a declaration to abide by their terms and conditions, my photograph was taken and my readers card issued. This took about 10 minutes as there was no queue.

I then went to the first floor and asked at the desk how to order my document, I was pointed in the direction of another set of computers where I swiped my new readers card through the card reader and selected order documents on the screen. First you answer a set of questions such as do you want a quiet desk, do you require a seat by a window etc. you are then allocated a seat number and advised to write it down. The computer then asks for the document number, in my case WO 95/4827, it finds the document and shows the details and asks if you require any more documents, in my case I didn’t, it showed the status of my document order and I completed the order process by clicking exit.

It takes around 45 minutes for documents to made available, so I went down to the cafeteria for a coffee at about 11:50. At 12:00 the Café started serving food so I bought a sandwich while I waited. There is a card reader and computer screen in the café where you can check the status of you document order and at 12:20 mine was ready so I made my way back up to the reading room.

Once through security (they check the contents of your clear plastic bag) I went to the document pick up area where there are a set of lockers with desk numbers on, mine contained a document box which I took over to the desk I had been allocated. It turned out to be near the windows but there were desks by the windows free so I went to one of those instead.

The box contained folders for the XIV Corps units that were not part of the divisions, e.g Cyclists, Signal Company, Sanitation etc. and there in the middle was a brown folder for the 801 Co ASC MT. It contained nearly 200 loose pages held together with a treasury tag. I started photographing the pages at 12:55 and was finished by 13:55. I packed away the documents and took the box back to the returns desk and headed off for Kew gardens to find my family.

Overall my experience was a positive one; I found the computer systems intuitive and easy to use, the staff were friendly and helpful, and the facilities were excellent. The only complaint I have is that one of the computer screens in the cafeteria was not working, some sort of network error, and the other one was behind a table and seats in the coffee shop so not easily accessible if someone was sitting there, but it’s a small niggle in another wise flawless day.

I know have 193 document images to work through, they are hand written and full of the usual jargon and abbreviations, happy days.


A little light reading and a vist to Kew

I have just acquired 2 new books to read; ’ Macedonia Memories’ by Henry C Day SJ HCF MC purchased at a reasonable price from Turner Donovan Military books and ‘The History and War Records of the Surrey Yeomanry’ by E D Harrison Ainsworth also purchased at a very reasonable price from forum member Martin G. I am hoping that both will help my research now I have moved on to the next stage when my grandfather was in the ASC supplying the Corps Cavalry troops in the Struma Valley.

My first trip to the National Archives at Kew is just a few days away and I can’t wait. I will be photographing the 801 Co ASC war diary.


Wipers Times Excellent

The Wipers Times drama on BBC2 was excellent, typically British humour in adversity without trivialising what was going on, I urge you to give it a look on the Iplayer or see if it is repeated, well worth a look.


Corps Troop Supply

My research has now moved on to the second part of my Grandfathers war service when he was transferred from the infantry to the ASC. I have finished re-reading Michael Young's 'Army Service Corps 1902-1918' the ASC bible and have made significant progress today.

First the unit he was transferred to was 801 Co ASC MT this unit was the 16th Corps Troop Supply Column. 16th Corps were the divisions based in the Struma Valley and the Corps Troops according to 'Under The Devils Eye' were the 1/1st Surrey Yeomanry. So my Grandfathers unit was responsible for transporting supplies from the Railhead to the Refilling Depot for collection by the Surrey Yeomanry.

A quick look on the LLT website revealed that the Surrey Yeomanry were a Territorial Cavalry Regiment and 'A' and 'B' Squadrons were indeed based in Salonika.

The next task for me is to try and figure out where the Railhead was (probably Snevce), where the Refilling Depot was and where the Surrrey Yeomanry were.


Men of the 9th East Lancs

As promised I have now posted lists of all the men mentioned in the 9th East Lancs war diary between 1915 and 1917 in the Salonika and the Balkans sub forum. If anyone would like a copy of the page photo on which a name appears that they are interested in, send me a direct message with your email address and I will send you a copy.


Men of the 9th East Lancs

I have been working my way through the photographs I have of the 9th East Lancs war diary and have created a list of all the men who are mentioned. I have decided to post the list on the Salonika sub forum to help anyone who enters one of the names in a search, I can then provide details of the entries if requested. I may also do the same for the units that are mentioned. A thought occurred to me as I was doing this, if a battalion war diary is missing, it would be possible to use the diaries of the other battalions in the brigade to work their movements.


'The Thread' by Victoria Hislop

I have finished 'Adventures of a Despatch Rider' and very enjoyable it was too. Looking for another book to read, my wife had just finished Victoria Hislops novel 'The Thread' which starts in Thessaloniki in May 1917 and although she warned me that it is a romantic novel aimed more at a female audience it was nevertheless a good read and I should give it a go. Once I have read it I will post a review on the Salonika and the Balkans sub forum.


Adventures of a Despatch rider

I have just started reading 'Adventures of a Despatch Rider' by Captain W.H.L. Watson as part of my research. My Grandfather became a despatch rider and used to tell me stories about the various motorcycles he used. Although the book is about the early months of the war on the western front, it does give you an incite into the day to day activity of these brave men and is well worth a read even if you have no specific interest in Despatch riders or like me your relative served in a different theatre.


I have started a new series of 9th E Lancs war diary posts in the Salonika and the Balkans sub forum. Initially they will be from September 1916 and include the battle of Machukovo, I may also add another at a later date for April and May 1917 (first battle of Doiran).


Four men of HAC laid to rest

I read a very moving article in yesterday's Independent about four men from the Honourable Artillery Company being laid to rest with full military honours. Two of the men were identified as Lieutenant John Harold Pritchard and Private Christopher Douglas Elphick, family members were present at the ceremony. Well worth a read at the following link.



How reliable are memories?

I have now completed the first part of my research into my Grandfather Corporal William Hodgson's life; from his birth in Preston in 1892 to his transfer from the 9th East Lancs to the Army Service Corps in April 1917. As a result I did a show and tell to my Mother and her brother my Uncle a couple of weeks ago. I had managed to get photographs of many of the streets where the family had lived pre-war from the Preston Digital Archive now available on-line through Flickr, as well as photographs related to where he worked. One of these was of a pile of 13 pound shells stacked at the Dick Kerr factory where he had worked in munitions before enlisting. There were no new revelations from the senior members of the family but many confirmations of what I already knew, however there was some disagreement about who had lived where in those close knit mill communities on Preston Moor. Most of the stories so far are corroberated by evidence in the attestation papers and the war diary and I look forward eagerly to starting my research into the activities of the 801st ASC MT company during the Macedonian campaign in 1917 and 1918 and the stories of his exploits as Motorcycle despatch rider.


Captain G.H.T. Chowne Artist.

When researching my Gandfather's war record I have stumbled on another unexpected find. I was reading the Battle of Doiran chapter in the 9th East Lancs regimental history last night and it mentioned the sad death of Captain Chowne and how greatly he would be missed, not only by the battalion, but by the artistic world as well as he had been a fine artist. Intrigued I Googled him and found to my surprise that the Tate have one of his watercolours and a brief biography, here's the link:



Photographing the Regimental History

I was at the Lancashire regiments museum again on Saturday morning to photograph the rest of the 9th East Lancs war diary. I was taken aback when, instead of the typed copy I had been working from, I was given the original. They couldn't find the typed copy, it wasn't on the shelf where it should have been, the moral here is ring first to make sure they have what you want available. However seeing the original was a delight, it had some beautiful hand drawn trench maps and brought me just a little bit closer to the men who wrote it. I also had a look at the East Lancs Regimental History, a large bound volume the size of a Bible. It has a section devoted to the Salonika Campaign, the 9th Battalion were the only one from the East Lancs in this theatre and so I set about photographing the relevant pages for further research at home.


Photographing the war diary

I was back at Fulwood Barracks on Saturday to photograph pages from the 9th East Lancs War Diary. No weather problems this time. I now have 109 photographs to work through which should keep me quiet for a while. I am particularly interested in September 1916 (Battle of Machukovo) and April/May 1917 battle of Doiran, but I have the diary from October 1915 to December 1917 and now think I may as well go back and photograph it all, then if anyone else is interested I can let them have a copy.


SCS Fabulous Map Disc

The Salonika Campaign Society's Map disc arrived in the post yesterday and far exceeded my expectations, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I only skimmed through the content as there are a dozen folders containing maps, documents and photographs. For me the maps were always of most interest and as I glanced through them the familiar names from books and war diaries appeared. I consider it £40 well spent already and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Salonika Campaign, as an added bonus you are contributing to some of the societies other activities as well.


Every cloud!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, (the weather) I wasn't able to go to the museum at Fulwood baracks on Saturday, however I spent some time with my mum who is keeper of the family archive. It turns out, unbeknown to me, that my great grandfather Thomas Bradley fought in the Boer War with the West Lancashire Regiment and she has his attestation form. She then mentioned that a relative on my Father's side Edwin Draycott served with the Sherwood Forresters in WW1. I am delighted, 2 more research projects to look forward to.


Staff Car with a white flag

Haven't had much to report since before Christmas but I am off to Fulwood Barracks and the Lancashire Infantry Museum again tomorrow to try Photgraphing the war diary that I am researching. Called my mum to arrange to call in on her afterwards and she mentioned that she had given my draft accounts of Gandad's war record to my uncle to read. He mentioned in passing that Grandad had told him 'he saw a German Staff car with a white flag so he knew the end must be near' (it could have been Bulgarian) I had never heard this story before and it will be interesting to see if I can tie it into my research, was he in the right place at the right time.


Salonika Campaign Society and more research

I have just received confirmation of my membership of the SCS along with the autumn edition of the new mosquito. Next on my list is to acquire the Societies Map CD can't wait.

I have finished posting entries from the 9th East Lancs War diary on the Salonika sub forum for the time being and I plan another trip to Fulwood in the new year where I will try out photographing the records, then it's off to Kew for the ASC records.


Return to Salonika and photographing records

I have started reading Charles Packer's 'Return to Salonika', after reading only 1 chapter I would already recommend it. A personal account gives you insight and detail you cannot get from a history book.

Although I have covered the period that my Grandfather was in the 9th East Lancs, I plan another trip to Fulwood (Lancs Regt Museum), I have formed an attachment to this little known Battalion and I find I want to know what happened next.

I may try Photographing the records next time as has been suggested on my Blog by Ed Robinson.

If anyone has any hints or tips on how best to go about this I would be very grateful.

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