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Salonika Anti-aircraft Battery


Rockdoc
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I'm pretty sure that Summerhill Camp was just east of there, and just north of the camp and depots at Lembet (which were around where Google Earth says Efkarpia).

Adrian, I don't think you're right with this. I did a Google search for Summerhill Camo and found this great website. There's a section where he describes the Vardar wind knocking seven bells out of the camp and he says that "Summerhill being really a hill with no surrounding hills to protect it, always got the full force of the periodical Vardar winds." Elsewhere he says that the camp was about 5 miles from Salonika. I reckon that a better location for Summerhill would be across the road from the tumulus at Daut-Bali, where there's a large hill with a flat area at 40.717 22.926 on GE.

Keith

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In all likelhood they all went to Shoeburyness first for training before being sent to Salonica.

He was there and quite possibly for some months. He must have studied for his Sergeant's stripe while he was there but I know nothing about the place. Was Shoeburyness home to a Reserve Brigade in 1916 or did it remain a training establishment? Rummaging again through three albums of postcards I've found one sent from my Grandmother for his birthday, which was 20th September 1916. The address she used is rather cryptic, though! It looks like:

Cpl H Gaskin

B Division

H Block

A. ACJ Depot

Shoeburyness

Essex

Anyone able to make sense of this, please?

Keith

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  • 1 month later...

I've found another photograph of one of the 13pdr 6cwt AA guns used by 99th AAS. It was tucked away from the other photographs and wasn't immediately obvious. I was showing the contents of the box (it's a writing slope) to my daughter and spotted the snap because I was looking into it at an angle rather than from above. It is better exposed or, perhaps, less faded than the others.

th_AAGunsmall.jpg

Keith

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I'll need more time to digest everything but I found out some useful info at TNA today. The Section was based at the Harmankoy Tumulus on the Daut-Bali Ridge for its entire existence. I have no idea yet where that might have been but the tumulus must be the large mound in the background of several pictures.

(Edit Keith 11/01/09) Daut-Bali is now known as Oreokastro and lies more or less due north of Salonika. The ridge appears to lie NW of the town.

My Grandfather was definitely part of that Section as he's recorded as being sent to the hospital at one point. Somewhere not too far off was Summerhill, the location of a French Aerodrome and the Artillery Training School.

The guns were 13 pdr 6 cwts. The Diary records

  • 12 February 1919 Two 13 pdr 6 cwt Guns on Motor Lorry Mounting Equipment and stores of Section passed to D Cadre AA.
  • 27 February 1919 Section passed to D Cadre AA.

There were three commanders:

  • Captain H E Harker RGA, who moved to command Salonika Air Defences on 11 February 1918;
  • Lieutenant H R Price RFA, who commanded until 12 February 1919 when he went on leave;
  • Lieutenant R W Briscoe RFA who put up the shutters.

As I wondered and kevrow thought, there was on-the-job training. A lot of men were sent from the Artillery Training School, in batches of up to 20 at a time.

Keith

It's interesting that he refers to the 13 pounder 6 cwt.. I assume that if he said that, then it's correct. But it refers to February 1919.. The photograph at the start of the article appears to have the identifying feature of the Mk IV barrel... there was a hoop extending to about 2/3 the length of the barrel, and it appears just visible by the standing gunner's left ear. The 13 pounder 6 cwt (AKA Mk III) had a straight barrel profile.

The other similar photo also shows the hoop.

I wonder whether the Mk IV guns were colloquially referred to as 6 cwt ? They were certainly completely different guns. Hogg hints they may have even used different cartridge loadings.

Rod

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The War Diary, if it mentions shell weight, always mentions 6cwt and then there's this:

1-1-1918 16.36 CIOM-GHQ – REPORT Number of equivalent full charge rounds fired from the Anti Aircraft Guns with you. QSM 333

17.31 TO CIOM-GHQ – Following number of full charges fired 13 pdr 6 cwt Gun No 502 = 149 rounds, Gun No 503 – 128 rounds. Rounds fired between 1‑5‑08 and 1-7-17 not recorded – OC 99th AA Section

There is no mention of the guns being exchanged anywhere in the Diary and, as the Mk IVs came into service during WW1, I don't think there's any doubt that the guns used by 99th AAS throughout its existence were the RHA-type 13 pounder.

Keith

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That appears to be definite - converted RHA 13 pounders according to the war diary. But the 2 pictures of the guns on lorries with 2 recuperators - the barrels don't look like like the RHA 13 pounder, they appear to show the end of a hoop in just the right place :

13%20pdr%20Mk%20IV%20clip.jpg13%20pdr%20Mk%20IV%20clip%202.jpg

The RHA 13 pdr barrel was straight all the way along.

Further, the Mk IV barrel was 3 inches shorter than the RHA 6 cwt barrel. So even if these 2 photos show a RHA 13 pdr using the same mount as the Mk IV, the RHA 13 pdr would have a different profile to the Mk IV gun. But the relative lengths of barrel and both recuperators in your 2 photos exactly match Hogg's Mk IV photos. Methinks they are not your grandad's gun, if he operated 13 pdr 6 cwt converted RHA guns the whole time.

Rod

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Methinks they are not your grandad's gun, if he operated 13 pdr 6 cwt converted RHA guns the whole time.

Rod, I cannot imagine why my Grandfather would have kept photographs of an AAS that wasn't his when there are other photographs, of the same size of contact print, that do show his Section. The photos in this thread are all consistent, with some showing him and others showing buildings that he's shown in front of. Quite a number show the cairn/tumulus in the background, including a panoramic shot included in an early post, showing both of the guns with twin recuperators. While being happy to be proved wrong, I'm of the belief that these are 13 pdr, 6 cwt guns on Mk I mountings, which needed the twin recuperators. I think that idea that these are early examples withdrawn from the Western Front and sent to Macedonia is strengthened by the modification made to the lorry.

Mudguard.jpg

An AA platform was mounted lower on the Thorneycroft chassis than with other types of coach-building. I presume that was to allow the mounting to be fixed directly to the chassis members but that left the rear wheels level with the platform instead of being well beneath. When travelling, a shallow, rimmed, rectangular box was screwed over the hole and my Grandfather's notebook states that these have to be removed when the gun is being brought into action. Otherwise they would have been a tripping hazard. 99th AAS never moved from their site so there would have been no need to modify the set-up to eliminate this part of the exercise. The open-sided box shown above is hinged to the top of the side board, which was laid flat when in action. When the board was upright, the box would have been tipped over and would have formed an excessively-large but quickly-removable mudguard. 99th would never have needed those few seconds but an earlier AAS in France might well have done.

The different shape of barrel which you believe is diagnostic of a Mk IV looks to me much more like a simple mount for the recuperator and not a change in the barrel diameter. In your RH photograph the opposite side of the mounting-clamp can be seen to the left of your arrow. The same type of casting is shown between the two recuperators in the section of my photograph - your LH image.

Sorry but I'm not convinced.

Keith

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Have a look at the breech then.. below is 13 pdr RHA gun breech at the Ottawa war museum, left, and a 13 pdr AA gun with breech open, right, in Salonika 1916 according to the AWM :

13%20pdr%20breeches.jpg

You'll see that the breech and chamber is lightweight, not much wider than the barrel itself; also that the recoil lug on top is quite far back.

Now compare this with the breeches as seen in your 2 photos previous :

Mk%20IV%20breeches.jpg

they show a lug much further forward, also a lot more metal around the breech, especially on top.. not the slim look of the 13 pdr RHA gun's breech. Ian Hogg's photos which he says are of the Mk IV also exhibit these characteristics. You can also see the lever for rotating the breech block rather than swing it open.. this is the French 75 breech, inverted.

The reason for the breech area in your photo extending above the barrel is that it is a Nordenfelt breech, similar to the French 75 breech but inverted : to open, the breech block rotates about an axis near the top of the barrel rather than about the centre of the barrel as with the 13 pdr; this opens the slot to insert the cartridge; to close the breech block is rotated back which locks the cartridge. The breech is hence oval, not round.

Here's the French 75 breech, youy'll see the mechanism rotates about an axis near the bottom of the barrel; the 3 inch Mk IV is the reverse :

75%20breech.jpg

Rod

apologies if this is boring you to tears, but..

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Is there any kind of screw on a Mk III 13-pdr breech? This is a section of 99th's WD:

26-7-1917

08.15 KUKUS reports one hostile plane over KUKUS and coming towards SALONICA - FHQ

Weather opened windy and unfavourable for aviation. Later wind moderate. Fine and clear

08.22 Enemy plane over harbour and flying south at 16000 feet

08.30 Suspicious plane over TOPSIN

08.35 ACTION AGAINST ENEMY PLANE:- A hostile plane of the 'ALBATROSS' type was sighted at 08.35 flying S to NW at an altitude of 13750 feet. I opened fire when it came into bearing of my two guns at 08.38 and ceased fire at 08.42 when the plane was out of range, It finally disappeared from view at 08.53 flying in a North Westerly direction. Altogether eight rounds 13 pdr HE ammunition was expended. A misfire occurred on No 1 Gun after the third round. Delay was caused on No 2 Gun by over riding the Breech Screw after first round.

Keith

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The RHA 13 pounder had an "Interupted screw" breech. The Mk IV had a "Nordenfelt eccentric screw" breech. But my info all comes from books, I don't know the gunner's terminology in action. But the Nordenfelt breech was totally different to any other British service ordnance, and I assume would have required some special training to work up to speed.. all French gunners at Salonika, in contrast, would have grown up with this breech mechanism on the 75... I would think if the Mk IV was in action at Salonika, there would have been some French input to training. Does he mention French contacts/training ?

I think a precise explanation from somebody of what "over riding the Breech Screw" means would indeed settle the debate on which of the 2 types of gun your grandfather was operating.

Rod

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The website here may help to explain how an interrupted screw breechblock works.

Edit: The following is from Encylopaedia Britannica in 1911 on the subject of "Ordnance." It categorizes the Nordenfelt eccentric screw breechblock as being of the sliding type rather than the interrupted screw kind.

One other form of sliding mechanism is of importance owing to its adoption for the 75 m/m. French long recoil field gun (see below: field equipments). This mechanism is on the Nordenfelt eccentric screw system and is very similar to that proposed by Clay about 1860; it has a breech screw (fig. 36) of large diameter mounted in the breech opening, which is eccentric to the bore. For loading, the breech block has a longitudinal opening cut through it, so that when the mechanism is in the open position this opening coincides with the chamber, while a half turn of the breech screw brings its solid part opposite the chamber and closes the gun. The mechanism is very simple and strong, but it is only suitable for small Q.F. guns using cartridge cases; the firing gear is similar to that applied to other types of mechanism, and the fired case is extracted by an extractor actuated by the face of the breech screw as it is opened.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have finally nailed down the type of Guns used by 99th AAS and it transpires that RodB was 100% correct in his assertion that they were Elswick 13pdr Mk IVs. I copied the War Diary in its entirety yesterday and I've been scanning through it. Throughout the Diary, the Guns are recorded as 13pdr 6cwt and, on 01/01/1918, in a reply to HQ about the number of full charges fired the OC sates that the firings between 1908 and 99th being issued with them in July 1917 had not been recorded in their paperwork. To me that was conclusive that they were the 'normal' 13pdr 6cwt because the Elswick guns didn't enter service until 1915. However, on 07/01/1918 Gun 503 and on 20/01/18 Gun 502 are recorded as being out of service for a short period. Both entries are qualified as 13pdr 6cwt Mk IV. I can only assume they used standard 13pdr ammunition so the 6cwt was tagged on to be sure they got the right type. These are definitely the guns used throughout the life of 99 AAS since my Grandfather's notebooks record the No 2 Gun as No 502 for all entries.

Keith

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Working my way through the other AAS War Diaries I copied some more eccentricities have come to light. 98th AAS Diary is almost a complete waste as it's by far the least detailed and says very little - although using 360 pages to do it! About the only useful thing I've found from a brief scan is confirmation of something I've suspected: 73rd AAS was the HQ for the Salonika Air Defence. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that its Diary will be very informative.

73rd AAS was based at Lembet and had four guns. They were separated and are listed in various Diaries as A, B, C and R positions. Why not D I ask myself....

98th's Diary gives no details but it had two guns.

99th had two 13pdr Mk IV guns and was based on the Harmankoy/Daut Bali Ridge.

141st trained with 99th and had two 13pdr Mk III guns. Wiki states here were two Mk IIIs in Salonika at the end of the War. There were at least three since 141st borrowed a spare from 73rd when one of theirs broke its recuperator.

153rd trained with 73rd at Dudular. It had only one gun - a 13pdr 6cwt on Thorneycroft lorry No 876. Whether Mk III or Mk IV it doesn't say

154th trained with 99th. It had two 13pdr 9cwt guns.

So it seems that not all AA Sections were Sections in the RA sense of two guns and that which gun you had was pot luck! Whoever said this lark was simple?

Keith

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Could the reference to 1908 mean these guns had been sitting around in some warehouse at Elswick since 1908 waiting for a customer ? I understand manufacturers were presenting whatever they had in stock for use in the war effort, which would have included previously rejected or unneeded stuff. This is all priceless info.

It's interesting to me that the diary mostly reports it as 13 pdr 6 cwt - they apparently saw little need to differentiate the Mk IV, presumably because it used the same ammo. I wonder if problems arose over parts and maintenance ? Certainly its sight adjustments & range tables would be different, as it was different ballistically.

Also, are there any references to training ? I would think special training was required to get this very different breech operated up to speed. The procedures would be different, i.e. I understand it would have automatically ejected the spent cartridge case similarly to the French 75. The whole process would be different to customary British practice based on single-motion interupted screws which swung out.

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There's nothing about the training in the Diary and it doesn't mention which AAS they trained with but, as they were mobilised as a single unit they probably trained with 73rd at Lembet. They must have trained on the training unit's guns because 99th didn't draw their own from AOD Base Depot until they were in position at the Harmankoj Tumulus. That would be really odd if their guns wee different to everyone else's so it's logical that 73rd AAS, as the HQ Aerial Defences, had at least one gun of each available type in the Theatre. They had a spare 13pdr 6cwt Mk III, as I wrote earlier, because it was borrowed to cover a repair. Such a set-up would mean that the ORs could be moved more readily between AAS should the need arise, although there's some evidence that temporary transfers between units for training went on all the time.

My Grandfather's notebooks show he had lectures (at least) on 13pdr 6cwt, 13pdr 9cwt and 3in guns somewhere but I can't be sure which Mark he means when he's recording the various tasks associated with a 13pdr 6cwt - which is in the majority of his notes. Here are his notes on coming into action, which may give you some clue:

Positions & Duties in Action

At the order “Action” the numbers will take up their positions & work as follows:-

1 on the ground in a convenient position to command and supervise his Detachment & where he can see the signals of the Battery Commander. He orders “Go On” (commence firing) & “Stop”. He passes all orders & acknowledges same by saluting. He is responsible that his layers are on the target ordered & not on some other aeroplane.

2 places himself on the right of the gun at the fuze dial. He adjusts the vertical scale “Up” & “Down”. He should occasionally glance at the order board to check his fuze.

3 places himself on the left of the gun at the elevating wheel. He lays for elevation (usually by means of the telescope) & reports “On Target”.

4 on the right of the gun, adjusts the lateral deflection as ordered. He should be able to set deflections blindly (e.g. one turn clockwise equals on degree right, etc). He should occasionally glance at the order board to check his deflections. He should stand well clear to avoid crowding the other numbers

5 is on the left of the gun at the traversing wheel. He lays for line (usually over open sights). If he uses the telescope he must keep his eye away from the eyepiece to avoid shock of recoil. On first picking up a target he will, when using open sights, order 3 to elevate or depress in order to bring the target into the field of view of No 3's telescope.

6 on the right of the gun, opens and closes the breech. He will keep clear of the recoil & must not keep the breech in the most fully open the position when the gun is being loaded but should allow the catch retaining breech mechanism open in the hole bored for it on the right side of the carrier; otherwise the extractor will not allow the new cartridge to go home.

7 places himself on the left of the gun in rear of 5. He loads and fires. When loading he will push the round home with his closed fist until it is engaged with the catch retaining cartridge. After gun fire has been ordered he will fire as soon as loaded & continuing loading & firing until “Stop” is ordered. He will fire by pushing the lever forward. He must be careful to keep clear of recoil. He receives ammunition from 8 & at a change of fuze will call “Fuze In” loud enough for the No 2 to hear.

8 supplies ammunition to 7 back of the hand up and fuze to the right. Ammunition may, however, be thrown up to 7 – palm of the hand upwards & fuze to the right. On a change of fuze he will give back the round in his hand to 9 or 10 receiving a correctly fuzed round in its place.

9 or 10 place themselves at the most convenient box for the supply of ammunition, changing their position as required. They set and alter fuzes, handing to 8 rounds set at the fuze shown on the order board.

11 attends to the tightening of the jacks and wheel scotches in action & will assist the wagon drivers in the supply of ammunition from the wagon when necessary.

Keith

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Quote, "There's nothing about the training in the Diary and it doesn't mention which AAS they trained with but, as they were mobilised as a single unit they probably trained with 73rd at Lembet."

As most of the men were experienced gunners, both RFA and RGA, and had already served in France and had a few months at the AA Depot before leaving for Salonika, I would have thought that they would not have needed that much training. I could easily see some of the men saying " we already know all this stuff".

Kevin

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The 13 pdr Mark IV breech was nothing like any other in British service in its operation. It was as different from the 13 pdr RHA gun as the QF 4.5 how sliding-block breech was; it was sophisticated. That's the point I'm trying to make : even experienced gunners would need training on it, to avoid cockups in action. It was the French 75 breech, apparently inverted, designed for rapid fire which it achieved with highly trained crews. I would assume that gunners would be trained until they could operate it at speed in all conditions, and be trained in its do's and don'ts. This must have occurred somewhere. The most ready source of training would have been from AA gunners in the UK (there were a few French 75 AA guns in British use there) or from French gunners at Salonika, whose 75 AA version would have been similar. But I would think that on-the-spot training would be the only kind that was worthwhile,

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Kevin - although I'm sure Rod's right about the need to be trained on an unfamiliar mechanism, working an AA gun is very different from working a field gun, even if the barrel and breech is identical to one used before. All of a sudden there are three men aiming the thing (3,4, and 5) and two operating the gun itself (6 and 7). That's a lot of bodies standing around quite a small area on the back of the lorry (I've been to Duxford today and seen their Thorneycroft Type J with 13pdr 9cwt gun on the back and it would have been seriously cramped). 3, 4 and 5 have to be able to operate their wheels without watching what they're doing so they have to have had enough experience for that to become second nature. I'm sure previous experience would come in handy in terms of maintenance of the basic components but I wouldn't be surprised if they also had to unlearn quite a lot, too.

Rod - I've been trying to make sense of the 1908 comment in the Diary today but can't. I wondered if the guns had been built as prototypes when the Army were upgrading to the 13pdr QF but I checked and they'd been introduced in 1904 so that won't wash. Wiki says that they were made as a commercial venture, which suggests they had a sale in mind somewhere. Without knowing if the company's order books have survived and where they are it isn't going to be easy to discover whether these barrels were prototypes that were used for testing by Elswick and/or potential customers or if they were a cancelled order. It probably shows the sheer desperation of the Army in 1915 that they accepted six, non-standard guns, even if they took standard ammunition. Arrangements would still have to have been made for repairs and refurbishment and, from what I've read, that could take months for a worn-out barrel. It makes you think that all six would have been in the same Theatre so there would have been some spare units available so that the men didn't have to come back up to speed with a different arrangement unless it was a permanent change.

Isn't it funny how these threads wriggle when you try to pin them down?

Keith

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Keith,

Please read my first line on post 17.

Although it is historically interesting, and important, that the type of guns that a battery, or section, used, it would be refreshing to read that equal research was beng done on the men who actually manned them. After all, what constituted a battery? The men or the guns? I may be wrong to give too much credit for the mens ability, but think not. The interesting question, for me, is whether they were specifically chosen for these sections because they were experienced, rather than being sent back to France where one would have thought their talents could have been appreciated just as much. How many months was your grandfather at Shoeburyness, AA Depot, and in Salonika before firing the gun? I cannot see why I should be defending these gunners ability.

Kevin

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Kevin, I'm not denigrating the men in any way. I hope, in the fullness of time, to write an article for The New Mosquito about the AAS in Salonika because nothing appears to have been written about this part of the RA. The easiest research is in the War Diaries, which is where I've started. That will give me some idea of the organisation and equipment in Salonika.

At the moment I don't know how they were selected and, to be honest, wouldn't know where to start looking. My Grandfather's service records are not at Kew but I can make some guesses about him from alternative sources - postcards to and from home. He was wounded in early July 1916 and was evacuated to the military hospital in West Didsbury, Manchester, by about the 17th July. He used to say he'd been blown up by a shell and had metal fragments, which he always called shrapnel, down his right side for the rest of his life. By the end of September he was a Shoeburyness because my Grandmother sent him a birthday postcard.

When he'd been wounded he was a Corporal but by February 1917, when he transfers to the RGA from the RFA, he's a Sergeant. I remember him telling me that he'd had to resit his exams for his promotion so I'd say the likelihood is that he was doing some of that at Shoeburyness. From your earlier entries in the thread, it seems the men were sent from Reserve Batteries to man these guns, which is what you'd expect and I'd guess my Grandfather went to one, too. He left for Salonika in mid-March 1917, near enough a month after his transfer and arrived there a couple of weeks later. 99th AAS became operational in July 1917 and his, the No 2, Gun was ready for action a couple days after the No 1 Gun, on 18th July 1917. Entries in other Diaries suggests that two months with another AAS before becoming independent was about normal so this is a longer gap but is explicable either by initial training or by circumstances (or both). 99th's Guns, lorries, motorcycle and light car were issued from BOD and ASC MT Depot when they became operational and some are recorded as being landed immediately before issue. That suggests they were waiting for their kit to arrive because 141st, 153rd and 154th AAS all had their own kiit in full while they were with the other AAS for training.

I know nothing about Reserve Batteries, the proportion of Old Sweats to Young Shavers in them at the end of 1916 nor, as I've written, how men were selected from them for a given posting. I'm not that experienced with service numbers but it does look like the men sent to 99th were experienced and that suggests they'd all copped Blighty ones. They're a mixture of RFA and RGA men, though, so their experience probably varied with the guns they'd used. Given the detachments for field, AA and heavy guns varied you wouldn't think that they'd be put into such teams at the Reserve Depot unless it would have been to give them experience on different kinds of gun. They didn't go out to Salonika as a team, though, as the earlier posts in this thread show so were they formed into teams out there? Pass!

Keith

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I was at Kew again last Saturday and copied all the Diaries in WO 95/4801 - all 1,100 pages! Naturally, I've not been able to do significant analysis yet but I have noticed a few things that might be of interest.

24th AAS moved from Helles to Salonika in January 1916. The entries for 5-8 January, at Helles, show they were having a very hot time of it.

32nd AAS left England as a unit in November 1915 and had two months training at Alexandria before embarking for Salonika in mid-January 1916. Officers and men from these units were transferred to the incoming units.

The Diary for 73rd AAS doesn't commence until they were in action in October 1916 but a note for 5th October says that half their available ORs and one officer were transferred to 74th AAS, whose Diary does not begin until March 1917.

Part of 90th AAS left Avonmouth on 3rd February 1917 with its own equipment and that for 94th and 95th, the remainder of the Establishment following on 20th February. They were in action at Janes and Karasuli on 3rd March but had received transfers from 24th and 32nd AAS so presumably their training had been less extensive.

91st was in action at Mekes and Marian by 1st February 1917, when their Diary commences. 94th's Diary begins the same day, when they're at the 5km post on the Seres road. They moved a month later to Dudular, to work with 73rd AAS's detached sub-Section, and their place was taken by 95th. The Dudular site protected the main ammunition dump. 95th disembarked their equipment on 28th February.

97th arrived in two groups. One officer and 40 ORs on 17th March 1917 and the equipment, one officer and four ORs on 2nd April. They moved to their positions at Selemni Dere and Causica Station on 4th April and were in action the following day.

98th were in action for the first time on 5th April 1917.

99th AAS were attached to 73rd AAS from 10th April 1917 but did not receive their equipment until June 1917, when the GS lorries, staff car and motorcycle arrived at the docks.

141st was formed on 2nd February 1918 and its Establishment was drawn from existing RA personnel. They were attached to 99th for training but did not become active until 11th May, when they received their guns.

153rd was mobilised on 14th May 1918 and became active on 19th July 1918.

154th was mobilised on 10th May 1918 and its establishment was made up of officers and men from 73rd and 99th AAS. It was attached to 99th for training and became active on 11th August 1918.

This suggests that the AAS up to 98th arrived as units and had had some training before arriving at Salonika but that experienced personnel were still transferred from active units to bring them up to full speed quickly. 99th may have arrived as a unit but its posting to 73rd suggests little or no training before embarkation. The remainder were drawn from BSF RA personnel and trained with 73rd or 99th. In each case, on-the-job training appears to have been a couple of months. 32nd's lengthy training at Alexandria suggests that there was little, if any, fire-training done in Britain.

Keith

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Quote, "99th may have arrived as a unit but its posting to 73rd suggests little or no training before embarkation. The remainder were drawn from BSF RA personnel and trained with 73rd or 99th. In each case, on-the-job training appears to have been a couple of months."

Keith,

I have given you the names of those gunners whose records are available, but since you are unwilling to copy them I will tell you what happened to 3 of them;

197635 J W James, posted to Anti-Aircarft Training Depot, Shoeburyness, 16-9-1916, left for Salonica 20-3-1917

197639 I Davis , posted to AATD 16-9-1916, left for Salonica 5-3-1917

73338 J M Martin, posted to AATD 19-9-1916, left for Salonica 5-3-1917

Most of the records of service are not good, but I would say that it is likely that some of the men were being posted to 99 AA Section on the 20-1-1917.

Not until you have seen as many records as possible will you be able to decide how well trained they were.

For those men that were transferred while in Salonica then it is obvious that they did not have the same training, but those from Britain had nearly 6 months training. If you ever do read the mens service records I am sure you will decide that the transfer date on your grandfathers MIC is incorrect.

Kevin

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Kevin,

Whatever training may or may not have taken place before arrival in Salonika it does not change the fact that the Diaries show that Sections coming from the UK had to have about two months on-site training before becoming active. That doesn't suggest to me that the training in the UK was either of a practical nature or of any great use in the field.

My Grandfather was in hospital in West Didsbury in mid-July 1916 after being wounded on the Somme. He was at Shoeburyness by late September 1916, still as a Corporal. By February 1917 he was a Sergeant and I know that he studied for the extra stripe so he may very well have taken the exam there. Whether that means he was in the AATD I have no idea because his records are not at Kew. It seems likely that he would not have had the six months in the AATD the men you quote had unless he could have studied for his stripe in his spare time.

My present round of research relates to the AAS rather than their men. You've made it quite plain that you disagree with that. Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree because I've still got an awful lot of work to do on the Diaries before I start on anything else.

Keith

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OK, with the benefit of a night's sleep let's see whether this lot can be reconciled:

24th was an established Section so could be expected to move straight into action.

32nd left Britain in November 1915, when there was no British AA gun in the Salonika Theatre. The British Army had the responsibility for the protection of their own dumps, bases, etc, but It spent two months at Alexandria training, suggesting that they'd not had much practical training before they left.

32nd's Diary records that 73rd and 74th arrived together at Salonika. Captain J Orrell, CO of 32nd AAS, remained in Salonika when his Section moved north on 11th August to train these two Sections. 32nd's Diary does not record when he re-joined. 73rd became active on 1st October 1916.

74th did not become independently active until 1st February 1917.

90th arrived in February 1917, with the equipment for 94th and 95th as well as its own.

90th disembarked its guns on 28th February became active 12th March.

91st became active on 28th February.

94th became active (one gun initially) on 25th February.

95th also disembarked its guns on 28th February and became active 4th March.

97th arrived in two ships on 17th March and 2nd April. It became active on 4th April.

98th in action 5th April.

99th arrived in mid- to late-March, was attached to 73rd on 10th April and became active in mid-July, when its equipment arrived.

So 73rd and 74th needed some field training from an experienced CO before they were set to work. 24th and 90th-98th arrived at Salonika and went straight into action. The second group came from directly Britain so Kevin's records of men with six-months training at AATD and their departure dates fit well with this. The 1918 Sections (141st, 153rd and 154th) can be ignored for now as products of a different period in the War.

That leaves 99th and the question of the amount of training it received before embarkation. What do I know?

  1. My Grandfather was in Salonika by 21st March as he records that date as his first pay-day.
  2. Kevin's records, from early in this thread, show that some of 99th's men reached Salonika a week or so earlier than this.
  3. 99th was attached to 73rd for training on 10th April, almost a month later. They wouldn't get three weeks' leave so perhaps some training had been received at the Artillery School at Summerhill? Summerhill was very near to Lembet, the HQ for 73rd AAS.

    IMG_2936_pbucket.jpg

  4. The CO of 99th was sent off with temporarily-detached sub-Sections, which were usually commanded by a 2nd Lt.
  5. 99th became active in mid-July 1917 when its equipment arrived.

As the voyage only took about a week, the unit must have been sent from Britain with the full knowledge that they would have this length of time to wait. If the full length of training was six months, a shortened course at Shoeburyness might have been given but I would have said that working alongside an experienced unit could have shortened this time considerably and that training in Britain might have been negligible for some of the men. Kevin suggests that my Grandfather's recorded date of transfer to the RGA is later than it was. That's certainly possible, although his service records would still have been available when the MIC was compiled, of course. Assuming the date is correct, I would suggest that he was a late replacement or that the men for 99th were sent out without the usual level of training on the basis that they would be brought up to scratch after they'd arrived.

I suspect it's something we'll never get absolutely clear unless the AATD records can be turned up.

Keith

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Dont know if this is the place to ask but since your talking about solonika my granfathers brother was based there with the 1st/1st, Lothians and Borders Horse i dont suppose you have any info on them.He died there in Dec 1918

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