Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Salonika Anti-aircraft Battery


Rockdoc
 Share

Recommended Posts

I don't have anything on them, Steve, but I'd be astonished if there isn't a Pal on the Forum who is interested in them. We seem to be able to cover an awful lot of ground between us. Try to get hold of "Under the Devil's Eye" by Alan Wakefield and Simon Moody (both Forum Pals) through a library - unfortunately it's out of print. It's a well-written and very accessible account of the whole campaign. There's also The Salonika Campaign Society, of which Alan is Chairman, that may also be able to help.

If all else fails, there are quite a few War Diaries for this unit at The National Archives, Kew.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Hi, I think the photos are fab.

I can now visulaise my Grandfather on his gun in "Q" AAA BATTERY

Rgds Gerry

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He's more likely to have played with one of these, Gerry - a 13pdr 9cwt on a Thorneycroft Type J chassis. It's part of the collection at IWM Duxford, between Cambridge and Stanstead Airport. The guns shown in the photos at the start of the thread are on the same type of lorry but are an extremely unusual type of 13pdr 6cwt.

IMG_2805.jpg

IMG_2809.jpg

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I've had a few more thoughts on this topic as I've continued transcribing the War Diaries and I've rather changed my views on some aspects. I hope Kevin is still monitoring this thread as he's probably the best person to support or scupper my hypothesis.

There's no doubt that some Sections needed two months' additional training either on the way to Salonika (B sub-Section 24th and 32nd AAS at Alexandria) or after they arrived (73rd and 74th AAS were trained by O/C 32nd AAS) but the group of seven that arrive in early 1917 form an odd pattern. The first six (90th-98th) are in action within a week or so of landing. I'm finding evidence that a few of the men from these Sections were temporarily attached to previously-existing Sections for training but not that this was a significant proportion of any Section's establishment. Most Sections seem to have had both men and officers of other Artillery units with them for quite a lot of the time "for instruction", this lasting a few weeks as a rule.

99th is very much the odd one out of the 1917 batch even though it arrived at the same time as the others. It wasn't at all unusual for the establishment of a Section whose equipment had not arrived to be attached to an existing Section in the meantime but only for a week or so not for three and a half months. Edit It was the only Section of the 14 that served in Salonika not to have its equipment for more than a couple of weeks.

Looking again at my Grandfather's notes from his lectures on AA gunnery he lists the 3-in as well as the 13-pdr 6cwt and 13-pdr 9-cwt. I've found no evidence that 3-in guns were ever used in Salonika so it seems very unlikely that the Artillery Training School at Summerhill Camp would have mentioned them in any lectures they gave. Therefore, it's more than likely that the lectures he attended took place at Shoeburyness and that the course was very general in nature, i.e. they trained the men on all types of gun so they could be sent wherever they were needed at shortish notice.

To my mind it's a logistical nonsense to have sent 99th out there to kick their heels from mid-March to mid-July when the other six Sections had arrived and gone more or less straight into action. In the last few days I've discovered that 98th AAS was initially sited at the same position that 99th would adopt in July so the Harmankoy Tumulus site must have been a significant hole in the aerial defence strategy for the Salonika area. 98th relocated to Guvesne after being relieved by 99th and that site appears to have seen a lot of aircraft so it seems to me that all seven were required at the time they landed.

If the men of 99th needed almost four months of training they'd have to be complete rookies. If there is anything to suggest that the majority of the men who formed 99th were any less trained than those who formed the other six Sections then that length of training would make sense but why do that overseas when it could be done as easily in Kent?

I'd be surprised if they were rookies and I'm now wondering whether the guns, GS lorries, light car and motorcycle they were supposed to get were sunk en route. They were not immediately attached to 73rd, which is again unusual, so it could be that they were waiting for the ship to dock and were attached after news of its loss came through. 73rd was an obvious choice because it had four rather than the usual two guns so could accomodate the men more easily than the rest.

I must stress this is guesswork as there is nothing in the Sections' Diaries to support this speculation.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Without going over the mens records again, and from what I can remember, there wasn't any significant difference to the compositon of these later sections. Which was my point. If they had the equipment and guns I can see no reason why they could not have been deployed after the same initial training as the other ones.

As to whether their guns/equipment was lost at sea I have no idea. I could just as easily believe that both the guns and equipment were in greater demand for the existing sections, and it was thought necessary to pass these on to sections that needed them as replacements for non repairable items. Is it possible that the 73rd Section was made up to 4 guns by using the 99ths? Even if they did not go to the 73rd Section I still think it possible that they may have ended up split between two other ones.

Kevin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's all speculation so any guess is as good as any other, of course. I don't think that the extra guns given to 73rd were those initially set for 99th. The story is quite involved but here goes for a summary:

73rd and 74th arrived in August 1916 and were trained at Salonika by Capt J Orrell, O/C 32nd AAS who was detached from his unit for the purpose. They both were ready for action on October 1st. In early December, 73rd was instructed to exchange one of its 13-pdr 6-cwt guns for one of 74th's that was badly worn. Shortly after the swap, it was inspected, a cast of the bore taken and condemned but it took until February for it to be taken out of use and exchanged for a 13-pdr 9-cwt. The third gun was issued very soon afterwards and was another 13-pdr 6-cwt. The fourth gun was the condemned gun withdrawn from stores and put back into use at the main Supply Depot on the Monastir Road.

I don't know how all of the equipment was shipped. 90th, 94th and 95th's all came on the same vessel under the watchful eye of a few men of 90th. 91st was in action at the beginning of February so it's equipment and men must have come somewhat earlier that the others. 97th's equipment landed on 2nd April, about two weeks after the majority of its officers and men, and they were in action two days later. I wouldn't be surprised if 98th's hadn't come on the same ship because they're in action on 5th April.

That could still mean that 99th's equipment was diverted rather than lost at sea, assuming it arrived with that for 97th and 98th, but I haven't come across any notes in the Diaries to suggest that any other guns were in need of replacement. Would the IOM have been able to commandeer them to keep as a reserve? It seems a bit unlikely. Who knows?

It's the attachment of 99th to 73rd "for training" by the Base Commandant that strikes a bum note for me. It doesn't look as if they should have needed it but I suppose it might be a coded way of saying "to keep them out of trouble and in practice until their gear arrives."

Thanks for the input.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...