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high wood

Salonika anti aircraft defences

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high wood

These photographs were taken by AA3 William Abnett, RNVR during his time on the Salonika front. His service certificate states that he was, “Lent to H.M.S. Canning and Ark Royal for anti aircraft duties in the Eastern Mediterranean” between 23rd September 1915 to 19th December 1917. Specifically he served on H.M.S. Canning between 1st January and 23rd May 1916 during which time he witnessed the salvaging of Zeppelin LZ85.

For part of his time on the Salonika front he served with an AA battery on the island of Thasos where he and his colleagues produced a humorous hand written, illustrated magazine called the Thaaco Annual. According to the editorial, “this magazine has been compiled by members of the A.A.C. in Thasos. Hence the title, which some may think calls for an explanation or even an apology”. It further adds that, “the scarcity of paper and the difficulties of production will only permit of one copy of this magazine being produced”.

I am very proud to be the custodian of this unique magazine.

I have identified the members of the RNVR AA battery as being:

AA3 William Abnett. London RNVR
AA404 Herbert Hewstone. London RNVR
AA1014 Peter Sorby Wragg. Sheffield RNVR
AA1090 Robert Frederick Flavin. Dover RNVR
AA1755 Llewellen James Gill. London RNVR
AA1756 Walter Hay. London RNVR
AA1764 Bernard Machell Cox. London RNVR
AA1848 Thomas William Leach. London RNVR
AA1876 Percy James Bartlett. London RNVR

And either AA545 A Ronald Mackenzie London RNVR or AA546 John Mackenzie also London RNVR.

Among the many photographs that came with the magazine are pictures of the gun positions on the island of Thasos. The captions are those on the back of the photographs.

Various 012.JPG

Various 013.JPG

Various 014.JPG

Various 015.JPG

Edited by high wood
Adding photographs

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alldog

Hi,

Firstly I would like to say that I am very impressed with the photographs that you have been sharing with the forum.

I have read the thread concerning the LZ85 and was very pleased to find photographs of the wreckage being lowered into the ships hold - I have been researching this Zeppelin for a number of years now and until now had not come across photographs taken at the point of loading HMS Canning. I read a report some time ago that stated that the HMS Canning also fired at the LZ85 on the night that it was brought down - unfortunately the Canning was not successful in hitting the Zeppelin. In amongst the great photographs that you have, do you have any photographs of the AA gun from HMS Canning? Also, if William Abnett was posted to the Canning at this time, it is quite possibly that he was behind the firing of the gun at the time?

Perhaps it would have been more intelligent of me to have added this to the topic on the LZ85, but I thought that as you had started a new topic I thought I would latch it on to this one - hope you do not mind.

Kind regards

Ian

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LEUZEWOOD

Thanks for sharing the photos.

Do you happen to have any details as to where the AA Battery were based on Thassos?

My family regularly spend time on Thassos and it would be fascinating to know.

Regards

Tom

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apwright

The guns shown in high wood's first two photos (or is it the same gun from different angles? Looks like the same crew in both. How many guns did Abnett's battery have, high wood?) are located beside the Allied aerodrome, which was on the Prinos cape between the modern Ilio Mare hotel and the long straight on the main road between Prinos village (formerly Kalives Kazavitiou) and the turnoff for the ferry port - which was the seaplane base.

Approximate Google Earth/Maps coordinates for the 2nd pic are about 40.755 24.572, looking roughly east. The characteristic peak on the right in the photo is Tsetsos (1080m asl, 40.736 24.652), about 4.5 miles away.

The 3rd photo with the lookout post *might* be the position on the spur of Valanida (the hill above Prinos village), which overlooks the entire cape and the northern to western approaches. The locals know the area as To Kanoni ("the gun") and there is still a concrete platform up there somewhere. I am reliably informed that until the 1970s the platform was occupied by the rusting remains of an AA gun, but whether this dated from WW1 or a later period, I don't know.

Thanks to high wood for some fascinating photos!

Adrian

My wife is from Thasos (Potos) so we spend a lot of time there too.

A modern view of the aerodrome site, taken from quite a bit further back:

post-16303-0-93850700-1316155530.jpg

EDIT on seeing high wood's latest post: Επάνω can mean "upon" or "aloft" or "upstairs". Probably better translated in this context as "up there". It would be the typical expression of a villager referring to his local hill - "just going up there to check on the goats, dear". I think this probably confirms my suspicion that the photo shows the Kanoni position above Prinos.

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michaeldr

The RNAS sent planes from Imbros to Thasos in May 1916. They made petrol bombs on the island with which to bomb Bulgarian crops. There were also attacks on bridges over the River Nester and at Shimshirli. Brad King in his book on the RNAS has "As far as aerial conflict was concerned the enemy was very inactive until the last two months of the year …… By the end of 1916 Thasos was itself heavily raided by enemy aircraft from the airfields at Drama and Xanthi, so it was not all a one-sided affair"

Thanks for sharing the photographs

Michael

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alldog

Hi,

Thank you very much for adding the pictures of HMS Canning - they are excellent and I am very grateful for you sharing them on the forum. Apparently the Canning's gun (I am not sure if it had more than one) was a three-pounder and the Canning had no time fuzes, they therefore delayed firing until the shells could do no harm to the town. she also illuminated the Zeppelin with her 24" searchlight. In the course of researching the LZ85, I am sure that I have quite a few cuttings from period productions of the AA in and around Salonika, and I will post them against this thread once I have located them.

Thank you once again for your valuable help.

Kind regards

Ian

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LEUZEWOOD

The guns shown in high wood's first two photos (or is it the same gun from different angles? Looks like the same crew in both. How many guns did Abnett's battery have, high wood?) are located beside the Allied aerodrome, which was on the Prinos cape between the modern Ilio Mare hotel and the long straight on the main road between Prinos village (formerly Kalives Kazavitiou) and the turnoff for the ferry port - which was the seaplane base.

Approximate Google Earth/Maps coordinates for the 2nd pic are about 40.755 24.572, looking roughly east. The characteristic peak on the right in the photo is Tsetsos (1080m asl, 40.736 24.652), about 4.5 miles away. The hangars of the aerodrome

The 3rd photo with the lookout post *might* be the position on the spur of Valanida (the hill above Prinos village), which overlooks the entire cape and the northern to western approaches. The locals know the area as To Kanoni ("the gun") and there is still a concrete platform up there somewhere. I am reliably informed that until the 1970s the platform was occupied by the rusting remains of an AA gun, but whether this dated from WW1 or a later period, I don't know.

Thanks to high wood for some fascinating photos!

Adrian

My wife is from Thasos (Potos) so we spend a lot of time there too.

A modern view of the aerodrome site, taken from quite a bit further back:

post-16303-0-93850700-1316155530.jpg

EDIT on seeing high wood's latest post: Επάνω can mean "upon" or "aloft" or "upstairs". Probably better translated in this context as "up there". It would be the typical expression of a villager referring to his local hill - "just going up there to check on the goats, dear". I think this probably confirms my suspicion that the photo shows the Kanoni position above Prinos.

Wow, an impressive amount of detail I really wasn't expecting. Thanks very much for this - a fascinating post all round.

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high wood

To paraphrase Adrian, "The guns shown in the first two photos are located beside the Allied aerodrome, which was on the Prinos cape between the modern Ilio Mare hotel and the long straight on the main road between Prinos village (formerly Kalives Kazavitiou) and the turnoff for the ferry port - which was the seaplane base".

You are absolutely spot on. Here is a cropped version of your photograph; I hope that you do not mind me reposting it. And here is the aerodrome in 1916.

post-6480-0-27068000-1316281922.jpg

post-6480-0-88251500-1316282022.jpg

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Rockdoc

The gun(s) shown in posts 16-18 is the 3-in 20-cwt, which, as it was designed and developed for the RN, you'd expect a Naval unit to be using. I don't know the area at all but there seems to be a good field of view, which I noted at the three Army sites we visited in Salonika earlier this year. That makes the 80-degree elevation a little unexpected because that's close to the point at which the aircraft would go "out of bearing" and the gun would be unable to fire again until it had been turned and the plane's course allowed the elevation to be reduced. It suggests that the enemy aircraft was passing right over the airfield and, indeed, over the gun position but that it was observing rather than bombing or the photographer wouldn't have been taking snaps! :)

Keith

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Rockdoc

These are wonderful photos, HW. Many thanks for posting them. I take it that the "spotting device" is part of the caption? I haven't got a clue what it is or how it might work. It looks quite flimsy so I wonder whether it was something of their own devising? That sort of thing did happen. One of the Salonika AA Sections found that they couldn't read their gun-mounted instruments in the dark so their fitters devised a system of shaded lamps. Once proven, the Diary records that the suggestion was passed upwards for consideration.

Keith

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alldog

Hi HW,

I agree with Keith - superb photographs!!

I must admit that my knowledge of the land based AA in and around Salonika is extremely limited - so your thread and the comments made by Keith and other members are providing me with a great insight into the land based operations. It is great to know that there are people out there that are willing to share their knowledge and indeed there photographs.

I would love to see the photographs, if you are prepared to upload those with the bombs and float plane. Hopefully I can confirm that the bombs are from the LZ85.

I am just about to upload some photographs to the equipment forum in the hope that a member maybe able to help with a mirror that I have. I am not sure if it has anything to do with AA or if it is part of a heliograph - it was mounted between the arms of a bomb cradle from the LZ85 and was presented to the crew of the Monitor M19. I only mention this as I can see from your thread that you and those watching maybe my best hope in identifying it.

Thank you for all your help.

Kind regards

Ian

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Rockdoc

If you're losing a lot of detail, you'll be better to use one of the hosting sites, like Photobucket, that let you upload larger images than you can attach on here and then link across to them.

I wonder if the damage to the trees you can see in these last three are the result of blast or fire? Can you tell from the originals?

Keith

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alldog

Hi Simon,

Thank you once again for taking the time to attach some more of your superb photographs. The bombs I am sure are not from the LZ85 - the bombs found in amongst the wreckage were spherical and I have not seen any other types of bombs in amongst my photographs that resemble the bombs in the photographs. They could very well be from the float plane or like you say from a British source. Hopefully I will get some time to go through a few books on the weekend to see if I can clarify anything. The photographs are very interesting and so it will give me something to do on the weekend.

The mirror that I mentioned in my last post appears to be nothing more than an Edwardian shaving mirror - at least it will give the experts something to laugh about :-) Mind you I am still hopeful that someone will tell me that it is the holy grail of anti Zeppelin mirrors - used as an early death ray - and it's worth a fortune......but then I am also still waiting to win the lottery.

I am not sure if you have mentioned how you come across these great photographs - I hope you do not mind my asking?

I hope that you decide to add some more :-)

I will try to find out some bits of information on the weekend also that I can add to the thread rather than just being on the take.

Take care,

Kind regards

Ian

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michaeldr

the RAF Squadron based on Thasos

R.N.A.S. surely

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high wood

Of course; in my defence it was 6.46 this morning and I had not long been out of bed.

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Rockdoc

Ian, you say that the bombs recovered from the Zeppelin were spherical. Do you have any idea why they were not the more conventional shape? A conventional bomb can have fins fitted which will give a degree of guidance as it falls and make it much more likely that the nose, carrying the fuze, will strike first. A sphere has none of those attributes.

Keith (wishing he'd found thermodynamics & fluids an easier subject as an undergrad!)

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alldog

Hi Simon and Keith,

Sorry to take so long in getting back to you both.

Simon, thank you once again for the superb photograph that you have posted. I will certainly go through my records over the weekend to see if I come up with anything. It is unlikely that I will have anything and think that you are right that only a diary of sorts would be able to confirm the actual incident/s - but it is worth a dig around in my pile of oddities! You really have a unique collection of photographs and it is great that you have shared them.

Keith, very good question. I am unsure as to why the LZ85 only appeared to be carrying sherical bombs. A variety of bombs were available to the Zeppelins and I do not know if it was through personal preference of the Zeppelin commander or limited supply meant that they had to use whatever they could get hold of. I have seen a photograph of a delivery of bombs to Temesvar from whence the Zeppelin launched her raids, the delivery only consisted of spherical bombs of two different sizes - all the Army Zeppelin division could spare from their other operations? The Zeppelins did drop more aero dynamic bombs early in the war and so why the LZ85 used the spherical type may remain a mystery. I have attached a photograph of the bombs found in amongst the wreckage and displayed on the quay at Salonika.

Kind regards

Ian

post-72772-0-66748600-1316737362.jpg

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Rockdoc

The fuzes must have been time- rather than contact-triggered but that isn't necessarily a handicap, especially because the altitude and, hence, time of fall would be accurately known at all times. The problem with a spherical shape is that it's much less likely to lodge where it drops. OK, bomb-aiming was a pretty hit-and-miss affair in WW1 but these might roll anywhere after landing. As you can tell, I'm very puzzled by these!

Keith

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alldog

Hi Keith,

I have some more information on the bombs....

The spherical bombs appear to have been issued to the Army Zeppelin division only.

The smaller bomb was 50lbs and 8.5" in diameter, the larger was 230lbs and 14" in diameter - the 14" bombs are shown in the photograph.

The steel cased bombs were painted black and had a clockwork fuse with a delay action of 0.5 sec.

Although unconventional and about as aero dynamic as a satellite the weight of a bus on an uncontrolled collision course with Earth, you would not want either of them landing on your head! Scatter enough of them on a town and you would have a real life game of marble madness - with my luck I would find the lowest point of the town to hide! :-)

Kind regards

Ian

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Rockdoc

I had no idea that the Germans had clockwork fuzes so early in the war. The British couldn't produce one, even by reverse-engineering German ones, and they eventually sub-contracted the project to the Swiss. I believe they were ready for use just as the war ended.

Keith

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alldog

Hi Keith,

I have some drawings of the bombs somewhere in amongst my research material - I will try to dig them out for you.

Kind regards

Ian

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Rockdoc

Thanks, Ian. I'll be pleased to see them. It might be better to upload them to somewhere like Photobucket, though, and paste links into this thread so that everyone gets the benefit.

Keith

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alldog

Hi Simon and Keith,

Sorry for the delay in getting drawings of the bombs and further AA information - I have been very busy for the last few days, and my research material is in right royal mess!!! Will have something posted soon.

Kind regards

Ian

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Rockdoc

We would need to see the war diary for the RNVR AA unit to get a good idea of what the photographs might show. .....

I know absolutely nothing about the Navy's contribution to AA work in WW1 so please excuse me if this is a daft question! Was the RNVR the only part of the Navy that operated AA guns in their spheres of influence? I know that there was a 3-in 20-cwt gun at Stavros and found a photo of it at the IWM but I don't know where to start looking for any information o the work it did.

Keith

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Kate Wills

As is customary on the first saturday in October, the Salonika Campaign Society will be making our annual act of remembrance at The Cenotaph for those lost in the Macedonian theatre of war, followed by our AGM at the Civil Service Club.

Everyone is very welcome to join us at The Cenotaph at 11.30am

SCS website

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