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Remembered Today:

Gardenerbill

100 Years ago this week in the Balkans

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Gardenerbill

13th December the final units of the 22nd Division arrive at Salonika

14th December the war office sanction the establishment of two Corps HQs; XII under Lt Gen F.M. Wilson and XVI under Lt Gen George. F. Milne. Generals Sarrail and Mahon order a full retreat to Salonika. The final units of the 26th Division arrive in Salonika.

18th December when most units were back near Salonika, the French rearguards were ordered to maintain their positions as outposts. The Bulgarians stopped and showed no inclination to cross the Greek border.

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Gardenerbill

By the 20th of December all units where back at Salonika.

The proposed Defensive line around Salonika had been agreed on the 14th of December as ‘Tumba village on the south west shore of Lake Langaza through Aivatli, Balcha, Dautli, Naresh to the Vardar river at Kara Oghlu then down the left bank of the Vardar to the Monastir road Bridge’. Work on the line of mutually supporting strong points commenced on the 16th and by the 20th was well under way. Plans were already in place to extend the line further east as far as the Gulf of Rendina, 21st December 30th Brigade set off for the Eiri Dere valley to construct defences between Lakes Langaza and Beshik.

Christmas Day 1915

Major Frank Debenham 7th Ox & Bucks

‘...we even got the ingredients for a Christmas pudding, and all ranks had at least that essential part of a Christmas dinner. Certain hardy venturers had done some bargaining with local shepherds and peasants for sheep and Geese...

‘Under the devils eye’ P36.

The only other source I have from 1915 is the 9th East Lancs War diary which contains the following entry for the 25th of December:

‘Two hours work were done in trenches. Remainder of day spent quietly in camp. Weather fine.’

Does anyone else have any sources that reference Christmas day 1915 in Salonika?

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AndyR

Hi Mark

Enjoying the series and thought I should chip in – a little behind the times (sorry) but three extracts related to posts #12, #16 and your most recent #27 which asked for other contributions:

Re Post #12

The 32nd Field Ambulance proceeded to the Monastir Road Railway Station on the 10th November. A few companies of Irish infantry were on the platform when the little train of passenger carriages drew into the station. A misguided movement by the rank and file towards these luxurious compartments was eloquently denounced by sundry Sergeant Majors, and shortly afterwards, full of officers, it dragged itself solemnly away.

A moment or two later, an engine and a couple of dozen trucks made their appearance. The wagons bore the familiar legend “Chevaux 8; Hommes 40.” An Irishman peered at this epitaph and exploded: “We’re the forty -------y hommies.” We were indeed though only twenty-three “hommies” and their packs found their way into our particular horsebox.

[1914-1919 Memoirs of the 32nd Field Ambulance 10th (Irish) Division, Charles Midwinter (Late Sgt.), 1933]

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022582

Q 55120 Transport of the 5th Connaught Rangers detraining at Doiran Station, 15 November 1915 (Jourdain H F N Lt Col)

Re Post #16

Sat Nov 27th – Woke up to find there had been a heavy snow-storm, leaving inches thick of snow frozen hard on the ground and still pouring down heavily. It is the coldest atmosphere I have ever experienced and the infantry are piling in by the score. Poor fellows, with frostbite and jaundice from the bleak perishing blizzard, welcomed the big roaring fires we kept on the go. I spent nearly all the day dishing out cocoa for as soon as one crowd has finished another batch would come in.

Some were absolutely helpless, others had their overcoats frozen to their neck while one had a ½” icicle hanging from his nose. It seems cruel after the Division's experiences in the heat of the Peninsula to rush them into the other extremity of intense frost, naturally the effect was felt.

[Diary of William Knott (http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030007862)]

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022585

Q 55130 View down the reverse slope of the snow-clad Kosturino Ridge from the battalion HQ bivouac of the 5th Connaught Rangers, 30 November 1915 (Jourdain H F N Lt Col)

Re Post #27

Fri Dec 24th – Reveille 7 a.m. and work before breakfast pitching hospital etc. Naturally my thoughts are far away wondering what the folks at home are doing. It is a great comfort to know that they do not know the circumstances in which I am spending Xmastide. We retired to rest with a forlorn hope of any enjoyment on the morrow when suddenly they shouted ‘a mail’ of which I was fortunate enough to get 2 parcels from home! Up went the spirits hitherto dampened.

Sat Dec 25th – Christmas Day on ‘Active Service’ and I sincerely trust it is the last! Church parade at 9 a.m. and what hypocrisy it is, all red tape militarism formed into sermons. On return our Colonel said we should attend as our duty to the Chaplain. To make things worse as soon as parade was dismissed we were set to entrenching tents & water, fatigues, causing much discontent in camp. It is a pity that when it would be possible to have a few hours recreation we are so ruled by such an erratic Colonel.

[Diary of William Knott (http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030007862)]

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205304976

Q 55144 Christmas morning after the retreat from Serbia, at Salonika. The drums are playing on parade at 8. 45 am before Mass. 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers on parade. Salonika, December 1915 (Jourdain H F N Lt Col)

Andy

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Gardenerbill

Thanks Andy glad you are enjoying the thread.

The personal accounts you have posted and the pictures really help to bring the events to life. Of course on the IWM website there is also the much used picture of the line on Kosturiono ridge that demonstartes the difficulty of digging trenches in the mountainous terrain.:

Kosturiono Ridge

To be frank I was hoping that more Forum members would join in with posts but there do seem to be a regular number of members following the thread.

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KGB

I am interested in anything on 5th Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers at Kosturino.

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Gardenerbill

KGB have you got the book 'Neither Unionist nor Nationalist - The 10th (Irsih) Division in the Great War' by S. Sandford, Irish Acedemic Press 2015.

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KGB

KGB have you got the book 'Neither Unionist nor Nationalist - The 10th (Irsih) Division in the Great War' by S. Sandford, Irish Acedemic Press 2015.

Happy Xmas. No. Pleasure reading at the moment is more on my New Years Resolutions list. Ta for the heads up, might squeeze it into birthday wish list for May.

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archangel9

Does anyone else have any sources that reference Christmas day 1915 in Salonika?

Great thread. Haven't spent much time on the forum this year (spending all free time studying). I have the war diary, official history and a couple of other sources of information for the 5th Bn Connaught Rangers. I'll have a look over the next couple of days.

Thanks

John

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archangel9

War diary rather disappointing -

25th December 1915

Xmas Day. No parades except for Divine Service. (All voluntary).

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berniehudson

The Diary of Rev H R Cooke

Dec 25 Christmas Day.

A celebration of the Holy Communion for the 100th at 6.45 a.m. in a bell tent, a ride to

Akbunah for a Celebration in 98th Medical tent for 3 brigade, breakfast in doctors dug-out and

parade at 10 a.m., they were late on parade so I had to gallop home in order to be in time for 11

o'clock parade of 100th.

The afternoon I spent with Lieut Mac and the Vet with a 2 horse limber wagon gathering small

prickly shrub for a Christmas fire. Our Christmas dinner was a great success - sardines, soup,

turkey (roasted in the sergeants field oven) plum pudding (the first attempt of our cook but quite

good) and fruit.

Dec. 26 Up early and rode in to D.A.C. for a

Christmas Celebration at 8 a.m. and parade

later.

Dec. 27 Spent the day on horseback, called for doctor

of 98th rode with him through the mountains

and down a narrow and precipitous path to

the H.Q. of 98th, then on to 99th in Daudli

and back up the tremendous hill. We had our

lunch of bully and cheese on the top and rode

homewards. I stopped and had tea with 101st

Capt. Robson.

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archangel9

Private Papers of J McIlwain

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030005559

20th December
Commissioned by the C.O. to visit all attainable hospitals and clearing stations and endeavour to trace the bn's casualties. Tramping round all day.

21st December
Continued the search and traced many of our missing.

24th December
Sent into the city to try to get beer for the battalion; not successful.

Xmas Day
Take two empty barrels to a brewery. A and C Coys supplied with beer. Waiting at brewery etc. all day for this. This Xmas day I got not dinner.

26th December
Sunday. Two more barrels for B and D.

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archangel9

Christmas Day at Salonika broke with the whole country white with frost, and the hills around were covered with snow. There was parade for the troops for divine service, and the drums of the Battalion played before and after the service. A ration of beer was obtained for the men through the exertions of some officers, and in the evening the drums played patriotic airs which were much appreciated by all and also by the 6th Leinster Regiment, which was encamped alongside the Rangers.

Source: Record of the 5th (Service) Battalion the Connaught Rangers by H.F.N. Jourdain

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archangel9

Christmas Day from another perspective, that of a Connaught Ranger taken prisoner at Kosturino on 7th December. After 16 days march, which included a night spent in pig styes and emerging the next morning covered in pig lice, the prisoners were packed into train wagons. Unable to understand a word their captures were saying they recognised the word "Sofia" and so understood the capital to be their destination. At the station in Sofia locals gathered round the prisoners selling "an amount of merchandise and food stuff"

"Although we were men without roots, we were now men with possessions. Bread, of a slightly better quality, corn cobs and both water and sugar melons, were procured for cash or exchange.

Eventually we were all marched off to a cinema - not for entertainment - which had been completely stripped of everything except the floor boards. It was sufficiently large enough to hold all comfortably, so we could all stretch are legs as we slept. The usual ration of soup and bread was issued and, with our supplementary purchases, we spent this Christmas Eve, 24th December, 1915, in lighter vein than we had expected, finishing off the evening with a sing-song and Christmas carols. We remained there for Christmas day and the three following days and, during this period, and for the first time since our capture, the army authorities recorded our regimental number, rank, name and regiment."

I am reasonably certain that the author was 10020 Serjeant William Halpin, Connaught Rangers.

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Gardenerbill

I really enjoyed reading those personal accounts of Christmas they really bring the story to life.

Back to the text books and the Official History:

28th December 29th Brigade, less artillery and transport, went by sea around the Khalkidike peninsular to the Gulf of Orfano, to complete the right flank of the line between Lake Beshik and Stavros. The transport and artillery marched over land.

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Gardenerbill

B squadron of the Surrey Yeomanry had arrived at Salonika on 11th December and were now camped north of the new line near Guvesne. They were sending 3 patrols a day north towards Kukus and out along the Seres road as far as Lahana and Suho.

'The first Christmas Day abroad was celebrated by a pork dinner, and on boxing day the first mail was received since leaving Alexandria.'

'The History and War Records of the Surrey Yeomanry' E.D. Harrison-Ainsworth.

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Gardenerbill

In 1915 there were German, Austrian, Bulgarian and Turkish consulates operating in the city of Salonika leading to problems with spies sometimes openly recording the comings and goings of troops and units. At 15:00 on 30th December General Sarrail closed the consulates down. I have checked Gardeners, Devils Eye and the Official History and none state what happened to the occupants presumably they were interned or deported. At any rate the Greeks protested strongly but took no action.

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AndyR

Apologies for raising a sensitive subject but it seems we should not pass by the sad death of the young Patrick Joseph Downey of the 6th Battalion Leinster Regiment, 10th (Irish) Division who was shot by firing squad on 26th or 27th December near Salonika.

It appears his offence was that on the 26th November he twice refused to fall in for a fatigue. It seems likely that the fatigue was to carry ammunition to Rocky Peak as William Knott’s diary [iWM] records (dated Mon Jan 3rd) that “A 6th Inniskilling [sic] shot for refusing to carry ammunition to Rocky Peak”. Downey’s court martial was held at Hasanli (near Kosturino) on 1st December 1915. It appears that the capital sentence was agreed by Lt. General Mahon as “the condition of discipline in the Battalion is such as to render an exemplary punishment highly desirable” [ Executed at Dawn: The British Firing Squads of the First World War By David Johnson].

An entry in the personal diary of Army doctor attached to No.4 Canadian Hospital recorded the manner of Downey’s death: There was a tragedy in the next camp to us yesterday. A young Irishman in the Leinsters who had been giving trouble ever since he came out here was court-martialled, the immediate charge being desertion in the face of the enemy and general insubordination. He was sentenced to be shot and the sentence was duly carried out. An officer who had command of the unit said that when he heard the sentence he began to laugh, and said, “That is a good joke, you let me enlist and then bring me out here and shoot me.” [Number 4 Canadian hospital: the letters of Professor J.J. Mackenzie from the Salonika front]

Andy

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Gardenerbill

Andy, I read about this sad story in the Salonika Campaign Society magazine just a couple of days ago, I didn't post it as I thought we had passed the date:

'He was brought back to Salonika and executed at 8 a.m. on December 18, at Eurenjik, near the port of Salonika. Downey was the only soldier of the 10th (Irish) Division to be executed; he is buried in Mikra Cemetery, Thessaloniki.'

The New Mosquito issue 32 Sep 2015 page 13.

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AndyR

CWGC gives 27th December - and I think 18th may be the date the sentence was confirmed by Munro but can't find the ref.

Sorry - hadn't seen the New Mosquito.

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archangel9

Jourdain states that the execution was "held on the day after Christmas."

McIlwain records -

"27th December.

This morning a boy of the 6th Leinsters shot for disobedience of a lawful command. The authorities believe this necessary for the recovery of discipline which is supposed to have weakened in the division."

So 26th/27th would seem to be correct alright.

John

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Gardenerbill

It looks like 'The New Mosquito' article is wrong, they quote the following source:

WO 71/441: Judge Advocate Generals Office:

Courts Martial Proceedings and Board of General

Officers' Minutes: Downey, P., National Archives London

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gstennes

I have a copy of WO 71/441 and can confirm - Munro confirmed Downey's sentence on the 18th.

The Provost Marshall's note in the file states - "The execution of No 227 Pte Downey 6th Leinster Regt took place at 0800 today. Death was instantaneous." Dated 27/12/15

Glenn

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Gardenerbill

The evacuation of the remnants of the Serbian army to Corfu continued into January 1916. The Greeks reduced their garrison in Salonika by 50%.

On the 4th January the final units of the 28th Division and Charles Packer author of ‘Return to Salonika’ arrived.

On the 7th there was a German aeroplane bombing raid on Salonika causing 18 casualties, the same day the rest of the Derbyshire Yeomanry arrived, one squadron was already here in a composite regiment with the Sherwood’s and had formed a rearguard during the retreat from Serbia in mid December.

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apwright

The evacuation of the remnants of the Serbian army to Corfu continued into January 1916.

The evacuation of the Serbs from Albania only commenced on 6 January 1916, and initially they were taken to Bizerte in Tunisia. It wasn't until 18 January that they started to be landed on Corfu.

Adrian

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Gardenerbill

Adrian,

My information came from the September 2015 issue of ‘ The New Mosquito’, in an article entitled ‘An Outline to the Great War Serbian Campaigns’ Viv John states:

‘Rear Admiral Troubridge reached San Giovanni di Medua, the port of Scutari and began an evacuation from there to Corfu until the port became untenable on 5 December, the evacuation was then moved south to Durazzo and Valona (Vlore).’

He goes on to say:

‘British and French transport missions arrived before the end of the month to ship the survivors to Corfu. The evacuation was complete well before the Austro-Hungarian troops arrived at Scutari on 21 January 1916.’

Unfortunately the article is not referenced.

Mark.

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