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mackay1964

Struma visit - what should I see?

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mackay1964

In a couple of weeks I am heading over to Greece to visit the grave of the man who would have been my Great-uncle. He died on 28th Nov 1918 and was a member of the 32nd Railway Operating company. He is buried in the cemetery at Kalokastro, I will be the first family member to pay our respects. I have a map of the location of the No 25 Casualty clearing station he was taken to, so will pass by there but I have not been able to discover the location of "Vetrina Station" which is the location of the accident which cost him his life, any help in finding the station would be appreciated. Also are there any other "must not miss" places to visit as it's unlikely I'll return any time soon and my time in the locality is very limited.   

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JulianR

Will reply later, probable name change of town

 

Julian

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JulianR

Nearest Lat and long I can find is Lat 41 degrees 16 minutes 54 seconds north, long 23 degrees 19 minutes 50 seconds east.  That puts you on the old railway bridge that was being repaired at the time your great uncle was killed, and the station was a couple of hundred yards west along the track.  117 Coy built a loading ramp, pump house, water tower and station building.  I suspect that these have all gone, but the site was quite extensive so there may be foundations remaining.  If I am right then the site is probably under woodland and there are some farm buildings there.  32 Railway Operating Coys War Diary is one of the least helpful I have come across and is basically just a list of the numbers of men going sick every day.  I did not see anything in 117 Coys War Diary to denote an accident at the time.

 

I think the modern name of the village is Neon Pelritsi, but that was taken from a 70 year old german map but Google Earth refuses to display place names for me.  Looking at Google maps the current railway station is Sidirodromikos Stathmos Neou Petritsiou..  Google translate tells me Neo Petrizi Railway Station. The modern railway line cross the Struma over 1 km south of the 1918 crossing.

 

Julian

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JulianR

If you are interested in just the railway then try contacting the Thessalonika Railway Museum who may be able to help especially with the location of Vetrina Station.

 

I have found two different websites for the Railway Museum one, I think, is the official OSE (Greek Railways) and the other the Friends of the Museum.

 

http://www.sfsth.gr/index.php/en/mi-museum-info-en

http://www.ose.gr/en/culture/rail-museums/104-railway-museum-of-thessaloniki

 

There are other members on here who are interested in the campaign, and at least one I think lives in Salonika who might be able to help.  I cannot work out how to highlight this message and bring it to their attention. 

 

Julian

 

 

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Sgt Stripes

Hi. May I suggest a visit to the River Struma and Orljak Bridge. It is not used now but it does still stand next to the new bridge. There are a couple of bunkers-pill boxes at both ends of the bridge which I think date from WW2. I would be very surprised if your man did not cross this bridge on his way to the Struma Valley.     

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MerchantOldSalt

A map will help you here, these are parts of a topographical map of the area and a trench map both of which are held at the PRO Kew, which also holds other maps of the Salonika campaign.  Modern Greek maps are not good so the old ones are quite useful as the country roads have not much changed.

 

There was no station at Vetrina prior to 1918 and there is no station there now as Julian rightly says.  If you put NEO PETRITSI into Google Maps the red pointer should fall right on the Thessaloniki - Alexandroupoli railway line just south of what was Vetrina, in satellite mode go east along the railway and you will find a junction where the modern railway branches off right and the old track off to the left goes up to the curve and over the old railway bridge which is still visible, I believe that Vetrina Station was amongst the woodland just before you get to the bridge and JulianR confirms this.  The old railway track re-joins the new one just west of DEMIRHIRSAR now called SIDIROKASTRO.

 

A trip on the train from Thessaloniki is well worth it and very cheap, later on the railway goes down the NESTOS River Gorge which is quite beautiful.  The locals will think you are mad to travel by train as few people do.  My GU flew with 2 Wing RNAS in this area and spent some time and effort bombing the bridges on this railway line with considerable success.

 

The Cemeteries are quite beautiful and very well maintained and often the only green for miles around! STRUMA Cemetery where you are headed is by coincidence where my Wife's 2nd Cousin is buried, a Corporal in the York and Lancaster Regiment killed in 1916 in an attack on Barakli Dzuma, but I digress. Have a good trip

 

Tony

 

 

Capture.JPG

Capture3.JPG

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JulianR

Just been playing with the Greek Railway site, in theory you could go by train from Salonika to Vetrina or whatever station is closest and back in a day, it could be an early start, and ought to give you a couple of hours on site.

 

That would allow you to travel of what is basically the same route as your great uncle worked over.  

 

Tony has said I confirmed the location of Vetrina station, it was more an educated guess, as 117 Railway Construction Coy War Diary does not give co-ordinates for it.  I worked on the assumption that they would want to carry stores the shortest possible distance, and there is at least one reference in the WD to them being marched out of camp to the west whilst demolitions were carried out on the old bridge.  The WD says that railhead, i.e. how far the track had been laid/repaired, was at Kilo 90 (presumably from Salonika) on 5th November, and the bridge had been repaired and was open to traffic on 18th January, 1919.  So, if someone can measure 90 kilos along the railway from Salonika we will not be far out.

 

Julian

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mackay1964

Wow! Some fantastic help guys. More than I could have hoped for. Thank you.

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mackay1964

Isn't Google Earth amazing!

 

If you look closely at the map you've posted just next to Vetrina Station is a small symbol I'm taking as the OS symbol for a church with tower, it's a reasonable assumption I would say. So looking on Google Earth I have identified a small place of worship at 41.16.15 N 23.18.20 E it's not much of a church, I'll admit, but it pins down the location I'm sure.

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mackay1964

11 Aug 1916

To Expeditionary Force Salonika.  Sailed from Devonport on HT 'Costrain'

23 Aug 1916

Arrived Salonika and to 37th Reserve Park ASC

27 Sep 1916

Admitted to hospital with malaria

5 Oct 1916

Discharged to covalescent camp

9 Oct 1916

Discharged to Lembet Base Depot - shown on strength of 238 Coy ASC

8 Apr 1917

To 330 MT Coy ASC

26 Aug 1917

Admitted 64 General Hospital - inflamed ankle

12 Sep 1917

Discharged to 8 Convalescent Depot

20 Sep 1917

Discharged to unit (238 Coy)

13 Aug 1918

Attached to Railway Troops RE Base Depot

18 Aug 1918

Compulsorarily transferred from ASC HT to RE.

Sapper

Granted extra pay of 1/- a day

Trade:  D.ais.. Driver (Proficient)

Renumbered to RE WR/297234

24 Aug 1918

Posted to 32 Rly Operating Coy from RE Base Depot

27 Nov 1918

Admitted 25 Casualty Clearing Station (fractured pelvis and ruptured bladder).

From subsequent report 'At 1800 hours 27-11-18 a trolley which was being driven by the above named man collided with a ballast train on the JSC Main Line near Vetrina Station causing injuries to driver as stated above'

28 Nov 1918

Died at 25 CSS as a result of injuries.

Dec 1918

Court of enquiry on Spr Mackay's death - as a result two men tried by FGCM (charges not given)

550056 Spr BT Ashton - 6 months imprisonment with hard labour (subsequently remitted)

296039 L/Cpl RE Robinson - 28 days Field Punishment No 1 (commuted to 28 days FP No 2)

 

For your information here is the information I have on Donald Mackay's overseas service. My final task will be to get to the National Archive and see if there is any further information in the Field Court MArtial papers

 

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JulianR
mackay1964
JulianR
First Name:
B T
Surname:
Ashton
Age:
36
Index Number of Admission:
23024
Rank:
Sapper
Service Number:
WR/550056
Years Service:
2 years 5 months
Months With Field Force:
2 years 4 months
Ailment:
Myalgia
Date of Admission for Original Ailment:
17/03/1919
Date Transferred to Other Hospitals:
30/03/1919
Number/Designation of Ward:
B3
Notes written in the Observations Column:
No. 43 General Hospital
Religion:
Church of England
Regiment:
Battalion:
19th Railway Operating Company (Why is this important?)
Archive Reference:
MH106/1364 MH106/1364 can be found at The National Archives in Kew, and contains First World War Representative Medical Records of No. 28 General Hospital: 28/02/1919 to 23/05/1919. British Other Ranks. 28th General Hospital Harmon Kevi SALONIKA. Ser: 22502-23801 and Transfers Ser: 32374-32924.

 

Ashton was Bernard T

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JulianR
JulianR

If you can see Ashton's service record it records what happened.  He is at fault. I think Robinsons initials are HA.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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mackay1964

Unfortunately I don't have access to Ancestry (maybe I'll do the free trial thing). It would seem to me the circumstances of his death point towards a train (under the responsibility of Spr Ashton and L/Cpl Robinson) being on a line where it shouldn't have been and my Great Uncle being unlucky enough to be driving his train along that line. With any luck the Court Martial papers may give more information. Although I understand the level of recording and reporting in Field Courts Martial was not anything approaching what we would regard as adequate these days. Also I suspect that with the cessation of hostilities there would be a general feeling of enough suffering had occurred and it was time to go home, I feel that was probably why the sentences were commuted.

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JulianR

Robinson is Herbert A, I cannot find his service papers.  Basically, Robinson was station master at Vetrina, told Ashton, working the points, to admit the trolley that Donald was driving into Vetrina station.  Ashton failed to notice the ballast train standing in Vetrina Station, and failed to go up the line and stop the trolley.  The charge is not that clear, in that it has got a bit crumpled.   I think Ashton and possibly Robinson were both 19 Railway Operating Coy, and that Coys War Diary is a bit more forthcoming with information so you might want to check it when at Kew.  It is WO95/4932 as is 32 Coys.  There were a number of witnesses listed on Ashton's charge sheet.  I think Ashton also suffered from malaria, so I suspect that as you say everybody wanted to go home, and the feeling would be that both he and Robinson would know that their conduct had killed a man, and that as Salonika was being wound down commute the sentences.

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JulianR

Donald was driving what is called a draisene, a motor trolley, so would not have had much protection, and was coming from Demir Hissar, which I am a bit surprised about as there is no mention of the railway being open to traffic beyond the bridge at that time.

 

The IWM has a series of photos of the bridge under reconstruction from Q15161 to Q 15172 which I have inserted below1342615004_Q15172DemiHissarBridge.jpg.1abc08d1df7e47c786e96d9933f8cb5a.jpg

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mackay1964

Robinson's papers would no doubt have gone up in smoke with most of the others in the WW2 fire. 

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mackay1964

 I've joined ancestry.co.uk and I'm having  a look at Ashton's service record. It's pretty extensive.

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mackay1964
2 hours ago, JulianR said:
First Name:
B T
Surname:
Ashton
Age:
36
Index Number of Admission:
23024
Rank:
Sapper
Service Number:
WR/550056
Years Service:
2 years 5 months
Months With Field Force:
2 years 4 months
Ailment:
Myalgia
Date of Admission for Original Ailment:
17/03/1919
Date Transferred to Other Hospitals:
30/03/1919
Number/Designation of Ward:
B3
Notes written in the Observations Column:
No. 43 General Hospital
Religion:
Church of England
Regiment:
Battalion:
19th Railway Operating Company (Why is this important?)
Archive Reference:
MH106/1364 MH106/1364 can be found at The National Archives in Kew, and contains First World War Representative Medical Records of No. 28 General Hospital: 28/02/1919 to 23/05/1919. British Other Ranks. 28th General Hospital Harmon Kevi SALONIKA. Ser: 22502-23801 and Transfers Ser: 32374-32924.

 

Ashton was Bernard T

I reckon "myalgia" is incorrect, I read the record as malaria, which makes more sense and could also help explain why his sentence was commuted

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mackay1964

Do you have any photos of the type of engine he would hve been driving?

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JulianR

Ashton was sent home under the Y Scheme which was for malaria sufferers.

 

There is something mysterious about the crash, as I did not think that the track was open beyond Vetrina and Donald came from beyond Vetrina

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JulianR

Rereading the charge sheet again, I misinterpreted the direction Donald was coming from.  He approached Vetrina from the west i.e. from Hadji Beylik, and there was a ballast train standing outside the outermost station points on the mainline.  Ashton failed to go 500m up the line and stop Donald but returned to the station.  I was puzzled as to why Donald was coming from the east.  Donald's trade was draisine driver and I will find a photo of a possible contraption he was driving.  British military railways in Salonika are not well researched.

 

1671909467_Q15127KuruDereBridge.jpg.2c1744d8caa97aefa646640f5ecd6c42.jpg

 

Photo above is (c) IWM Q15127 and shows what Donald may have been driving

 

1394518169_Q15161DemiHissarBridge.jpg.5c128ef5521433facb25098bc28372b8.jpg

 

Photo above is (c) IWM Q15161 and shows Vetrina (aka Demi Hissar) bridge before repairs

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JulianR

Did he only have the one Christian name?  I have also found a reference to a Donald Ross MacKay who died the same day and has te same regimental number, and his mothers name is the same in the WW1 Pension Records

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