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Remembered Today:

Accidentally shot on Armistice Day

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My husband's grandfather was an officer with 10th Hants Regt sent to Salonika in WW1.(Douglas Harry Bernard Harfield). He kept a personal diary which has been transcribed and a copy deposited in the IWM, some 10-15 years ago. A following mention  intrigued me, written on Armstice Day:-“Monday 11th November. Walked up. Office at 10.00 thence to E.F.C. with Jackson, he to order a gun and I to order stuff for our new Mess. I shall be a domesticated housewife by the time I get home. I have been given a house with four walls – nought else – and told to make a Mess of it. It took me about an hour to get the stuff ordered from a salt cellar to a serviette! The R.E.s can’t or won’t put any water in the house so the entrance is held up. A great nuisance as I am getting to dislike thoroughly the old Mess which is not the same at all since that hog Dundas came. Armistice was signed at 0500 to come into force from 1100 and here at 1300, it then being 1100 by French time. The ‘cease fire’ was solemnly blown before a crowd of pale faced, inky fingered H.Q. clerks who cheered feebly afterwards! At and from that time the Greeks have never ceased letting off guns, rifles and any other old firearm to the grave danger of the public. Cardwell, Jackson and the French Liaison Officer in a car driving to G.H.Q. had their windscreen broken by a stray bullet – lucky escape, no one hurt. A British driver was lying in his bed in his tent and another stray bullet killed him dead. Bad luck, wasn’t it, poor devil? One can’t stop those dagos alas . One Frenchman has been killed and seven wounded so far (1730). The ships in the harbour have been blowing off hooters and sirens and are all covered in Bunting – very gay. Remained at Mess after lunch and handed over the Mess to the new Camp Commandant L of C, one Lieutenant Fenwicke Chennall of the Lothian and Border Horse. His brother was at Charterhouse with me. Up at 1530 and at it 2000. Dinner and bed at 2200 sharp! The next day he was at the new Mess, number 76 Rue reine Olga."(n.b. this road is still there, called Queen Olga Avenue, Thessaloniki, Greece 54641).

I wondered who the poor soldier was who was killed by a bullet from a celebrating Greek. So I did some research using CWGC, Ancestry and Findmypast. Bearing in mind I only had ‘British driver’ to go on, I put in the search died 11.11.1918 but could not locate anyone who fit the bill. I wondered where he was buried and checked the three military cemeteries in the Thessaloniki area. I also checked British Newspaper Archive to no avail. I also checked ‘Lives of the First World War’ to see if anyone remembered this soldier, using the names of all the soldiers who died on that day, also the CWGC deaths on that date in the Balkan Theatre, on that section of Ancestry. So I then wrote to CWGC asking for help. This is their reply:-     "Having searched our database for casualties buried in Greece who died on 11th November 1918, I have found a casualty who I believe may be a match to the "British driver" mentioned in the diary.  This is Private W T Witt who served in the 683rd Mechanical Transport Company of the Army Service Corps.  Here is a link to his entry on our website:
All Mechanical Transport Companies of the R.S.C. were part of the Lines of Communication and were not under orders of a Division, although some (unusually known as Divisional Supply Columns and Divisional Ammunition Parks) were in effect attached to a given Division and worked closely with it. Those in the Lines of Communication operated in wide variety of roles connected to operating the transport system to move men, ammunition, supplies and materials.
Private Witt may well have driven vehicles as part of his role of the unit so it seems feasible to me, that he could be the soldier described as a driver in the diary.
If you wish to research further, you could look into seeing whether a Service Record exists for Private Witt or a unit war diary for the Company or Regiment from that period of time in Greece.  Such records are held at the National Archives (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/) and are also digitised on their partner website www.ancestry.co.uk (£).
In closing,  I hope this is of some assistance and thank you once again for your enquiry."    Apart from his service medal index card/soldier's belongings index/headstone info on Ancestry, I have no other info, and no service record appears available. I am writing here as to whether anyone would have any way of finding out if Private William Thomas Witt service no. M/273193 WAS the unfortunate soldier who died from a stray bullet? I understand there were several non-combat deaths on 11.11.18 in Salonika but where would they be recorded? Any help would be much appreciated. There is an Ancestry member who has uploaded his WITT family tree, but I am cautious of contacting her in case I have the wrong man.
I have also contacted the Salonika Campaign Society who suggest I view the Unit War Diary at NA, but as I live abroad this is not possible. Thanks in advance for any advice.
Edited by Guest
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The non-combat deaths might be in the respective units War Dairies, in general they do not give the names of ORs, only officers, and you have a lot of units to search through. The rank of driver might also be a man in the Sappers or Gunners.  What we do not know is the source of your husband's grandfather's information.  Did he get told by a reliable man, witnessit, or was it passed along through several people and got misinterpreted.



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If the man in question died on the 11/11/18 in Greece he should have a soldiers effects record


entering 11/11/18  and Greece into the search field in soldiers effects give the following  14 results


Harry Walter Burgess
11 Nov 1918    2 3 Northumbrian Fld Amb Stavros Greece    Labour Corps    489258    

John Burns
11 Nov 1918    Salonica    Army Service Corps    DM2/162686    

Hugh Cumings
11 Nov 1918    Greece    Royal Engineers    216720    

Benjamin Haslam
11 Nov 1918    Salonica    Army Service Corps    M2/177817    

John Henry Thomas Rhodes
11 Nov 1918    48th Gen Hosp Salonica Greece    RAF Hdgrs 16th Wing    5262    

Albert Edward Ricks
11 Nov 1918    Salonika    Army Service Corps    M2/019218    

Joseph Scott
11 Nov 1918    20th CC Stn Greece    The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)    3011    

Joseph B Scott
11 Nov 1918    50th Gem Host Greece    23rd Welsh    41805    

Matthew Sculley
11 Nov 1918    Greece    6(Garr) Roy Welsh Fusiliers    62248    

William Stewart
11 Nov 1918    20st Fld Amb Macedonia Greece    Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)    8/5437    

Henry Upton
11 Nov 1918    Salonica    1 BAC RFA    910576    
Joseph Henry Varney
11 Nov 1918    Greece    Gloucestershire Regiment    31756 

   George Walker 
11 Nov 1918    Salonika    1 Garr Northants    21049    

John Watson
11 Nov 1918    Salonica    Army Service Corps    MW2/189807


check them out on soldiers effects or SDGW



Edited by RaySearching
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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

I'd say the ASC men in thes list would be the top priority.


A couple of points Ray:


John Burns  11 Nov 1918    Salonica    Army Service Corps    DM2/162686 and

Benjamin Haslam 11 Nov 1918    Salonica    Army Service Corps    M2/177817 


were both killed in Serbia rather than Greece.

The writer implies Greece by describing events in (Thessaloniki) harbour?


John Watson 11 Nov 1918    Salonica    Army Service Corps    MW2/189807  (M2/189807 on CWGC and MIC  )

was killed in Bulgaria.


This just  leaves

Albert Edward Ricks 11 Nov 1918    Salonika    Army Service Corps    M2/019218   , Remembered as REEKS on CWGC



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Having been locked out of the forum by CloudFront for the last 24 hours - just got back to this

as Dai says Ricks/Reeks appears to be the best candidate although I can find no collaborating evidence to confirm the cause of his death 


Mikra British Cemetery where Ricks/Reeks is buried is just on the edge of Thessaloniki  the harbour nearby


Here from CWGC are the the soldiers who were interred in Mikra cemetery having died on the 10/11/12 Nov 18



If the facts in the diary are true and the date of his death is correct  then if not Ricks/Reeks I would have thought he must be one of the above

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I am overwhelmed with the response to my query and you have all given me lots to follow up. At least I can rule out Private W T Witt (thank you Neil2242). This forum is such a great site to ask WW1 questions and my grateful thanks to you all for your help and advice.

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I'm not sure how many ASC war diaries survive. Although as was said above other ranks are not often named, an event such as described might well  have been unusual enough to merit a mention.



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  • 10 months later...
On 27/01/2019 at 11:21, keithmroberts said:

I'm not sure how many ASC war diaries survive. Although as was said above other ranks are not often named, an event such as described might well  have been unusual enough to merit a mention.



Indeed!  Even if the casualty wasn’t named, so few deaths occurred in theatre, that once you have a unit, you’ll either have the man or it will turn out to be a rumour.


In our more recent Balkan expeditions, celebratory fire (or I’ll-disciplined) fire was a real threat.  I personally recall a bride killed by a round fired by the bridal party, a boy killed in an attic room and another casualty during a boozy barbecue.  All victims of what goes up theory?

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To  add to the sad tale of end of war deaths, I remember being told by a Great War veteran in the 1970s that a person was killed in London on the night of 11th November 1918-as the AA guns all fired off to  celebrate, the old Newtonian principle that what goes up must come down meant someone was hit by a spent shell coming back down...

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My old next door neighbour's Father was killed on 12/11/18 when he stumbled over an unexploded shell coming out of the line.


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