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CCD12

American in British army at Salonika

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CCD12

I’m trying to identify an American who served in the British army at Salonika. Would appreciate any advice.

Several American journalists reported form Salonika in November-December 1915. Three of them wrote about meeting an American serving in the British army, with the RAMC. One of those reporters was America’s most famous war correspondent—Richard Harding Davis. Unfortunately, all stories about this young man shielded his identity under a fictitious name. The story Davis wrote about him—“The Deserter,” became one of his most famous stories of the war. I write a lot about the journalists of the war, and I have been trying to identify this man for over a year. Trying to identify an anonymous American in the British army has been a challenge…but I’ll leave that for another day.

Today, I would appreciate any thoughts on this young man’s course through the war. Namely, is the boast that he made to the journalists on December 5, 1915 a remote possibility? He told them: “I was in the retreat from Mons, with the French on the Marne, at Ypres, all through the winter fighting along the Canal, on Gallipoli, and, just lately, in Servia.”

As far as I can tell, no RAMC unit that serve at Mons etc. also serve at Salonika. Might an enthusiastic American volunteer have been taken into a regular British army division for those early battles and then been transferred to say the 10th Irish to go to Gallipoli? My head is spinning.

Edited by CCD12
misspelling

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Gardenerbill

Hi CCD12,

Welcome to the forum, do you have any more details, for example the assumed name, rank etc. Also post in the soldiers and their units to attract wider expertise.

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CCD12

He was a sergeant in the RAMC, when the reporters met him in December 1915. He was sick of the war. He wanted to get an American passport to persuade the army that he was an American, and in that way get released. He could not get the passport in Salonika, but would have to travel to Athens. The reporters convinced him this would be desertion, and that he should return to his unit and tough it out. He was not pleased that some reporters, sitting in their cushy hotel, were telling him to return to the war, but he did.

Two weeks later, the reporters met him again when he was being shipped out to a hospital in Alexandria. Because he went AWOL from his camp to meet the reporters (and shaved off his mustache?), be was busted to private. Davis subsequently wrote the story “The Deserter” about this young man.

There is a follow-up story (Of which I am highly suspect) written by one of those journalists, William Shepherd of United Press. Shepherd claims to have met the young man several months later in London. He had been sent to Manchester for rehab. He had been awarded the DSM (Some retellings claim DCM), had been restored to rank (Made a “King’s Sergeant”) and was now heading off to rejoin his unit in France. This story, appearing shortly after America entered the war, was also very popular as a magazine article and book.

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CCD12

Oops. Sorry Gardenerbill, I didn't answer your question. The reporters referred to this young man as Hamlin. I believe his name might have been Eugene Benjamin Harmon.

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Keith_history_buff

Unlike in the US, the DSM is not awarded to soldiers, but to sailors as it is a naval decoration, so must be the army equivalent (Distinguished Conduct Medal).

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Gardenerbill

A quick search of the medal index cards on Ancestry came up with the following results:

 

Hamlin 108 results but only 5 RAMC

 

Arthur Augustus

Frank

Frederick C

Harry

 

The most likely being E. G. Hamlin however according to the card he first entered theatre in France 30/05/1915 if he exaggerated his story then this could be him.

There are just 2 Service records for Hamlins in the RAMC an Oscar William and Frank.

 

There is only 1 MIC for Harmon a John H who also appears to have a service record. 

 

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CCD12

Thank you, kind sir, for your research. I will add these names to my list of suspects. 

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