Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

British opinions of the troops they were fighting with


Alex Lees
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum so apologies if i'm duplicating previous topics.

The long and short of it is I'm currently researching for my undergraduate dissertation and I'm looking for primary source evidence (diaries/letters etc) that shine a light on the way the British soldiers on the Salonika Front viewed their French (especially the colonial French troops), Serbian or Greek counterparts or even the Bulgarians they were fighting.

Could anyone help point me in the direction of any sources that discuss this aspect of the war? Any help that can be offered by anyone would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

Welcome to the forum. @keithmroberts knows a fair bit about Salonika, so tagging him to alert him. 
Michelle 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mate,

Strange question.

This can be very subjective to the men, as we all have our own opiontions?

Having served with the UN for many years, with forces from all over the world, what I say about these countries, and these forces is worth nothing to you, only to me.

Having down such assesment on our allies, for others who have contact with them, is only inter Staff, and not circlated.

And worth as much as there ideas of our own forces (Australia), can be to them.

I understand there was some assesment done by staff's on this subject in other theates (like EEF and BEF), but I have seen little to no such on this (Salonika) area?

These assesments (as far as I known) were not circlated, and can be found in Formation HQ diarys as some of there comments on other nations may offend.

Of cause post war who knows

S.B

Edited by stevebecker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, Alex Lees said:

Could anyone help point me in the direction of any sources that discuss this aspect of the war?

Hi Alex, I'm not sure that there is anything that brings this together, but we have a bibliography of published books in English on the Salonika Campaign Society website, free to download. Obviously that means we have not included articles from learned journals or even regimental ones, simply because at present life is too short, but both can be helpful additions.

There is an assessment of our Serbian allies in, "With the Serbs in Macedonia" by Douglas Walshe, a junior officer in the ASC who was involved in supplying the Serbian Army after it returned from Corfu to fight again. Free downloads are available, see the bibliography. I mention that not least because I have just read it again, so it is fresh in my memory.

Letters? beyond my knowledge; but you might contact forum member Alan Wakefield, who might be able to suggest the best ways of exploring the IWM library.  Alan is far more expert than I am, but is very busy at present planning some visits to the battlefields while working on a new book and working at his full time day job.  The Lidl Collection at Leeds University will surely have some letters. I don't know where you are based, so it is difficult to suggest more, beyond that Regimental Museums  and a few libraries will have complete runs of regimental journals, which are likely to contain many reminiscences. There are actually more reminiscences published on medical aspects of the campaign, and some are illuminating about the fortitude of Serbian casualties, but they can easily become a distraction.

Sadly many original publications about the campaign, written or published post war, are now hard to find outside the best established libraries, but the bibliography contains links to most of the ones that can be downoaded free in digital format.

Good luck with what I am sure will be a rewarding study.

Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alex - Just out of interest what made you pick the subject and campaign? - it is pretty specialised and potentially difficult, though could be really rewarding.

Simon

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Simon Birch said:

Alex - Just out of interest what made you pick the subject and campaign? - it is pretty specialised and potentially difficult, though could be really rewarding.

Simon

 

Hi Simon, 

The reason for the campaign in general is that my Great-Grandfather served on the Salonika front and I recently read the diary he kept during the war as a captain in the RAMC at the 36th General Field Hospital. It was a fascinating read and a shows this front of the war in its full idiosyncratic nature full of inactivity and disease. Moreover, the front is grossly under-researched, especially in comparison to other parts of the war that involved significantly fewer men and had less impact on the outcome of the war, like the Dardanelles for example.

The reason for my specific interest in the opinions of British soldiers is for a variety reasons. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the views expressed in my great-grandfathers diaries on race and nationality are what one would describe as antiquated in the extreme. This, combined with some interesting research on this front and the role that race played in decision making (work done by Dušan Bataković and Dušan Bjelić, for example, is particularly interesting here), as well as the almost uniquely multicultural nature of Salonika the city, as well as the front itself, (Mark Mazower's "Salonica: City of Ghosts" details this very well) makes me very curious how the average soldier interacted with and thought about the varying cultures and peoples he was discovering for the first time upon arrival in Greece.

Hope my reasoning makes some kind of sense!

Alex

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, keithmroberts said:

Hi Alex, I'm not sure that there is anything that brings this together, but we have a bibliography of published books in English on the Salonika Campaign Society website, free to download. Obviously that means we have not included articles from learned journals or even regimental ones, simply because at present life is too short, but both can be helpful additions.

There is an assessment of our Serbian allies in, "With the Serbs in Macedonia" by Douglas Walshe, a junior officer in the ASC who was involved in supplying the Serbian Army after it returned from Corfu to fight again. Free downloads are available, see the bibliography. I mention that not least because I have just read it again, so it is fresh in my memory.

Letters? beyond my knowledge; but you might contact forum member Alan Wakefield, who might be able to suggest the best ways of exploring the IWM library.  Alan is far more expert than I am, but is very busy at present planning some visits to the battlefields while working on a new book and working at his full time day job.  The Lidl Collection at Leeds University will surely have some letters. I don't know where you are based, so it is difficult to suggest more, beyond that Regimental Museums  and a few libraries will have complete runs of regimental journals, which are likely to contain many reminiscences. There are actually more reminiscences published on medical aspects of the campaign, and some are illuminating about the fortitude of Serbian casualties, but they can easily become a distraction.

Sadly many original publications about the campaign, written or published post war, are now hard to find outside the best established libraries, but the bibliography contains links to most of the ones that can be downoaded free in digital format.

Good luck with what I am sure will be a rewarding study.

Keith

Hi Keith, 

Thank you so much for your reply, there's a lot of very helpful suggestions here and I look forward to exploring them in the coming weeks, "With the Serbs in Macedonia" sounds like it may be particularly illuminating.

Thanks and best wishes, 

Alex

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hallo Alex,

If you want Salonica campaign medical information the details are also in the "Medicine and Healthcare in the Great War" bibliography pinned at the top of the Medicine sub-forum. That said, I also passed them to Keith for his Salonika bibliography.

Best wishes,

seaJane

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Alex

The ordinary tommies in infantry or artillery units didn't seem to have much interaction with Serbian troops. Most of the medical teams in the voluntary hospitals, as distinct from the RAMC managed hospitals were much more involved with the Serbs as the Serbs' own medical resources were initially limited, and then further drastically reduced by disease.

The small number of ASC companies that were used to supply the Serbs, had more contact of course. I have not seen much evidence of interaction between the British and French soldiers, other than in the social context of the bars, restaurants, and possibly also the brothels of Salonika.

 

keith

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mate,

A number of Australians werre attached to British Units and Serb units during the retreat from Serbia in 1915

Like

WYNDHAM    Arthur    388    S/Smith    12 LHR    B Sqn to C Sqn att DSqn/6 LHR 8-15 to batman to Vet Capt Dowling 2 Div HQ att 7Bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers 10-15 to 31 FAmb hosp in Balkans (influ) 11-15 rtn 11-15 to Salonika took part on 7/8-12-15 in the action at Kosturino in the retreat from Serbia att Transport 10th Div 12-15 (G) rtn B Sqn 2-16 to RHQ 1-17 (B) to hosp (cartilage knee) 1-18 to (med class B2) 4 LHTR 3-18 RTA MU (Boer War 5 VMR (1046) later WWII S/Sgt 1 AAux Horse Tpt

A number left accounts of there times there, a query to the AWM may led you to there stories

S.B

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Alex Lees said:

Hi Simon, 

The reason for the campaign in general is that my Great-Grandfather served on the Salonika front and I recently read the diary he kept during the war as a captain in the RAMC at the 36th General Field Hospital. It was a fascinating read and a shows this front of the war in its full idiosyncratic nature full of inactivity and disease. Moreover, the front is grossly under-researched, especially in comparison to other parts of the war that involved significantly fewer men and had less impact on the outcome of the war, like the Dardanelles for example.

The reason for my specific interest in the opinions of British soldiers is for a variety reasons. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the views expressed in my great-grandfathers diaries on race and nationality are what one would describe as antiquated in the extreme. This, combined with some interesting research on this front and the role that race played in decision making (work done by Dušan Bataković and Dušan Bjelić, for example, is particularly interesting here), as well as the almost uniquely multicultural nature of Salonika the city, as well as the front itself, (Mark Mazower's "Salonica: City of Ghosts" details this very well) makes me very curious how the average soldier interacted with and thought about the varying cultures and peoples he was discovering for the first time upon arrival in Greece.

Hope my reasoning makes some kind of sense!

Alex

Alex - I am well impressed. Good for you coming up with something different.

I ran a search on the British Library using the term 'Salonika Hospital' and came up with http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?fn=search&ct=search&initialSearch=true&mode=Basic&tab=local_tab&indx=1&dum=true&srt=rank&vid=BLVU1&frbg=&tb=t&vl(freeText0)=Salonika+Front&scp.scps=scope%3A(BLCONTENT)&vl(2084770704UI0)=any&vl(2084770704UI0)=title&vl(2084770704UI0)=any There are letters and diaries etc. in there - getting them could be an issue though, depending on where you live.

Simon

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also ran a search on the British Newspaper Archive, using the same terms as above, I came up with around 100 hits. Just a thought.

And I found the letters from a Canadian nurse here: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/canada-nursing-sisters/Pages/item.aspx?PageID=747

 

Simon

Edited by Simon Birch
Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Alex Lees said:

Hope my reasoning makes some kind of sense!

..And I hope you will update us on the results of your research, please?

Charlie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Future Canadian Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson (1897-1972) was in the Salonika theatre, from November 1915 to March 1917, working in a hospital prior to his commission. He may well have papers that record his observations at the hospital. (A flag-waving Serbian nationalist has claimed that he was a mercenary in the Serbian Army. The unconvincing evidence is a picture of him next to a Serbian soldier.) His CEF service record has survived. Perhaps the CAMC were the only Canadian unit there?

Over the past few years, I was under the impression I had heard about a scuffle between Italian troops and other nationalities in Salonika.

With regard the French, I would put them in three categories. Firstly, the men from Metropolitan France. Secondly, the pieds noirs in the Zouaves and Chasseurs d'Afrique. I think there were some Arabs, also from North Africa, in the cavalry (Spahis), associated with the 19th Military District. Thirdly, there are the tirailleurs indigenes and the marsouins, whose organisation reminds me of the armies of the HEIC prior to the mutiny, used for policing actions.

In those instances where part of the line was taken from, or relieved by, the French, you might imagine some comments about them, in the way that Frank Richards made comments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

Not wishing to dampen your enthusiasm the problem of diaries and letters as the basis for research  are well expressed in the introduction to this thesis on another much neglected aspect of the war

https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1317760/1/283598.pdf

The letters and diaries of other ranks are generally limited in scope and content. All their letters were subject to censorship (though It’s doubtful attitudes to race etc were censored).

The British soldier's horizon seldom extended beyond his section, at best battalion.  Much has been written on the strategic limitations of a coalition force, of which the Salonika Campaign was one and, until 1918 a not very successful campaign.  Given the antipathy of the British High Command towards the French General Sarrail in overall command who was, to say the least a controversial leader may have filtered down the chain of command.  On the other hand it seems most  British other ranks, in whatever theatre they found themselves, were obsessed with food, leave and thoughts of home.  

On the Western Front, for which there is more evidence the British Tommy generally appears to have got on well with the French and Belgian civilian population.

Given the ethnic divisions of the day and the organisation of the armies within the campaign it seems unlikely the other ranks would have had much contact with French Colonial troops.  In the UK these troops were regarded by contemporary newspapers as 'colourful' and hard fighting men, but whether or not they would be 'invited to dinner' is not mentioned.

That said what has not been mentioned so far is the https://salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk  and the 'New Mosquito' https://salonikacampaignsociety.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/the-new-mosquito-contents-2.pdf

The original 'Mosquito' gave reminiscences of the campaign and is available as a DVD from the society

https://salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk/publications-and-dvds/the-mosquito-dvd/

One account cited in Peter H Liddle 'The Soldier's War' is that of Gunner Illtyd Davies In giving an account of his first leave in three years to the city of Salonika, "...The events of the remaining days of my leave are very hazy, being considerably under the weather.  I do have vivid memories of a brawl in one pub where there were several Greek and Italian soldiers who gave us to understand that it was them not the British who were winning the war.  It developed into a real shindig, tables were overturned, glasses bottles and chairs flying through the air, mirrors were smashed and barmaids screamed - fists, boots, belt buckles were all used."

 

As has been said good luck with your research.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 02/03/2022 at 20:33, stevebecker said:

Mate,

A number of Australians werre attached to British Units and Serb units during the retreat from Serbia in 1915

Like

WYNDHAM    Arthur    388    S/Smith    12 LHR    B Sqn to C Sqn att DSqn/6 LHR 8-15 to batman to Vet Capt Dowling 2 Div HQ att 7Bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers 10-15 to 31 FAmb hosp in Balkans (influ) 11-15 rtn 11-15 to Salonika took part on 7/8-12-15 in the action at Kosturino in the retreat from Serbia att Transport 10th Div 12-15 (G) rtn B Sqn 2-16 to RHQ 1-17 (B) to hosp (cartilage knee) 1-18 to (med class B2) 4 LHTR 3-18 RTA MU (Boer War 5 VMR (1046) later WWII S/Sgt 1 AAux Horse Tpt

A number left accounts of there times there, a query to the AWM may led you to there stories

S.B

Steve, 

Thank you for this, an avenue that looks very promising indeed!

On 03/03/2022 at 12:34, charlie962 said:

..And I hope you will update us on the results of your research, please?

Charlie

I certainly will!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 03/03/2022 at 09:42, Simon Birch said:

Alex - I am well impressed. Good for you coming up with something different.

I ran a search on the British Library using the term 'Salonika Hospital' and came up with http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?fn=search&ct=search&initialSearch=true&mode=Basic&tab=local_tab&indx=1&dum=true&srt=rank&vid=BLVU1&frbg=&tb=t&vl(freeText0)=Salonika+Front&scp.scps=scope%3A(BLCONTENT)&vl(2084770704UI0)=any&vl(2084770704UI0)=title&vl(2084770704UI0)=any There are letters and diaries etc. in there - getting them could be an issue though, depending on where you live.

Simon

 

 

On 03/03/2022 at 09:48, Simon Birch said:

I also ran a search on the British Newspaper Archive, using the same terms as above, I came up with around 100 hits. Just a thought.

And I found the letters from a Canadian nurse here: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/canada-nursing-sisters/Pages/item.aspx?PageID=747

 

Simon

Simon, 

Thank you for this, both sources that I had completely overlooked thanks to a certain amount of tunnel vision that can take over this kind of research. I will diving into both in due course!

Best,

Alex

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You are more than welcome.

Simon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 03/03/2022 at 14:13, Keith_history_buff said:

Future Canadian Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson (1897-1972) was in the Salonika theatre, from November 1915 to March 1917, working in a hospital prior to his commission. He may well have papers that record his observations at the hospital. (A flag-waving Serbian nationalist has claimed that he was a mercenary in the Serbian Army. The unconvincing evidence is a picture of him next to a Serbian soldier.) His CEF service record has survived. Perhaps the CAMC were the only Canadian unit there?

Over the past few years, I was under the impression I had heard about a scuffle between Italian troops and other nationalities in Salonika.

With regard the French, I would put them in three categories. Firstly, the men from Metropolitan France. Secondly, the pieds noirs in the Zouaves and Chasseurs d'Afrique. I think there were some Arabs, also from North Africa, in the cavalry (Spahis), associated with the 19th Military District. Thirdly, there are the tirailleurs indigenes and the marsouins, whose organisation reminds me of the armies of the HEIC prior to the mutiny, used for policing actions.

In those instances where part of the line was taken from, or relieved by, the French, you might imagine some comments about them, in the way that Frank Richards made comments.

 

On 02/03/2022 at 18:07, keithmroberts said:

Hi Alex

The ordinary tommies in infantry or artillery units didn't seem to have much interaction with Serbian troops. Most of the medical teams in the voluntary hospitals, as distinct from the RAMC managed hospitals were much more involved with the Serbs as the Serbs' own medical resources were initially limited, and then further drastically reduced by disease.

The small number of ASC companies that were used to supply the Serbs, had more contact of course. I have not seen much evidence of interaction between the British and French soldiers, other than in the social context of the bars, restaurants, and possibly also the brothels of Salonika.

 

keith

 

 

Thank you both for your suggestions, they are excellent avenues that I hope will have some treasure when I go digging! It seems that Keith's absolutely right in saying that most soldiers had limited interaction with the other nationalities in the coalition so may hunt for treasure may be entirely in vain but I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed for now!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 03/03/2022 at 19:52, kenf48 said:

Not wishing to dampen your enthusiasm the problem of diaries and letters as the basis for research  are well expressed in the introduction to this thesis on another much neglected aspect of the war

https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1317760/1/283598.pdf

The letters and diaries of other ranks are generally limited in scope and content. All their letters were subject to censorship (though It’s doubtful attitudes to race etc were censored).

The British soldier's horizon seldom extended beyond his section, at best battalion.  Much has been written on the strategic limitations of a coalition force, of which the Salonika Campaign was one and, until 1918 a not very successful campaign.  Given the antipathy of the British High Command towards the French General Sarrail in overall command who was, to say the least a controversial leader may have filtered down the chain of command.  On the other hand it seems most  British other ranks, in whatever theatre they found themselves, were obsessed with food, leave and thoughts of home.  

On the Western Front, for which there is more evidence the British Tommy generally appears to have got on well with the French and Belgian civilian population.

Given the ethnic divisions of the day and the organisation of the armies within the campaign it seems unlikely the other ranks would have had much contact with French Colonial troops.  In the UK these troops were regarded by contemporary newspapers as 'colourful' and hard fighting men, but whether or not they would be 'invited to dinner' is not mentioned.

That said what has not been mentioned so far is the https://salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk  and the 'New Mosquito' https://salonikacampaignsociety.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/the-new-mosquito-contents-2.pdf

The original 'Mosquito' gave reminiscences of the campaign and is available as a DVD from the society

https://salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk/publications-and-dvds/the-mosquito-dvd/

One account cited in Peter H Liddle 'The Soldier's War' is that of Gunner Illtyd Davies In giving an account of his first leave in three years to the city of Salonika, "...The events of the remaining days of my leave are very hazy, being considerably under the weather.  I do have vivid memories of a brawl in one pub where there were several Greek and Italian soldiers who gave us to understand that it was them not the British who were winning the war.  It developed into a real shindig, tables were overturned, glasses bottles and chairs flying through the air, mirrors were smashed and barmaids screamed - fists, boots, belt buckles were all used."

 

As has been said good luck with your research.

Of course, you are right that the kind of sources I'm looking are by no means perfecct and, as you say obsessed with food, leave and thoughts of home more than anything else. Thank you for the suggestion of the Mosquito (both old and new!), and the SCS, as well as the account from the Soldier's War. All look like they'll useful to me

Thanks, 

Alex 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Mosquito is fascinating, I should have mentioned it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

1.  Kingham Hill School Magazine, June 1917, page 4:

https://www.kinghamhill.org.uk/uploaded/documents/Alumni/KHS_Magazines/1910s/Kingham_Hill_Mag_1917_June.pdf

Salonique.jpg.2b861f28928bef5fa8fc7d9fc8ad0686.jpg

 

2.  Kingham Hill School Magazine, December 1918, page 3:

https://www.kinghamhill.org.uk/uploaded/documents/Alumni/KHS_Magazines/1910s/Kingham_Hill_Mag_1918_Dec.pdf

 Hammond.jpg.66050a1e82c67548d43bd7ed6418b755.jpg

3.  Kingham Hill School Magazines Archive:

https://www.kinghamhill.org.uk/alumni/archive

JP

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

G Hammond is 16854 Private George J Hammond, 9th Battalion Gloucester Regiment.

1.  Kingham Hill School Magazine, September 1917, page  4:

https://www.kinghamhill.org.uk/uploaded/documents/Alumni/KHS_Magazines/1910s/Kingham_Hill_Mag_1917_Sept.pdf

1175778087_Sept1917page4.jpg.fc6eb286a5e0901e18d4f587972f553c.jpg

 

2.  Medal Index Card (from ancestry):

MIC.jpg.16525631c8081725dea785b166c0d2b3.jpg

 

3.  A pupil, aged 13, at Kingham Hill School in 1911 (ancestry):

 1911.jpg.44162abc5369776c74d2a2490d99ac65.jpg

JP

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
On 07/03/2022 at 15:20, helpjpl said:

 

G Hammond is 16854 Private George J Hammond, 9th Battalion Gloucester Regiment.

1.  Kingham Hill School Magazine, September 1917, page  4:

https://www.kinghamhill.org.uk/uploaded/documents/Alumni/KHS_Magazines/1910s/Kingham_Hill_Mag_1917_Sept.pdf

1175778087_Sept1917page4.jpg.fc6eb286a5e0901e18d4f587972f553c.jpg

 

2.  Medal Index Card (from ancestry):

MIC.jpg.16525631c8081725dea785b166c0d2b3.jpg

 

3.  A pupil, aged 13, at Kingham Hill School in 1911 (ancestry):

 1911.jpg.44162abc5369776c74d2a2490d99ac65.jpg

JP

JP,

What you've shared in response is an exceptionally useful bit of research, thank you so much it helps a lot to grasp the broader picture of Allied Opinion.

thanks, 

Alex

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...