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Remembered Today:

Salonika. A big thankyou


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To all concerned,

Some of you may know that I am a servicman stationed over in Kosovo. Upon my arrival here last February, I noticed that a fellow British collegue, Major Neville Holmes (Devon And Dorsets) was organising a battlefield tour to the area of Lake Doiran on the Greek/Macedonian border. Being interested in WW1 I volunteered my services to him. It became quickly apparent that both of us had little knowledge on the action that we were going to cover ( The attack on the Grand Courrone by the South Wales Borders, 18/19 Sept 1918). We appealed through various sources, including this Forum. We were so impressed by the replies and help we received from Forum members, The Salonika Society and individuals. On behalf of Major Holmes and myself we would like to thank everyone that contacted us for their help.

We managed to run three Battlefield tours to the region. The tours would start on Saturday afternoons with a visit to Colonial Hill to see the Monument to the missing. following this we would drive to Doiran Military Cemetary where a brief was given to the punters on the history of the CWGC and the cemetary in question. Doiran Mil Cem, like all others I have visited is in imaculate condition, unlike the Greek Mil cemetary beside it. One of the most poignant moments of all of the tours we did to Doiran was on Saturday 14 June 03, were we held a poppy wreath laying ceremony at the cemetary. The wreath was layed by a Lt Col from the Royal Marines. For him this was a very special day as it was the 21st anniversary of the end of the Falklands War, of which he is a veteran.

Our trips to Doiran where not only for members of the British Forces here in Kosovo, but for all nations involved in the peacekeeping operation. We had punters from Germany, France, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, USA and many more. Everybody commented on the condition of Doiran cemetary.

The second day of the tour consisted of driving up to the startline of the 22nd Division and walking up through Doljeli village (totally destroyed, only ruins remain) and then through the Jumeaux ravine, past the Bulgarian first and second line defences (Trenches remain visible). Following a brief on artillery in the campaign we walked up to the furthest point that the SWB reached on their attack on the Grand Courrone. Following a short talk here we started the climb for the summit of the Grand Courronne. This battlefield is not visited by many today. It is far off the beaten track and can only be reached by foot or 4x4 vehicle. The ground is very undulating and covered now by thick. dry, brush undergrowth. Like the Western front much remains in the earth. Thousands of shell splinters and shrapnel balls litter the narrow tracks in the area. So much must remain hidden by the undergrowth. There are some great examples of Command/Artillery bunkers in the area. Most hidden in the undergrowth. The walk to the summit of the Grand Courrone was nothing short of hell. There are no tracks to the summit so we had to hack our way through the undergrowth! In 38-41 degrees of heat, you loose your sense of humour sometimes!!. Near the summit we found one of the most famous Artillery observation bunkers in the region, The Devils Eye. The view this bunker had goes to show why the SWB were just about decimated on their attack on the Grand Courronne. Access to the bunker is easy and safe (Watch out for the Bats!!). At the Summit of the Grand Courronne is a further bunker carved into the summit. The tunnels around this bunker go down 45 feet deep and are easily accessible today (Once you get to the summit!!!!) The views from the summit over the battlefield are awesome. Famous features like Pip Ridge, Petit Courronne, Jumeaux Ravine, The Hilt and Colonial Hill can be clearly seen. All nations on the tour commented how hard it must have been for the lads who did this originally, back in the First War.

This is an area rarely visited as it can be naturally hostile due to the undergrowth. To have had the oppurtunity to visit the area is awsome. It is a battlefield I will never forget. I have many photos of the area, Mainly of ground features of the battlefield. Should anyone like copies of these please get in touch through the Forum.

Once again thankyou to those who helped us on our research into this battle.

Iain McHenry

P.S. Major Holmes has since left Kosovo. I follow in 25 days. The orginising of futher trips has now been handed over to Major Ben Roberts of the Green Jackets. The next tour to the region is planned for the 12/13th September. Long may they continue.

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Iain - good to see you back in circulation again and look forward to seeing you around Ypres again.

What is the access to this area like for the general public? Did you take any photos? Would be great to see some - as you say, a forgotten front.

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Iain, I am pretty sure you would not have gone through Athens but do you happen to know anything about Athens to Thessaloniki? Think I am going there with a UK group next year and it makes more sense for me to meet them there after flying to Athens.

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Paul,

I'm sorry but I know nothing about this route as KFOR(NATO) soldiers are not so welcome in Greece. In fact most of our problems were encountered in crossing the Greek border, from Macedonia. The cemetary and memorial are only one kilometer into Greece, yet the Greek border guards gave us big beaureucratic problems, but that was due to the fact that the tour was run by Brits, and the Greeks did'nt support the recent war in the Gulf.

Iain

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Paul (Reed),

Hi mate, In answer to your question, It is a total nightmare for access to the public unless you are in 4 x 4 vehicles. For access to the Memorial on Colonial Hill and access to Dorian Mil Cem, they are only accessable over a cross country road near the Greek/Macedonian Border crossing point. There is building going on today for a wider road from the cemetary to the monument on Colonial Hill. Who is responsible for this I don't know, I suspect the Greek Tourist board or the CWGC.

As for access to the battlefields from the main roads around Lake Doiran, you really need 4 x 4 vehichles. The higher you get and closer you become to the battlefield, the more the tracks get narrower and with the dry, brush vegitation the more difficult it becomes to drive. We always marked critical juntions on these paths with small amounts of white mine tape. Every time we returned to carry out a battlefield tour we found that local shephards had either moved or changed the location of the mine tape. The vegitation caused a lot of scratching to the sides of vehicles ( This really Pi**ed off our NATO MT company who supplied the vehicles). I can see this being a great problem with a civilian tour. The tracks are made of earth or gravel, and following rainfall can be treacherous. The only people to go up there today are Macedonian Goat and cattle farmers.

Our 4 x 4rs took us about 400 meters east of Doljeli village. Then we had to stop and continue on foot. The vehicles would then drive up a pre-recced track north east of the Grand Courronne, waiting for our return. The walk we did was no further than 6 kms, including ascending the grand Courronne. In summer heat I went through about 5 litres of water easily.

I have the original and modern maps of the area over here. It would be good to meet up with you on my return to Belgium to discuss this as a tour. But I can say. This is not a tour for unfit or easy hearted people.

Iain

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Thanks for that Iain - as you say, we can discuss this in greater detail in a certain Ypres bar when you are back... :rolleyes:

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Iain

I am pleased to hear that the assistance provided by the Salonika Campaign Society and others proved useful. Neville Holmes recently sent me an article on the tour for our newsleeter the 'New Mosquito.'

I agree with your comments regarding accessibility to the Doiran battlefield. Having visited the area 4 times in the last 6 years I can concur that it sure is tiring. On 2 occasions my group had the assistance of the Macedonian Army who supplied vehicles, on the other two occasions we walked it! At some points I found having vehicles more of a hinderance as the tracks were so difficult to negotiate that much time was lost trying to get the vehicle forward. With the Macedonians - who managed to lose their bearings at a couple of points - it seemed to become a point of honour to get the vehicle as far into the wilderness as possible. As they were quite keen to knock off work at 3.30pm each day, this lost us valuable time on the battlefield. It sounds like the KFOR tour did the sensible thing and simply use vehicles to get to a set point and then continue on foot.

Paul

For civilians, doing the battlefield on foot is possible, but, if you start from Greece you cannot take a hire car across the border - this can be safely left in the small village of Doirani. All you need do is take whatever kit you need and cross the border on foot. I agree with Iain's comment on the Greek border police. They seem to go out of their way to hold you up. In contrast the Macedonians are a bit more laid back - but this often means they dont exactly hurry to check passports etc. As few people cross the border on foot you should expect some strange looks and questions, from the Greeks, on what the hell you are doing wanting to visit FYROM (Don't call it Macedonia in Greece - good old Balkan politics)! As the walk from the Greek border post into the town of Doiran and up into the hills can take a couple of hours (inc hold ups) it is not really possible to do the battlefield in a day. I have often stayed at the Hotel Mlaz, very close to the border, a huge communist-era time capsule that often appears to have more staff than guests (last time 5 of us went down to dinner and found ourselves the only guests in a dining room that must seat 100s - 4 waiters were still on duty though). The only problem with this hotel is that it still means a 30-40 min walk to reach the battlefield - problem with Doiran is that, beside a couple of bars, very little else ever appears to be open. Once on the battlefield it is best to keep to the tracks, leaving them only to visit particular sites. The reason for this is that the undergrowth covering much of the area is so high and thick that it makes movement difficult. For navigation the 1917 1:10,000 and 1:20,000 scale trench maps (Couronne sheet) is very useful. A good tip is to take photos of trenches and bunkers along in case you bump into a local shepherd as many speak no English. These chaps know the hills like the back of their hand and are usually quite happy to show you round - just give them a bit of cash or buy them a couple of beers at the end of the day.

All told, a visit to Doiran is a great experience. The area hides many well preserved trenches, dugout and concrete bunkers. The one proviso is don't go too close to the border which runs through the battlefield. This hampers visits to much of the former British area. On the FYROM side of the border there are armed foot patrols and on the Greek side you can expect to be quickly checked out by one of the many border police patrols that seem to comb the area in jeeps.

If anyone wants any additional info just let me know.

ALAN WAKEFIELD

Chairman

Salonika Campaign Society

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Alan,

I can certainly see why The Salonika Society newsletter has its name. I was bitten to hell on the first tour we did down there. In all my travels they have to be the itchiest mossie bites I've ever had :o . Have you taken many people up the Grand Courronne? I would also be interested to see if there is much to see ascending the Petit Courronne?

Iain

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Thanks Alan, the trip I plan is your society trip. There are a couple of things I have been unable to learn from the Rudges, cost of flight from UK to Thessaloniki and which London airport you will use. But trip is a year from now and suspect they do not know. I have enough frequent flyer miles for a trip to Europe and wanted to get ticket to Athens but to simplify things may get one to London instead and fly with group. Are you going next year? I do have a UK pal who is going also.

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Iain

I've been to the summit of the Grand Couronne only the once - always either blocked by undergrowth or delayed by the Macedonian Army on other occasions! We were led to the top by a farmer who just happened to pass us on his way home. Had he not appeared we'd probably have given up as all paths and obvious routes to the top had vanished. The routes he took us was up the back slope from the 'Ferdinand' memorial. This took us up a rock face on which stand a number of Bulgar dugouts and shelters. We came down via the forward slope, following a Bulgar trench for much of the distance.

As for Petit Couronne there are remnants of the Bulgar lines across the summit. Whilst on the hill a farmer, brought along by the Macedonian Army as a guide, found a live 18pdr shell. He took great delight in banging this on the ground a number of times and then throwing it over his shoulder. We declined his offer to visit his house, which we were told was full of shells, grenades etc.

On my next trip to the area I would like to follow the advance from La Tortue down into Jumeaux Ravine and up on to Petit Couronne.

ALAN

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Alan,

Thanks for your reply. I'm sure you will agree that the views from the summit of the Grand Courronne are superb. I plan to go back down to Doiran next week with a friend on 4 days leave. We are going to spend some time searching through the undergrowth using the original trench maps.

If I had have been with you when you met that local farmer with the 18 Pdr, I would have been the puff of dust on the horizon :lol: .

many thanks again

Iain

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Hauptmann

Good evening,

good to hear Lake Doiran tour was picked up. Stationed at KFOR REAR 99-00 Ltc Whitchurch (UK RE) and myself conducted a three day tour to Doiran as well. The highlight was as well the touring and the lectures. Sticky did the Brit side myself as GE of course the German side. Even managed to fly in weapons from that era ( Lewis,Maxim etc.)

Been collecting GE documents and pics from that theatre, help is offered if somone needs info on GE. Doiran is being concidered, regardeless of the heavy losses, a minor battle, mor info available the battle of the Dobro Polje

Horrido !

Jens

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Simon_Fielding

If any of you gentlemen are passing Karasouli Military Cemetery, and could get a photograph of L/Cpl Trow's grave (below), I'd be very grateful indeed!!

Regards

Simon Fielding

Lance Corporal Edwin Albert TROW 11th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment 16639 kia Salonika 19/12/17

Aged 32

Son of William and Martha Trow of Kinlet Bank, Cleobury Mortimer, Salop

Husband of F Rogers (formerly Trow) of 4 Burton Yard, High Street, Bewdley

D. 819

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Noticing Simon's post I would like to add a request for a photo of a grave at Karasouli if you are in the area. It is that of Srg. Thomas Arthur 14599 8th Bn. SWB

KIA 9th May 1917. Grave ref: E 1061 Thomas Arthur was the Welsh Cross Country Champion 1906-1909.

Regards

Myrtle

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Simon & Myrtle

I should be taking a small group to the Salonika battlefields in April 2004. Karasouli (now called Polykastro) will be on the itinerary and I would be happy to take photographs of the graves of Thomas Arthur and Edwin Trow. Just make sure you remind me nearer the time! I can be reached via the Salonika Campaign Society's website. www.salonika.freeserve.co.uk

Thomas Arthur was probably wounded during a raid on a Bulgarian position known as O.6, during the 1st Battle of Doiran. 2 officers and 58 ORs of the 8th SWB undertook this operation on the night of 8-9 May 1917, to help divert enemy attention from the main British assault, made by troops of the 77th and 78th Brigades (26th Division). Although the 8th SWB reached the Bulgarian trenches they suffered heavily from artillery and trench mortar fire, both on their way to and return from the enemy line. Unfortunately, as Karasouli Military Cemetery is a concentration cemetery (like many on the Salonika front - a number of the original battlefield cemeteries being too remote to allow for easy maintenance) it is difficult to say whether Arthur was killed during the raid or died of wounds at a Field Ambulance or Casualty Clearing Station - a number of these medical units being in the Karasouli area during the Campaign.

Regards

ALAN WAKEFIELD

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  • 4 years later...
If any of you gentlemen are passing Karasouli Military Cemetery, and could get a photograph of L/Cpl Trow's grave (below), I'd be very grateful indeed!!

Regards

Simon Fielding

Lance Corporal Edwin Albert TROW 11th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment 16639 kia Salonika 19/12/17

Aged 32

Son of William and Martha Trow of Kinlet Bank, Cleobury Mortimer, Salop

Husband of F Rogers (formerly Trow) of 4 Burton Yard, High Street, Bewdley

D. 819

D. 819

819pb4.jpg

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Noticing Simon's post I would like to add a request for a photo of a grave at Karasouli if you are in the area. It is that of Srg. Thomas Arthur 14599 8th Bn. SWB

KIA 9th May 1917. Grave ref: E 1061 Thomas Arthur was the Welsh Cross Country Champion 1906-1909.

Regards

Myrtle

E 1061 Thomas Arthur

tomatkinson1086eh7.jpg

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