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Remembered Today:

Connaught Rangers – Salonika and Palestine


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I am new to the Great War Forum and hope I'm posting this in the right place. My grandfather was Ernest William SMITH. I have recently obtained his service record but would like help in understanding it, if it isn't trying the Forum's patience too much. The following isn't all the information on his service record, but starts with his posting from the East Surrey Regiment to the 5th Battalion, Connaught Rangers. I presume he must have wanted to get into the War and enlisted in the Rangers? I have been told he was about 15 years older than most of the men.

I wondered what battles he might have been involved in in Salonika – and then he apparently got sick and seemed to be in hospital a lot, both in Salonika and later in Palestine. The Connaught Rangers were involved in the Battle for Beersheva, but I think he must have been in hospital again at that time. He was appointed to the Military Police in Palestine and at some point I'd like to ask Forum members about that, if anyone has information about the British MPs

Thank you,

Mary Williams :)

Appointed to temporary commission in 9th (Service) Battalion East Surrey Regiment (WO letter 112/Gen No. 2938 (M S 2) 27/3/15.

Station : London. 8.4.15

Date From whom Record … Place Date Remarks


25.2.16 Unit Joined Battalion Field 18.2.16 B 213

25.2.16 Unit Reposted to 5th Field 22.2.16 B 213



5.5.16 Unit Admitted Hospital N.Y.D. Salonika 1.5.16 B 213

Unit Rejoined Field 30.7.16 B 158

30.9.16 List no 205? Appts. Comms. & Rewards Appointed temporary Captain. Vice-Captain Ash to England Field 9.7.16 R.O.

O.C.5 Crs To Hosp Field 17.8.17 B 158

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Hello Mary and Welcome to the Forum.

The most likely reason your man was sick in Salonika was malaria. It was endemic in the Struma Valley where the 10th (Irish) Division (of which the 5th Connaught Rangers were part) were based for most of the war. Other than the first month or two of their time in Salonika (late 1915, early 1916), there was actually very little fighting for the 10th Division to do. There was the battle of Yenikoi on 30th September to 4th of October, 1916, but that was about it. There were far more casualties from malaria than there were from actual action. My grand-uncle also served there with the 6th Royal Irish Rifles and also picked up malaria.

I can't give you any reason why your man would have transferred to the Rangers. He might well have had no option - he may simply have been posted to them.



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Hi Mary

The chances are that your grandfather was sent to the 5th Connaught Rangers as a replacement. The battalion had, along with the 10th Hampshires, suffered heavily during the Bulgarian attack of 7-8 December 1915 in the mountains of southern Serbia. The 10th (Irish) Division was sent north from Salonika in November 1915 to act as a deterrant, along with French forces, against Bulgaria joining the war on the side of the Central Powers. This failed and within a month they were facing the bulk of the Bulgarian 2nd Army. The weather conditions in the area were such that prior to the Bulgarian attack over 1,600 men were evacuated suffering from frostbite and exposure. Units of 10th Division were already weakened due to outbreaks of dysentery and jaundice suffered at Gallipoli and Lemnos.

Liam is correct in stating that your grandfather's turns in hospital were probably down to malaria. The Struma Valley was one of Europe's malarial blackspots. During the summer of 1916, brigades of 10th Division were hit so hard by malaria that each was forced to field a composite battalion formed from fit men left in each of their 4 battalions. Apart from the Karajakoi - Yenikoi operation in Sept - Oct 1916, the majority of time in the Struma was spent in patrols, raids and manning an outpost line of fortified villages. These latter positions were abandoned during the summers of 1917 and 1918 due to the malaria problems.

If you are interested in taking the Salonika reserach further you could consider joining the Salonika Campaign Society, of which I am currently the Chairman: www.salonika.freeserve.co.uk (note: my email address has changed: aj.wakefield(AT)talktalk.net)

Also, you could try to get hold of a copy of my book 'Under the Devil's Eye - Britain's Forgotten Army at Salonika', which uses many letters, diaries, memoirs and documents to help tell the story of the British Salonika Force. These include the diaries of Lt Col Jordain and QM Sgt McIlwain of the 5th Connaught Rangers.


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I think this is him mentioned in the War Diary


Date 9/9/17

Time 22:30 'All men equipped to the best of our ability old clothes etc collected by Coys to be returned to Ordnance by Capt Smith early tomorrow. The transport is not proceeding with the Bdn all animals, limbers, 70 OR’s & 3 Officers (Capt Smith, 2Lt HE Benka & 2Lt Benke) are to follow at a later date. '

WO 95/4579

Regards Mark


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Thank you very much, Liam, Alan and Mark for your replies. Alan, I'll try and get hold of your book. It'll help me understand what was happening. I'm hampered by not understanding basic military things that you'd all know about (about divisions, battalions, etc. etc) , but must try to get my head around it. Thanks, Mark, for the extracts from the War Diary and the Army List. It's helping build up a picture. I have a question about the Provost Corps in Palestine, but will make it a new topic.


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  • 1 month later...

Hi Mary,

It looks like he arrived back with the battalion with the transport on 19 Sept 1917.

'The regimental transport, strength 3 Officers, 68 Other Ranks, with 13 horses and 113 mules, which had left Salonika in a later vessel arrived at Moascar on September 19th'

From 'The Connaught Rangers Vol3' by Jourdain & Fraser

Regards Mark


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