October 1916

October 1916 was one of the big months for the 1st Suffolks in Salonika.  Having secured the Orljak bridgehead, the forces were pushing north and east.  They were taking part in larger operations in the Struma valley.  The French and the Serbs were trying to take Monastir, a town on an important route between the Adriatic and Aegean Seas.  It is now called Bitola and is in the south western part of Macedonia.  The operations were intended to break the deadlock on the Macedonian Front by forcing the capitulation of the Bulgarians.

Meanwhile, the 28th division, including the Suffolks, were assisting at the Rupel Pass, where the Struma river came down through the mountain range that runs east/west at the top of the Struma valley.  This was intended to prevent the movement of the Bulgarian reserves and supplies.   As in September, the action seems to have involved strategies to deceive – making the attack look bigger than it really was – disrupting the enemy’s supplies and relief – withdraw to a safer, more defendable position – thus luring the Bulgarians to press forward… into a place where the Allies’ artillery could be successful.

The Suffolks’ first action was towards Mazirko.  This village was attacked, defended, reattacked many times during the first week of October.  I believe this is the location for the village, there’s nothing there now.   (Please excuse the photograph, taken from a moving car.)

Mazirko

Possible location of Mazirko

Then it was on to Jenikoj, a larger village further east.  Again, advance – capture – withdraw – shell.  Then on to assist in capturing enemy trenches just north of the Serres road, around the 78/79 kilostones.  During two days, 3rd and 4th October 1916, 16 Suffolks died or were fatally wounded.

On the 10th the Suffolks moved to a camp at Idris Mah and spent about a fortnight working on defences and training.  The next camp was a donga near Turica which is a village in the hills west of the Struma river.  On the last day of October, whilst the 83rd Brigade attacked Barakli Zuma, a large village held strongly by the Bugarians, the Suffolks were asked to ‘make a demonstration’ on the village of Kumli.  This ‘demonstration’ resulted in the death of Pte Haselwood whilst D Coy were putting out a line of wire.

Barakli Zuma became Iraklia and now looks like a typical Greek country village.

Barakli Zuma

Iraklia, formerly known as Barakli Zuma

And, in the middle of this moving camp, building defences and fighting, they marched back to the Orljak bridge to be inspected by HRH the Crown Prince of Serbia.

A ‘donga’ is a dry gully and a ‘nullah’ is a stream or watercourse.  The maps are full of Tommy’s names for local features.

map

Trench map

Just south of the Orljak bridge is ‘Suffolk Wood’.  And further north, the bridge that carried the road from Orljak to Cuculuk was called ‘Cuckoo Bridge’ – no, I don’t know the proper pronunciation either.  But I’m fascinated to know what the ‘Fortnum and Mason Trees’ looked like.

Incidentally, this is the month that my distant cousin Joseph Tyrrell died – and he and his colleagues also rest in the Struma Military Cemetery.