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The Suffolks in Salonika during WWI
When we think of the Great War, everyone knows about the trench warfare, many people know about Gallipoli – very few people know about the Salonika Campaign… but the Suffolk Regiment was there.
The Suffolk Regiment (aka “The Suffolks”) were part of the British Salonika Force. The Allied forces had been asked by the Greek government to help the Serbians against the Bulgarians and they started to arrive, many straight from Gallipoli, in the autumn of 1915.
But conditions in ‘Muckydonia’ (as it was referred to by the British troops) were appalling. In summer, the Struma river plain was covered with stagnant pools and in winter the surrounding hills were bitterly cold and the few tracks through the hills were muddy. As many, if not more, soldiers died of disease as in battle – mostly malaria, but inevitably dysentery and other disease-related outcomes of poor sanitary arrangements.
Suffolk Record Office’s very own Carol Henwood has uncovered the stories of several Suffolks from the Salonika Force. She has worked with the Suffolk Regiment archives at the Bury branch of the Suffolk Record Office, and has spent four holidays in that part of Greece with her husband, visiting a friend who shares an interest in this aspect of WWI. As a result, Carol knows quite a bit about Salonika and shares that knowledge with us here, including her own photographs of the terrain where the Suffolks fought, the cemeteries where they are buried, and many if not all of their grave-stones.
Her other sources include:
- 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment War Diary – July 1916 – BRO ref GB554/B2/12
- 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment War Diary – August 1916 – BRO ref GB554/B2/12
- Trench map – The National Archive ref WO298-481
- The London Gazette
- Information on the casualties taken from the family history website Ancestry [www.ancestry.co.uk] and the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission [www.cwgc.org]
- First hand
- All remaining photographs taken by Carol Henwood
During the whole of September 1916 the 1st Suffolks were based near the Orljak bridgehead. They were either improving the defences and the trenches or making advances towards the enemy. The pattern seems to be that an advance was made towards a village on the east side of the River Struma. The Bulgars were driven out and the village was occupied, then the troops were withdrawn back to the defences on the west side in the hope that the Bulgars could be enticed to follow and could then be shelled.
It was during the preparation for one such advance that the Bulgars attacked D Coy and the war diary reports that one was killed. That would be Private Rolfe. For the 24th September there is a plaintive entry stating that the river rose 3 ft during the night and flooded part of the defences. It doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that would leave cold stinking water, and mud, in places that the troops were temporarily considering ‘home’.
Three Suffolks died in Salonika in September 1916, and 2 of those had lived in Suffolk. The numbers involved may seem tiny compared with the carnage on the Western Front. But these men also played their parts.
The Suffolks were not alone. There is mention in the war diary of the 2nd Cheshires and the 5th Fusiliers. If the war diary cannot be found for the regiment being researched, the war diary of any other regiment involved will still provide a picture of the activities and daily lives of all.
And another snippet from the war diary reads: “Two scouts returned with a red flag which had been planted by the Bulgars, in the area of the advances, and with a message “written in very bad French to the effect that the enemy wished us to go back to England as our interests were not here”.
Click on the links below for details of casualties from September 1916:
Here, Suffolk Record Office’s Carol provides an account of the activities and events of the Suffolk Regiment in Salonika for August, 1916.
“During July and August 1916 the Bulgarians had advanced into Greek territory, proceeding south along the Struma valley, on the east side of the river where the Allies were on the west. Over 2 nights (31st July and 1st August) the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment marched from the camp near Big Tree Well to the Orljak area and set up camp at the 64 kilostone. The Serres Road was an important link from Salonika on the Aegean Sea north east to Serres, a town in the foothills of the range of hills now known as Oros Vrontous. It was one of the few better constructed roads in the area and it had stones to mark the kilometres, as we would the miles; the 64th representing the distance from Salonika. The Orljak Bridge is where the Serres road crossed the River Struma, just short of the 76th kilostone.
Matching the names in the war diaries to the current names on the ground is extremely difficult. Many of the names 100 years ago were Bulgarian or Turkish. Since then, villages have disappeared – or moved – or established out of nothing – and most have been given new Greek names. To which we add that the trench maps drawn up during WWI
are of far better quality than any maps published today. Our Greek friend doesn’t possess a road map, or even a satnav, he just goes roughly in the right direction then asks a pedestrian.
The Old Serres Road has been bypassed but, comparing the trench map with the current map I can make a good guess as to where the 64th kilo camp was – a flatter area part way up from the Struma valley into the hills.
On 19th August the 1st Suffolks moved to a gully near the town of Orljak. This was the start of their involvement with defending the Orljak bridgehead and the subsequent advance into the villages beyond. During this last part of August they occupied trenches near the bridgehead and the only activity was shelling by both sides.”
Click on the links below for details of casualties from August 1916:
The 1st Battalion were on the Struma front in July 1916. They had relieved the 1st Welch on 7th, making their base at Big Tree Well. They were responsible for the right bank of the Butkova River, from the junction with the Struma River to the western end of Lake Butkova, a distance of about 7 ¾ miles.
Click on the links below for details of casualties from July 1916:
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Research should proceed logically, with supporting evidence, from the known to the unknown; our researchers will undertake thorough searches of our indexes, archive collections, catalogues, documents along with any other relevant information. With any search, we cannot guarantee that you will find the information you are looking for. Records may be missing, damaged, difficult to decipher, or just not exist at all. However, a negative result can be just as useful, although we prefer a positive one!
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How to request some research
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Our current charges are £22 for half an hour and £36 per hour.
If you are unsure of how much research time you need you can commission an initial search which can be extended later on agreement with your researcher.
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Here are some of our recent research results and customer feedback
“…it is remarkable that so much information has survived from that early period and I am grateful for your meticulous research.”
“I was so pleased to receive your report yesterday, it was so interesting to read. I am quite sure it was a challenge!”
“Ordinance Survey Map of Cockfield, Second Edition 1904, L.V.13 55.13
This map does not mention the Punchbowl by name. The only public house mentioned on this map is The Six Bells.
I decided to look at the tithe and apportionment for Cockfield. Although this was dated 1813, and therefore a little earlier than the time of Robert Scott I hope that this would show where the Punch Bowl was.
Cockfield Tithe Map and Apportionment, T39/1, 2 1813
Punch Bowl Inn, Yard Etc. Land owner- William Wolton Occupier- Robert Little. This apportionment tells us that the Punchbowl Inn was located in section 98. This puts in very close to the border with Bradfield St Clare.
I was then able to find it on the following map,
Ordinance Survey Map of Cockfield, Second Edition ,1905, LV N.W, 55NW/SW”
“Isaac Jackson singleman of the parish of Rattlesden and Sarah Edgar of this parish singlewoman were married in this Church by Licence with consent of parents this seventh day of July in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighteen. By me William Roberts Curate.
This marriage was solemnized between us Isaac Jackson & Sarah Edgar
In the presence of Edmund Edgar & Mary Ann Edgar
Points to note about this entry are: the couple married by licence not by banns. Consent was sought from parents which suggests one of them was under the age of 21 years, but they did both sign the register themselves meaning they were educated.”
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Using catalogues and indexes
If you’re new to using archives you may want to have a look at the guides on the Archives Hub website, where you can find lots of information about working with archives and visiting repositories.
Suffolk Record Office has been creating index cards and catalogues since the offices opened in the 1940s. Some of these have been updated to a computerised format and can now be searched using the online catalogue. Others are still only available on paper and card in the relevant branch.
The archive collections at Bury and Ipswich have a alphanumeric classification system which determines their reference e.g. ecclesiastical parish collections have the prefix FB and FC (at Ipswich) and FB and FL (at Bury) and parish council collections have the prefix EG. Lowestoft collections are classified using a number only sequence.
In all three branches we have card indexes for name, place and subject. These indexes will direct you to the catalogues which will provide additional information and allow you to decide if you want to order the archives from the strongroom.
There are also specialist indexes to help you access material such as wills, manuscript maps, photographs, illustrations and prints etc.
Our new website has a large number of archive catalogues available for searching. You can also order documents for viewing in the relevant branch searchroom. Guidance on searching online and pre-ordering documents can be found here.
We will be updating the catalogue regularly but there are lots of collections which are not yet online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you may need to contact us by email or come and visit in person.
Address: Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft Library, Clapham Road South, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1DR
Telephone: 01502 674680
Closed: Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Parking: There is no car parking on site but long and short-stay car parks are located near the town centre – Waveney District Car Parks
Address: Suffolk Record Office, Gatacre Road, Suffolk, IP1 2LQ
Telephone: 01473 263909
Closed: Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Parking: Car parking is available on site, entrance in Gatacre Road (closed after office hours).
Bury St Edmunds branch
Due to an issue with our strongroom shelving we are unable to produce documents from part of the Bury Record Office strongroom. We are waiting for engineers to attend to fix the problem. If you know what material you would like to look at, please email us at email@example.com in advance of your visit and we can check that we can produce it.
We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause. If you have any further queries please contact the Searchroom Services Manager Judith.firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Suffolk Record Office, 77 Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 2AR
Telephone: 01284 741212
Closed: Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Parking: There is no free car parking at the office. A disabled parking space is available next to the building and accessible through the old Manor House car park.
See the West Suffolk website for details of car parks in Bury St Edmunds.
Edward Caley’s sketch books and drawings of Ipswich Quay
Edward Caley’s drawings and sketch books show the condition of Ipswich Quay in 1837. Caley was employed by the Ipswich Dock Commission to help with surveying work. He used the sketch books to record the buildings on the quay, some of those in the streets behind, and the quay itself. He noted the type and colour of materials used, the present condition of the buildings and the quay, and some of the owners’ / occupiers’ and premises names. They are exquisite and enable the viewer to pick out individual detail and make comparisons with modern Ordnance Survey maps of the area.
The material forms part of the large Ipswich Port Authority collection (Ref: EL1), a catalogue of which can be found in the Ipswich branch searchroom. Apart from his sketch books and drawings this collection contains letters to the Ipswich Dock Commission regarding the appointment of Caley and the quality of his work.
Suffolk Record Office and the Anglo-Saxons? With our earliest document dating to the 12th Century, Anglo-Saxon researchers and enthusiasts might be forgiven for not thinking of us when planning a visit to Suffolk! However, our collections reflect the continuation of many stories which began with the Anglo-Saxons – immigration, kingship, parishes and many more. In addition, our Local Studies collections contain a wealth of secondary sources on Anglo-Saxon Suffolk.
Sutton Hoo is a fine example of an archaeological site which really ‘comes to life’ through the archives; after all, how could a modern day visitor make sense of the features on the ground without the photographs, the excavation records, the journals and maps which tell the story – both of the site itself and the fascinating tale of its discovery!
Below is a sample of the Sutton Hoo-related material you can find at Suffolk Record Office:
Surveys drawn in 1600 by John Norden for Sir Michael Stanhope reflect Suffolk’s place in the history of cartography; Norden is credited with developing key innovations that were adopted nationally. His survey above records the Anglo-Saxon grass burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, which held the royal burial ship, excavated in 1939 by Basil Brown.
Basil Brown (1888 – 1977) was a prolific worker and recorder of archaeological sites in Suffolk. Discoverer of the Sutton Hoo Ship burial in 1938-39 and West Stow Anglo-Saxon village in 1947, the value of his work (copiously recorded by handwritten notes, drawings and maps) went largely unrecognised during his lifetime. Read about his archive here.
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