H. Collinson (Harry Collinson) Owen.

Salonica and after, the sideshow that ended the war online

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had no big ships so far East. Consequently the
Temeraire and Superb, sister Dreadnoughts, came out
from home to Mudros, where up to that time our biggest
ships were tlie pre-Dreadnoughts Lord Nelson and Aga-
memnon. The British Naval Forces were under the
command of Vice- Admiral Sir A. S. Gough-Calthorpe.
And soon after the arrival of our two big ships, the
warships of France, Italy, and Greece began to concen-
trate on Mudros. By the end of September some hun-
dreds of war vessels of all kinds — battleships, cruisers,
destroyers, aeroplane-carriers, oil ships, store ships,
sweepers, patrol launches, and the rest — were lying in
the great harbour. Turkey began to feel ven^'' alone
and friendless. She knew of the formidable prepara-
tions going on by sea and by land to exact the payment
for her misdeeds, which must follow as the night follows
the day on the Balkan victory. Her leaders knew what
had happened in Palestine, even if the people in the
capital did not. And the " traditional friendship " for
France and Britain began to re-assert itself — now that
the German game was lost. Turks who whispered that
it was time to try and patch up an arrangement with
the Entente were no longer in danger of instant ex-
tinction. The two chief evil genii of the Turkish Em-
pire, Enver and Talaat, judged it wise to disappear,
with as much money as they could carry. A new
cabinet was formed with tendencies moderated to suit
the hour. Various envoys, more or less official, began



to filter from the Asia Minor coast, across the ^gean,
to prepare the way for others, and to find out what
crumbs of magnanimity could be picked up from the
table of the Allies. Some of them saw the formidable
naval preparations at Mudros, and, impressed, were
allowed to go back to spread the news. And finally
came the real envoys. They went to Smyrna by rail,
drove some distance along the coast, were picked up by
H.M.S. Liverpool and brought to Mudros. They were
Raouf Bey, Minister of Marine, Reched Hikmet Bey,
Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Lieut.-Colonel
Saadullah Bey, of the Turkish General Staff. They
were accommodated on board the Agamemnon and
from the port-holes of their cabins looked up and down
vistas of warships, and across serried rows of warships.
There was quite enough to make them think. And on
October 30th the Armistice was signed on board the
Agamemnon, the first clause of which was : " Opening
of Dardanelles and Bosphorus, and secure access to the
Black Sea. Allied occupation of Dardanelles and Bos-
phorus forts." Turkey's grasp on one of the world's
key geographical positions was at last unloosened — let
us hope for all time. The inviolate straits, up which
no foreign warship could sail without the express per-
mission of the Sultan's Government, were thrown open.

The second prop was knocked away. The breach in
the enemy ring made by the Balkan Armies was widen-
ing and widening. Even Germany began to see that tlie
game was up.

Following the elimination of Bulgaria the Turkish
Empire had fallen without a blow— if we except our
aeroplane raids on Constantinople. Our troops were
called off the Maritza line, which they had taken up
with so much sweat and trouble. The 26th Division
went up through Bulgaria to the Danube, and the 22nd


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trekked back to Stavros. Ordered to march on Austria,
then sent to Turkey, then brought back again ; weeks
of marching on bad roads and bivouacing in mud — no
wonder the man who shoulders the pack and carries the
rifle doubts at times whether those who guide his move-
ments really know what they do want. A sore heel
or a strap that pinches on the shoulder, and miles of
muddy roads ahead — these are not the things that help
in a calm and proper appreciation of what lies behind
the apparent unreason of his movements.

On November 12th the Allied Fleets passed up the
Dardanelles, There had been delay owing to difficul-
ties in sweeping up the mines — a dangerous task which
our unassuming trawler skippers and their crews tackled
with their usual efficiency. But short as that delay
had been in the eye of history — a mere flicker of time,
an instant gone before it was perceived — tremendous
things had happened to the world while the Fleet was
waiting for the " all clear " from the sweepers. Aus-
tria, yielding to the imperious message of events, had
capitulated, and a few days later the evil Colossus her-
self, Germany, bowed to the inevitable — while hoping
for better luck next time. On the morning of November
11th I read Marshal Foch's historic telegram posted up
in the anteroom of the naval camp at Mudros. People
read it languidly and said, " Well, well." A few
trawler skippers playing solo whist while waiting for
lunch opined that Germany had done it only just in
time to escape a " damned good hiding." Nobody
seemed elated or excited. The earth had thrown a
somersault — the firmament had cracked — Germany was
definitely beaten ! And yet nobody seemed inclined to
shout " hooray," and I did not see one single person
shake hands with another. Out in the harbour the
impassive Fleet did not shriek with a single siren, nor

273 T


speak with the voice of a single gun. Mudros is a dull
place ; a place which wears down high spirits, and
deadens the soul. No doubt that was the reason for
the general apathy. It could not be, surely, that while
London was cheering itself hoarse with joy and relief
there was something in the air of Mudros which enabled
us to see beyond the excitement of the moment ; which
foreshadowed what may come to be regarded as the
greatest error of judgment in all history — that we
should have stayed the avenging sword at the very
moment when the Brute was finally at our mercy ?

And this cataclysmic crumbling of the might of our
enemies ; this consummation of all that we had been
fighting for (and sometimes a little despairing of) during
four long years had come within a little over six weeks
after the first breach on the Balkan Front. The final
props had gone, and we could look on the wreck and
ruin of what had once seemed too powerful a structure
even for Might with Right to conquer.

But all the same Mudros did move a httle in its sleep
on that day of the Great Armistice. In the afternoon
we heard that the Fleet was certainly moving up to
Constantinople next day. I went on board the Aga-
memnon that night, was given excellent quarters by its
excellent Captain, and shown the famous table on which
the Armistice with Turkey was signed.

The Fleet moved out of Mudros harbour at four
o'clock on the morning of the 12th, and by nine we
were off Cape Helles. There in the cold, leaden light
of an unpleasing November morning was the tragic
Peninsula; the River Clyde, from which our troops
had poured at the first landing ; the repellent shore of
V. Beach, ugly and unpleasant as earth could possibly
be; the ruined fort of Seddul Bahr, and, far off, the
rounded crest of Achi Baba. Everybody on the ship



was silent as we passed " this corner of a foreign land
which is for ever England"; this bare and narrow
patch of earth which holds such tragic and glorious
memories for our race. For very many on board it
was their first sight of the Peninsula, and all gazed at
the shore with an intensity of expression which showed
how deeply they were feeling, and spoke in low tones
as they indicated this point or that. The general de-
meanour was that of somebody who had suddenly en-
countered the grave of an old friend. And all our
thoughts ran on much the same lines. There on shore
was the first tragic chapter of a great epic, and the
ships we were now on, steaming majestically up the
Straits, represented its triumphal end. This, and not
the withdrawal in 1915, was the true end to the Dar-
danelles campaign.

Preceded by two destroyers and by new high-speed
sweepers just out from England, the Superb, the flag-
ship, led the way up the Straits, followed by Temeraire,
Lord Nelson, and Agamemnon, and with a tail of light
cruisers and destroyers stretching far behind. The
French Fleet was not yet in sight, and behind them
were the Italians and the Greeks. On shore we could
see parties of our men of the 28th Division, who had
just been put on shore to garrison the forts, waving
to us as we passed. The leading battleships seemed to
fill the Straits, and we must have looked a brave sight
to those on shore. Past Hamidieh fort, with its 14-iiich
guns, and then the bend past Chanak, and here, as the
straight line of great ships suddenly crooked into an
elbow, one could look ahead and astern and see all
the line, and what a gallant sight we made. It was
good to see the string of White Ensigns fluttering here,
where for so many centuries the barbarous power of
the Turk had been all-powerful. The flag which means



liberty for all, which meant " the freedom of the seas "
long before ignorant or ill-disposed parrots discovered
that high-sounding catchword, had taken the place of
the flag that stands for deceit and oppression.

And next morning at eight o'clock, as quiet as mice,
and with no thunderous broadside to announce the
coming of the conqueror, our great ships were lying in
line off the Sultan's Palace at Constantinople. It im-
pressed us who were on the ships to see the White
Ensign flying there. But there were certain people on
shore to whom it meant infinitely more. Some of them
stood drawn up on the quay, waiting for the British
General, Sir Henry Wilson, to come ashore. They wore
slop suits of a curious baggy cut, and caps or wide-
awake hats, and many of them had pinched faces. They
were British prisoners, survivors from Kut and else-
where, and they had known in full measure all the hell
that Turkish cynicism and neglect, or active Turkish
cruelty, could mean. And up on the high Galata Tower
were others looking down with hungry eyes as the ships
came up from the Sea of Marmora into the Bosphorus ;
British officers, these, who up to a fortnight before had
been treated like dogs in the foetid gaols of old Stam-
boul, but suddenly found that a magic change had come
over everything, so that those who were harsh or dis-
dainful became fawning and amiable, and then
announced, with many bows, that liberty was theirs.
And to these the White Ensign fluttering down below
there, over the waters that know so much of tragedy
and cruelty, meant the deliverance from all evil.

Since that day the men of the B.S.F. have scattered
far and wide, and have taken the flag to lands they
never dreamed of seeing. The quagmires of Serbian
mountain passes and the squalor of little Serbian or
Bulgarian towns in mid-winter; the ostentatious new-



ness of Sofia ; the broad Danube, and Bucharest ; the
beauty of the Bosphorus ; Batoum, Tiflis, and the flal
shores of the Caspian — all these they have known.
Already Salonica and Macedonia must seem like the
echo of a dream — a long and bad and vivid
dream. Their work there is done, and the
B.S.F. has ceased to be, and belongs only to history.
But the memory of Macedonia will never fade, and in
after years they will look back on it all, and let their
minds roam through a thousand scenes and incidents, a
little surprised, perhaps, that in looking backwards the
ugly and unpleasant grows dim, and their thoughts dwell
chiefly on the pleasanter side. They will think of the
Vardar wind, which scorches and parches in summer,
and pierces to the bone in winter — but they will think
also of the Struma Plain with its wonderful variegated
carpet of wild flowers in early Spring, and its fields of
crimson poppies, or of the Krusha Balkan hills in the
warm golden sunlight of autumn. What does Tiadatha

" There was blue smoke curling upwards
From a company headquarters.
And he saw some soldiers bathing
In a pool beside the village —
From below the voices reached him.
In the honey-coloured sunshine.
And beyond the line of trenches,
Just beyond the wooded foothills
Lay the smiling, open valley.
Threaded by the Hodza Suju.
By the sandy Hodza river.
Bright as mackerel in the sunshine.
Brighter than a string of opals."

Salonica with its dirty crowded streets, its cheap
tawdry amusements and unclean restaurants ; the Staff
Colonels and M.T. officers in imposing cars; the nurses,
pretty and otherwise — English, Australian, Scottish
and French ; the sunsets over mountain and plain ; the
wonderful pictures of Olym.pus seen down the funnel



of Venizelos Street on those startlingly clear evenings
of winter ; the cheerful times in mess or canteen ; the
dust and mules along the Karasuli-Gugunci road ; the
Serbs ; the baggy trousered peasants of all kinds and
colours ; the thin starved ponies of the Greek transport
columns ; the ladies of the White Tower, the Odeon
and the Skating Rink; the bumps on the Monastir
Road ; the rumbling lorries ; the eternal growl of gun
fire; the "crumps"; the night patrols; the happy
days at Summer Hill ( !); the long-delayed mails from
home, and the joy of receiving them ; the aching,
maddening longing for leave ; the Fire and The Balkan
News ; the ration rabbit and the chlorinated water ; the
misery and depression of malaria and dysentery ; the
happy days between cool sheets in hospital — all these,
and a thousand other things, will blend into one plea-
sant picture : '' When we were out in Macedonia." And
perhaps even the terrors of Pip Ridge, Grand Couronne
and the Jumeaux Ravine will bring their compensations,
for She will be all the kinder for knowing of them, and
He will be able to say with the Moor of Venice : —

" She loved me for the dangers I had passed
And I loved her that she did pity them."

And now that one has come to the end one finds
that there still remain many things that might be talked
about. The shooting trips in the marshes, for instance,
with the ducks and geese whirring over against the
last, faint glow of a winter sunset ; the beauty of
Macedonia's many lakes ; or Vodena, with its tumbling
waters, in Springtime. But it is too late and, in the
lingua franca of the camps, the time has come to say
Finish Johnny.





The Royal Flying Corps, now Royal Air Force, was first represented
in the Balkans by No. 17 Squadron, Major F. N. Fuller being in
command. This Squadron disembarked at Salonica on July 7th,
1916, one flight being sent to Avret Hisar to work with the XII.
Corps, the remaining flights working with the XVI. Corps. During
September one flight moved up to Lahana, the remaining flight
being located at Salonica. On January 1st, 1917, Major J. H.
Herring, D.S.O., M.C., took over the command of the Squadron.

On September 20th the personnel of No. 47 Squadron, No. 17
Balloon Section and 16th Wing Headquarters arrived at Salonica,
and 16th Wing, Royal Flying Corps was formed with efi^ect from that
date, with Lieut. -Colonel G. W. P. Dawes in command.

On October 20th the flight of No. 17 Squadron at Avret Hisar was
relieved by a flight of No. 47 Squadron, who proceeded to Janes.
Later in the month another flight of the same Squadron moved to
Janes, the third flight proceeding to Kukus, and subsequently to
Snevce. This Squadron was commanded by Major C. C. Wigram
until relieved on December 23rd, 1916, by Major F. F. Minchin, M.C.

No. 17 Squadron worked wholly for the XVI. Corps from October
20th, 1916, and new aerodromes were occupied at Orljak and Marian.
The types of machines used at this time were B.E. 2c's, A.W.'s,
De Havilland 2's and Bristol Scouts.

Reconnaissances were carried out daily whenever weather per-
mitted, and artillery co-operation, bombing and photography were
also undertaken on a large scale. Contact patrols were carried out
on a small scale at first but later developed in accordance with the

No. 17 Balloon Section were moved up to Orljak, and later to
Kopriva, ascents being undertaken whenever the weather was favour-
able. A good deal of hostile activity was reported on, and new
defences when located were also reported. The enemy displayed a
good deal of activity, both aerial and artillery, against this balloon,
and during its stay on the Struma Front it was attacked a large
number of times by hostile machines, being shot down in flames
on three occasions. In order to endeavour to stop this an old unser-
viceable balloon was put up with a heavy bomb in the basket. This
bomb was connected to the ground, and was calculated to bring
down any machine approaching within 100 yards. On November 21st,
1917, a hostile scout attacked, and approached close to the balloon,



when the charge was fired, causing the machine to break in half. As
anticipated, it was discovered that this machine was piloted by Lieut.
Von Eschwege, the German star pilot on this front.

On February 12th, 1917, Nos. 26 and 27 Balloon Sections disem-
barked at Salonica, together with Headquarters No. 22 Balloon
Company, Major J. O. Davis being in command. Both Sections and
Headquarters No. 22 Balloon Company moved into the XH. Corps
area, the balloons carrj'ing out observations until the cessation of

Lieut. W. S. Scott, pilot. No. 17 Squadron, left Salonica Aero-
drome with a Greek officer as observer, on December 10th, 1916, in
search of a suitable landing ground in the vicinity of Drama, with a
view to landing an Agent. On the return journey the machine was
attacked by a single-seater biplane, which was driven down by Lieut.
Scott, and seen to crash by the Greek observer.

A week later Lieut. Scott succeeded in landing an Agent at
Fotolievo, in the Drama Valley. When over the valley the pilot
shut off his engine at 6,000 feet and planed down to 200 feet, at
which height mist was encountered, and the centre section wires
were broken on landing. As it was impossible to see more than five
yards around the raacliine, it was assumed the Agent got away

The same pilot again landed an Agent in the same vicinity on
January 1st, 1917, and it was thought that he got away unobserved.
For these acts of gallantry Lieut. W. S. Scott was awarded the
Military Cross.

On December 2.3rd, 1916, Captain W. D. Bell, M.C., No. 47
Squadron, left the Aerodrome to bomb a hostile observation balloon
near P'urka. On returning to our lines, after dropping his bombs,
he was attacked in the rear by an Albatross two-seater. The hostile
machine dived on the B.E. 12 and lost some 200 feet in height,
whereupon Captain Bell dived, and as his engine was full on he soon
caught up the E.A. (enemy aircraft). When about .50 yards behind,
Captain Bell opened fire with his Vickers gun and fired about 20
shots, by that time being right up to the enemy, the faint puffs of
smoke from tlie hostile observer's gim being distinctly seen. At
this point the E.A. dived and began to slip and spin, and some part
of a plane becoming detached, the machine crashed to earth in no-

Towards the end of February, 1917, a German Bombing Squadron
commenced to be extremely active on this front, as many as 20
machines taking part in raids on Salonica, Janes Aerodrome, Hadzi
Junas Aerodrome, Karasouli, and other targets. This latest type
German Bombing Squadron was a considerable source of trouble to
tlip British machines.

The Royal Naval Air Service were asked to co-operate against
this Squadron, and they sent over a number of Sopwith Fighters
from Mudros, which, with the assistance of our scouts, were made
into a Composite Fighting Squadron and were located at Hadzl
Junas. Their duty was to engage the hostile formation whenever and
wherever possible. The R.N.A.S. also sent over a squadron of
bombing machines, and a counter bombing offensive on a large scale
was inaugurated.



During the various engagements between the German Bombing
Squadron and our scouts, one twin-engined bomber was attacked and
came down in our lines, although it was afterwards ascertained that
it had been hit by A. A. fire. Three others were also brought down
over the enemy lines. A Halberstadt Scout was forced to land in
the French lines after having been hit by French A. A. fire.

The German Squadron came to the Macedonian Front from
Bucharest, where it had been employed against the Roumanians and
Russians. Part of its equipment was a special train, which was used
for transferring the personnel and stores rapidly from one point to
another, the machines flying to their destination. This train was
located alongside the aerodrome at Hudova, and during the many
times the aerodrome was bombed, both by day and night, a
direct hit was obtained on the train.

On May 10th it was observed that the Bombing Squadron and train
had left the aerodrome at Hudova, and it was subsequently re-
ported as being identified in Belgium and being used for bombing

One of the most successful pilots in the early days of the Royal
Flying Corps in Macedonia was Captain G. W. Murlis Green, and
the following are examples of his fights : —

Captain Green left Orljak Aerodrome on January 4th, 1917, in
pursuit of an Albatross two-seater. He caught it up over Likovan,
and in the first burst fired hit the petrol tanks and wounded the
hostile observer. The E.A. dived and landed in our lines at Mekes.

On January 14th the same pilot and Lieut. F. G. Saunders, both
flying B.E.12's, engaged an Albatross two-seater of the then latest
type and forced it to land near Lahana, the machine being captured
intact. It was later flown down to Salonica by Captain Green,
escorted by two British Scouts. A camera captured with this
machine was used afterwards with good efi^ect.

On the morning of February 12th, Captain Green and Lieut.
J. C. F. Owen left Orljak Aerodrome on B.E. 12's to try and
destroy a hostile Fokker Scout at Drama Aerodrome. ^A'lien our
machines were at 7,000 feet over the aerodrome the Fokker was seen
to be climbing, and both of our pilots dived at it and attacked at
about 50 yards range at a height of 6,000 feet. Unfortimately
Captain Green's gun jammed, and while this was being rectified
Lieut. Owen fought the P^okker at 2,000 feet, but apparently had his
engine or tank hit by machine-gun fire, as he was obliged to land
near the* aerodrome. The Fokker landed beside Lieut. Owen's
machine and the pilot jumped out and ran towards Lieut. Owen, but
stopped short suddenly, evidently being covered by the latter's
automatic pistol. Lieut. Owen set fire to his machine which blazed
up and was completely destroyed. A large number of soldiers from
the aerodrome and town ran towards the machines. Capt. Green
waited over the aerodrome for twenty minutes, but as no further
action was taken by hostile aircraft he returned to our lines.

In the afternoon of the same day Capt. (ireen again set out on the
same mission, this time carrying one 100-lb. bomb. The bomb was
dropped and fell about twenty yards south of a hangar. When at
4,000 feet over the aerodrome an Albatross was attacked, but it
dived and landed, being placed in a hangar. Another Albatross wap



p:ot out of a hangar and took off, but no action was taken by the
Fokker. At this point the engine of the B.E. started to "miss," and
as both main spajs of the top starboard plane had been shot through
by A. A. fire, a start was made for Lahana. The Albatross followed
as far as Tolos, where Capt. Green attacked and drove it down, but
was himself obliged to land at Monhni, just inside our lines. The
ashes of Lieut Owen's machine and the burnt ground around it
were particularly noticeable, and there was nothing but small parts,
such as separate cylinders, etc., seen lying about.

On March 18th Captain Green attacked one of six twin-engined
bombing machines over Karasouli. He attacked from 30 feet below,
and after firing one drum of S.A.A. the enemy machine dropped
eight bombs at our machine, all of which fortunately fell clear of its
tail. Petrol was seen to be flowing out of the bottom of the fuselage
of the E.A., and a second drum of S.A.A. was fired at the port
engine, which stopped, the starboard engine also subsequently stop-
ping. An attempt was then made to place a third drum on the
Lewis gun, but the drum was shot out of the pilot's hand. The

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Online LibraryH. Collinson (Harry Collinson) OwenSalonica and after, the sideshow that ended the war → online text (page 21 of 23)