My father’s thoughts on the events in Salonika

My father’s thoughts on the events in Salonika

Memories of 1917 – written by Walter Plevin in 1953.
Whilst my father’s original number in Kings Liverpool Regiment was 97270 RAMC is seems he was transferred to Ox &; Bucks Light Infantry at some point under No 30923

Photograph shows Walter, indicated by cross, at camp in Salonika in November 1917

“It was a hot August day in Salonika and the complement of the 52nd Gen. Hosp marched from the quayside up the slopes towards Mt. Horfiact. After about 4 miles march they turned to the right off the road and fell out in a sloping field. Bell tents were erected. I can remember that we had to dig into the sloping field at the tent rear and use the soil and stone to build up the floor of the tent front. Only one of the incidents at that site remaining in the memory. Side tables for the future patients arrived knocked down in bundles. Screws were provided, but under instructions we knocked in the screws with hammers.
The shade temperature was 104 Deg, but we worked in full sun. It was here that I shared a bell tent with eleven Scotsmen.
A few days later I found myself down at Kalamaria at 4th Gen. Hosp. I worked in the path lab doing odd jobs, but very little in total.
The great fire of Salonika occurred at this time and a pall of smoke stayed over the town for 15 days.
Mosscrop, the England offside left, played in a football match.
I remember being present at several post-mortems of men who died from a combination of Shiga dysentery and M.T. Malaria. Very unpleasant in the heat of a Macedonian summer.
Then I fell ill with dysentery and occupied a bed in one of the wooden hut wards. I wasn’t really ill more than a week and well remember the 3 times a day dose of Mag.Sulph.
A young King’s Liverpool boy was in the next bed with a gangrenous pectoral muscle, which had to be removed. He lay with a drip treatment of saline washing the wound. A very unpleasant smell wafted around him when his wound was being dressed.
Many of the patients were really ill with a combination of M.T.Malaria and shiga dysentery.
I remember a young boy named Flowers calling for his mother throughout the night and he died in the morning.
The night sister was kind to me. I had to take castor oil and she kindly topped it with a layer of brandy which I gulped down. Little did she know that I thought the brandy even more unpleasant than the oil. I hadn’t the heart to tell her.
After three weeks I was sent to a convalescent hospital. What a front. It was up in the hills – a most unpleasant place. After a week I was sent back to 4th Gen. Hosp and did ward duties until I was transferred to the 8 Ox & Bucks L.I. sent to Summerhill camp for training and spent 3 months in a demonstration platoon.
I remember that the CO and several platoon officers were rankers and against the theory prevailing at that time found them to be the best officers I had served under.
Then up to the front in the Doiran sector. Lived in a ravine a few hundred yards behind the line. A battery of 4.5 Howitzers occupied the same ravine. I recalled standing behind the guns and watching the shells clear the ridge by a few feet.
A great place for tortoises – they were everywhere on the hillside. I caught half a dozen young ones of various sizes from 1.5″ and 5″, cut off their heads and placed them near an ant’s nest. In a day or two they were cleaned out and stuffed them with cotton wool and carbolic tooth powder.
We had the period from 1.0′clock to 4.0′clock free each day – a siesta – but some of us wandered down the ravine a mile or so to a pool where we swam in ice cold water. Lizards played around the rocks.
In the evening we did fatigues and at night worked in the trenches. Sometimes we stood guard as sentries on the fire step and occasionally went out to inspect and repair wire.
I found it almost impossible to shovel earth from the trench bottom and throw it over the parapet, so my mate did the shovelling and I used the pick. He found it less arduous to shovel than I did. He had been a stoker at the London Gas Light and Coke Co.
Sounds of shelling in adjacent parts of the front now increased and something was ‘in the wind’, but we had no information.
Your breakfast, queue outside the mess tent, Dixie in right hand, lid in left. Tea in Dixie, piece dry bread and cold fat bacon in lid. Walk on earth to table, sit down and eat.”

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