Sunday, 13 August 2017

News from Salonika

Music hall artiste Vesta Tilley [Wikimedia]

Monday 13th August 1917: A Bedford soldier, Corporal A. S. Kilbourn, has written home from Salonika describing the conditions faced by British troops there:

“No doubt people in Blighty consider this front very cushy, and I believe Vesta Tilley or some actress sang a song about ‘If you don’t want to fight go to Salonique.’ I need not tell you what the boys here thought of it. There certainly isn’t a lot of fighting on now. It’s the killing climate that is one’s greatest enemy. If the people of England only saw what the boys went through last year soon after arriving in the country, and what they are going through now, they wouldn’t sneer twice. They talk of Salonika as if that place is where we are at the town itself. Appranetly they don’t know that there are scores and scores of miles of mountain ranges, swamps breathing foul fevers, mosquitoes injecting fevers and sores into one, and millions of filthy flies which worry one’s body and soul in summer, to overcome, before one reaches the firing line, and that the roads aren’t tar macadamised and steam rolled, but consist of native mule tracks hardly visible, or else roads made by the troops themselves as they advanced, hewn and dynamited out of the mountains, and all under a boiling sun. They know little of the early difficulties of supply transports, especially when winter descended and turned everything into seething mud, rank swampy fever-stricken mud, which it took all one’s strength almost to get out of. Or of the boys rolling up with the fever, helpless, their blood teeming with it, and my God, it makes one’s blood boil to think of some people’s ‘gratitude’. I’d like an hour or two on a platform in England with some such people as audience.”

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 17th August 1917

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