‘Salonika’ – a new short film has been commissioned by Away from the Western Front

Extract from Salonika battlefield footage (© Khaki Devil)

As part of its lottery-funded project ‘Away from the Western Front’ is delighted to announce the availability of a new film that it has commissioned about the Salonika campaign.  ‘Away from the Western Front’ has brought together a number of activities across the UK to raise awareness about the wider aspects of the war and to remember all those who served in campaigns such as the Balkans and elsewhere.

The Salonika campaign, sometimes referred to as the Macedonian Front, took place between 1915 and 1918 along the Greek borders with Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria. The port of Thessaloniki, then known as Salonika was the main Allied military base.

Project adviser Alan Wakefield from the Imperial War Museums tells us more: ‘In Britain the Salonika Campaign is very much a forgotten part of the First World War despite the involvement of over 200,000 British soldiers. Fighting as part of a multi-national army the British Salonika Force helped secure the first victory against the Central Powers in 1918 with the defeat of Bulgaria. We should remember that soldiers do not get to choose where they fight and just because these troops were not facing the German Army on the Western Front does not mean their story should be forgotten.’

Salonika Allied Comrades in Arms © IWM (Q 67857)

Alan Wakefield wrote and narrated the film, which was produced by the well-known military film-makers ‘Khaki Devil’. Director, Taff Gillingham said: ‘Khaki Devil was delighted to work with Away from the Western Front to bring the story of the Salonika Campaign to a wider audience.  It has been a privilege to work with Alan Wakefield, the leading expert on the campaign, and members of the Salonika Campaign Society, to make this film as historically accurate as possible’. As part of the film, Khaki Devil was able to make use of re-enactments filmed in various locations, including the battlefield itself.

The 14 minute film – available at https://awayfromthewesternfront.org/campaigns/balkans-gallipoli/salonika/ – is linked to four other regional projects based on Salonika as part of ‘Away from the Western Front’.

  • At the Sandham Memorial Chapel near Newbury a group of military veterans put together an exhibition comparing their own experience with those of soldiers who served in Salonika a century ago. The Salonika film is available for visitors to the Chapel.
  • At Castle Drogo in Devon, schoolchildren have developed a drama production based on the story of a mason who joined up in 1914 and was killed in Salonika in the final year of the war.
  • Two more Salonika-based projects are just starting. In Cheltenham local people are to sample the food the multi-national army enjoyed during the campaign, using the diaries of composer Gustav Holst, who was there. In Newton Abbot, Devon, schoolchildren are developing an exhibition and drama performance about a local man who was at Salonika with his horse, which was one of the fortunate few to return to Britain, where he was put out to grass in what are now the school playing fields.

This new film and the regional projects will all help to inform people that the First World War was not confined to the mud and trenches of France and Flanders, but was a truly global war, involving soldiers far away from the Western Front.

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