GWL 18th August 1917

Frightful excitement.  Salonique is doing the Sodom and Gomorra stunt.  Blazing away merrily.  It is blowing half a gale.  Pray heaven it does not get down to our quays.  The whole sky is glowing and an enormous cloud of reddy brown smoke is hanging over the place.  I rode up into the hills to see if I could see anything, this afternoon, but could not see much.  To-morrow I shall try and go and have a look.  How the devil they propose to put the bally fire out, I cannot imagine, as there is hardly a drop of water laid on.  You can imagine what a Greek Fire Brigade would look like.  About 5 times worse than the Chinese. Your letter about your cottage came yesterday.  I am awfully glad you like the little place.  It will be a nice rest for you.

If Salonique disappears in a puff of smoke, things are going to be rather awkward in the buying line.  One of my officers has succumbed to the bite of the sand-fly.  He is rather a sick hound just now.  Beastly nuisance as we are busy & rather short-handed.”

The Great Fire of Salonica reputedly started as a small domestic kitchen fire.  Most of the housing at that time was of wood construction.  A strong Vardaris northerly wind was blowing which meant that the fire spread rapidly.  The blaze lasted a day and a half and left two thirds of the city destroyed or badly damaged.  More than 70,000 (the majority Jews) were made homeless although amazingly no-one was killed.

great fire of Salonica

{next post 21st August}

GWL 16th August 1917

Very high wind blowing now.  There is absolutely nothing to write about.  They seem to be sitting pretty tightly on our mails.  The old malaria bug is having is having a go at me now, but I think I can compete with him by dint of much quinine.  It makes you feel rather a fool in the head.  The leathery and licentious sand fly has made his appearance in rather large numbers.  He is a rather smaller type than that we used to get in Malta and not so fierce.  The cats have contracted a very pretty form of flea which adds to the gaiety of  nations.  Greet all the brethren at Collingham Gardens.  Also please thank Mozzer for the potted grapes and biscuits – Both much appreciated.  We have a ‘makee pray’ every fortnight now.  The padre man is quite a good soul.  Poor man he messes with a lot of lady doctors.  I should think a mixed mess must be hell in hot weather.”

One assumes the padre shares a mess with the lady doctors!  On this day the Battle of Langemarck commenced as the next phase of the Ypres offensive.  After modest early gains heavy rain and stern German resistance meant that the attack stalled and was ended after 48 hours.

British troops near Boesinghe, 18 August 1917.

{next post 18th August}

GWL 13th August 1917

Have you noticed what a large proportion of people in this world are quite incapable of doing as they are told?  For example, take this place.  The young officer is told what day he has to report here, and where he has to stop on the way down.  Do you think he can do that?  Not a bit of it.  He arrives here about 36 hours too soon, with no rations, and expects me to feed him and his men.  Some of them are the limit.  This morning I received a bill from a gentleman in Aldershot.  For the last 9 years I have refused to pay it.  He is a bike man who I never patronised.  The bill started at 1/6, it has now reached 5/6.  He is one of the biggest pirates on the face of this earth..

Rather warm still.  We have had no rain for months.  Russia seems to be giving a pretty fair exhibition of folly.  How a nation that can demand £500 for unskilled labour can consider itself fit to govern itself I cannot imagine.  It seems a pity they don’t call Petrograd “St Petersburg” again.  There seem to be more Germans than Russians in it.”

On August 14th China declared War on Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Although China played no real part in the War, they did take back Tientsin from the Germans.  George had been based in Tientsin at the outbreak of the War as part of a multinational force including the British and Germans.

{next post 16th August}

GWL 11th August 1917

Your letters have arrived up to 23rd July.  It always amuses me the rot these correspondents talk about these air raids over London.  They all seem to expect that the German machines should be met by thousands of ours before they arrive at london.  Apparently they don’t realise that it only takes a little over an hour for them to get to London from their home.  In that time the information has to get to London & the machines have to get their height.  The whole thing is an impossibility.

Done a bit of shooting to-day & my ears are fairly buzzing.  Awfully hot, with sudden gusts of wind, which last about five or ten minutes.  My engaged subaltern is very sad at heart.  His lady is going home.  I can sympathise with the lady & him but they have had a very good innings, haven’t they?

What rotters the Russians are.  They make me sick.  They are about as fit to govern themselves as my old, old men.”

The comments concerning the Russians probably refers to the “July Days”, a period of turbulent infighting within the Russian hierarchy with the Bolsheviks led by Lenin being temporarily suppressed by the Kerensky government.

{next post 13th August}

GWL 8th August 1917

I have just seen in the paper that Peter was mentioned in the Salonica dispatch dated 29th March.  I am awfully glad – The lad has done some real good work since he came out.  I also see Papa’s D.S.O.

You cannot think how tour parcels are appreciated here.  The eggs are just a little bit difficult to deal with though – The cook is such a fool.  We are having a tremendous strafe against the malaria bug.  Doctor and I get out and hunt bout in the pools for the little devils.  Killed quite a lot to-night & strafed them thoroughly.  They have just told us that the mails from London of 4th & 5th July have gone.  I think there must have been a letter of yours amongst them.  Rather warm just now, but nothing unbearable.”

It’s not clear what Peter received his Mention  for as little happened during the period leading up to the end of March.

{next post 11th August}

GWL 6th August 1917

An enthusiastic noise lover is playing our gramophone and it is quite impossible to think of anything at all.  There  is nothing to write about.  Very hot indeed just now.  The surprising thing is that whereas last year we had a thunderstorm almost every day, this year we have had hardly any at all.  I had a letter from Miss Meiklejohn to-day.”

This day saw the first phase of the Battle of Marasesti.  An initial German and Austro-Hungarian offensive was ultimately thwarted by the combined Romanian and Russian forces.  This was the last major action on the Romanian front in the War.

{next post 8th August}

GWL 3rd August 1917

No mail for quite a long time now.  How is the holiday going?  There is no news from this part of the world at all.  The cats are growing in stature and in wisdom daily.  One kept me awake most of last night crawling on my face.  Rather a nice calculation for you.  I dreamt that a man was firing a rifle at my face once every minute.  He fired about 5 rounds and heaps of things happened in the period.  I woke up at last and found the Vickers cat sitting on my neck purring.  Presumably each shot was a purr.  Estimated that the cat purred at the rate of 1200 times a minute.  Calculate the length of the dream!  Length of dream about 25th of a second!  Write to the Society for Psychical Research at once.”

On the 2nd and 3rd of August elements of the crew of the German Battleship Prinzregent Luitpold went on hunger strike and marched into the naval town of Wilhelmshaven in protest at their conditions.  This was representative of the declining morale generally within the German Forces.

{next post 6th August}

The First World War seen through the letters of George Power