Συνέντευξη του Alan Wakefield στον Νίκο Μισολίδη υποψήφιο διδάκτορα του τμήματος Ιστορίας και Αρχαιολογίας του ΑΠΘ και στον Κώστα Γιαννακόπουλο, προπτυχιακό φοιτητή του ιδίου τμήματος.
We would like to tell us about the position of the Salonica Front in World War I. Specifically, we’d like to inform us about its importance and its effects in Macedonia.
In Britain the Salonica Front is really forgotten. Everything is focused on Western Front and almost nobody knows about Salonica, Palestine, Mesopotamia even though there were thousands of British soldiers over there. In Salonica, specifically there were over 200.000 serving here in 1917. The impact of Salonica effects on the World War was to secure the Balkans against Germanic expansionism and potentially the real effect that the British worry about was: once they tried to save Serbia and failed and the Bulgarians had been involved and pushed Serbians back to Albania and driven the French and the British back to Salonica from Serbia. The real issue here was to stop the Germans domination the Balkans using political influence to make Greece an ally or a friendly neutral to Germans or inventing in Greece. They always threat that Salonica or the Aegean will be German submarine bases because there was a great submarine threat in Mediterranean from German Austrian submarines. So, this was a major issue for the British. For the other allied countries such as French and Italians, I think they were more into the idea of actually a potential offensive threat from Salonica. So they’re trying to bring the Romanians on their side which happened in 1916.
So, Romania was the key for France and Britain?
I don’t think that Romania was a key for the British. Once Serbia was defeated the British took the troops to use them somewhere else. But the French and the Italians were very keen on been involved with the Serbs. Serbs wanted to regain their own country and Russians obviously supported Serbia. So, the British were really forced to keep troops here. More likely against their will, they probably wanted to leave Salonica.
The French politician Georges Clemenceau called the allied troops in Salonica as “gardeners”. We know the allied army here in Salonica offered a great amount of progress for the Front. What do you think about that?
We know that the allied army in Northern Greece offered a lot infrastructure projects such as massive road building to supply the troops. The supplies varied from mules to artillery etc. Before the arrival of the allied troops there was only one road· from Salonika to Serres. So we needed to move troops around and we needed proper roads and there was massive road building project. To explain the situation when it was necessary to move troops from Thessaloniki to Stavros it was quicker to move them with the ships than marching across the land. So there was a big infrastructure project. Also, the medical facilities played a great role. Initially, the role of medics is to support the army. But the British and the French actually used the medical facilities for the benefits of local people as well. These were the first actual medical facilities these people ever had. Hospital units or even medical officers had actually gone to the villages and treated the local people. In one way this was good for the army because by that it would stop epidemics which could affect them. But in another way the British undermined the nationalists by showing the locals the benefit of having the British army there but that wasn’t official policy. It was a sort of understanding that it would actually help the allied troops if they had seen that the local people are on their side.
We would like to inform us about the Imperial World Museum and especially its extraordinary photographic gallery sector. Furthermore, we’d like to talk about Salonica Front’s section of the photographic archive of World War I.
We have about 7.000.000 photographs in our archive. Our collection are primarily British photographs from the first and the second World War. We are the official repository for photographic military defense. The Salonica material is covered through British photography in 20.000 photographs. It covers the period from the arrival of the troops in October 1915 through to almost the end of war. The problem was that there was only one official photographer in Salonica. In other fronts there were many more. Also, there is photographic material from French and Serbians soldiers and nurses as well. The nurses are behind the lines and many of them belong in the middle class so they can afford the equipment and they have free time to develop the photographs. We have more photographs taken by medical, transport and engineering personnel because they were more static. But we do have collections from British infantry officers. All these official photographs have been digitized and they are available online. Also there are film archives from the First World War that have been digitized and are online.
We’d like to tell us about Salonica Campaign Society (http://www.salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk/). What are the goals and the activities of this forum?
Initially, there was the original veterans group of Salonica which existed from 1924 to 1968. In 1980 there was no society at all and around 2000 the Society was reestablished. The Society started from 12 people. We found many members, mostly in United Kingdom but some in Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada and Greece. The idea behind the Society is to actually bring the knowledge in the Campaign back in the public consciousness because people had forgotten the soldiers who were there. Many of our members are descendants of Salonica veterans. We come over in Greece and visit many sites where the British army was in the First World War. So we visit Thessaloniki, Strymon valley, Doiran, Polykastro etc. We bring the official photographs, the diary entries and read them on the ground where the men fought and the people can see the ground and can understand better everything.
Ο Alan Wakefield έχει ακολουθήσει διπλές σπουδές (προπτυχιακές και μεταπτυχιακές) στην Ιστορία και στη Μουσειολογία. Διετέλεσε επιμελητής στο Εθνικό Ναυτικό Μουσείο (National Maritime Museum), και στο Μουσείο της Βασιλικής Αεροπορίας (RAF Museum). Επί σειρά ετών υπηρέτησε ως επικεφαλής του τμήματος φωτογραφιών του Αυτοκρατορικού Πολεμικού Μουσείου (Imperial War Museum). Είναι πρόεδρος της Salonika Campaign Society και μέλος της Βρετανικής Επιτροπής Στρατιωτικής Ιστορίας.