9th Battalion at Salonika

9th Battalion at Salonika

Postby kerchi » Mon May 11, 2009 9:21 pm

9th (Service) Battalion, Border Regiment (Pioneers) at Salonika I am surprised at how very little information there is about the 9th Battalion. Google searches bring up various Roll of Honour details but even these are few and far between, which is why I wanted to write a basic history of the Battalion during WW1. If it wasn't for Col. Wylly's book I wouldn't have been able to write this, so it should be mentioned here that the 'meat' of this history comes straight from this source. IntroductionThe 9th Battalion, a Pioneer Battalion, spent the duration of the Great War in preparing the way for others and making good the roads, bridges, trenches and strong points that were used during the fighting that took place in and around the area of Salonika, Greece. Their story is unique in as much as they spent little time in actual battle yet their skills as a Pioneer Battalion were put to use time and time again to a successful conclusion and, like their counterparts serving in the Western Front, were highly praised for their efforts on many different occasions.The Western Front - 1915Their journey started in the latter half of 1915 when, at a strength of 30 officers and 935 other ranks, they disembarked at Havre on the 4th September, making an early start  to Amiens by train. Sometime during the evening they were ordered to detrain at Longueru and march from there to Flesselles, which at that point was the location of 22nd Division headquarters. There they stayed for a few days awaiting new orders before moving on to their next calling. However, whilst there conflicting orders were received and rumours were making the rounds as to probable moves. It wasn’t until the 11th September that they were in fact issued with orders to march  to La Neuville where they  were intended for attachment to the 18th Division for the sole purpose of Pioneer duties of every sort. Before the end of the month the 9th Battalion had moved several times via Herleville and Bayonvillers, working on orders given and sustaining their first casualties; one other rank wounded, 2nd Lieutenant A.F. Sandeman slightly wounded and 2nd Lieutenant Ogilvie was killed accidentally by rifle discharge. The events the 9th Battalion were involved in kept them in the general area for a few weeks longer continuing their duties but it was somehow becoming clearer that these events were slowly shaping them up for involvement of a new distant theatre of war. As Wylly states:[i] “The isolation of Serbia and Montenegro, and the attitude of Bulgaria and Greece had caused the Allied Powers to decide to land forces at Salonika to open up communications thence with the Serbian Army. Already early in the autumn of 1915 three French divisions had been despatched under General Sarrail, and in October the 10th British Division, withdrawn from Suvla, had been ordered to and had landed at Salonika. The 22nd Division was now also directed to proceed thither from the Western Front, and was in due course followed by the 28th, 26th and 27th, in the order named.â€
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: 9th Battalion at Salonika

Postby kerchi » Mon May 11, 2009 9:31 pm

The Battalion at Salonika 1915

The journey was quite uneventful and then men enjoyed good weather and calm seas all the way. When they arrived at Alexandria they had spent a week on ship. It was the 3rd November and orders were issued almost straight away for them to stand fast in the event of a change of destination. These orders, however, did not come through and the Battalion were to make their way as originally instructed; this they did the following day on the 4th leaving one man behind in hospital as a result of sickness. The 9th Border Regiment once again steamed out of port and were on their way to Salonika under strict orders to be vigilant owing to the reported sighting of enemy submarines in the Mediterranean’s eastern waters. As a precaution, during the night, all lights were shielded and the men were ordered to have their life-belts to hand at all times.Three days more on board ship and the sights of Salonika came into view. It was the 7th November and disembarkation began in an organised and regimented style with Companies B, C and D making way to shore first. These were under the command of Major Wootten and orders were received for them to march to camp 8 miles distant on the banks of the River Galiko. A Company and the machine-gun section remained on board with instruction to aid the disembarkation of Battalion stores. Major Wootten and his Companies arrived at camp but there was little there to justify a camp of any sorts. They were met by the Commanding Officer and Adjutant who had gone on ahead to assess the grounds and by this time it was night, the temperature had dropped considerably and the air was cold. Camp consisted of nothing more than a wind battered hillside; no tents or provisions available only the bleak reality they were far away from home. The next morning A Company and the machine-gun section rejoined the Battalion and work, by all hands, began on clearing the camp of rocks and stones in preparation for bringing in the stores and building shelters.

For almost the next two weeks the 9th Border Regiment were busy in their efforts of improving the water supply and building new roads in the immediate area. During this time they remained accommodated in camp awaiting much needed bell-tents, which unfortunately did not come through in a timely manner and never more than two or three at a time, if they were lucky. Around the 13th, Captain Wilson and his men from transport, who had left Marseilles at a later time, rejoined the Battalion. The weather was comfortably warm during the day but at night became cold, however, the men remained good spirited and in good health. There never seemed to be shortage of tobacco, as smoking was a favourite pastime amongst many of the men, but the basic necessity of bread proved a little different and was somewhat harder to come by. On the 19th training was under way with Signallers and Battalion scouts and all ranks were exercised. The following day they marched to a new camp closer to Salonika. Here they were employed in  bridging a stream, amongst other minor details but were soon on their way again, this time based at camp on the east bank of Galiko River with the artillery of the 22nd Division.

It was now the 27th November and even in countries of a warmer climate, the winters can creep in quickly and the weather can turn for the worse at a moments notice. Snow had befallen the men, which in turned had changed into a blizzard and then by night they were fighting the frost. The cold was intense and supplies were proving difficult to get through. A supply of rum, which was issued to the men, however, was  [i]“kept for the next dayâ€
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: 9th Battalion at Salonika

Postby kerchi » Mon May 11, 2009 9:43 pm

The 9th Battalion at Salonika, 1916

The beginning of 1916 was no different  and showed no sign of things improving. The general situation at this time, as Wylly states, was as follows:[i]“On the right the districts of Seres and Drama were occupied by Greek troops, who held the pass through the mountains formed by the gorge of the Struma. At Stavros, on the Stymon Gulf, began the fortified lines of the British position, extending across the neck of the Chalkidike Peninsula N.W. to the Galiko River, and then to Lake Doiran. Here began the lines of the French, which were continued as far as the Vardar and covered its lower reaches on the west.â€
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: 9th Battalion at Salonika

Postby kerchi » Tue May 12, 2009 4:50 pm

The 9th Battalion at Salonika 1917

During January the Battalion spent much of its time around the area of Spancovo; because of the nature of the marshy ground beneath them, they were employed in bridging many streams and causeways to ensure easier transit from one location to another. In addition to this they also worked tirelessly on the usual roads and dug-outs, which without would have caused more problems for the many fighting units in the vicinity. February saw no difference in their work and passed by in much the same manner. During the middle of March orders received expressed that Battalion Headquarters were to move to a new location at Cugunci, however, the work there remained the same. The weather thus far had not been pleasant and heavy rainfall at periodic times had effectively turned the Seres Road into dangerous quagmires making any sort of motor transportation nigh on impossible. But as the weather started to change and become warmer and drier new operations would slowly commence. As General Milne states regarding a new attack:[i]“By the 10th March the Corps on the left had pushed forward for distance 1,000 yards on a front of 3,500 yards, extending in a S.W. direction from Horseshoe Hill, on the ridge which forms the watershed between the Doiran Lake and the Vardar Valley. The ridge, commonly called the ’P’ Ridge, running N. into the left of the enemy’s position, rises to a height of about 500 feet above Horseshoe Hill, and dominates the whole country between Doiran Lake and the Vardar. On both flanks in front of Doiran and opposite Mucukovo, the Bulgarian trenches are pushed forward, forming strong bastions, with flanks resting on Doiran Lake and the Vardar River respectively….Situated some 800 yards in front of Horseshoe Hill, which formed the apex of the salient between these two bastions….a hostile advanced work called ’P.4 ½ ’ formed a valuable observation station to the enemy and its capture was essential to any further advance. The front, therefore, selected or the initial attack, with a view to threatening the approaches to Doiran town, extended from the W. shore of Doiran Lake, along the enemy’s salient in front of the town, to the crest of the ’P’ Ridge.â€
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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