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Salonika anti aircraft defences


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#26 Rockdoc

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Posted 30 September 2011 - 07:37 PM

If you go on to the National Archives, documents on line, search facility and look for RNVR personnel with AA prefixes, a suprising number come up, 3,031 mainly London Division RNVR so I imagine that there must have been a large number of small AA batteries scattered about.


At the star of the War, the Navy was given the task of aerial defence around London so I'm not at all surprised that there are many London men in your list. I believe that the Army took over this operation later on but I'm not sure when or whether the Navy men continued at the same sites. I don't believe that the Army took over the defence of Naval establishments at any point in the War so there must have been some kind of RN AA organisation throughout the conflict. I have had no reason to research the Navy so I've no idea of how its organisation differed from that of the Army in the way Diaries or their equivalent were kept, for example.

Kate,

I'll see you at the Cenotaph tomorrow.

Keith

#27 Airman_Thasos

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 12:52 PM

Dear friends,

I have just joined the “Great War Forum” and, honestly speaking, it was this thread that prompted me to do so. Being a Greek aviation enthusiast, leaving just opposite to the aerodrome at Thasos (or at least where it used to be) and very close to Drama, Stavros, Xanthi and Gereviz, I am currently researching the history of air operations in this region (including the Salonica front and the NE Aegean theater) during the Great War…

Please let me offer an explanation of the scene of destruction around the aerodrome at Thasos, as shown in photographs “post-6480-0-16612300-1316500762.jpg”, “post-6480-0-58675900-1316500951.jpg” and “post-6480-0-63441800-1316500852.jpg”.

a) According to the war diary of Captain Augustine Francis Marlowe (R.N.A.S.): “Thasos appears to have had a nasty accident while I was away – accidental bomb explosion, killing and wounding several and destroying ten aircraft". This statement appears under the date of 27 August 1917. Marlowe left the Aegean theater of operations for Malta (Bighi Naval Hospital) on the 20th of April 1917. He had to recover from a bad Nieuport crash at Imbros salt lake that occurred on the 18th of March 1917. He returned at Mudros on the 24th of August 1917 and reported to Wing Captain Scarlett. So, according to Marlowe, between the 20th of April and the 24th of August 1917 there was a “nasty accident” at Thasos. But was it an accident?



B) Lieutenant General G.F.Milne, Commanding-in-Chief, British Salonica Front, in his “Summary of Information concerning the allied forces on this front for the month of August”, reports that:

“On August the 4th news was received from Thasos that the aerodrome there, belonging to the R.N.A.S., had been heavily bombed by hostile seaplanes. I offered a bombing squadron of the R.F.C. to the Vice-Admiral to carry-out, in conjunction with the R.N.A.S., a raid in retaliation on the enemy seaplane base at Gereviz, S.W. of Xanthi…”

So, according to Milne, the aerodrome at Thasos was heavily bombed on the 4th of August. But, was it bombed by the German seaplanes of the Xanthi (Gereviz) Seeflugstation?



c) Hauptman G. Heydemarck, in his famous book “War flying in Macedonia”, records a heavy night attack on Thasos aerodrome, planned and executed “on the spot” by Ltns Eschwege and Koning during a farewell party for their CO (i.e. Heydemarck) who was on leave to Uskub to recuperate from malaria. It was at least a “four weeks sick leave” as ordered by Captain von Blomberg. Then, Heydemarck would “take command of the Staff Photography Section until complete recovery”. Actually, Heydemarck took command of the Staff Photography Section on the 23rd of September 1917.


Therefore, going backwards in time and quoting Heydemarck, it is safe to suppose that early in August 1917, when an evening farewell party was going on at Drama’s officers’ mess, there was a partially successful night attack at Drama’s aerodrome by a single R.N.A.S. machine that had taken off from Thasos. A “heavy bomb fell close to the one-seaters tent. Halberstadts damaged by air pressure”. Eschwege proposed an immediate retaliatory attack on Thasos and offered Heydemarck the opportunity to bomb the allied aerodrome for the last time before his leave. However, Ltn Koning (who was to succeed Heydemarck in the command of the Drama FA30 section) held him back since he was “still too shaky” from his malaria and volunteered to “do the job”. There were “four explosive bombs stowed in the rack and two incendiary bombs in the cockpit” of their Rumpler. They took off around midnight, they reached Thasos approximately half an hour later, Koning shot up a searchlight which was scouring the air, they avoided “the gleaming phosphorus shells” of a “quickfirer”, spotted the “gleaming Bessoneau hangars at the edge of the mulberry plantation” that “flanked the aerodrome in a wide semi-circle” and left the explosive bombs which fell close to a hangar. Then, in another approach Koning dropped the two incendiary bombs on a hangar and, although at first they spotted no bursts, suddenly as they were heading for Drama, the two bombs went off in a spectacular way destroying the hangar. According to Heydemarck, “…a hangar containing six machines blazes up to heaven like a huge torch. The incendiary bombs have fired it! …Moreover, the grass – dry as hay – has taken fire. The English soldiers are trying to extinguish the blaze on the aerodrome. That, of course, they must not do! Eschwege puts his machine on her nose, and fires as he whirls down towards the aerodrome. Then he circles round the scene of conflagration so that Koning can take it with his pivotable gun. The English retreat under the hail of bullets; the fire spreads outwards until it reaches the mulberry plantation… And then – a mighty explosion hurls sheaves of fire up into the sky; the flames have reached the bomb depot and sent its contents up”. On the following morning, Heydemarck sends Koning and Corporal Keller to Thasos, with Eschwege as an escort, “so that they could photograph the scene of the conflagration”.



Conclusion

That lengthy and detailed report of the attack on Thasos aerodrome occupies a whole chapter in Heydemarck’s book and leaves little doubts as to what actually happened there in August 1917. But why, did everyone on the allied part, assumed that the attack was an all out German seaplanes’ affair? My personal opinion is that, the Xanthi Seeflugstation, had already been responsible for a number of daylight attacks (or attempts to attack) on Thasos. Only two days earlier from the date in the aforementioned report of Ltn Genaral Milne (i.e. on the 2nd of August 1917), Flt Ltn Moraitinis, CO of the Greek “Z” squadron, flying a Sopwith Pup, shot down near Kavala one enemy seaplane (of a formation of three) attacking Thasos. Moreover, the attack on Thasos was executed at night (though at full moon) and it would have been extremely difficult for the defenders to make out the types of the visiting enemy aircraft. Regarding Captain Marlowe’s war diary – again according to my humble opinion – the statement concerning the “Thasos accident” is either based on wrong information in respect of the actual cause of the destruction there, or he simply confuses it with the accidental explosion that wiped out “F” Squadron at Marian on the 27th of May, just days before it’s planned withdrawal to Thasos. But this is another story…

Hope, this helped a little...
Best Regards,
Paschalis



#28 Rockdoc

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 05:41 PM

Welcome to the Forum and thanks for your contribution. It's always good to have a local's perspective on events.

Keith



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