"I Have Since Heard Of Such “Top Secret” Hidden Bars, On Stage And Elsewhere, But Here I Actually Saw It For Myself”
Late in December 1917, Second Lieutenant Victor Farmer and his detachment of men for the 1st Battalion in Macedonia, finally set foot in the Greek port of Salonika.
From Dovercourt to London by train, then onwards to Le Havre, then overland to Marseilles, they finally bordered the old Austrian passenger ship “Huntspell” for their journey through the Mediterranean. Under the escort of a Japanese Destroyer, they steamed onwards towards Christmas. The men that Farmer was taking to War, were from the Worcestershire Regiment, but they were ultimately destined to become members of the Suffolk Regiment. Pausing in Milo, where the destroyer left to hunt submarines, they waited until the destroyer re-appesred and they proceeded onwards to Greece.
“Eventually we docked alongside at the port of Salonica and were disembarked in an orderly fashion” wrote Victor “We were met not be a Royal Field Marshal, but by a very invincible British Port Transport Officer who insisted on keeping his large warehouse empty. Somehow I met him privately and he explained that if he allowed one package to be left overnight he would have his warehouse cluttered up with unclaimed cargo. He invited one or two of us into his office and opened a drawer of a filing cabinet marked “Highly Confidential” from which he produced glasses and a bottle of whisky, which he very generously offered to us. I have since heard of such “Top Secret” hidden bars, on stage and elsewhere, but here I actually saw it for myself”.
From Salonika, the numerous drafts of regiments were to march to their new home at a tented encampment about five miles outside of the town. Leaving his man servant to arrange for the collection of his kit, Victor fell in with his men as the column prepared to moved off; “We had a disastrous start to the march” he wrote “a Rifle Regiment was in the lead and they started off with their famous quick-step which the County Regiments quite failed to follow; confusion resulted. We were reformed with the two Rifle Regiments in advance, marching on their own, while the others set off in the conventional marching time”.
Upon arrival, the camp it was soon discovered, was not the most luxurious of establishments. Though they had complained bitterly of the wooden hutments at Felixstowe throughout the autumn of 1917, they were a veritable palace compared to this. The ground was hard and rocky, strewn with numerous stones which made it most uncomfortable to sleep on without weeding the ground first. An area of parade ground had already been cleaned off and defaulters were kept busy on boulder duty.
“Summer Hill was a large plateau on which had been set up rows of bell tents, and several marquees, one of which was an officers mess. I shared a tent with three other officers and between us we dug out the inside to a depth of about a foot and so made ourselves some shelter from the chilly nights. In the camp we kept up a system of parades and exercises and, in addition we had a cordon of sentries around the perimeter of the camp to keep out possible intruders and to keep in quarantined troops. One day I was Orderly Officer and, in touring the perimeter with a welsh Sergeant, I came up to a sentry and asked him his duties. He replied in incomprehensible jargon and the Sergeant explained that the man only spoke Welsh. I made a show of putting the usual questions and the sergeant gave me all the correct answers, but I had no means of knowing whether the sentry really understood his duties!”.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.