HOLY TRINITY CORFU

21 L.Mavili Street, Corfu 49100. Tel (+30) 6986538755

History and facts about WW1 are available to find in libraries and of course the internet, but what about possibly back three generations now to our fathers, grandfathers who fought in the conflict.  Photos were a rare thing and stories become vague and distorted.  As we head towards the 100 years after the start of WW1, the important thing is that we must remember and acknowledge whose who laid down their lives for the beliefs their country stood for.

 

GREECE AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR 

The raw facts of Greek involvement in the First World War belie the complexities and intrigue that went with it. It was not until July 1917 that Greece openly declared its hand and came out on the side of the Entente (Britain, France and Russia). In September 1918 it played a crucial part in the successful Macedonian campaign, which led to the collapse of Bulgaria, a fact that accelerated German surrender two months later. A period of prolonged neutrality meant that, in terms of manpower, Greece avoided the total calamity that befell other participants. But, nevertheless, the war led to political breakdown and to a bitterness and resentment, both internal and external, which has never been totally eradicated.

 It was Greece’s misfortune that, whether willingly or otherwise, it was going to become involved in the First World War. This was the consequence of geography. To the north was Serbia, in theory the cause of the hostilities. To the east, across the Aegean, was the old enemy, Turkey, wounded and humiliated as a consequence of the recent Balkan Wars. Between Serbia and Turkey was the crucial state of Bulgaria, which the Entente initially courted in the hope of preventing it siding with Germany and Austria. Once this diplomatic initiative failed, northern Greece became an important outpost in the supply lines to beleaguered Serbia.

 

THE ROLE OF CORFU IN WW1

(taken from www.scribd.com/doc/50631402/Serbs-on-Corfu-and-Vido-1916-1918)

 At the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1916, under the pressure of the joint offensive of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian troops, the Serbian army, as well as a part of the Serbian civilian population, was forced to withdraw from Serbia through Montenegro to Albania.  On this long journey, Serbs went through the biggest exodus in their recent history. In his official report to Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic, General Bozidar Terzic, Minister of Defence, wrote that on their way through Albania, 243,877 persons were killed or taken as prisoners or died from hunger or cold weather.  The approximate total number of casualties was at least 150,000 including both soldiers and civilians.  From 18 January to 21 February 1916, 151,828 Serbian soldiers and civilians were evacuated with Allied ships from the Albanian port of Valona to Corfu. The first port of disembarkation on Corfu was Gouvia.

The suffering of solders and civilians did not, however, stop upon their arrival on the "Island of Salvation", as the Serbs named Corfu.  The Allies had not had enough time to make provisions for adequate care of such a great number of people. There was lack of food, clothes, tents and heating. For 8 days after their arrival, the cold rain would not stop. Without tents, suffering solders began to die en masse.  On 21 January 1916, the army hospital units from Morava, Pirot and Cacak were the first to land on the rocky island of Vido.  Soon afterwards, a couple of thousands of young boys - recruits arrived on the island.  Most were seriously ill and on the verge of death.

 Initially, up to 300 soldiers were dying every day. Twelve hundred of them were buried in the island shores, whereas later (because of lack of burial grounds), the boats from the French hospital ship "St. Francis of Asisi" would carry the dead bodies and drop them in the Ionian Sea, a few kilometers away from the island, in what was called "the Blue Graveyard".  It is estimated that around 10,000 Serbian soldiers and recruits were buried on the island of Vido and in the "Blue Graveyard".

The Royal Navy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes erected the first monument dedicated to the perished soldiers. It is a Stone Cross situated above today's Mausoleum.  Within the marble walls of the Mausoleum there are 1,232 coffers, containing the bones of soldiers previously buried in 27 cemeteries of Corfu, the names of which were known.  The bones of those soldiers who remain unknown were buried under two separate stone plaques outside the Mausoleum.

 The gentle Mediterranean climate, adequate medical care and proper nourishment by the Allies, new uniforms and, above all, warm and close relationships with the local Greek inhabitants, led to a miraculous recovery of the Serbian Army.  By a kind gesture of the local Greek authorities, the sessions of the Serbian National Assembly were held in the National theatre of Corfu from 19 January 1916 through to 19 November 1918. 

The cultural life of Serbs in Corfu was very lively, with various theatre performances, musical concerts etc.organized frequently.  Also, the municipal authorities of Corfu temporarily gave a printing house to the Serbs, which was supplied with the most modern printing equipment offered by the French. This way, they were able to publish the "Serbian Newspaper" with a circulation of 10,000 copies and many valuable books, as for example "Diplomatic Correspondence", "Codification", "Motherland" etc. In addition, school books for children in Serbian schools were printed there.  The Serbian primary school with 290 pupils and a Serbian high school with 120 pupils were organized on the island of Corfu.  Furthermore, sport associations were organized and a number of football matches were played with the allied teams.  Finally, the island was full of Serbian restaurants and grocery stores.

 Upon departure from the island, Corfu's men and women were crying and thus blessing the Serbian soldiers: "Kali ora stratioti - May God give you good Serbs a long life and help you and your army to return safely to your homes and families who expect you eagerly. Today and always we will pray to God together as Christian brothers " (from the "Serbian Newspaper", Corfu, 16 June 1918).

 You can visit the “SERBS ON CORFU 1916-1918 MUSEUM” which is just around the corner on Moustoxidou   Street.  As well as artefacts from the time, it contains numerous photographs of the retreat and of the time spent on Corfu. Many of the photos are harrowing.

 Alfred Robert Corlett

Alfred, the grandfather of a member of HTC, was just 16 when he and his cousin enlisted, lying about their ages.  He was sent to Belgium and there in the terrors of the trenches was badly burned by mustard gas.  After treatment he was discharged on medical grounds and returned home with permanent damage to his lungs, after serving for 6 months.   He was issued with a ‘black button’ to wear on his uniform signifying that he had been wounded

Joseph Humphrey Clarke

Not much is known about Joseph except he was a beloved father and grandfather and suffered major injuries during

the war that remained with him for the rest of his life.

 

George Alfred Clague

George served on the Western Front as an Ambulance Driver.  It is possible that he may have been assigned this role as his parents had a private motor car and his driving experience would have been useful for the ambulance service.  Motorised Ambulances ran at about 5-6 miles per gallon!  Horse drawn ambulances were also used during WW1.

From closer inspection of the vehicle we can see that there was no windscreen, just a canvas canopy and frame over the rear of the vehicle ( this was quite common with WW1 ambulances being adapted vans and trucks from civilian life).  

 

Thomas Pendlebury

Tommy was a gunner in The Royal Field Artillery - the largest arm of the artillery. The RFA was responsible for the medium calibre guns and howitzers deployed close to the front line and was reasonably mobile. It was organised into brigades, attached to divisions or higher formations.

 

Angus Arthur Brown

Corporal Angus Arthur Brown in his regimental Dress of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) with the Black Watch tartan kilt and sporran showing the 'Swinging Six' tassels with silver coloured metal tops.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

When WW1 broke out in 1914 the regiment had two Regular Battalions (1st and 2nd), two Militia Battalions (3rd and 4th) and five Territorial Battalions (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th each of which split into 1st, 2nd and 3rd-line battalions). Seven more Service Battalions were raised for Kitchener's Army and they were numbered 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

Ten of the battalions served in France and Flanders (1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 14th) gaining 65 battle honours and four served in the Mediterranean area (1st, 5th, 6th and 12th) gaining a further 13 battle honours.

431 officers and 6475 other ranks lost their lives and six Victoria Crosses were awarded to the regiment during the war.

 

 

JACK LEONARD PALMER

Jack was only 17 when he enlisted, he lied about his age. He had gone on the same day as his older brother Horace to join up, at different times. Their mother Mary Rayner was distraught that the youngest of her three sons was going to war. Jack and Horace ended up in the same regiment. Serving in Marne, Basieux, Mont Des Cats/ Flanders in Northern France.

The Commanding Officer called his men together to request volunteers, he needed two men to accompany an officer on a mission. Both Jack and Horace stepped forward. The Commanding Officer knew they were brothers but refused to send two members of the same family on a dangerous mission. Jack was chosen and another solider. The mission was to go into No Man’s Land to rescue a wounded officer. The three set out crawling through the mud; both the Officer and the other solider were killed. Under heavy fire Jack placed the wounded officer they had been sent to rescue on his back and crawled all the way back to the trenches. For this brave act he was awarded The Distinguished Conduct Medal DCM. He should have received the Victoria Cross but his Commanding Officer who was the only person who could have recommended him for the award was killed whist Jack was away on his mission. He received the DCM before 1917.  

Another act of bravery. The 95th Brigade was stationed near the front and the horse that pulled the gun carriages were stabled in a barn on a deserted farm.  During a battle the barn caught fire and Jack ran into the burning barn to rescue all the horses.

Both Horace and Jack survived the Great War. Horace with his young wife immigrated to New Zealand. Jack joined the Metropolitan Police Force in November 1919 and was sent to the newly opened Police Station, Leytonstone Division.   

An after effect of the war was that Jack suffered from shell shock all his life.

CITATION

876649. Gnr. J. PALMER

A/95TH Bde. R.F.A. 

Awarded D.C.M.

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He has since March 1917, been orderly between brigade headquarter and B/95 without any break.  During the above period he has on many occasions had to pass through continuous heavy shell fire in order to carry important orders to the battery, particularly at Basieux, April 1918, near Mont des Cats in May, Marne in May, and recently.  Though his battery has frequently moved, he has never failed to establish connection with brigade headquarters.

He has at all times shown great gallantry and devotion to duty and set a splendid example to all ranks.