Gallipoli to Salonika, 10th (Irish) Division

Tue, 10/05/1915
Bulgarian infantry in a front line trench in Macedonia, February 1917. Note a medical orderly helping a wounded soldier on the left.

The Salonika front takes its name from the city of Thessalonika in the Macedonian region of Greece. The Salonika, or Macedonian Campaign, began on 5 October 1915, when elements of the 10th (Irish) Division began to arrive at Salonika along with the French 156th Division.

The Allied powers had for over one year been assuring Serbia that they would take action to deter Bulgaria from joining the Central Powers of Germany and Austria Hungary, but the landing with only two divisions came too late. The Allies also hoped to persuade a very politically divided Greece into joining the Allies against the Central Powers. King Constantine's wife was the Kaiser's sister and the Prime Minister favoured the Allies' cause.

The Bulgarians, having been on the losing side against its neighbouring states during the Balkan Wars of 1912/13, joined the Central Powers and declaring war on Serbia on 14 October, invaded the following day. Two Bulgarian armies attacked and prevented the withdrawal of the Serbian army to the Greek border and Salonika. Bulgarian commanders and troops then demonstrated old hatreds when they seized some 120 wounded Serb soldiers in the Štip town hospital and took them to nearby Ljuboten where they were massacred.

The Irish Division's battalions included the 5th and the 6th Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles (the first to land on 5 October) and the 5th and the 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers.

They had all been in action in Gallipoli's trenches on the battlegrounds of Green Hill, Chocolate Hill, Anafarta and Kiretch Tepe Sirt immediately before being relieved and marching straight down to the embarkation beaches at Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove. There, on 29 and 30 September, they had embarked and set sail for Lemnos. This Greek island in the north Agean Sea was several hours sailing from Gallipoli's beaches and served as an administrative staging area supporting the Allies in Gallipoli. There the Battalions enjoyed much needed rest and reorganization before embarking for what was meant to be an 'unknown destination' - well known to be Salonika.

A street ballad took its name from the campaign and was titled Salonika.