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Commonwealth War Graves Commission Highlights Forgotten Front Of The First World War In Salonika

27 September 2016

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and the British Embassy in Greece are working together to raise awareness of those who lost their lives fighting on the Salonika Front during the First World War.

The British Salonika Force fought in the region between 1915 and 1918 as part of a multinational Allied presence facing Bulgarian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman forces. Commonwealth regulars, territorials and wartime recruits all served here, supported by many medical and logistical troops, labourers and mule drivers.

Over the course of the campaign, some 5,700 Commonwealth servicemen were killed, or died from wounds received in action, and more than 3,700 died from disease.

The CWGC Doiran Memorial commemorates, by name, more than 2,160 Commonwealth service personnel who died in this theatre and have no known grave.

On Sunday 2nd October a ceremony will be held at the memorial to mark the 98th anniversary of the end of the campaign.

Further ceremonies will be held over the next two years to continue to build interest and awareness as we head towards the centenary.

CWGC Director of External relations, Colin Kerr, said: ‘The CWGC commemorates over 10,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who did not come back from the Salonica campaign in World War One.

‘For us, it is not a “Forgotten Front”. The memorial at Doiran is the tangible symbol of that sacrifice and we are very pleased to be commemorating the 98th anniversary of the successful 1918 battles, standing alongside – now as then – our friends from the Greek Army’.

As part of the commemorations, the CWGC will also unveil a new information panel at the Doiran Memorial. The panel is among 500 that the Commission is installing globally as part of a drive to provide more information for the public during the centenary of the First World War.

Each panel carries information about the cemetery or memorial, and a QR Code which, when scanned with a smartphone, reveals the personal stories of some of the casualties buried or commemorated at the location.  

One of those commemorated on the CWGC Doiran Memorial is Nursing Sister Lilian Griffin.

Lilian joined the Territorial Force Nursing Services shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, and served in the 3rd Western General Hospital, Cardiff.

On 6 June 1916, she volunteered for overseas service. Her evaluation found her to be:

'A very good nurse, steady and dependable and fit for service in hot climates.'

On 1 July 1916, she set sail from Southampton aboard the Hospital Ship Gascon, and arrived in Malta a week later. From Malta, she then went on to Salonika.

Lilian was attached to the 36th General Hospital at Vertekop, which was supporting the Serbian Army.

Records show that Lilian Griffin died aboard the Canadian Hospital Ship HMHS Llandovery Castle on 5 September 1916, and was buried at sea.

The cause of death was reported as 'Bomb Shock'.

CWGC Doiran Memorial

The construction of this monument was partly funded by veterans of the British Salonika Force. As the CWGC memorial to the missing, it commemorates by name more than 2,160 Commonwealth service personnel who died in this theatre and have no known grave. Designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, with sculpture by Walter Gilbert, it was unveiled on 25 September 1926.

CWGC Doiran Military Cemetery

Commonwealth soldiers began to bury their fallen comrades here at the end of 1916. Originally known as Colonial Hill Cemetery No. 2, after the name given to the hill behind it, nearly all of those laid to rest during hostilities belonged to the 22nd and 26th Divisions, most of whom died in the fighting in this region in 1917 and 1918. After the Armistice, graves were brought into the cemetery from the surrounding battlefields and smaller burial grounds nearby. This is now the final resting place of more than 1,340 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War, nearly 450 of whom remain unidentified, one French and 45 Greek soldiers. Many more Greek soldiers are buried nearby.

The CWGC in Greece

Commonwealth forces fought in Greece during both World Wars, leaving behind more than 18,000 dead. The commemorations to those casualties, cared for by the CWGC, can now be visited chiefly in the Thessaloniki (Salonika) region, but also in and around Athens and throughout the Greek islands.

For more information, contact Peter Francis, CWGC Media and Marketing Manager: 07766 255884 or 01628 507163, peter.francis@cwgc.org

Notes for editors:

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.

The Commission operates in more than 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries.

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