Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Mosquitoes of Salonika: A Roads Classic

Question:  Why Is the Logo of the Salonika Campaign Society a Mosquito?

Visit the Society's Website at:

Answer:  In general, the front was a medical hellhole, especially with regard to malaria.

Serbian forces were hit with a lice-borne typhus epidemic originating in the unsanitary camps of their Austrian prisoners of war in the fall of 1914. Eventually 135,000 soldiers and civilians would die from infection. The Serbs passed on the disease to the invading Bulgarian army in similar fashion during the next year. One silver lining in the 1915 defeat of the Serbian Army for the Allies was, however, that during its evacuation to Corfu, the Serbs underwent a thorough delousing regime.  Consequently, their forces that later arrived on the Salonika Front were essentially typhus-free.

The valleys of the Vardar and Struma, however, especially the latter, which was garrisoned by British forces for the entire period, were breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Men here had to be detailed for "mosquito strafing"—clearing grassy mosquito-friendly fields, pouring creosote in ponds, and carrying stretchers on patrols for soldiers suddenly debilitated by a new bout of the illness. The troops received a regular quinine dose and wore muslin veils under their tin hats on night duty. 

British Troops Issued Quinine

Over 34,000 British officers and men were evacuated home for malaria. This is why the postwar association of British veterans, the Salonika Campaign Society (still existing), selected the mosquito as its emblem.

To the last, disease ravaged the Salonika armies. In September 1918—just as the decisive battle was to be fought—the Spanish influenza pandemic arrived in the Balkans. An entire British brigade was withdrawn from the final offensive because of its impact. 

1 comment:

  1. At one point in 1917 20 percent of the British Salonika Force were in hospital. Over the campaign the BSF recorded 481,262 hospitalizations for disease and 18,187 for wounds.