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June Books 13) The Gardeners of Salonika

13) The Gardeners of Salonika, by Alan Palmer

Where Ward Price's book was a journalistic account written half way through the campaign and subject to a strong propagandistic bias, Palmer wrote this half a century after, in 1965, with access to the memoirs of all the major participants on all sides, as a comprehensive and masterly scholarly account of the Macedonia Campaign. He concentrates especially on the geopolitics, especially the squabbling between the armies' far-off masters in Paris and London debating what it should do (or indeed if it should still be there). The final chapter, where the commanding general manages to persuade/hoodwink the politicians into letting him try a September offensive against the Bulgarians, and they fold within days and partly as a result the whole war finishes a few weeks later, is very exciting and almost moving.

I bought it for a considered account of the Kosturina retreat of December 1915, which I believe my grandfather was engaged in, but in fact Ward Price's account is much better. However there were several incidental details that I found very interesting:

i) the account of the trial and execution of "Apis" (Dragutin Dimitrijević), which Rebecca West refers to in murky terms in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, but I found entirely comprehensible as presented here - Pašić knew that Apis had already been responsible for the murders of King Alexander and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and didn't want any more names added to the list (and Pašić was not the last Serbian Prime Minister to worry about rogue elements of military intellgence; unlike poor Zoran Djindjić, he was able to get them before they got him); and

ii) the brief but intriguing and entertaining account of Essad Pasha's attempts to present himself as the legitimate ruler of Albania - obviously, while he was able to bring in extyra forces and territory, it was very welcome, but eventually the Allies decided they weren't all that interested in Albanian territory anyway.

One really annoying thing - the town of Veles is consistently mis-spelt Veleš (except in the maps). And Štip is mis-spelt as Stip. As I keep on saying, if you're going to get the diacritical marks wrong, better not to use them at all.

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