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July Books 17) Under the Devil's Eye

17) Under the Devil's Eye: Britain's Forgotten Army at Salonika 1915-1918, by Alan Wakefield and Simon Moody

Today was a public holiday in Belgium, so I took another step in my efforts to familiarise myself with the Macedonia campaign of the first world war. This is much more of a grass-roots story compared to Alan Palmer's geopolitical survey, livened up by direct accounts from the soldiers themselves, either from contemporary letters or from memoirs. It also concentrates exclusively on the British, with one benefit being an entire chapter on the Struma Valley battles of 1916 which Palmer almost ignores. The maps are by far the clearest of any of the books I've consulted so far (though I do wish I had access to the colour maps which graced Cyril Falls' first edition).

The true discovery of this book for me was the poetry of Owen Rutter, who wrote an epic called "Tiadatha" ("Tired Arthur") in the style of Wadsworth's Hiawatha, itself of course based on the Kalevala, which really caught my eye (not just because of my own recent efforts). There are some particularly moving passages which I will save for a later occasion, but for now his description of the city at the centre of the campaign will do:
Tiadatha thought of Kipling,
Wondered if he's ever been there
Thought: "At least in Rue Egnatia
East and West are met together."
There were trams and Turkish beggars,
Mosques and minarets and churches,
Turkish baths and dirty cafés,
Picture palaces and kan-kans:
Daimler cars and Leyland lorries
Barging into buffalo wagons,
French and English private soldiers
Jostling seedy Eastern brigands.
Rutter went on to make a name for himself as a travel writer, and was a district administrator in Borneo; his novel "Lucky Star" was filmed as "Once In A Blue Moon" in 1935, and IMDB rates this as having been sf; who knows?

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
frumiousb
Jul. 22nd, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
Have you read Salonica by Mark Mazower?
nwhyte
Jul. 22nd, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
I haven't, but I probably should!
(Anonymous)
Aug. 10th, 2006 12:43 pm (UTC)
Under the Devil's Eye
Nicholas

I'm pleased to read that you are enjoying 'Under the Devil's Eye.' It was my objective to produce a readable volume, providing a balance between background history, analysis of operations and use of personal accounts of the men and woman of the British Salonika Force to tell their story. My interest in the Salonika Campaign began when I met one of my great uncles 20 or so years ago and discovered that he had been fighting the Bulgarians in Greece. He served in the 7th Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment - the same bn as Owen Rutter. I have visit the Salonika battlefields on a number of occasions, receiving assistance from both the Greek and Macedonian Armed Forces around Doiran, as the front lines straddle the border.
Having put the Salonika volume on the shelves Simon Moody and I are now writing a similar work on the Anglo-Indian effort in Mesopotamia. This should hit the bookshops in October 2007.

ALAN WAKEFIELD
nwhyte
Aug. 12th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Under the Devil's Eye
I'm always thrilled to get author feedback on my reviews! But I'd very much like to contact you about the specifics of the Kosturino campaign - and can't find contact details for you on the Imperial War Museum site! Can you possibly email me, at nicholas.whyte@gmail.com?
(Anonymous)
Jul. 9th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Under the Devil's Eye
Sir,

My grandfather served out in Salonika and I have been trying to purchase this book with no success, can you give me any advice as to how I can purchase this book.

Regrads Chris Revell
nwhyte
Jul. 10th, 2009 01:51 am (UTC)
Re: Under the Devil's Eye
I think I found it using the www.addall.com site, but you might be lucky on eBay.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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