A booklet in honour of the Salonika Front and the poilus of Salonika, for the Armistice Centenary
The first armistice of the First World War was signed on 29 September 1918, on the Salonika Front, in the Greek town of Thessaloniki (Salonika). A century on, a ceremony was held in Greece to commemorate the armistice, attended by Geneviève Darrieussecq, state secretary to the Minister for the Armed Forces.
A book to “honour the memory”:
Source : gr.ambafrance.org
Photo credits: © Consulat général de France à Thessalonique
- Services consulaires de la Grèce du Nord
To mark the centenary of the Armistice of Salonika, the French Consulate-General in Thessaloniki, with support from the Ministry of the Armed Forces, has published a short book on the little-known history of the Salonika Front and the French troops of Salonika. The book, richly illustrated with archive images, presents the content of the permanent exhibition of the Zeitenlick Cemetery’s French museum. Inside, there is also a tri-fold leaflet aimed specifically at students. Beyond its educational purpose, the book aims to “honour the memory and remember the fates of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers of the Army of the Orient who have been forgotten by history”. That is how Philippe Ray, Consul-General and director of the Institut Français in Thessaloniki, puts it in his introduction to the book. Also to mark the occasion, Geneviève Darrieussecq, state secretary to the Minister for the Armed Forces, visited Thessaloniki on 29 September 2018 for the Armistice Centenary commemorations. Before the ceremony and the laying of the wreaths at each burial plot, she visited the cemetery’s museum.
The French section of the Zeitenlick Cemetery in Thessaloniki contains the bodies of the soldiers who were wounded on the Salonika Front and the remains of those who died on Greek soil between 1915 and 1918. It lies within the walls of the Zeitenlick Allied Military Cemetery. Altogether, the bodies of 8 310 French soldiers are buried there, including troops of the French colonial forces: Senegalese, Malagasy, Indo-Chinese and North African.
In December 1915, another major front was established in eastern Europe. A contingent of the Franco-British forces were sent to Thessaloniki, in Greece, to the aid of a floundering Serbian army. There, they set up a fortified camp, which was to become the logistical base of the “Allied Army of the Orient”. They were joined by Serbian, Russian and Italian troops. Altogether, 400 000 soldiers from various countries installed themselves in the region, radically changing the face of the city. Living conditions on the front were awful, with problems of food supply, lack of munitions and rudimentary barracks. The troops themselves were forced to offset these shortages by cultivating the surrounding land, earning them the nickname “The Gardeners of Salonika”.
In August 1917, Thessaloniki was badly hit by a fire, which destroyed part of the city centre. Following the fire, the reconstruction plans of French architects and engineers of the Army of the Orient, in particular Ernest Hébrard and Joseph Pleyber, brought urban renewal to Thessaloniki.
On 15 September 1918, the Army of the Orient went on the attack, advancing on Bulgaria and Belgrade in Serbia. The Bulgarian front was quick to fall, and led to the signing of the first armistice of the war, on 29 September 1918, at Thessaloniki. The Army of the Orient continued its advance, and soon, one after the other, the Central Powers signed the armistice. The Army of the Orient thus played a significant role in settling the First World War.