British Hospitals with the Serbs (1)

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The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Entente soldiers during World War I in the Macedonian Front required an unprecedented program of logistical support as well as the construction of important infrastructure such as depots, thousands of miles of roads, quite a few decauville railway lines, communication centers etc. Very important, however, was the availability of sufficient hospitals to treat the wounded and the sick soldiers. French and British authorities decided to transfer numerous field hospitals and other medical facilities by ship to Macedonia. Most of the hospitals were established within the entrenched camp in Thessaloniki (Salonika), the city of the Inter-Allied Headquarters and the safest place.

In autumn 1915 the Royal Serbian Army, in order to avoid the deadly pincer between Germans and Austrians from the north and Bulgarians from the south, moved westwards and crossed Albania to the Adriatic sea (the Great Retreat). Then French and Italian ships transferred them to Corfu for a short period of rest. When the Royal Serbian Army was reconstituted and landed at Mikra Bay, east of Thessaloniki, in May 1916, the British Government agreed to provide hospitals for it. According to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), on the 14th May 1916, Colonel Sondermeyer, the Serbian Director of Medical Services, asked the British authorities whether 7,000 hospital beds could be provided to the Serbian Army. Following this demand, three British general hospitals, Nos 36, 37 and 38, were sent from England to Salonika to be attached to the Serbian Army. The first of these arrived on the 25th June 1916. A fourth general hospital, No 41, came later in August 1916, and a stationary hospital, No 33, in October 1916.

French General Maurice Sarrail, commander of the Allied Forces, decided to deploy the Serbian Army – for evident reasons – along the old Greek-Serbian border, which then had become the border between Greece and the Central powers. Early summer of 1916, the Serbian Army was deployed in the west part of the Macedonian Front, starting from Pàïko – Πάικο mountain and along the Voras mountain to the western Greek town of Florina (Φλώρινα) just south of Monastir (now Bitola). In the latter, German General Von Mackensen had his headquarters. As the newly arrived hospitals were destined to take care essentially of the Serbian Army they were placed close to the Serbian section of the front-line.

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