Le Grand Parc Aéronautique des Armées d’Orient – The Great Aeronautical Park of the Salonika Armies

“La façade des multiples hangars a la majesté d’un palais de Versailles. Des magasins, des ateliers, des forges couvrent je ne sais combien d’hectares. Sur le terrain de manœuvre, atterrissent, courent, s’envolent sans arrêt les avions qui, venus des quatre coins du ciel, vont rejoindre leurs escadrilles réparties tout autour du camp retranché. Chaque jour, les grandes caisses, arrivées de France, dégorgent de nouveaux appareils…Un peuple d’ouvriers, de mécaniciens, circule et travaille.. L’état-major du parc réside là ; les caisses qu’il a choisies pour demeures sont aménagées avec goût et confort. Le commandant de l’Aéronautique loge dans une villa blanche, au bord de l’eau, et d’un coup d’oeil embrasse son domaine, et la rade, et les montagnes derrière…”. This is how René Milan alias Maurice Larrouy describes in his book “Les Vagabonds de la Gloire” the visit he paid in February 1916. Why Grand Parc Aéronautique? Because it was not just an airfield. It was a kind of small factory where one could do quite complex technical operations and repairs. It was the place where the planes used to be assembled from the various parts and components brought there by ship.

The Park was located about a mile farther than the area of French hospitals, right where lies today the modern Calamaria district. The old photo below presents a panorama of the Aeronautical Park. On the left side with green dots is marked the area of the French Temporary hospitals. On the extreme left was the No 4 hospital and next to it the SWH G&N unit. In A is the Allatini Mill and in B the Allatini villa. In this villa Sultan Abdul Hamid II was confined as prisoner between 1909 and 1911. During the Salonika campaign the villa was transformed into a hospital. In C, close to the gardens of the villa, was the 1st Temporary French Hospital. In D was the white villa – called often Chateau des Aviateurs – where Commander Victor Denain, the chief of the Armée d’Orient aviation, had his residence. In the right lower quarter of the photo was the proper airfield.

Calamaria park Then

This photo presents the map of the same area as it is today. For easier orientation I marked in yellow the same three buildings of the G&N story

Calamaria park Now

A French Plan of the Aviation Park. Camp Allatini is the area of the French Temporary hospitals.

Camp d'aviation Kalamaria

Another panoramic photo taken from the airfield. In the background Thessaloniki city with the very visible White Tower. Next to the airfield the Chateau des Aviateurs, the residence of commander Denain and farther back the Allatini mill with the high chimney.

Calamaria airport

Arrival of components for assembling

Chateau des aviateurs

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