Help us promote Lemnos' link to Anzac - Make a donation now

Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Friday, 19 August 2016

The White Tower – Thessaloniki Association's new community project celebrates the Australian Anzac Dinner connection

The White Tower, Thessaloniki. Photo Jim Claven 2012
Last weekend Melbourne's Thessaloniki Association "White Tower" launched its latest community project to celebrate the Sister-City relationship between Melbourne and Thessaloniki. The project was launched by Maria Vamvakinou, MHR at the Association's rooms in Northcote. The project will see the re-creation  of Thessaloniki's famous White Tower with eight thousand crocheted white flowers. It will then be gifted for display to the City of Melbourne.
If you would like to find out more information on this new Thessaloniki Association project, please click here.
To read the recent report on the project in Neos Kosmos please click here. To read the recent report on the project in Ta Nea please click here. 
Congratulations to Vice President Christina Despoteris and all at the Thessaloniki Association on this great initiative.
Photo Jim Claven 2016

Photo Jim Claven 2016

Photo Jim Claven 2016

This post explains why the choice of recreating the White Tower is particularly appropriate to commemorate the link between Australia and Thessaloniki - as this was the location of the first Anzac commemorative dinner held in the city by Australian and New Zealand soldiers in 1918. This is the story of that link and that dinner.
The White Tower - The Australian Anzac Dinner Connection
Over 450 Australians served on the Salonika front during the First World War, from 1915 until the end of the war. They served either as one of the 350 Australian nurses who served there or the estimated 100 Australians who served in the British Army there. One of the latter was the Ned Herring, who would return to Greece in 1941 as part of the Australian force sent to defend Greece against the German invasion. Later in the war, Royal Australian Navy ships would sail into Thessaloniki’s great harbor at the end of the War, on their way to play their part in the occupation and disarming of the Ottoman Empire.
They served at the front in fighting units or in the British hospitals that lay closer to the city of Thessaloniki itself. They toured the great city and met its people. And they helped out during the disastrous fire that swept the city in 1917, destroying much of the centre of old Thessaloniki.
The great Arch of Emperor Galerius, on the Via Egnatia, with the former pantheon in the background, Thessaloniki. Photo Jim Claven 2015
Thessaloniki is a city steeped in history – from its Greek origins, when the Roman Emperor Galerius made it his home and the grand Via Egnatia – linking the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire. Its fame survived the long years of Ottoman occupation and it is Greece’s second city.
One of the most famous features of Thessaloniki is its White Tower.

The White Tower on the sea front at Salonika, April 1916. Photographer Ariel Varges. IWM
Standing at the eastern end of the grand seafront, the White Tower has become an icon of the city. At one time an Ottoman prison, the Tower became the home to British forces during the Allied presence in the city during the Salonka campaign in WW1.

Royal Navy signalers rearing chickens on the roof of the White Tower, Salonika 1916. Photographer Ariel Varges. IWM
Photographs from the time show British troops tending chickens on its roof – encouraging them to give up their precious fresh eggs! And it would house many ancient artefacts unearthed during the bombardments and bombings that battered Macedonia’s ancient ground.
But the White Tower has a famous but little known connection to Australia – as well as New Zealand. For during the First World War, it was surrounded by a famous outdoor restaurant that would be the location of a famous dinner in 1918.
Salonika Cafe scene, with British soldiers of the South Wales Borderers Regiment. IWM
There were many restaurants and cafes in the city. Thessaloniki’s restaurants, cafes, theatres and emporia offered a kaleidoscope of entertainment and relief for the soldiers and nurses of the Allied forces.
Photographs of allied soldiers enjoying the cafes and restaurants of Thessaloniki are testimony to the fact that the city’s pleasures provided a well-deserved respite for the soldiers. They jostled at the tables of Floca’s, Roma or the Bristol to name a few of the famous cafes of the town. There was even an “English Tea Shop” in the city, where nurses enjoyed tea and the attentions of soldiers, naval officers, doctors and chaplains.
But the White Tower restaurant was special. It was a particular favourite for the Allied sailors, soldiers and nurses who flocked to the city during their all too brief periods of leave.

Photo Jim Claven 2012
The restaurant was a large eating and entertainment venue just beside the Tower itself, on the water’s edge. It was a popular haunt for officers of all nations. It had a restaurant and an outdoor cafe with marble tables – gay with flowers and fruit - and customers could drink beer and grenadine, while listening to a band.

Miles Franklin, 1940s. Source Wikipedia

The famous Australian feminist and author from NSW, 33 year old Miles Franklin, had volunteered as a nursing orderly with the Scottish Women’s Hospital based at the Salonika front. During leave, she visited the White Tower restaurant and compared it to popular restaurants in Sydney - though it was expensive!

Nurse Christine Strom. AWM
Christine Erica Strom was a 25 year old nursing sister from Melbourne serving with the British Hospitals located nearby. She reported visiting this cafe for lunch, noting its international clientele. She served on the Salonika front until January 1919, eventually returning to Australia after the war, marrying and living in Surrey Hills.
Anzac Day dinner, London, 1919. AWM
And so it was that on the 7th January 1918 that the White Tower restaurant was the location of a famous Anzac dinner, organized by New Zealand forces serving on the front. This was the only celebration that brought together nurses and soldiers from Austrlaia and New Zealand during the Salonika campaign.
Brice Mackinnon. Source Gilchrist
The Australians came from far and wide, from units and medical establishments based across the huge campaign front. Despite the distances, a number of Australians attended the 15 drachma dinner and concert
Two Australian soldiers who attended were Second Lieutenant Brice Mackinnon who served with the British Army’s Black Watch Regiment and Lieutenant AR Wilkins who served with the Royal Field Artillery.

Dr Agnes Bennett. Source Gilchrist
Miles Franklin attended with two other members of the Scottish Women’s Hospital, travelling from Arnissa in Western Macedonia to get there. One of these was one of the medical Doctors in charge of the Hospital, Doctor Agnes Bennett. 42 year old Agnes was from Sydney and had gained her medical training at Edinburgh University in Scotland. The other was medical orderly Carole Reid. Also in attendance were two nurses with the Australian Army Nursing Service – Nurses Vines and Begley.

Photo Jim Claven 2016
We don’t know the menu. But no doubt these young Australians and New Zealanders had a great time, a respite from the horrors of war and an opportunity to reflect on their fellow soldiers and nurses who had served and those who would not survive to return to their loved ones at home.
Not far from the restaurant lies the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Mikra. Here lie two Australians who would not survive the war, including the only Australian nurse to die and be buried in Greece in the First World War.
Nursing Sister Gertrude Munro, Thessaloniki. AWM
She was 34 year old Sister Gertrude Munro. From 5 Gillies Street Alfredton near Ballarat and educated at Queens College Ballarat, she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in August 1916. She was based at the 60th British General Hospital at Hortiatis, acting as Matron during the illness of Matron Pritchard. She served here for two years until her death from broncho-pneumonia, following malaria and dysentery, on 10th October 1918 at Thessaloniki . She was buried with full military honours is buried at grave no 591 in the Commonwealth’s Mikra Military Cemetery on the northern outskirts of Thessaloniki. She was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These medals are now on display at the RSL in her home town of Ballarat.
Nurse Munro's medals, Ballarat RSL.
Buried near Gertrude is Sapper 236951 E Heron, an Australian serving with the British Army 33rd Base Park Royal Engineers, was killed on 28 December 1918, age 29, and is buried in grave plot 1031, Mikra Military Cemetery. Son of William Joseph Heron, of 7, Napoleon St., Cottesloe, Perth, Western Australia, and the late Teresa Heron.
Commonwealth war Cemetery, Mikra, Thessaloniki. Photo Jim Claven 2013
The young diners meeting to commemorate Anzac day would not have known that these two Australians – with whom they served – would never see Australia again.
So if you are fortunate enough to visit Thessaloniki’s famous White Tower, think of the young Australians who gathered here in its shadow and by the waters of the Saronic Gulf to remember Gallipoli and Australia’s sacrifice there. And think of the two of their comrades who never return to Australia but remain at the nearby war cemetery, overlooking these same waters.
The view from the top of the White Tower today, with Thessaloniki's harbour front stretching below. Photo Jim Claven 2015
How to Join In
If you would like to join in by crocheting some white flowers, contact the Christina Despoteris, Vice-President, Thessaloniki Association on:
Mobile: 0413943796

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

No comments:

Post a Comment