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First Name: Herbert William Last Name: MITCHELL
Date of Death: 17/12/1916 Lived/Born In: Harlesden
Rank: Private Unit: East Kent (Buffs)2
Memorial Site:

Current Information:

Age-22

27, Albert Terrace, Milton Avenue,Stonebridge Park

Struma Military Cemetery, Greece

 

Salonika Campaign

In the autumn of 1915, Allied forces landed at Salonika in Greece. They had been despatched there to deter Bulgaria from joining in the German and Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia and they were not expected to remain there long. But this was not to be. Bulgaria became allied to the Central Powers, Serbia was overrun and it was decided to keep an allied force of mainly French and British troops on the Salonika front, where they stayed for the rest of the war. At its peak, the British Salonika Force (BSF) numbered 220,000 men. During 1916 and 1917 fighting along the 250 mile front was sporadic, with long periods of inertia punctuated by incidents of sometimes intense fighting. The biggest threat to the men of the Salonika Force was not the Bulgarians but disease, especially malaria, which in the summer months was rampant in the Struma Valley, so much so that at times both sides withdrew to the hills to escape it and fighting came to a standstill.. The weather was cruel as well with boiling hot summers and freezing winters. The campaign lasted through to September 1918 when a sustained attack by French, British and Serbian troops forced Bulgaria out of the war.

28th Division, a regular division of the British Army,  moved to Salonika in November, 1915 and remained there for the rest of the war. In June, 1916, 2nd East Kent (Buffs), as part of 85 Brigade, 28th Division, after months of being in a defensive position just north of Salonika, moved forward to the right bank of the River Struma near the Butkova river  and from this position took part in a number of operations during the rest of the year. One of these took place on 16th December when B Company attacked a trench known as ‘Little Ferdy’ which lay 1500 yards from the British line on the western side of a sandy nullah known as ‘Sandy Brook’. At 2am the front line advanced, lay down and then opened fire while a flanking party moved to cut the wire and attack the Bulgarian right flank.  This flanking party met strong opposition from a bombing post but after 15 minutes the enemy withdrew leaving behind 20-30 dead.  The trenches were then occupied by the main party which then proceeded to damage it as much as possible before withdrawing.  Five men from 2nd Buffs were killed during this operation and another ten were wounded. One of those killed was Herbert Mitchell. Although this action took place on 16th December, 1916, some records, including those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, show it happening on 17th December, an anomaly that is probably explained by a delay in writing up the records at battalion level.

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