The story behind Marlborough’s second war memorial – Battle of Doiran, April 1917
April is the centenary of the Battle of Doiran in northern Greece. After the failure of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 the British and French decided to send armies to Salonika in northern Greece) to counter the threat from Bulgaria who were allied to the Central Powers. Part of that British army was the 7th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment. For two years the warfare was like the Western Front with a stalemate of trenches, barbed wire and fortified machine gun posts. The features of the battlefield were given names from Wiltshire such as Rockley Hill, Swindon Hill etc.
In April 1917, the Wiltshire were ordered to attack the Bulgarian positions after a heavy bombardment. Like on the Western front, the bombardment had not seriously damaged the Bulgarian defences and the 7th Battalion lost one third of their strength in the failed attack. Most of these casualties were “missing” and never found because the British had failed to capture any of the Bulgarian positions.
One of the officers of the 7th Battalion was Christopher Hughes who went on to be Art Master at Marlborough College and Mayor of Marlborough in 1935 and 1944. Christopher Hughes is well known for his pencil drawings of Marlborough and he arranged for a “Roll of Honour” of those who died serving in the 7th Battalion to be placed with the Borough Council. The War Memorial in the London Road is in memory of the 7th Battalion who trained around Marlborough before setting off to Greece.
One of the “missing” at the Battle of Doiran was my grandfather Andrew Fergusson who left a widow and seven children living at Braydon Oak in Savernake Forest. In spite of their loss, the family had a very happy future life with the youngest of the seven (also Andrew), dying only a few years ago.
Three of Andrew’s grandchildren, myself, my brother Chris and my sister Rosemarie together with our spouses made a pilgrimage to the site of the battle and the Doiran Memorial, six years ago. This followed on from a pilgrimage over thirty years earlier by our mother, Rose and two of her sisters. The War Cemetery is kept in a beautiful condition by the gardener who is the son-in-law of the gardener at the time of our parent’s visit.