File No. 763.72/2288

The Consul at Saloniki (Kehl) to the Secretary of State

No. 115]

Sir: As of possible interest, I have the honor to submit the following report on events of national and international importance occurring within this consular district during the past five weeks:

[Page 73]

The mobilization of the Greek Army

The order for the general mobilization of the Hellenic Army was officially announced on September 24 and declared to be a measure of prudence rendered necessary by the Bulgarian mobilization proclaimed the day previous. The mobilization order was received with enthusiasm. The response to the call to the colors was very prompt and patriotic. The decree of mobilization affected twenty classes of reserves (1892–1911) and the four classes constituting the standing arms. There remain some classes yet to be called. The infantry completed its mobilization within six days while the artillery and train required fifteen days. There is a decided improvement in the equipment and general organization of the Hellenic Army of to-day as compared with three years ago. There are five army corps stationed in Old and New Greece with an average of 36,000 men to each complete corps. The headquarters of the various corps are as follows: First at Athens, second at Patras, third at Saloniki, fourth at Kavalla, and the fifth at Yanina.

The economic disadvantageous results occasioned by the mobilization were the withdrawal of a great number of civilians from their regular vocations, which had a temporary demoralizing effect on all public administrative offices, public utilities, banks, hotels, shops, etc. Coincident with the decree of mobilization the military authorities commenced the requisitioning of vehicles, horses, mules, and donkeys throughout Greek Macedonia, causing hardship upon those dependent on their animals for a livelihood. Churches, schools, magazines, private houses, etc., were also requisitioned for the army. Steps have also been taken for billeting if found necessary.

On September 25 all consulates were advised by a circular note that telegrams and cables must be in plain language and that cipher messages would not be accepted. The local Russian Consul General protested against this ruling but without success. Later on the Government permitted the National Bank of Greece and the Bank of Athens to telegraphically communicate in code with their various branches throughout the Kingdom.

The Greek Army had been in a quiet process of mobilization for more than a month, previous to the issuing of the general order. As a matter of fact, war supplies of all kinds have been arriving continuously at Saloniki and Kavalla during the past six months. All points of strategic value have been well fortified. Recently barbed-wire entanglements have been placed along the hills back of Kavalla and also in the districts of Demirhissar, Drama, Kilindir, Serres, and the Karasu. In short, Greek Macedonia has been on a semi-war footing for some months and is now in a state of defense satisfactory to the General Staff of the Hellenic Army. This state of preparedness, really commenced shortly after the close of the Greek-Servo-Bulgarian war, was, and is, directed principally against a possible sudden invasion by the Bulgarians. Certain parts of Macedonia, particularly all the territory east of the Struma River, now within the confines of New Greece, and certain parts of New Servia along the eastern frontier, and the greater part of the territory south of Uskub (Skoplje), is claimed by Bulgaria. Bulgaria [Page 74] contends to have been very unfairly dealt with by the terms of the treaty of Bucharest. Apparently because of the uncertain status of the territory claimed by Bulgaria, those districts have not been given any public improvements by Greece or Servia. The town of Serres (Greek) is to-day in the same condition as it was left two years ago by the retreating Bulgarians who destroyed it. The town had a population of 16,000 and is located in the center of the best tobacco lands in Macedonia. The port of Kavalla is urgently in need of improvements. The towns of Demirhissar, Drama, Doxaton and many other places are likewise in need of improvements, all of which are being postponed until such time when a more permanent tenancy will be established.

Disembarkment of French and British troops at Saloniki

On September 26 it was reported in Saloniki that 21 French and British transports, escorted by war vessels, were headed for this port to disembark troops for the aid of the Servians. The idea of using the port of Saloniki for landing French and British troops is not of recent origin. During the latter part of 1914 and the early part of 1915 an unusually large body of British and French doctors and nurses were dispatched to Servia. At the same time, Holland, Russia, Denmark, and the United States also sent Red Cross missions to Servia. Typhus exanthématique was prevalent in epidemic form in Servia during that period, but it was hoped that the sanitary situation would have ameliorated by early spring. However, such was not a fact and the disembarking of British and French troops at Saloniki, originally planned to take place during April and May of this year, was indefinitely postponed, due to the typhus epidemic.

On September 30 Brigadier General Angus Bruce Hamilton of the British Army, six staff officers and thirty soldiers arrived at Saloniki on the small French cruiser Latouche-Trevile. Their baggage of considerable quantity was landed on the quay, outside of customs jurisdiction, independent of any consultation with the local civil or military authorities. Brigadier General Hamilton is a brother of General Ian Hamilton commanding the forces at the Dardanelles and is the same person who superintended the early embarkations at Portsmouth and recent disembarkations of the Allied forces at Moudros, Island of Lemnos. During the early morning of October 1 General Hamilton, accompanied by staff officers and the British Acting Consul General, visited the outskirts of Saloniki. During the same morning General Hamilton called on General Moschopoulos, who is in command of the Third Army Corps, and informed him of the intention of landing some of the Allied forces at Saloniki, and requested him to designate camping grounds. General Moschopoulos expressed his regret at not being able to comply with the request and stated that orders from the General Staff at Athens would be necessary. From a very reliable source I am informed that this interview was very short and pointed on both sides. I am also informed that this interview was the first authentic information which General Moschopoulos had of the intent to land Allied forces at Saloniki. No official communication on this subject had been received from Athens. The reply to his request on the [Page 75] authorities at Athens for instructions, was in effect that he should exercise his own discretion.

The Hellenic Government made a formal protest against the landing of the Anglo-French troops at Saloniki and, at the same time, Prime Minister Venizelos made the statement that the Government would not take any material measures to prevent the landing of the troops and their passing to the relief of Servia, the ally of Greece.

The sympathies of Premier Venizelos are well known. It has been very reliably reported that he invited Sir [Francis] Elliot, the British Minister at Athens, to arrange for the landing of troops at Saloniki, after which it would be an easy matter to swing the arms of Greece on the side of the Quadruple Entente. On October 4 the Premier addressed the House of Deputies and outlined the presumed attitude of the Hellenic Government with respect to the newly created situation. It appears that the views of the King were in opposition to the declarations made by Mr. Venizelos, which resulted in the resignation of the Premier and his Cabinet.

On October 5 this Consulate and the consulates of other neutral countries received a circular note from the local British Consulate General of which the following is a copy:

Toutes marchandises à la Bulgarie voie Dedeagach seront détenues par la flotte britannique jusqu’ à nouvel avis. (All merchandise for Bulgaria via Dedeagach will be detained by the British Fleet until further notice.)

On the same day British and French war vessels entered the gulf and port of Saloniki. At Kara Burun (twelve miles from Saloniki) mines were laid by British vessels. The fairway or open channel is closed during the night with wire netting set by British marines.

During the afternoon of October 5 six transports arrived in the port and disembarked the first lot of the Entente’s expeditionary corps for Servia. The troops landed, with the exception of those from a British transport, were French colonials. The French transports and the number of men carried were as follows:

A-26 1,000 men
Australien 1,200
Britannia 1,000
Djemnah 800
Midi 1,000

One British transport with fifteen hundred men arrived shortly before noon on the same day. The Allied troops are encamped at Lempet which is about one hour’s march from the city limits. Up to date there has been a steady stream of French and British transports to this port bringing troops, ammunition, artillery, horses, automobiles, aircraft, food, etc.

On October 6 British naval officers called on Colonel Lellakis, commander of the fortifications at Kara Burun, Saloniki, and made known their desire to land British guards to patrol the fortifications. The Greek Colonel informed his visitors that he could not permit such landing without instructions from Athens and intimated that he would forcibly resist an attempt to land British guards until the necessary authorization from Athens had been received.

The captain of the port has given orders that all arriving and departing vessels must take their instructions from the British naval authorities operating in Gulf of Saloniki. That part of the port used [Page 76] by the customs administration has been cleared of vessels, barges, etc., and turned over to the French and British naval authorities. Numerous complaints were made by local steamship agencies, merchants, and forwarding agents who were unable to load or discharge vessels or get possession of merchandise already in customs warehouses. About 1,000 feet of the quay outside of the customs district is now being used for discharging merchandise and general customs purposes.

On October 9 the Italian merchant vessel Roumania arrived in Saloniki from Dedeagach, Bulgaria, bringing the diplomatic and consular representatives of the Quadruple Entente (except those of Russia), stationed in Bulgaria.

The S. S. Athena, a merchant vessel of the German-Levant Line, laden with ore, had been at anchor in this port since August 1, 1915. The flag captain of the British Fleet in Saloniki, objected to the presence of this vessel and requested its removal to some other port. The local German Consulate protested against its removal. However, on October 11 the vessel left this port for Piraeus, escorted by the Greek torpedo boat destroyer Navcratoussa.

Martial law, applicable to the whole of Greek Macedonia, was declared on October 12. Mixed patrols of Greek and French soldiers and of Greek and British soldiers, police those sections of the city frequented by soldiers. The French patrols carry rifles with fixed bayonets, while the British patrols are without rifles. There have been frequent street brawls. A very noticeable feature, subject to much comment, is the absolute lack of any fraternalism between the officers and soldiers of the three armies. French, British, and Greek officers pass one another without saluting. In cafés and restaurants there is a strict division of nationals. The incivilities reached the point where it became necessary to issue “orders of the day” enjoining their commands to extend the regulation military courtesies to fellow officers and soldiers. The Greek order was issued October 11, the French on October 13, and the British on October 15.

General Sarrail, Commander in Chief of the French expeditionary corps, accompanied by his staff, arrived at Saloniki on October 13 on the French transport La Provence and established his headquarters in the building of the Mission Laïque Française. General Sarrail also came from Moudros, from which it may be inferred that the attempt to force the Dardanelles is about to be definitely abandoned. It may be of interest to note that General Bailloud, General Sarrail, Vice Admiral Dartige du Fournet and Rear Admiral de Bon left cards at this Consulate. The courtesy was promptly returned. No British officers, either naval or military, visited this office.

The British forces have installed a signal station on the roof of the Splehdid Palace Hotel overlooking the Gulf of Saloniki. This station is connected by telegraph and telephone with the British General Headquarters in Saloniki. A British post office, for military purposes only, has also been established.

The French military authorities have let a contract for the erection of 110 barracks. These buildings will be one story high, 160 feet long, 28 feet wide, erected on property owned by the Servian Government, forming a part of the plot designated for the Servian [Page 77] port. An additional 50 barracks will also be built; but it has not yet been decided where they will be located.

Lieutenant General Sir B. Mahon arrived in Saloniki on October 14 and assumed command of the British forces. Brigadier General Hamilton will remain at Saloniki to supervise further disembarkations. Some of the French forces were dispatched to Servia shortly after their arrival and have been engaged by the opposing forces. Up to October 22 various hospitals in Saloniki were treating 1,100 ill and wounded French soldiers. But one British regiment has been sent into Servia up to October 27. Two reasons have been advanced for the British delay in sending their forces forward: One, that they have not sufficient ammunition; the other, to check a possible sudden hostile movement on the part of the Hellenic Army. The French Army is completely equipped in every respect and has a perfect working organization. They brought to Saloniki an equipment and organization superior to that of the Greek Army and that of the British forces garrisoned here. The Allied forces are said to have landed 80,000 at Saloniki up to November 1, of whom 65,000 are French and 15,000 British.

Saloniki is now an indisputable base of operation for the Franco-British troops. The violation of Greek neutrality was met with a passive protest as resistance would have exposed the country to destruction.

I have [etc.]

John E. Kehl