Corporal Raymond Morrogh
The Retreat to Salonica
Dublin Fusiliers War Memorial at Salonika
December 26th, 1915 - letter from the front from past man, Raymond Morrogh (1901/07) -
The name of this place bears a strong resemblance to " Hitchy Koo," but is pronounced " Kiretchkey," I believe. It is where we are at present, and is some seven or eight miles from Salonica. We were right up on the Bulgarian frontier, about 20 miles beyond a place called Doiran, which you may find on the map. One afternoon, when all was fairly quiet, in a fog, about 120,000 Bulgarian-Austro-Germans hurled themselves out of nowhere on the unfortunate 10th Division (about 8,000 men). Something was bound to happen, and it did ! The whole line was sent back in hopeless confusion; the French flank uncovered ; eight of our guns captured; about 1,500 men lost, and in the twinkling of an eye the whole Allied line was in full retreat. Rifles, ammunition and stores of all description were left behind. The ambulance went to pieces under the strain. There was only one road leading back from our position, barely sufficient for our troops, and the French were driven on to this. Result : hopeless blocks and confusion. All the time one of our brigades were holding back the enemy, who evidently did not realize the full measure of their success. This lasted for three days, during which we went back about 24 miles, to railhead, and then back the whole way to Salonique.
For three days and three nights we (the motor cyclists) were on the go, only able to snatch an occasional hour's sleep, and that only in the daytime. One message I got at 2 a.m. one morning was to the French Headquarters, 20 miles away, over a road crammed with transport, in a thick fog, and the last six miles of which was a dry river bed. I had never been over it before, and it took me 10.5 hours to get there and back. On the last night we were all exhausted, absolutely played out, and in several cases having to get a hand to start the machines. The work was terrific— message after message being sent out, and we were the only means of dispatch. My last message, at 3.30 a.m. on the third night, found me, after about two miles, hopelessly jammed behind some French artillery. I sat astride the machine with my feet on the road, and the last thing I remember was seeing a French officer trying to clear the road for me to get through, when the next thing I knew was waking up with a crash on the road. I had fallen asleep on the bike! When I got back, about dawn, I found all the motor cyclists asleep around a big log fire and everyone else gone! The division would have to take care of itself. About an hour afterwards we were waked by an officer who told us he was in command of the rear-guard and that we had better push on.
We just went across the frontier line, which was about a mile further on, where I dropped out, borrowed an overcoat from a French sentry, told him to wake me in about two or three hours, and then turned in. Next morning we were told to put our machines on the train and get away, but the engine driver got "cold feet" and cleared out, leaving us standing on the platform. We then tried the road, or rather mule track. We found it impossible to ride, so we took to the railway track and rode along that till we caught up the train at a station and boarded her.
I have only given the merest outline of our adventures. If I went into details I could fill a volume. We had none of our clothing off, not even our boots, for five days and nights, and had no covering at nights except what we wore. However, here we are all safe and sound, and we only lost one machine ! We were afterwards complimented on the amount of work we got through. They sent three motor cyclists from the 22nd Division to help us. One of them got captured and the other two did one message between them.
I got some parcels and letters on Xmas day. We bought two geese, potatoes and cabbage, and cooked them ourselves, and, with the puddings, had a glorious dinner. We got absolutely nothing from a grateful country, etc.
CORPORAL RAYMOND MORROGH,Dispatch Rider, R.E., 10th Division. Kiretchkeni,