Edgar Turner 3

A Soldier’s Description of Northern Greece

Northern Greece - rocky landscape

In the early autumn of 1916, Edgar Turner wrote a 500-word article, which he sent to his local paper, The Middlesex Independent, describing the Vardar valley. The newspaper published it in its issue for Wednesday, October 18th 1916 – just a few days before Edgar’s death.

“As I sit perched on a hill on the left bank of the Vardar what a sight I see. On my left are range upon range of mountains – all rough and rugged and deeply ravined. Monsters all of them, mostly ranging over 2000 metres! On my right, the same sight again – the lofty Belascias…and there, right across the Vardar valley, rising above the clouds, is Mount Olympus. What is between these mountain giants? …yet more mountains - everything mountains. Behind us is the only plain; and the (River) Vardar…practically fills the plain. If there does happen to be a plain anywhere you can rest assured that it’s a mosquito-ridden marsh. We see villages dotted about all over the sides of the hills. The ruins of Oreovica nestle amongst its vineyards and mulberry groves. Bajelea and Ardzan, to our right, are only ruins, but Oreovica’s church still stands.”

Northern Greece 2

“The river here runs through a beautiful gorge, the hills on both sides running down to the water’s edge. The river, thus hemmed in, takes full advantage of any widening of the gorge to deposit large quantities of silvery sand and, if possible, to turn the fields (beside it) into a hopeless marsh.”

“Trees are very few, the growth being mostly scrub – and very coarse at that. Dotted about are square patches of yellow, showing that when the villagers were here, four years ago, they had corn as well as grapes to look after. The flowers are all over now and the ground is parched; but in moist and cool places cyclamen and crocus are now blooming for the second time this year. Blackberries and figs abound and make splendid sweets. While Tommy has found out that the Frenchman’s use for the Bullfrog is a very good one. Fish abounds in the rivers, but they are not very big. Still, any change of diet is welcome when you are on a Sarrail’s tour instead of a Cook’s.” (French General Maurice Sarrail, commanded Allied forces in Greece in 1916.)

Private Hubert William Lewis VC

Private Hubert William Lewis VCOn the night of 22/23rd October 1916, Edgar Turner commanded a unit of the Welch Regiment in an attack on German and Bulgarian positions along the Dorsal Ridge.

The Germans spotted the attack whilst it was in its early stages. British troops were shelled over most of the distance between the lines. But, for a while, the British gained control of the German trench line. Edgar Turner was badly wounded on the approach to Dorsal Ridge by a bullet that struck the canisters of signalling flares he was carrying and caused them to explode. He was rescued by Private Hubert Lewis, who although also wounded, had charged through barbed wire and captured three German prisoners.

As the German counterattack regained control of the Dorsal, Lewis found Lieutenant Turner and carried him throughout a two-hour descent, under fire, down the rocky slopes and over the rough ground that separated the Dorsal from British lines.

Hubert Lewis was awarded a VC for his actions on that night. He returned to his home town of Milford Haven after the war and lived to the age of 80. He died in 1977. Sadly, Edgar Turner died of his wounds the same day, October 23rd 1916.

Photograph: Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh; www.rrw.org.uk

Edgar Turner’s Burial

Edgar Turner’s Burial

Edgar Turner died on the 23rd of October 1916. This picture of his grave was taken by one of his colleagues with the camera that Turner used throughout the summer of 1916, in Northern Greece.

“He was buried by our Padre in the military cemetery close to Smol Church, just behind our lines..”
[The Middlesex Independent 18th November 1916]

Edgar Turner’s Burial 2Two sergeants hold a wreath of local flora in memory of 2nd Lieutenant Edgar Turner.

Colleagues described Turner as “very popular with men and officers alike, and we miss him very much...the men of Turner’s party cannot speak too highly of the amount they owe to the careful way in which he made his plans, and the cool and brave way in which he led them.” [The Middlesex Independent 18th November 1916, p.4]

 

Edgar Turner’s Military Career

Edgar Turner in uniformWithin a month he gained a Corporal’s stripe.

And about Christmas 1914 he was given a commission in the Leicester Regiment.

And subsequently he was attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers, with whom he was sent to Gallipoli on September 23rd 1915.

He was slightly wounded after his arrival there and on December 23rd he was in hospital at Alexandria suffering from shell shock.

On recovery he was sent to Sinai where he took part in several minor engagements.

Ultimately he was transferred to the 11th Welch Regiment at Salonika (arriving there on 5th May 1916).

[The Middlesex Independent, Wednesday 8th November 1916]

Edgar Turner’s Photographs

Edgar Turner’s Photographs accompanying letter“Dear Mr. Turner, my son Capt. A. C. Stewart has asked me to forward to you the enclosed snapshots and films of Lieutenant Turner’s grave. Will Mrs. Turner and yourself accept my deepest sympathy in this your great sorrow. I am, yours very sincerely, M. J. Stewart.” December 18th 1916

Turner’s photograph album was sent with this letter to his father.

Edgar Turner’s Photograph album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred Turner’s former home in Osterley

 

Edgar Turner’s photographs taken during his service with The British Salonika Force in Northern Greece were sent back to his family in Brentford. Amongst these photographs, were photographs taken of his grave and of colleagues at his burial.

The wallet pictured contained approximately 200 negatives and some contact prints. It was found in the loft of Fred Turner’s former home in Osterley (pictured), amongst his personal papers.

 

 

 

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