Behind the smoke of battle – a Crewe family’s quest to discover the story of a fallen son

8th July 2020 / BY / IN History

A final year History student, I looked longingly at the history books littering my room. Stacked high on shelves, filling drawers and stealing desk space, the books have been at once my best friend and my worst enemy. Countless hours have been spent pontificating over their meaning. Trawling through their pages, picking out words and analysing arguments. Losing sleep over bloated political theories and becoming absorbed in compelling cultural histories. Studying history has been challenging, but incredibly rewarding. 

But just when I thought my days as a historian were coming to a close, Mondrem’s Director, Mike, offered me a chance to continue my passion for history. 

Edward Bennett (Eddie), who served as a signaller in the 12th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, was Mike’s great uncle – his grandma’s brother. Hailing from Crewe, Eddie was still a teenager when he was sent to Salonika to fight on the Macedonian front in World War I.  

But not many people know about what happened in Salonika, which has been a neglected theatre of war.  

Other than a handful of excellent historiographical accounts, the British military experience in Macedonia has been seen as a “sideshow,” meaning the stories of soldiers like Eddie have been overlooked.  

The Macedonian front was a gruelling warzone and the Bulgarians were a tough enemy. Eddie went missing after the allied attack on the “P” Ridge, Salonika, in September 1918 during the Third Battle of Doiran. Eddie and those he fought alongside during this battle made a heroic effort, but many lives were lost, and the British forces were defeated.  Because so many lives were lost on that day, few officers were left to record the casualties, so many families were left not knowing whether loved ones we safe or not. 

Despite the tragic end to Eddie’s life, his diary and the letters he sent home survived. And by tracking Eddie’s diary, we can see how a soldier responded to the testing frontline experiences in the Balkans.  

In the coming months, Mike and I will be working together to tell Eddie’s story, and the painful story of his family’s quest to discover what happened to him.  

I will keep you informed of our progress, so keep an eye out on the Mondrem blog. 

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