Canadian Army Medical Corps, No. 5 Canadian General Hospital
Age upon enlistment: 22
Place of Birth: Montreal, Quebec
Previous Occupation: Clerk
Diary Covers: 1915-1917
[Diary] “Herbert Harvey Jones Diary Cover” 1916, CCGW Collections.
Herbert Harvey Jones’ diary covers his training in Quebec and England, and his service with the No. 5 Canadian General Hospital at the Salonika Front. Surrounded by enemies, plagued with disease, and lacking in resources, Jones’ diary illustrates the Canadian experience in this little known theatre of war.
The Salonika front stretched 250 miles along the mountainous North East of Greece. It was largely inactive for the first few years of its existence, but it served as a chronic drain on the Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian armies, eventually contributing to their collapse.
[Map] “The British Balkan Front from Gjevgjeli to Orfano” in Salonica and After: The Sideshow that Ended the War, London: Hodder & Stoughton, by Owen H. Collinson, 1919.
With the collapse of the Serbian front in 1915, chaos reigned in the Balkans. The Entente powers (France, England, Russia and Italy) rushed to salvage the situation by forming the Salonika front, in ostensibly neutral Greece. Jones arrived at Salonika in December 1915, in time to be part of the chaos of establishing a new front.
[Photograph] “THE MACEDONIAN CAMPAIGN, 1915-1918” by Ernest Brooks, 1916, Imperial War Museum Q 13626.
But the chaos did not end once ashore. As Jones and the other doctors and nurses travelled in-land, they had to set up a field hospital with few resources – a situation worsened by poor weather.
Jones’ diary entries between December 20th and December 25th frequently mention the poor weather and these shortages.
Jones remained optimistic throughout these hardships, dwelling on the collective effort to organize a Christmas dinner for the hospital staff in his account. This positive attitude would be as much a part of Jones’ success in Salonika as his technical skill.
[Photograph] “View of no.5 Canadian General Hospital” 1916-1919, City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 371-248.05.
Largely inactive in its early days, the soldiers along the Salonika front spent more time fighting disease than enemy armies. The most prevalent and damaging of these illnesses was malaria.
The native strain of malaria combined with strains imported from India to create an unpredictable cocktail of illness whose symptoms and severity could vary wildly. The worst symptom was fatigue, which often left men bed-ridden for days at a time. During the heights of infection, in the summers of 1916 and 1917, infection rates could be as high as 300%, with soldiers catching the parasite multiple times a season.
Initially treatment was in the form of daily doses of quinine syrup. While effective at curing malaria after it had been contracted, it failed as a preventative. It also tasted terrible and had side-effects like nausea and, in extreme cases, blindness. Attempts at destroying mosquito populations, whose bites caused the disease, were also tried but took too long to have an effect.
[Photograph] “British troops taking their daily dose of quinine” by Ariel Varges, July 1916, Imperial War Museum, Q 32160.
Soldiers lined up for their routine quinine ration. Despite its unpopularity among soldiers, quinine was consumed multiple times a day in increasing doses.
The staff of No. 5 weren’t immune to the various diseases that plagued the region. Consequently, medical officers, nurses, and orderlies were regularly hospitalised with the same illnesses as their patients. During his service, Jones would come down with dysentery, chronic malaria, and bronchitis.
Tiny, isolated, and unpopular, the Salonika Front was an area where information was easily controlled by military officials. This mix of isolation and censorship made Salonika incredibly fertile for the spread of rumours, both mundane and outrageous.
[Photograph] “No. 5 Canadian General Hospital: Group Portrait taken Outside” 1916-1919, City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 371-248.08.
With little to do but rest, hospitals were hotspots for the creation and circulation of rumours.
Rumours served a complicated role: they could relieve monotony, serve as social currency, or even be an act of rebellion against authorities. One of the most popular types of rumours often focused on the end of the war, or at least the end of the campaign.
[Diary] “Herbert Harvey Jones Diary” January 29, 1917, Collections CCGW
Rumours concerning their imminent departure from Salonika are found throughout Jones’ diary.
Jones would finally escape Salonika in 1917, enjoying a lovely trip across Italy before serving the rest of the war in Liverpool.
In 1918 he married a woman in Liverpool only identifiable as Mrs. M.E. Jones. He would be demobilized and return to Canada in 1919. Unfortunately, Jones’ time at Salonika marked him for the remainder of his life: he suffered from recurring bouts of malaria and chronic bronchitis until his death in 1965.
[Photograph] “Nurses at no. 5 Canadian General Hospital with the Duke of Connaught in England in 1917 after Returning from Active Service in Salonika”, 1917, City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 371-3159 .
The Duke of Connaught was the youngest child of Queen Victoria and former Governor General of Canada.