John Nolan – Fighting the Bulgarians in Greece

Name of soldier : John Nolan

Descendent : Fergus Curran

The Balkans Theatre is one of the less well known aspects of World War One, at least in the popular imagination. It is also known as the Macedonian Front, or the Salonika campaign – after areas associated with this part of the war. Basically, the Allied powers came to the aid of Serbia, which, was after all, the ostensible reason that the whole European conflict had begun.

Serbia was under attack from Bulgaria, which was using the international conflict to pursue land it felt should have gained in previous Balkans conflicts.. This regional rivalry complicated the war in the region, as did the fact that Greece, where much of the fighting occurred, was itself divided politically, with some Greeks keen to support the Germans and Turks, as the Bulgarians were doing. (These Balkan tensions would reoccur in subsequent decades, right down to the wars of the 1990s)

Allied forces, including Dublin Fusiliers such as John Daly, were based in the Greek port city of Salonika, (or Thessalonika) Many had come there after the gruelling experience of Gallipoli. John was the only son of Thomas and Kate Nolan, from Tram villas in Terenure.

Your own name: Fergus Curran

Your relative: Uncle John Nolan – My Mother’s only brother

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Areas served in: Greece, Balkans campaign

John was fighting with the Fusiliers 6th battalion in northern Greece gaining and losing ground to Bulgarian forces, when he was killed on 3rd October 1916, aged 18. He was acting corporal at the time and his no. was 18890.

Details of this fighting are in a book called ‘Orange, Green and Khaki’, in Chapter 24.

Pictured above : the Galway-born General Bryan Mahon (right) who led the Bulgarian campaign, seen here resting in Salonika

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he was long gone before my time

What are your most striking memories of him?


Where is he buried?

Struma military cemetery, NE of Thessalonika

Do you have any mementos of him?

The only memento I have is the ‘dead man’s penny’, a metal plate send to each family of a casualty (pictured below) .

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