The story of a community
My paternal grandfather, William Sydney Gall, worked for MacAndrews & Forbes in Smyrna between sometime in 1913 and September, 1922, except for the period of the First World War between 1915 and 1918 when he served first with the Artists’ Rifles and then with the Royal Field Artillery in the Northumbrian Brigade. He was evacuated from Smyrna to Malta with other employees of MacAndrews & Forbes in September, 1922. He was then transferred to the company’s operations in Calabria, southern Italy, and continued to work for the firm until his retirement early in 1955. Like many others who left Smyrna in 1922, he was able to take only the minimum of possessions and we have very few documents which relate to his life in Smyrna. Documents include a small number of letters and postcards written to family in England. William Sydney Gall was known by a nickname to close family and friends and generally signed himself as W. S. Gall. In Smyrna, he was probably known as Sydney Gall.
I am indebted to Craig Encer and the records on the Levantine Heritage website which have given context to our limited collection of family papers.
In a postcard to his mother, dated 20th May, 1914, Sydney described the beauty of Smyrna, “houses white with sunlight and the bay a vivid blue, the boats all colours of the rainbow and the hills … a dozen shades of brown and blue.” On the picture, he marked with a cross the house overlooking the bay where he was lodging, on the opposite shore to where the where the MacAndrews & Forbes offices were located.
Sydney’s letter, dated 1st January 1914 [almost certainly, it should read 1915], is on paper headed Boudja, Smyrna, but was written from the SS Spirus off Vourla. It started by explaining that this was the first opportunity for many weeks for him to give direct word of his whereabouts to his family in England (although he trusted that Mrs. Pengelley had been able to pass on some news). By that time, Smyrna was quiet but Boudja had become a military centre and General Pertev Pasha of the Fourth Turkish Army Corps was installed in the house of Mr. Rees. British residents were treated with consideration.
At that time, neither Mr. Forbes, nor his immediate deputy, Mr. Bird, were in Smyrna and Sydney and a Mr. Page (also English) were installed in Mr. Bird’s home in Boudja. For a few weeks, they enjoyed the benefits of three servants and a gardener, “in quite £1,000 a year style” and with “books galore”, hot baths in the morning and roaring log fires in the evenings. It was not long, however, before the authorities learned that Mr. Bird had left for England and took over the house as a place of refuge should Smyrna be bombarded. Sydney and Mr. Page then planned to move to the Forbes mansion (“with fourteen servants”) but that was taken over for the use of the Governor of Smyrna. So Mr. Green of MacAndrews & Forbes advised that they should move into the Boudja Hotel, while awaiting passports and exit visas for America. Sydney’s passport came through as a result of Mr. Green’s efforts with the authorities and he left immediately for Vourla, the port of embarkation while the port of Smyrna was closed. Mr. and Mrs. MacFadzean and their baby travelled with him (MacFadzean was the engineer at MacAndrews & Forbes liquorice factory in Sochia). The journey, by carriage over roads in very poor condition, took a full day and they were challenged every two miles by officials. The SS Spirus was to sail for Athens on 2nd January where Sydney would wait for Mr. Page, and they would then both sail for America.
He noted that the company could simply have paid them each £30 and said “goodbye forever”, but instead had advanced £30 for travel expenses, to be paid back at some time in the future, and with salary paid as usual as long as the present conditions lasted. Nominally, they were free to choose otherwise, but were strongly recommended to go to America and to report to the MacAndrews & Forbes offices at Camden, New Jersey. In spite of wishing to see his family in England, Sydney was inclined to go to New Jersey, at least for a couple of months, in order to learn more about the company’s operations. Writing from Athens on 5th January, 1915, he observed that Smyrna was quiet but that he was not sorry to be free of all the risks. As far as is known, however, he did not go to America in 1915 but joined the Artists’ Rifles, a special regiment of the British Army Reserve.
In March, 1918, before the end of the First World War, Sydney married Winifred Mary Franklin in London. He returned to Smyrna with her in 1919 to take up employment again with MacAndrews & Forbes. At first, they lived in a house in the grounds of the Aliotti property. They were setting up their first home together and in a letter to his mother in September, 1919, he writes of the “colossal” cost of buying even everyday crockery and furniture; by November, prices “were too enormous for words” and there were prospects of shortages in the winter. A tea party and sing-song was held each week, and the house the Galls were living in had a small piano, built for a yacht, so they were able to take their turn to host the gathering.
In September, 1920, shortly before the birth of their first child (David Gall, my father), they moved to a house in Paradiso, rented at a cost of three hundred Turkish lira a year from Mme. Amalia Tsuruktsoglu. The lease included the vines, olive and fruit trees that surrounded the house. Writing on 28th September, 1920 to her mother, Winifred Gall, described the difficulties of getting a servant, she also wrote about the social life, entertaining colleagues from MacAndrews & Forbes and Mr. Bishop, an officer from HMS Bryony. She thanked her mother for sewing “flannels” for them both. She described the house as quite small but nice, double-fronted and with a piano in a big tiled hall –- but a bit out of the way. She was looking forward to keeping chickens and rabbits and to fattening their own turkey for Christmas.
Expecting the baby in December, Winifred also wrote that the “English nurse has promised to stay 15 days with me, but the Greek doctor [Manicopoulo] wants me to go with her to his nursing home in Smyrna.” Sydney’s letter to Winifred’s parents on 21st December described how Mrs. Fry, wife of the Reverend Lucius Fry, had promised to help at the time of the birth, and a Mrs. Marty had arranged to nurse. When labour began, they first went to Dr. Manicopoulo’s “clinique” in Smyrna, but he advised that they should go back to Paradiso for a little longer. However, he arranged for his car to be made available. When labour started in earnest, Sydney sent the servant girl over for Mrs. Fry and, also, for Mr. Fry with his motorbike. Leaving Winifred with Mrs. Fry in Paradiso, he and Mr. Fry rode into Boudja for the doctor’s car. They then drove from Paradiso to Smyrna over the “beastly” cobblestones and after ten at night. Winifred gave birth to a healthy baby boy, early in the morning of 20th December. [We believe that the “clinique” refers to Grace Williamson’s nursing home and that David Gall was born there - the war time diary of Grace Williamson who ran the nursing home.]
The Reverend Lucius George Pownall Fry was the Chaplain at St. John’s church in Alsancak between 1919 and 1921 and at St. Mary Magdalene in Bornabat. His wife, Elizabeth, was an accomplished artist and painted a life-size portrait of Winifred in 1920. Although they lived in Boudja and Paradiso, it seems likely that the Galls attended St. John’s church. Other friends from those days were the de Swart family: Frederick de Swart was a colleague at MacAndrews & Forbes and his son, Stanley, remained a life-long friend.
According to what Winifred told one of her granddaughters, she left Smyrna in 1922, with David, on a private yacht bound for Greece before the majority of British subjects were evacuated. In his last letter from that time, written to Winifred from the SS Maine off Mitylene on route for Malta on 12th September, 1922, Sydney described the events of the previous week. On Monday 4th September, the Greeks burnt Alashier [Alaşehir] on their retreat and Mr. Stokes came to Smyrna. On 5th September, Mr. Fulton and Mr. Joyce escaped from Aidin and Kazli [Nazilli?], both of which were burning. On the 6th, the refugee ship, the HMS Mingary, sailed for Famagusta, Cyprus, with the Pengelley, Walker and Stokes families, among others. The MacAndrews & Forbes staff from Sochia arrived from Scala Nova on a destroyer. On the 7th, Tourbali was shelled by the Turks and fighting was reported. At midnight, a special train was sent to Boudja with Major Johnson and an armed party to collect the British subjects. Sydney slept at Paradiso with Mr. Bankarotta. On the 8th, trains were very disorganized and refugees were coming into Smyrna by the thousand. Having packed what he could, he shut up the house. At 5.00 pm, he took the train back to Smyrna and gave the house keys to Mr. Urquart [the Vice Consul] at the British consulate. He then boarded the SS Antioch with Agathocles [possibly a servant] for the night. On 9th, he went ashore “at his own risk” to the MacAndrews & Forbes office but was surprised by the “hullabaloos” in the street and saw Turkish troops coming down the street in good order. He decided to go back to the SS Antioch as soon as possible but could not find a boat to take him from the quay. He went to the Consulate where a wire was sent off as to his whereabouts. At that time, the streets were fairly quiet and he lunched at the Club. Shots began to break out in the streets and he went back to the quay – still no boats and quite a lot of shooting was going on. After four hours, and in some danger, he got to the HMS Serapis and was then taken to the SS Antioch in a whaler.
By that time, only a few of the British colony remained ashore–these included Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Bliss, Mr. Fulton, Mr. Wheeler, some Bornabat people, Mr. Smith of Standard Oil, Gladys Routh of the Consulate staff and railway staff. On the 10th, everyone on board the SS Antioch was refused permission to go ashore and they listened to the “ferocious” shooting. At 3.00 pm, Smyrna began to be shelled, apparently by the remnants of the Greek army which did not realize the Turkish position and which was shot down in turn. On the 11th, Sydney was still on board the SS Antioch, which by then had filled up with Maltese. Most other British had been transferred leaving only single men and “widowers”, like himself. They had been sleeping on the iron plates of the hold. By evening, accounts arrived of looting, shooting and rape in Bornabat, Boudja, Cordelio and the Caravan Bridge. They were then informed that all British women and children, and most men, would be transferred from the SS Antioch to the hospital ship, HMHS Maine, and sent to Malta. A wire was sent to Mr. Montgomery, already on the HMHS Maine with his wife, asking if they should remain. They were told to proceed to Malta. Those left behind in Smyrna who were not allowed to leave, included Mr. Bliss, Mr. Ferguson, the railway and Consular staff, one or two of the Bornabat men, Mr. Fulton and Mr. Wheeler. Apparently, they were incarcerated in a hotel on the quay. The attitude of the Turks was very anti-British. Mrs. Ferguson reported that Paradiso was a battle field and that the Galls’ house had been looted, as had most of the houses in Boudja and Bornabat. Maria (the Gall’s servant) had last been seen carrying what seemed to be the portrait of Winifred to the American college where she and her family were taking refuge. Sydney had been able to take his trunk and valuables to the MacAndrews & Forbes office.
The letter then describes conditions on the HMHS Maine. The men had to sleep on the forward boat deck. The women, especially Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Bliss, Mrs. Fry and Mrs. Smith, worked “like Trojans” to help serve meals. He goes on to say, “you and I, personally, have lost everything I suppose” and “how thankful I am that you and David are not here”. A postscript on Friday [15th September] said that they had arrived in Malta (Hotel Osborne) with all MacAndrews & Forbes staff and awaited orders.
A short time later, Sydney and his family were settled in Corigliano in Calabria, Italy, where he continued to work for MacAndrews & Forbes in the management of the harvesting and shipping of liquorice root. At some point, he was able to return to Smyrna and retrieve, among a few other things, the portrait of Winifred painted by Elizabeth Fry, and which remains a treasured family possession. Anything that he had taken to the company’s offices in Smyrna in September, 1922 would have been lost when the building was destroyed - fire images.
Postcard sent by W.S. Gall to his mother in May, 1914 on which he shows the house where he was living. More images of Cordelio:
Photograph of David Gall aged around six months in the arms of an unknown gentleman.
Note: If you can provide any information to help with Ms Spooner’s family research, please get in touch with her through janegall_s[at]yahoo.ca.
submission date 2015