Bitola 19.11-31.12.1916 - Notes by Mary L. Matthews

“Destruction by shells in Monastir,” Digital Exhibits of the Archives and Special Collections, accessed September 29, 2016,
“Destruction by shells in Monastir,” Digital Exhibits of the Archives and Special Collections, accessed September 29, 2016,

Mary L. Matthews (1864-1950) was missionary to the Protestant American School for Girls in Bitola (Monastir).  She arrived in Bitola in 1888 and her post lasted for 32 years, in which she took only three short furloughs to the U.S., in 1893-1896, 1904-1905, and 1913-1915.
Mary L. Matthews (1864-1950)
Mary L. Matthews (1864-1950)

 She was a witness of the Ilinden upraise, the situation of the local population during Turkish Rule, the Young Turks' Revolution in 1908, Balkan Wars, First World War and she remained in Bitola until 1920.
During this time she kept a diary recording many events and also she personally took many valuable photos with her own camera.
In this post, short notes are presented, giving us valuable information about Bitola at the beginning of Second Balkan War.

Nov. 19, 1916 French and Serb Armies entered the city.
“ 20. Mon. German and Bulgarian Armies entrenched on mountains within sight of Monastir; (they shelled and bombed the city for the next 22  months).
One shell struck Mr. Clarke’s house; one fell on Peter Robeff’s house near the American school.  Aero battle all day.
“21.Tues. Cannon all day.  Three air-plane raids.
“22.Wed. A shell, about 5 P.M., near the Dragor River, killed or wounded 25 soldiers, and wounded a Major and 2 Italian generals.
“23.Thur. Shells on the city; one on Mr. Hronograph’s shelter near us, killed two boys who were in it and wounded Spasika Eftimova who had taken refuge there, a graduate of the American school.
“24.Fri.    Cannon.
“25.Sat.   Shells fell not far away.
“26.Sun. Shells from 3 to 4 P.M.  One fell on Deacon Uncha’s house, but the family was absent.
“  27.Mon. Terrible fighting with big cannon, 3.15-4 and later.  We saw it—the flash of the enemy guns and the shells on the city, a few seconds later.
“28.Tues. Battle in A.M. and early P.M. with cannon.
Civil government by Serbians;  Military, by the French.
Dec. 1.Wed.    German shells near us and on Yeni ward.
“ 6. Sun.     Many shells on or near the city.
“7. Mon.    Not many shells.
“9.Wed.   German shells on R.R; destroyed the station.  Severe battle.
“10.Thur. Shells on city; one woman killed; shell on Leonda’s house.
“11.Fri. Severe bombardment.  A shell broke into the Annex of the American School, destroyed beds in a dormitory.  School not in session after Nov. 28.  21 persons in the compound, but no one was injured.
 “12.Sat.   Bombardment in early A.M. and continued with intervals of quiet.
“13.Sun.  Bombardment, 3.30-5.30 P.M.
“14.Mon. Some cannon firing.
“15.Tues.  Fighting.
“16.Wed.  Terrible shelling.
“17.Thur. French Protestant service in our chapel; 20 soldiers present.  Very earnest service.  The soldiers want a Christmas tree.  M.L.M. was there and some of our people.
“18.Fri. Governor Jovanovitch gave M.L.M. an order for a bag of the flour the
“19. Americans went without, for all in the School Compound to share. Some were refugees, whose homes were dangerous.  It was difficult to reach the flour depot on (sic) “wheat market”, as streets were strictly guarded by French police.  Finally two Serb officers saw the order and took Miss M. to get the flour.  Terrible fighting in P.M. and evening, on the north hills.  French fired much; German shells on city; no harm to us.  At 10 P.M. 8 French soldiers got into the Orphanage Compound. At 1 A.M., those who had probably come over the wall opened the street gate which was locked inside; they let in other soldiers.  They knocked on Orphanage door, but Mrs. Mita did not open it.  Soldiers also went to some neighbors’ houses.  The French Chaplain, Pastor Gonin, and Dr. Muller entered a complaint for Miss M. to the French Authorities.  Fierce battle in evening on the western front.
“20. Last night, the men at the School Compound.  Dea. Uncha and Daniel, Mr. Eftem and Mr. Nicola took turns in going to the Orphanage to see if all was right.  Hard fighting all night.
“21. Battle on the hills in evening.
“23. At 3.30 P.M. a terrible bombardment by Germans, and shells fell not far away, and on the Volkani house.  Kosta Sarabakaloff’s little Nadeshda was killed.  Also, five other children near the Roumanian Church.  Mrs. Santa and Baba Santa were on the street and saw them.  All our people came home safely.
“24. Not many German shells, but French fired many; in an hour, Mrs. Mircheff counted about fifty.  In evening machine guns were fired at Magarevo.
“25. Christmas Day!  Picked a bunch of violets in the yard .  Roses are budded.  German shells on city in A.M., damaged many houses, but no casualties so far as we know.  Shells kept some of us away from the French service at 1 P.M. soldiers had set up a tree in our church and decorated it very prettily, at 2.30.  After the tree exercises at 5 o’clock,  Miss M., Baba Santa and Magda served tea.  Soldiers brought tea, sugar, biscuits; Miss M. furnished bread and raspberry jam.  Pastor Conin, Dr. Paul Muller and 24 soldiers were presents and all had a good time.
 “26. A lively rifle battle tonight.
“27.Wed.  French fired; Germans answered; about 1.30 and 8 P.M.  Considerable damage to people and property.
“28. Thur. Roar of cannon almost continuous.  German shells fell frequently, especially from 1 to 2.30 P.M.
“29. Fri.  Cannon thundered all day.  German shells fell about 10.30 A.M. and often in P.M.  One fell in yard of Mr. Geo. Rombi, op. our Annex, and broke the stone at his well; broke a pane in our Science Room; a bit blew thru window and fell near my desk upstairs.
“30. Sat. Cannon firing most of day.  City seems dead.  Few on streets.  No trade.
Damaged houses everywhere.
“ 31. Sun.  German shells on city, about noon.   One in our garden at 3 P.M. broke panes of the School.  No one was hurt.  Marvellous!  God is very good to us.  The orphans had sat in yard until 5 min. before shell fell.

Full diaries and letters of Miss Mary L. Matthews at Mount Holyoke College, where she was in the class of 1885.

1. Peggy Hanson Website - grand niece of Mary L. Matthews

2. Mary L. Matthews Papers, 1863-1950 - Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections

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