Area 6: Thomson as an observer in Epirus

  1. Harbourfront of Saloniki 1913 (A. Kahn Museum, Paris)
  2. Greek postcard, breakthrough at the Bizani fortifications (S/T Collection, Leiden)
  3. Fragment of the white flag from the Little Bizani fort with text by Thomson (Benaki Museum, Athens)
  4. Greek soldier at Lake Pamvotis near Janina, with mosque, reinforced palace and city wall (S/T Collection, Leiden)
  5. Greek ethnographic map of North Epirus (Southern Albania), 1913 (S/T Collection, Leiden)

At his own request, Thomson was dispatched during the First Balkan War to follow the actions of the Greek and Montenegran armies. In November 1912, he arrived in the largely Jewish city of Saloniki, which had just been conquered by the Greeks (A). From there, he went to Epirus, where a Greek army was attempting to take the Ottoman fortifications at Bizani, which controlled the pass to Lake Pamvotis. The strong fortifications were not taken until the end of February/beginning of March 1913 (B). On 24 February of the Julian calendar (9 February in the Gregorian calendar; Greece did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1923), Thomson signed a white flag from some Turkish soldiers (C). In the meantime, the old capital city Janina had been taken (D). From there, the army entered southern Albania and determined (E) that in this area, which both Greece and Albania laid claim to, 51% of the population were Hellenes (Greeks) and 49% were Albanian. The Greek Orthodox rite is, however, widely dispersed among large groups of Albanian native-speakers in the region. And the coastal area had just been ‘purified’ of ‘Albanians’ who refused to join the Greek political military adventure.