|This redirect is of interest to the following WikiProjects:|
The Battle of Doiran, narrated by an eyewitness
At the beginning of 1918, the Allied troops in Salonika were prepared for a major offensive intended to end the war in the Balkans. The Greek Army had been reorganised and joined the Allied force. The offensive began in July 1918, but the British contingent did not play a significant part until early September. Then the British attacked a series of fortified hills. The final assault began along the whole front on 15 Sep 1918; the British being engaged in the Lake Doiran area. This Battle was really on the 18th and 19th September 1918 and was a disaster for the British Divisions. They had to frontally assault 'Pip Ridge' which was a 2000 foot high heavily defended mountain ridge with fortresses built on some of the higher mountains, notably Grand Couronne. (This was what the Bulgarians had been working on in the first months of 1916 and early 1917.) They sustained very heavy casualties.
The following report from one involved gives some idea of what the men went through. By 'An Unprofessional Soldier' on the Staff of 28th Division. He entitled his paper: "I saw the Futile Massacre at Doiran". It is from Issue 46 of "I Was There" published 1938/9 "The Battle of Doiran is now a forgotten episode of the Great War, overshadowed by the doings of Haig in France and Allenby in Palestine. There was no full contemporary account of the Battle in any British Newspaper. Sir George Milne's dispatch was not published and did not appear in the Times until January 23rd 1919, and then only in truncated form. The very name of the battle is unknown to most. Yet, in singularity of horror and in tragedy of defeated heroism, it is unique among the records of British arms. The real work of the assault was entrusted to the men of the 22nd and 26th Divisions, who were to attack the Doiran hills, co-operating with the Cretan Division of the Greek Army and a regiment of unreliable Zouaves. In the early light of an almost unclouded morning the British and Greek forces advanced in order of battle. The noise of our guns had abruptly ceased before daybreak, and there came that awful pause in which defenders and attackers are braced up to face the ordeal, with fear or desperation, with cool courage or with blazing ardour. Slowly the pale grey smoke lifted in layers of thin film above the ridges, blue shadows deep in every fold or hollow and a dim golden glow on scrub, rock and heather. No one could tell what had been the effect of our gunfire upon those fortified hills.
The infantry soldier relies upon the guns behind him, trusting in their power to smash a way for his advance by killing or demoralizing the enemy and cutting up his defences. In this case, if he had any hopes or illusions, the infantry soldier was quickly un-deceived. Our attack on ' Pip Ridge' was led by 12th Cheshires. The battle opened with a crash of machine-gun fire, and a cloud of dusty smoke began to blur the outline of the hills, Almost immediately the advancing battalion was overwhelmed in a deadly steam of bullets which came whipping and whistling down the open slopes. Those who survived were followed by a battalion of Lancashire men, and a remnant of this undaunted infantry fought its way over the first and second lines of trenches - if indeed the term " line " can be applied to a highly complicated and irregular system of defence, taking full advantage of every fold or contortion of the ground. In its turn, a Shropshire battalion ascended the fatal ridge. By this time the battle of the " Pips" was a mere confusion of massacre, noise and futile bravery. Nearly all the men of the first two battalions were lying dead or wounded on the hillside. Colonel Clegg and Colonel Bishop were killed; the few surviving troops were toiling and fighting in what appeared to be inevitable and immediate death. The attack was ending in a bloody disaster. No orders could reach the isolated cluster of men who were still trying to advance on the ridge. Contact aeroplanes came roaring down through the yellow haze of dust and smoke, hardly able to see what was going on, and even flying below the levels of the Ridge and Grand Couronne.
There was only one possible ending to the assault. Our troops in the military phrase of their commander, " fell back to their original positions" Of this falling back I will say nothing. There are times when even desperate heroism has to acknowledge defeat. While the 60th Brigade was thus repulsed on the ridge, a Greek regiment was thrown into disorder by a counter attack on the right. At the same time the Welsh Brigade was advancing towards Grand Couronne. No feat of arms can ever surpass the glorious bravery of those Welshmen. There was lingering gas in the Jumeaux Ravine ( probably ours!) and some of the men had to fight in respirators. Imagine, if you can, what it means to fight up a hillside under a deadly fire, wearing a hot mask over your face, dimly staring through a pair of clouded goggles, and sucking the end of a rubber nozzle in your mouth. At the same time heat is pouring down on you from a brazen sky. In this plight you are called on to endure the blast of machine-gun fire, the pointed steel or bursting shell of the enemy. Nor are you called on to endure alone ; you must vigorously fire back, and vigorously assail with your own bayonet. It is as much like hell as anything you can think of. Welsh Fusiliers got as far as the Hilt, only half a mile below the central fortress, before being driven back by a fierce Bulgarian charge. Every officer was killed or wounded. Following these came the 11th Welsh, who were also compelled to retire fighting. For a time, however, a few of the enemy's trenches, full of dead or dying men, remained in our possession. A third Welsh battalion was offered up, to perish, on that awful day. The 7th South Wales Borderers nobly stormed up through the haze of battle until they had come near the hills of The Tassel and The Knot, Then, all at once, the haze lifted, and they were left exposed in the open to a sweeping and overwhelming fire. Melting away as they charged, a party of Welshmen ran up the slopes of Grand Couronne itself and fell dead among the rocks. Of the whole battalion, only one officer and eighteen men were alive at the end of the day. All night, unheard in the tumult of a new bombardment, wounded men were crying on the hillsides or down in the long ravines.
Whatever Sir George Milne now thought of his own plans, he must have been gratified by the behaviour of his own troops. Those troops had been flung against positions no infantry in the world could ever have taken by a frontal attack, and they had proved themselves to be good soldiers. Two entire Brigades had been practically annihilated. Only on the right was there a temporary gain of ground by two Hellenic regiments in the neighbourhood of Doiran Town. My own troops (if I may speak of 28th Division) were in support of the Cretans under the Krusha hills east of the Lake. These people were intended to make a " surprise " attack on the high positions to the north, though I do not see how anyone can be surprised by an attack which has to be launched over three or four miles of perfectly open country - unless he is surprised at the futility of such a thing. The Cretans had lined up during the night along a railway embankment, which is immediately below the hills. At dawn they advanced over the plain of Akindzali, breaking through the enemy's outpost line. Our artillery, owing to a failure in co-ordination, did not properly support the advance, and our guns were eventually withdrawn under a heavy Bulgarian fire. There were casualties in the neighbourhood of Akindzali village (the scene of unmentionable Greek atrocities in the war of 1913). The attack rapidly collapsed, and by evening the Cretans were back at the railway line from which they had started. At nightfall the 28th Division took up a purely defensive attitude, overlooking the plain. It may well be asked why this Division was never given the chance of throwing its full weight into the battle. The enemy himself, as we afterwards learnt, was very much astonished by the absence or concealment of so large a body of troops. One of the first questions put to a captured British airman near Petrich was "can you tell us what has become of your 28th Division?" A fresh and equally futile massacre on the Doiran hills was arranged for the following day, in spite of the total breakdown of the general scheme. It was now the turn of the Scotsmen - Fusiliers, Rifles and Highlanders of the 77th Brigade, undismayed by the dreadful evidence of havoc, ran forward among the Welsh and Bulgarian dead. Artillery demoralised the regiment of Zouaves on their left. A storm of machine-gun fire blew away the Greeks on their right, in uncontrolled disorder. Fighting on into a maze of enemy entanglements, the Scotsmen were being annihilated, their flanks withering under a terrible enfilade. A fine battalion of East Lancashires attempted to move up in support.
The 65th Brigade launched another forlorn attack on the Pip Ridge. The broken remains of two Brigades were presently in retreat, leaving behind more than half their number, killed, wounded or missing. We had now sustained 3,871 casualties in the Doiran battle. Our troops were incapable of any further effort. A terrible high proportion had been lost or disabled. We gained only the unimportant ruins of Doiran Town and a cluster of small hills immediately above it, never of any value to the enemy or strongly defended. The fortress of Grand Couronne was unshaken, with crumpled bodies of men and a litter of awful wreckage below it. No one can view the result of the operation as anything but a tactical defeat. Had it been an isolated engagement, there would have been every prospect of disaster. The whole plan of the battle and its conduct are open to devastating criticism; but so are the plans and the conduct of a great majority of battles. ( The Cheshires, South Wales Borderers and the Argylls were awarded the French Croix de Guerre for their part - the Royal Scots Fusiliers lost 358, the Argylls 299 and the Scottish Rifles 228 men) Luckily, the Franco-Serbian advance was being continued with extraordinary vigour. (elsewhere) Before long the Bulgarian Army was cut in two and a general withdrawal began to take place along the entire front. Our Doiran battle was now regarded as a contribution to victory for had we not been effective in pinning down the enemy reserves? British commanders are wonderfully philosophic after all."
In other words a waste of lives.
Jackanapes 18:37, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Serbian CINC Radomir Putnik`s last order was given before the Serbian Army even arrived at Corfu (let alone Salonika front). He was replaced by Petar Bojovich. In 1918. the post was given to Zhivojin Mishich. And also, Bojovich was made Voyvoda (Field Marshal) only in September of 1918.
Potiorek was removed from command of the A-H Balkan Army in 1914 following the Battle of Kolubara and forced to retire so he WASN`T a commander on Macedonian front. I think he was replaced by Archduke Freidrich but I`m not sure.
There are some conflict dates for the Bulgarian armistice, ending the war for them.
On this page is says: On September 30, the Bulgarians were granted an armistice by General d'Esperey, ending their war. Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria abdicated and went into exile four days later.
On the World War One page it says: The collapse of the Central Powers came swiftly. Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice on September 29, 1918.
On the Central Powers page it states: Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Allies on 29 September 1918, following a successful Allied advance in Macedonia.
The majority seems to be in favor of September 29th but I need a second opinion because I can't find anything else. (Once a date is decided, the Romanian Campaign and Bulagarian Involvement pages need dates for the armistice). ListedRenegade 23:30, 14 February 2007 (UTC)
- What I know for sure is that the armistice went on effect at noon on the 30th September. It is possible that it was signed on the 29th but this I'm not sure.
- Veljko Stevanovich 6. 11. 2007. 18:17 UTC+1
Was the Macedonian front a "key to the final victory" for the Entente?
In the final paragraph of the introduction the following assertion can be found:
But the most damaging event for the Central Powers was that the Allies—using the moral excuse of saving the Serbian Army—managed to replace the impossible Serbian front with a viable one established in Macedonia (albeit by violating the territory of an officially neutral country); a front which would prove key to their final victory three years later.
This is not sourced, and their is no explanation as to why the Macedonian front would be considered a key to the Entente victory. Furthermore, it is not an oppinion I have heard asserted before (but I'm not a WW1 specialist). The simple fact is, that a breakout would not occur until late 1918, a time when the Hundred Days Offensive was already breaking through German defences on the Western Front. This seems to argue in favour of the Macedonian front being a subsidiary part of the defeat of the Central Powers - not a key.
- The book Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War gives a good account to just how important the breakthrough of the Macedonian front was. Read page 491.
- Here are just a few quotes:
- "The collapse of Bulgaria created insurmountable problems for the Central Powers... the German High command worried about protecting Austria from allied forces advancing up the Danube toward Vienna... The downfall of Bulgaria caused Germany and Austria to lose contact with the Ottoman Empire, which soon fell... The Germans did not have enough resources to hold the allies in France and simultaneously shore up defenses in the Balkans."
- "On September 28, the day of Bulgaria's collapse, Hindenburg and Ludendorf concluded that the strategic and operational balance had decidedly turned against the Central Powers. The following day the two military leaders, insisting on peace "at once", met with senior government officials..."
- In the end the Central Powers consisted of only four countries and the fall of any of them was a key event with important material and morale consequences.--Avidius (talk) 17:45, 1 March 2012 (UTC)
- OK, nice with a reference. Though I'm still not convinced whether the word key applies, or whether it is a case of 'the final nail in the coffin'. Your source seems to argue both.
- While the Central Powers did comprise four states/empires, it was frankly a 1+3 outfit (German Reich + the rest). Note, how it was generally German troops and arms which were sent to support operations in other theatres - not Bulgarian, Austro-Hungarian or Turkish troops sent to the Western Front. However, a number of Austro-Hungarian Skoda 305 mm Model 1911 on loan to Germany were important in defeating Belgian fortifications in the opening phase of WW1 and grain from Central and Eastern Europe was important in supplying German troops and civilians.
- The Ottomans mentioned in your source were already on the defensive when the Entente broke out of Macedonia and its exit from WW1 was a matter of time (British and Empire forces were already occupying much of the Middle East). In fact, the Battle of Megiddo would take place almost at the same time as the Battle of Dobro Pole.
- Btw, Avidus, I think you are a bit selective in your quotation of Pyrrhic Victory. The full quotation reads (omissions in bold):
- ' As Joffre had hoped early in the war, the multifront strategy finally yielded success. The collapse of Bulgaria created insurmountable strategic problems for the Central Powers, particularly since the allies had the initiative on the Western Front and were continuing their relentless attacks. In addition to concerns about losing contact with Romanian oil fields, the German High Command worried about protecting Austria from allied forces advancing up the Danube toward Vienna and feared the Austrians might collapse in front of the Italians. The downfall of Bulgaria also caused Germany and Austria to lose contact with the Ottoman Empire, which soon fell before General Sir Edmund Allenby’s British forces. The Germans did not have enough resources to hold the allies in France and simultaneously shore up defenses in the Balkans.'
- In the final verdict, it was four years of attritional warfare and blockade which brought down the Central Powers. But I may simply be haggling over the exact wording - sorry ;-)
- Mojowiha (talk) 14:52, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
- ' In addition to concerns about losing contact with Romanian oil fields, ' - These concerns are obviously a result of the situation on the Macedonian Front. Note that the quotation shows that German attention was forcibly drawn away from the Western Front precisely at the moment when ' the allies had the initiative on the Western Front and were continuing their relentless attacks '. So the developments on the secondary theaters(including the Macedonian Front) were a significant cause for the fall of the Quadruple Alliance. Nevertheless I don't mind replacing the word key in the text with the word significant or important.--Avidius (talk) 09:18, 14 March 2012 (UTC)