Alan Wakefield
Tuesday 12 June 2018

By 1917 a multinational Allied force under French General Maurice Sarrail numbering 500,000 troops faced the Bulgarian Army and German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish units, totalling 300,000 men. The front line stretched from Albania to the mouth of the River Struma in Greece.

art

The Doiran Front Seen from Sal Grec de Popovo

art

The Doiran Front Seen from Sal Grec de Popovo

View from the Krusha Balkan Hills and across Lake Doiran to the hills and ridges over which the British Salonika Force fought its two major battles of the Salonika Campaign. The painting illustrates the nature of terrain on the Doiran Front, with its jumble of hills, ridges and ravines backed by open plains.

A view across a valley looking down onto a green plane with inlets and a river. There are hills on the far side of the plane, and a range of mountains in the distance.
The Doiran Front seen from Sal Grec de Popovo, 1918, by William T Wood.

By March 1917 the British Salonika Force (BSF) under General George Milne held 90 miles (144 km) of front, including the key strategic position at Doiran.

Sarrail launched an offensive in April 1917, with French, Italian, Russian and Serbian troops. In support, the BSF attempted to capture Bulgarian positions around Doiran. When this offensive failed, static trench warfare continued until autumn 1918.

Living conditions for soldiers on both sides were harsh. Winter and summer brought extremes of climate and disease - especially malaria - caused many more casualties than fighting.

On 15 September 1918, Allied forces, directed by French General Louis Franchet d’Esperey, went onto the offensive. The BSF attacked at Doiran, helping French and Serbian troops to break the Bulgarian defences. Unable to stop this advance, the Bulgarian Army was forced into full retreat.

On 29 September, Bulgaria signed an armistice and fighting ceased the following day.

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