First Battle of Doiran : night attack of 24th April

From Alan Palmer’s The Gardeners of Salonika, published in 1965 by Andre Deutsch Limited, London (pp. 121-122):

As the Wiltshires and the Devons crouched in their trenches, Bulgarian howitzers and a battery of German naval guns pounded the boulders around them. There was a lull in the barrage in the early evening, and from the lakeside a waiting officer heard a familiar sound – the croak of hundreds of frogs, adding a touch of Aristophanic mockery to the irony of war. It was no more than a brief respite. Soon the shells were lobbing down once more; and the gullies became caverns of dead and wounded even before the hour of advance.

At 9.45 [pm], with the relentless barrage unabated, they pressed forward, down to the bottom of the smoke-filled Jumeaux Ravine and across a swift-flowing stream. And when they emerged from the hell of the ravine, two powerful searchlights threw their beams across the open ground, exposing the attackers to a withering cross-fire : few reached the Bulgarian trenches. The tragic pattern was to be repeated in other ravines and ridges throughout the night. Within half an hour the Berkshires and the Worcesters of the 78th Brigade, who were coming on the Jumeaux Ravine from the south-west, had been swept by a similar hurricane of gun fire; and, although some battalions captured the enemy outposts and two of the Devon companies reached the inner line of trenches on the Petit Courroné, there was confusion in the centre. The Bulgars counter-attacked, and about four in the morning, when it was clear that there was no reasonable chance of making headway, the 26th Division was orderd back to its lines, exhausted and sadly depleted.

Meanwhile, on the left of the front, the 22nd Division had had more success and fewer casualties, mainly because the Bulgarian artillery could not rake the gullies in this sector and it was therefore possible to find covered approaches to their outposts. The 22nd Division reached their first objective and held it against five counter-attacks, but the costly failure on their right prohibited any further advance up the hills behind Doiran as they would have come under strong enfilade fire from the unassailed Bulgarian positions. Sitll further westward the 60th Division raid an Machukovo had started well; but, with searchlights once again silhouetting the attackers against the night sky, it was not possible for them to get beyond the first line of Bulgarian trenches.

A rare night view of a British bombardment at Doiran viewed from British positions in the hills close to the southern shore of Lake Doiran. THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE SALONIKA CAMPAIGN, 1915-1918
A rare night view of a British bombardment at Doiran viewed from British positions in the hills close to the southern shore of Lake Doiran. THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE SALONIKA CAMPAIGN, 1915-1918 © IWM (Q 79558)


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Author: SCS Web Editor

Robin Braysher joined the SCS in 2003 and soon after became editor of the Society's journal, 'The New Mosquito', a role he held until 2008. He then became the Society's web editor, a role he seems unable to shake off. His interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Fred, who served as a cyclist with the BSF from 1915-1917, mainly in the Struma valley.