First Battle of Doiran : the second attempt

From Alan Palmer’s The Gardeners of Salonika, published in 1965 by Andre Deutsch Limited, London (p. 123-124):

At dusk on May 8th the British artillery thundered out once again over Doiran Town … At ten minutes to ten, two companies of the Scottish Rifles moved forwards on the right flank across the Patty Ravine, but soon they were enveloped by the fog and for four hours even the battalion commander had no news of them. As other companies crept towards the Bulgarian trenches, seeking for a gap where the wire had been cut, from each of the brigade headquarters senior officers peered out, trying to discover what was happening in the smoke. Optimistic at first – for in the glare of the searchlights figures were momentarily seen scrambling into the enemy trenches – the 78th Brigade sent forward supporting companies, three of which actually crossed Jumeaux Ravine with few casualties and reached the lower slopes of Petit Courroné three-quarters of an hour before they were due to scale the hill. For twenty minutes they remained immobile under heavy trench mortar fire. Their position was desperate: ‘Am going through in ten minutes’, signalled their commander. But it was too soon : the men came under fire from British artillery as well as the Bulgarians; and few of the officers remained unwounded. Throughout the night, with magnificent courage, they clung on to a sector of the Bulgarian trenches, some fifty yards up the hill.

Meanwhile the brigade commanders had discovered that things were going wrong elsewhere along the line. They now knew that,from the start, there had been confusion in the swirling smoke of no man’s land and they could see that disorder had spread to the support positions. The communication trenches, which were painfully few and under intensive bombardment, were choked with units seeking to move in the opposite direction. It became almost impossible to obtain accurate news of the battle,for telephone wires had been destroyed and, in the murk of action, visual signalling was out of the question.

… As the first faint streaks of dawn were reflected in the lake, the right flank was ordered to withdraw. As it happened, at that very moment, a detachment of the Gloucesters was in possession of a middle sector of the Bulgarian trench system above the Patty Ravine and some 1,000 yards from the lake.Now, with murderous fire coming at them from the Bulgarian positions on their left and right, they pulled wearily back across the deep scar on no man’s land.

The diversionary attacks to the west had once more been successful and half a dozen hillocks had been seized by the 22nd Division and 60th Division.

British 18-pdr field gun firing from a camouflaged position on the Doiran Front. BRITISH FORCES IN THE SALONIKA CAMPAIGN 1915-1918
British 18-pdr field gun firing from a camouflaged position on the Doiran Front. BRITISH FORCES IN THE SALONIKA CAMPAIGN 1915-1918. © IWM (Q 112308)

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Author: Andy Hutt

Andy's interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Arthur, who served in Salonika as a sapper with the Royal Engineers from 1916-1918. Opinions expressed in these posts are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society.

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