“508 bottles of beer will be sent to you”

Early in the morning of September 18th this apparently inconsequential message was telephoned to each British Divisional HQ. It was the signal that the attack at Doiran was to be launched at eight minutes past five that morning, one and three-quarter hours before sunrise. The offensive opened with…

… an attack by the British 22nd Division, supported by the Greek Seres Division, on the complicated network of emplacements and dugouts dominating the high land around Lake Dojran. The triple humps of these hills – Petit Courroné, the Grand Courroné and Pip Ridge as they were called – had formed distant and unattainable objectives in the two attacks of spring 1917. Now once again the British sought in vain to storm these sinister heights. The 11th Royal Welch Fusiliers, the 7th South Wales Borderers, the 12th Cheshires and the 8th King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry sustained heavy casualties on the slopes of the hills above the lake, and a battalion of the South Lancashires ran into heavy crossfire from machine gun nests on Pip Ridge. By the end of the morning it was clear that, although the Greeks had entered Dojran town, the initial assault had failed; and only one in three of the attackers succeeded in regaining the cover of the ravines from which they had scrambled forward at dawn. On the other side of the lake a Cretan division was more successful but was prevented from exploiting initial gains by a curtain of flames which shot up from the long grass, dry in the summer heat and easily ignited by the misfortunes of battle.

From Alan Palmer’s ‘Defeat of Bulgaria – The Central Powers Begin to Crack’, published in History of the First World War No. 107 by Purnell for BPC Publishing Ltd, London, in cooperation with the Imperial War Museum in the 1970s.

Find out more

  • Falls, Capt. Cyril (1935), Military Operations Macedonia – From the Spring of 1917 to the end of the War; HMSO, London
  • Palmer, Alan (1965), The Gardeners of Salonika; Andre Deutsch, London
  • Wakefield, Alan and Simon Moody (2017), Under the Devil’s Eye – The British Military Experience in Macedonia 1915-1918; Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley (the ‘must-have’ book on the BSF and the campaign)

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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