“The cost was far too high”

A second attack was ordered for September 19. Alan Palmer describes it  in stark terms and adds a damning indictment of the British attacks.

This time the brunt of the fighting fell on the the 77th (Scottish) Brigade of the 26th Division … and they suffered from battle confusion as grim as in the days of the Crimea. Orders not to attack arrived too late; British troops were caught in their own barrage; a French Zouave regiment failed to understand its task; messengers perished in the murk of the conflict. During six hours of fighting no trenches were won and retained.

After two days the only gains were those secured around Dojran town on the first morning. British casualties were heavy – twice as great as those suffered by the Serbs and the French on the first two days of the battle for the Dobropolje – and the Bulgarian bastion on the Grand Courroné remained unassailed. Technically the Anglo-Greek attacks achieved their strategic purpose: not one Bulgarian unit was moved westward from the Dojran sector. Yet it may be legitimately asked if feints and harassment would not, in this respect, have accomplished as much as an all-out attack against such formidable positions. By the morning of September 20 several of the British infantry battalions could raise only a quarter of their nominal strength. The cost was far too high.

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.

Photograph - Lake Doiran and the high ground held by the Bulgars. © Harry Fecitt
Lake Doiran and the high ground held by the Bulgars. © Harry Fecitt

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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