“a stunned silence”

In the small hours of September 20 all German and Bulgarian troops from the Crna to Dojran were ordered to prepare to fall back to new positions.

First Army, on the Grand Courroné, received the news in with what a Bulgarian survivor described as ‘a stunned silence’. The Bulgars could not understand why they were evacuating an almost impregnable defensive system from which they had, on four occasions in 18 months, repulsed determined attacks. But that night they began to abandon the Dojran complex.

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.

In his 1965 book, The Gardeners of Salonika, Alan Palmer gives more detail about this order to the Bulgarian First Army:

A Bulgarian writer describes how the First Army, in the clear moonlight, was preparing to meet renewed British attacks and even, perhaps, to go over to the offensive. Now, before dawn on September 20th, the operational order for retreat went out from [General] Nerezov’s headquarters at Dedeli: the First Army must fall back to cover the withdrawal of the Third Division on its right. In a stunned silence the divisional commanders returned to their advanced positions. It had been a bitter blow for them, but they felt there was one small crumb of consolation: they, at any rate, were not retreating under pressure from their adversaries.

A section of the Doiran battlefield showing Pip Ridge and Grand Couronné, October 1918.
A panorama of the Doiran battlefield showing Pip Ridge and Grand Couronné, October 1918. From the SCS Trench Map DVD. © Salonika Campaign Society.

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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