What next?

Under the Devil’s Eye describes the thoughts of a British officer after the two failed attacks at Doiran:

So busy were we with considerations of the future and the present also, for a strong enemy counter-attack would have found our front very disorganised, that the remarkable news from the Serbs seemed to pass almost unnoticed.

The Bulgarian First Army had been astonished at the order to withdraw from its positions, now it was the turn of the BSF to be astonished. The British Official History describes how loud explosions at around 8am first gave an indication that something was happening, then reports from RAF reconnaissance flights reported large troop movements northwards – the Bulgarians were in full retreat. In the afternoon RAF D.H.9s from No. 47 Squadron returned to bomb the retreating columns:

The aircraft flew over the columns in relays, dropping bombs on them and then returning to their aerodromes for another load. In some cases they swooped down to within fifty feet of the ground, to rake troops and transport with machine-gun fire. The target was an extraordinary one. There is in existence a set of aeroplane photographs which show a solid stream of transport, for the most part double-banked, between Valandova and the Rabrovo cross-roads and also south and east of the latter point, with bombs bursting in its midst. At the cross-roads it can be seen that the columns are completely blocked by the bombing and are a congested mass, unable to make their northward towards Kosturino.

From Capt. Cyril Falls, (1935), Military Operations Macedonia – From the Spring of 1917 to the end of the War; HMSO, London.

There is a chilling photograph in the IWM collection (Q 80393) showing abandoned Bulgarian vehicles and equipment in the Kosturino Pass. You can view it here and I recommend that you spend time browsing the fantastic collection of photographs from the Macedonian campaign that are available online.

Postcard No. 60 - The Aeroplanes of the Great War (1914-1918) by Tony Theobald; published by The Bittern press, Southampton (1998).
No. 60 – The Aeroplanes of the Great War (1914-1918) by Tony Theobald; published by The Bittern press, Southampton (1998). D.H.9s of No. 47 Squadron RAF bombing the retreating Bulgarian army in the Kosturino Pass, September 1918. The D.H.9 was the development of the D.H.4 but, from the start, it was beset with many difficulties with its Siddeley Puma engine. By the time it entered service, it’s performance was not as good as the machine it was intended to replace. It was however ordered in large numbers and was used operationally in France, Palestine, Macedonia and Russia. By the end of the war, 3204 D.H.9s had been completed. The aircraft continued in service with the RAF in limited numbers after the war and was used by many countries in Europe, South America and the Far East.

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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