Remembering CQMS Michael Margiotta of 12 Corps Cyclist Battalion

One hundred years ago today, Serjeant Michael Margiotta died of dysentery and pneumonia in Salonika. He is buried in the CWGC Lembet Road Military Cemetery.

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‘… hoping Johnny Bulgar would very shortly cry quits!’

B Squadron, 1/1st Derbyshire Yeomanry was pursuing the retreating Bulgarians beyond Strumitza when it took possession of three cars containing Bulgarian officials, accompanied by the USA Consul General (the USA was not at war with Bulgaria), sent to negotiate an armistice. The cars were stopped, the officials blindfolded and their driver sent back with two of the cars. Trooper Maurice Hawley continues the story (quoted in Under the Devil’s Eye):

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‘The Brigade was on its own…’

Before continuing the story of the Brigade-Jouinot-Gambetta, I should mention that Serbian and British cavalry were also doing their bit, although the latter was in short supply (but that could be said about much of the BSF). Serbian cavalry entered Gradsko – a vital communications hub – on the 25th and the Derbyshire Yeomanry were following the retreating Bulgarians along the road to Strumica.

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17 September 1918

It was not until the early evening of 16 September that Serbian troops finally reached the summit of the Kozyak, having had attack after attack thrown back. Even then they came across a German battalion on the northern slopes, covering the withdrawal of the Bulgarian defenders, so keeping up momentum was difficult.

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Why Dobropolje?

That the Bulgarians and Germans were not expecting an assault on the Dobropolje is hardly surprising, given the nature of the terrain. Alan Palmer describes it thus, in ‘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):

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‘… the success of the entire offensive depends upon rapid penetration …”

In his book Balkan Breakthrough – The Battle of Dobro Pole 1918  (Indiana University Press, 2010), Richard Hall writes that several days before the start of the offensive, Serbian soldiers were told by their high command: Continue reading “‘… the success of the entire offensive depends upon rapid penetration …””