I hope you have already taken a look at the film about the campaign, commissioned by Away from the Western Front, to add to that here is a French film – by France 24 English – that I have come across on YouTube which gives an outline of the campaign, with much interesting footage, from the French and Serbian perspective (so don’t expect much on the BSF). It’s a pity British broadcasters couldn’t come up with something similar for the centenary!
Now to finish the story of the Brigade Jouinot-Gambetta. I’m rather late with this as the capture of Skopje (Uskub) was all over by 9am!
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.
There was little rest for the Brigade Jouinot-Gambetta and next morning (24th) it resumed its march into the hills towards the Babuna Pass.
I first read Alan Palmer’s The Gardeners of Salonika about 30 years ago, to try to understand what my late grandfather had been doing in Salonika. I have to confess that what really stood out for me in the book, was not the descriptions of the tedious patrolling carried out by the BSF’s XVI Corps in the Struma Valley (which included Fred on his bike), but the dramatic advance of the French colonial cavalry to capture Skopje.
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.
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):
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 …””
One hundred years ago today, French General Franchet d’Espèrey wrote in his diary: Continue reading “One hundred years ago today …”
As we enter September we come to the centenary of the last month of hostilities for the BSF. September 1918 saw the final allied offensive – which for the British was the Second Battle of Doiran – which brought about the Bulgarian armistice at the end of the month. Continue reading “Introducing Desperate Frankie”