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Presented to the 


by the 











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The Official^Correspondent with the Allied Forces 
in the Balkans 





i jrt C T .^ 



The sections of this book relating the diffi- 
culties under which the British Army in 
Macedonia has for two years past been gal- 
lantly doing its duty may in some parts read 
to those who know the facts rather like Hamlet 
without the Prince of Denmark. These are 
places where, in spite of a very real effort on 
the writer's part to avoid indiscretion, the 
Censorship has laid an obliterating hand. The 
same reason must account for the omission 
of the names of the units which took part in 
the determined attacks upon the Bulgar front 
at Doiran last spring. 

It is a trying campaign that we are waging 
in Macedonia, a monotonous campaign, and 
one that by comparison with the Western 
front sometimes seems to the men out there 
like a backwater where they are half forgotten 
by their friends at home. But they keep their 
hearts high and their fighting spirit unabated. 

To all ranks of the Salonica Army the author, 
as the humble recorder of their doings, offers 
with this book his tribute of respect. 



Chapter I. pace 

Has Salonica been worth while 'r . . . . l 

Chapter IL 
The First Fighting and the French Push 

into Serbia . . . . . . . . . . 13 

Chapter III. 
The Bulgar Attack on the Tenth Division 41 

Chapter IV. 
The " Bird-cage " . . . . . . . . 59 

Chapter V. 
Getting Ready ; and Incidents of the 

Spring . . . . . . . . . . 65 

Chapter VI. 
Ourselves and the Greeks : Relations at 

Salonica . . . . . . . . . . 73 

Chapter VII. 
Official Developments and the " Salonica 

Revolution " . . . . . . 93 

Chapter VIII. 
The Resurrection of the Serbian Army.. 115 



Chapter IX. page 

The Coming of the Russians and Italians . . 127 

Chapter X. 
The Bulgar Summer Offensive of 1916 and 

its check by the serbs at ostrovo . . 139 

Chapter XI. 
The Push for Monastir, with British Co- 
operation . . . . . . . . • • 149 

Chapter XII. 
Monastir Retaken . . . . . . . . 173 

Chapter XIII. 
The inevitable Winter Lull and the 

beginnings of our spring offensive.. 187 

Chapter XIV. 
The British Battle of Doiran . . . . 197 

Chapter XV. 
King Constantine's Attitude and the 

Occupation of Thessaly.. .. .. 207 

Chapter XVI. 
The Great Impediments: Transport and 

Fever. . . . . . . . • • • • 241 

Chapter XVII. 
People, Places and Things in Macedonia.. 255 

Chapter XVIII. 
What is happening in Albania . . . . 285 


How We Came. 

Allies landed Salonica, October, 1915. They came 
at the invitation of M. Venizelos, Greek Premier. 
Salonica, though neutral territory, was available as 
a base because Greece was united to Serbia by a 
treaty of alliance. Venizelos mobilised the Greek 
Army to co-operate, but King Constantine uncon- 
stitutionally drove him from power when the Allies 
had already begun to land. 


Our forces at Salonica were at first limited to a few 
English and a few French divisions. Later arrived 
the Serbian Army from Corfu, and Russian and Italian 
contingents. Later still, one or two Greek divisions 
raised by Venizelos. The Bulgars have always out- 
numbered us, have heavier artillery and hold the 
stronger positions. 

First Stage {October-December, 1915). 

Determined but unsuccessful attempt by French to 
join hands with the retreating Serbians. Subsequent 
retirement of French on Salonica, a British division 
which had been protecting their flank becoming 
involved in the retreat. 



Second Stage (January-March, 1916). 
Creation of the " entrenched camp " of Salonica. 

Third Stage [April-June, 1916). 

Gradual moving up of the Allied troops towards 
the Greek frontier. Establishment there of a line to 
serve either as an advanced position to resist an enemy 
attack or as a taking-off place for an Allied offensive. 
Much building of roads, bridges, railways, piers — the 
country lacking all such means of transport. 

Fourth Stage (July-August, 1916). 

Bulgarian advance on both flanks, reaching to Lake 
Ostrovo in the west and Cavalla in the east. 

Fifth Stage (September-November, 1916). 

Thrust back of the offensive of the Bulgars in the 
west, culminating in the recapture of Monastir. 
Holding attacks and local gains on the British sector. 

Sixth Stage (December, 1916-February, 1917). 

Winter of enforced inactivity — owing to mud — and 
preparation for spring offensive. 

Seventh Stage (March-May, 1917). 

Attacks in force by Allies along front from Lake 
Ochrida to Lake Doiran. Heavy fighting, but no 
substantial gain of ground. 

Eighth Stage (June, 1917). 

Occupation of Thessaly by Allies. Restoration of 
Venizelos to power and acquisition of co-operation of 
the Greek Army. 


Present Situation {Summer, 1917). 

Eighteen months of very great labour, much sick- 
ness and hard fighting, whenever occasion offered, 
have left the Balkan campaign in a temporary con- 
dition of deadlock. As things stand at present the 
enemy's front and our own have proved mutually 
impregnable. Future developments may alter this, 
notably the arrival of Greek reinforcements. 



" What is the Salonica Army doing ? " is a question 
which hundreds of thousands of Englishmen have 
asked at one time or another, and one which this 
book is an attempt, however inadequate, to answer. 
But the spirit of the question really goes beyond the 
letter, and the average man by this enquiry means, 
" Why has the Salonica Army not done more ? " 

The aims for which an Allied expedition to the 
Balkans was warmly advocated, especially in France, 
in the autumn of 1915, have fallen a great way short 
of the fulfilment then expected for them. The 
rescue of invaded Serbia and the erection of a barrier 
across Germany's direct road to Turkey were the 
ends to which the public looked at the time of the 
landing at Salonica, and the feeling of disappointment 
that no such striking and decisive goals have been 
achieved has bred a mood of dissatisfaction with the 
Allied Army in the Balkans which it by no means 
deserves, when its quite inadequate numbers and 
equipment for tasks of such magnitude are taken into 
consideration. First of all, the Allies arrived in the 
Balkans too late to do anything big there. Had 
they come a little earlier — in July, 1915, for instance 
— to reinforce the Serbian Army, which was then still 
in existence as a fighting force, it might possibly 
have been a different story. But in October, when 
our troops began to land, Serbia was already lost, 

B2 I 



outnumbered and overwhelmed by the Austrian s 
from the north and the Bulgars from the east. In 
consequence of this, the Balkan Army, after a bold 
but ineffective attempt to join up with the retreating 
Serbs, to save, at any rate, the southern part of the 
country from the invader, was thrown solely upon 
its own resources to achieve what it might. Nor did 
any of the help which had been half counted upon 
when the expedition was first decided come from 
the Greek Army. Instead, the Greeks, after Veni- 
zelos had been driven from office by King Constantine, 
constituted themselves, in our rear and all around us, 
a virtual enemy all the more dangerous for being 

Starting from this stone-cold beginning then, 
with the Bulgars and their German allies in full pos- 
session of Serbia and ourselves having no more than 
a precarious footing upon the somewhat dubiously 
neutral soil of Greece, let us consider some of the 
obstacles which the Allied Army of the Orient has 
since had to overcome. 

First and fundamental among these obstacles has 
been the necessity of creating, importing, and impro- 
vising, in a mother-naked land, the whole of the 
elaborate organisation which a modern army requires 
as a foundation to work upon. When you step out 
of Salonica you step into a virtual desert, roadless, 
treeless, uncultivated, populated only by scattered 
villages of the most primitive kind, inhabited by a 
low-grade peasantry. We found here none of the 
materials which modern armies need for their use, 
none of that machinery of civilisation which in France, 
for instance, lies ready-made to the hand. Two 
roads, in a condition quite inadequate to support 
heavy traffic, and three single lines of railway ran, 
at the most divergent angles possible, from Salonica 
towards the enemy's territory. Apart from these 


there was hardly even a track which in winter was 
possible for wheeled traffic. So that from the very 
beginning the Allied Forces have had to build up, 
slowly, laboriously, the whole of the system of loco- 
motion necessary for themselves and their supplies ; 
piers, roads, bridges, railways — all have had to be 
created where nothing of the kind previously existed. 
The Army, in fact, has only been able to move up 
country at all on condition of dragging with it a 
slowspun network of means of communication. 

Many handicaps have affected the Balkan Army. 
One that is plain to all, and has weighed heavily 
upon it, is a climate most unpropitious for soldiering, 
cold and wet in winter, hot and feverish in summer. 
In fact, the campaigning season in the Balkans may 
be said to be limited by weather conditions to a few 
weeks of the spring and autumn of each year. Winter, 
right up to the beginning of April, is a season of snow, 
rain, and, above all, mud. Tracks dissolve into 
quagmires, main roads break up into holes and ridges 
impassable for motor traffic, and transport becomes 
a matter of the very greatest difficulty, testing almost 
to breaking-point any organisation of the service of 

It has not, moreover, been entirely an element 
of strength to the Balkan campaign that our Army 
there is made up of contingents of all the Allies. 
With the best will in the world a mixed force will 
not work together so well as a homogeneous one. 
There are differences of language, differences of 
method, differences of character. Each of the Allied 
contingents has its own Staff, whose ideas have to 
be co-ordinated with those of the French General 
Staff, under General Sarrail, the Commander-in- 
Chief. Coalitions never did yet work without a 
certain amount of friction now and then. The 
Allied Governments themselves have to hold constant 


Councils to keep their views in harmony. Perhaps 
the creation of an Allied General Staff at Salonica 
would obviate the little misunderstandings that at 
present inevitably arise sometimes between the 
contingents of six nationalities that make up our 
force in the Balkans. 

Under the restrictions that I have detailed above, 
what has the Allied Army in the Balkans achieved 
since October, 1915 ? Certain facts may be claimed 
to stand clearly to its credit : 

1. If the Allies had not come to Salonica the Germans 
would have overrun and mastered the whole of the 
Balkan peninsula. 

This may be regarded as sure. The Greek king 
was already their man. His people have certainly 
always been against fighting anybody, for the Ger- 
mans or against them, but the Germans would have 
known how to change all that. 

2. Germany would have established a submarine 
base at Salonica if we had not occupied it, and even 
made of it a Mediterranean Kiel. 

This is also likely. On the other hand, the Allied 
Fleets in that case could have blockaded Salonica 
as they blockade the Austrian ports, and the Germans 
have so many submarine bases in the Mediterranean 
already that they do not urgently need any more. 

3. Our Forces in the Balkans have held up a rela- 
tively greater number of the enemy. 

The superiority in number of Germans, Austrians, 
Bulgarians and Turks against us has sometimes 
been as great as 40,000 to 50,000 men. The Balkan 
Army has more than pulled its weight. But if it 
had never been sent to the Balkans it would have 
been pulling just as much weight on some other 
front, and probably at much less cost, for the great 
argument against maintaining a merely holding- 


front at the other end of Europe is its terrible costli- 
ness, especially in sea transport. 

4. It has given the Serbs back Monastir and kept them 
together and in heart as a nation. 

This is indisputable. The Serbs must have lost 
their spirit long ago if it were not that they have 
been able to fight their way back on to a narrow 
fringe of Serbian soil. 

But in trying to form an opinion as to whether the 
Salonica Expedition was or was not a wise enterprise 
to undertake, it must not be forgotten how greatly 
and unexpectedly the general conditions of the war 
have changed since our landing there was made. In 
1915 there was apparently good reason for hoping 
that effective co-operation might be possible between 
a force based on Salonica and the Russians. We did 
not then know to what extent pro-German internal 
forces were at work in Russia, deliberately restricting 
her military action. If Russia had been knocking at 
the Bulgarian door on the other side our fortunes in 
the Balkans might have been far otherwise. The 
entry of Roumania into the war was the event to 
which the Allied Governments looked forward as the 
great opportunity for the Salonica force to begin an 
offensive against Bulgaria, henceforth threatened 
from two sides. But the misguided strategy which 
sent the greater part of the Roumanian Army on a 
badly organised invasion of Transylvania, in pursuit 
of an immediate territorial objective instead of using 
it to co-operate with the Allies at Salonica, defeated 
this hope, which in any case could hardly have been 
realised, in view of the treachery with which the 
Russian Government then in power deliberately 
abandoned Roumania to the enemy in pursuit of its 
policy of pro-Germanism and a separate peace. 

It must not be supposed that the Allied Army in 
the Balkans has accepted its present situation of 


stalemate through inertia. Not only has it fought 
vigorously in the offensives that it has undertaken, 
but it has cast about, though without practical 
result hitherto, for other plans of campaign to follow, 
other routes of penetration into the enemy's country. 

But apart from all speculation as to what might 
have been done by the Salonica Army under different 
conditions ; as to what point on the map might have 
been reached ; as to whether or not it was ever 
possible to drive a wedge into Germany's line of 
communications with Turkey, there are considerations 
of a larger nature to be borne in mind. England, 
especially, cannot afford to disinterest herself from 
the Balkans because the Balkans are one of the 
principal stepping-stones on the way to India. 
Whatever else might be the conditions on which the 
war were brought to an end, a peace which left 
Germany with undisputed rule or even undisputed 
influence over the Balkans would be a German 
victory, and the vast sacrifices which she and her 
allies have made would be held by Germany to be 
justified, if, as a result of them, she could consolidate 
this first great stage of her thrust towards India and 
that dominion in Middle Asia which has always been 
the traditional goal of world-conquerors and the 
possession of which is the historical symbol of world- 

It is therefore of the first importance to the British 
Empire that there should be in the Balkans a barrier- 
state across the path of this German Drang iiach 
Osten. Egypt and the Suez Canal have lost much of 
their importance as the gatehouse of the East now 
that the trans-Balkan railway runs straight through 
from Berlin to Bagdad. To quote a distinguished 
officer who has much studied the strategic problems 
of the Mediterranean : " The frontier of India should 
be at Belgrade ; we are actually defending it at 


Bagdad, and if the war leaves Germany with a 
strengthened position in the Near East, the day may 
come when we have to defend it at Bombay." 

All that seems, indeed, to presume a perpetuation 
of the state of semi-hostility that we all hope the war 
will somehow abolish as the normal peace-time 
condition of international affairs, but until there are 
more signs than are at present manifest that the 
German leopard is going to change his spots, and that 
German schemes for substituting Germania for 
Britannia throughout the world have ceased to be 
cherished, the defence of our Indian Empire will have 
to be taken into the consideration of our statesmen. 

Our interest in Serbia, then, is not merely the 
sentimental one of a big ally for a small ; it is based 
on something more tangible than sympathy for 
" gallant little Serbia." In the Serbians, with their 
strongly marked national character, their passion for 
independence, their traditional Slav hostility towards 
the Teuton, we find the natural buffer-state which 
should bar Germany's way towards India and the 
East and cut her off from that outlet to the Medi- 
terranean at Salonica which, if she gained it, would 
change the world's naval balance of power, and force 
us for the defence of Egypt constantly to maintain a 
large fleet in the Levant. 

Our going to Salonica has had, then, this advan- 
tageous consequence — it has been a practical guar- 
antee that the great and vital interests which the 
Allies, especially ourselves, possess in the Balkans 
should not be lost sight of ; that public attention 
should be kept alive and well informed upon a part of 
the world where our diplomatic blunders in the past 
have wrought us only too much harm, and that the 
Serbs, that virile little people whom destiny and the 
situation of their country have called to play so 
important a part in the modern history of Europe, 


should have received a practical gage of the Allies' 

For it must be remembered that had we not gone 
to Salonica the Serbian nation by now would have been 
little more than a memory. Practically the whole of 
their country has lain for two years under the hand 
of an enemy who has been working with all his talent 
for organisation to stamp out from the invaded land 
the consciousness of a separate race. Serbia has been 
deliberately divided up between the Austrians and 
the Bulgars. Hungarian and Bulgar merchants and 
bankers have established themselves in the towns. 
All the population capable of working has been 
drafted out of the country in captive gangs to unknown 

Under these conditions of defencelessness live the 
great majority of the wives and children of the 
Serbian Army now fighting by our side in the Balkans, 
cut off from all communication with or knowledge of 
their relatives. It is not to be supposed that this 
Army, the pathetic remnant of the manhood of 
Serbia, could ever have been reformed after its 
complete disorganisation in the retreat across Albania, 
could ever have found the spirit to fight again so 
gallantly and hopefully, as it is doing, anywhere else 
than on the threshold of its own country. The 
offers of peace which the enemy has held out to the 
Serbian Government, proposing to them immediate 
realisation of the ideal of Greater Serbia (the union 
of all Serbs, Croats and Slovenes into one country), 
under Austrian supremacy but with a large measure 
of autonomy, have been steadfastly refused, thanks 
to the confidence and hope with which the close 
co-operation of the Allies in the field has filled the 

But had we deliberately abandoned Serbia to the 
fate from which we were in fact powerless to save her, 


it is difficult to see how the Serbs would have kept 
up their courage and unyielding enthusiasm for the 
cause of the Allies during these two years of exile 
from their homes. 

So much for the history of the Allied Army in the 
Balkans up to now. What, on the other hand, are 
the possibilities that lie before it in the future ? 

This summer of 1917 has seen a most important 
political change in the situation in the Balkans which 
may have the effect of giving more scope to the 
Salonica Army : M. Venizelos has been restored to 
power and has declared the Greek Army to be on our 
side against the Bulgars. 

The extent to which the Greek Army will help 
us to make good in the Balkans, however, depends 
obviously upon the extent to which it is employed as 
an addition to our present strength and not as a 
substitute for troops which are now, or were until 
recently, there. 

When I say " make good in the Balkans " I mean 
do something which will seriously interfere with the 
full use of the Balkans which the Germans have at 
present as a channel of communication with the Near 
East and as the hyphen of " Middle-Europe." For 
all that the Allies have been able to do towards that 
end up to now, we might as well have never left the 
entrenched camp of Salonica. 

Once again, let no one blame the Salonica Force, 
nor the Allied Army in the Balkans of which it forms 
a part, nor yet the Higher Command. They have 
done all they could with the resources and the 
strength they had. They are up against difficulties 
that must be seen to be understood. It must be 
remembered that Salonica, more than any other part 
of the war, is a joint undertaking of the Allies, and 
amid all the difficulties which attend a coalition, the 
British General Staff has always taken a line that is 


coldly practical, uninfluenced by illusion, however 

Even supposing that you could get out to Salonica 
the men and the stores and the supplies for a largely 
increased army, there would remain the problem of 
land-transport in the actual area of operations. In 
the mountainous Balkans you are forced to use very 
much pack and horse-drawn transport, and it is the 
forage required for the animals that constitutes the 
problem of the supply question, not the food for the 
troops. Of course, a great deal of motor-transport, 
too, is needed. To supply our single army corps on 
the Struma last winter a very large number of motor- 
lorries was required, and there was only one road for 
all of them to run on. 

As a principle it has been demonstrated that if 
an army is going to attack it must have a railway 
behind it. Accordingly, if the Balkan Army is to 
penetrate into the territory now held by the enemy 
deeply enough to interfere with Germany's trans- 
Balkan system of communications, there is only one 
way for it to go — up the Vardar — for that way lies 
the only railway line. Transport up the Kresna 
defile, the shortest way to Sofia, would have to be by 

What, then, remains for the Balkan Army to do 
to help in winning the war ? 

It has one clear and important function left. It 
is firmly established on the threshold of the enemy's 
stronghold at the very point where that edifice is 
weakest. The Balkans are the hinge and pivot of 
Germany's schemes of conquest in this war. Northern 
France, Belgium, perhaps even Alsace-Lorraine, she 
would abandon with equanimity if only she can keep 
her hold on this avenue to the East. India, the symbol 
of world-empire, draws her like a magnet, and the 
road to it lies through Belgrade, Sofia and Con- 


stantinople. Her hand is at the present moment 
on the door of the unexplored treasure-house of Asia 
Minor, and she is desperately anxious to keep it there. 

Her success in doing so depends entirely on her 
power to maintain the control of the Balkans that 
she has been consolidating during the last two 
years. Bulgaria is acquired to German interests 
by the bribe of the Serbian territory in Macedonia 
that she covets, by the alluring prospect of holding 
the hegemony over the whole Balkans under German 
auspices, and by the personal influence of her crafty 
German king. Turkey is an invertebrate nation, 
with no such institution as public opinion, and the 
despotic clique that rules it is absolutely in the grip 
of Germany. Through them the Germans have 
drawn into their hands all the machinery of govern- 

This state of affairs in the Balkans will last for so 
long a time as Germany is unbeaten in the major 
theatres of war. But when it becomes evident, as 
sooner or later it must, that the German colossus is 
cracking, these vassal states will begin to see that 
their safety lies in getting out before the final collapse 
comes. The rats will look for a way out of the sink- 
ing ship. 

At that moment the existence of a powerful Allied 
Army on the spot in the Balkans will be of great 
value. It will apply the external pressure that will 
hasten the internal crumbling ; it will be ready to 
widen the fissure, to spring into the gap between 
Germany and her Near Eastern allies and apply 
leverage to enlarge it. 

We have got to beat the Germans in the West, 
but we must also be ready to seize instantly upon the 
first fruits of that victory in other fields, when they 
begin to appear in the form of wilting on the part of 
the Bulgars or Turks. For though we win in the 


West we shall nevertheless lose the war for practical 
purposes unless we also stamp the Germans out of 
the Balkans. The greater must precede the less. 
Victory in the Balkans will come as a consequence 
and corollary of victory in France, but only if we are 
ready to seize with both hands upon the first signs 
of enemy enfeeblement. By so doing, too, we may 
be able to set up a reciprocal process of dismember- 
ment that will react effectively upon the break-up 
of the German military power in the West, and so 
hasten the realisation of both the major and the minor 

It will be the function of the Allied Army in the 
Balkans always to hold itself ready for that vital 




September 30th, 1915, may be regarded as the day 
when the Salonica Expedition took its place among 
the war plans of the Allies. 

During the two previous months the military 
situation in the Near East had been forcing itself 
more and more urgently upon the attention of the 
French and English Governments. At the Darda- 
nelles the fierce fighting of the summer had only 
emphasised the deadlock in which the Allied Forces 
were involved. In the Balkans it became clearer 
as the autumn drew on that Austria was about to 
carry out an attack in overwhelming force upon the 
Serbians, who were already worn with much fighting 
ana - reduced in numbers by disease. Bulgaria's 
deceitful neutrality was wearing thin, in spite of the 
well meant but lamentably misinformed assurances 
of her friends in England that she would never forget 
the gratitude due to her traditional friends, the 
English, and would never ally herself against her 
kinsmen the Russians. For all the blurring inter- 
views given by M. Radoslavoff to the Temps, it was 
constantly growing more sure that the Bulgar's 
hatred of the Serb, and his resentment of the loss 
of the spoils of the first Balkan war which he had 
suffered by the Treaty of Bucharest, would finally 
bring him to league himself with the Central Empires, 



to which his crafty and influential monarch by 
family and financial interest belonged. 

When Bulgaria, on September 10th, 1915, at 
length ordered a general mobilisation, Serbia found 
herself threatened by imminent invasion from two 
sides of her kingdom. Meanwhile the Balkan Expedi- 
tion was shaping in Paris. M. Millerand, Minister of 
War, sent for General Sarrail, who on July 22nd had 
returned to the capital from his command at Verdun, 
and asked him to submit a report on possible expedi- 
tions which might be undertaken in the Near East. 
He was to adopt as basis for his investigation the 
supposition, first, that the troops available would be 
limited to General Bailloud's French Division from 
the Dardanelles, reinforced by a Brigade from France ; 
and, secondly, he was to report what might further be 
accomplished with larger effectives and what strength 
would be necessary to achieve more important ends. 

During that late summer of 1915, then, when un- 
easiness was gradually spreading, both in England 
and in France, as to our situation in the Near East, 
when the heavy losses, the inability to advance, and 
the appearance of enemy submarines to threaten our 
communications at the Dardanelles were making it 
clearer «very day that it was beyond our strength 
to force a way through to Constantinople, when Ger- 
many was clearly preparing for a powerful thrust 
southwards in the Balkans, to gain control of the 
railway line that would give her through communica- 
tion with Constantinople, and still more imperil 
our situation in the Gallipoli Peninsula, General 
Sarrail, on whom the responsibility for the chief 
command of the Allies in the Balkans has rested for 
the last two years, was sitting shut up in his room in 
Paris, like a student preparing for an examination, 
in front of a large table covered with Staff maps, 
studying the possibilities of new diversions that 



might be made in the Levant. There were several 
schemes that he had to investigate ; they were 
being much discussed unofficially at the time, and 
each of them had its partisans. 

Of these the plan of landing at Salonica found the 
most general favour because : 

1. There was a good harbour there. 

2. There were railways running up country. 

3. The town disposed of a certain amount of modern 

4. An expeditionary force based on Salonica 
could be used either to supplant or to supplement 
the operations at the Dardanelles. 

5. At this time (summer, 1915) the Greek Govern- 
ment under M. Venizelos was thoroughly pro-Ally, 
and, had the King not acted unconstitutionally later 
in driving him from office, there would have been a 
good chance of the Greek Army coming in with us. 

But before the report which General Sarrail sub- 
mitted could be studied by the French Government, 
the quick march of events in the Balkans imposed an 
immediate decision. On September 29th the Bulgars, 
without declaring war, attacked the Serbian frontier 
at Cadibogaz. For a week the Serbs had already 
been falling back from the Danube in the face of 
invading Austro-German forces half as strong again 
as themselves. If Serbia was to be saved from 
complete annihilation, Allied reinforcements must be 
sent to her at once. Strategical considerations made 
it urgent that anything possible should, in fact, be 
done to prevent a successful German invasion of 
Serbia. For this would make the dream of " Middle 
Europe " a temporary reality, would consolidate and 
immensely strengthen the situation of the Central 
Powers and their relations with their Allies, and would 
put Berlin in three-day railway communication with 
Constantinople, opening up to Germany the granary 


of Asia Minor, and enabling trainloads of shells to 
reach the Turkish capital without breaking bulk 
between an Essen factory-yard and the Sirkedji 
railway station by the Golden Horn. Public opinion 
too, both in France and England, eagerly desired that 
something should be done to help Serbia. The idea 
that a little nation which had fought so gallantly 
should now be abandoned to an overwhelming 
invasion without an effort being made to save her 
was repugnant to the chivalrous feelings of the 
French and English nations. The French Press, 
especially, was urgent with demands that 400,000 
men should be sent " at once " to the Balkans. The 
publicists who agitated for these energetic measures 
had not, however, paused to calculate the time 
necessary to concentrate such a number of troops, to 
organise their despatch, and above all to arrange 
sea-transport for them. The matter-of-fact truth is 
that at the end of September, 1915, when this Balkan 
campaign was undertaken, it was already too late to 
bring effective help to our Serbian Allies at the other 
end of Europe. The conditions were not equal. The 
invaders of Serbia had the whole of the resources 
of their highly organised industrial countries at a 
distance of only a few hours by train behind them, 
and they were already on the spot ; while it remained 
for us, first to organise, and then to despatch an 
expedition which would have to be conveyed and 
supplied over thousands of miles of railway and sea. 
But at the beginning of October the decision to 
launch the Balkan campaign had been reached ; the 
Allies had been in negotiation with M. Venizelos, the 
Greek Premier, about landing at Salonica ; the assent 
of the Greek Government had been obtained ; and 
although Venizelos himself, through the opposition 
of the King, was shortly afterwards driven from 
office, and the co-operation of the Greek Army which 


had once been hoped for was no longer in sight, the 
arrangement held good. The wheels that such 
resolutions set in motion are too complicated to be 
lightly stopped. 

Speediness in the arrival of our troops in the 
Balkans was of the first importance. General Bail- 
loud's French division from Cape Helles, and the 
10th Division under General Sir Bryan Mahon from 
Suvla, were accordingly hurried over from the Dar- 
danelles, and their first detachments landed at 
Salonica on October 5th. Other forces were to 
follow immediately from France. General Sarrail 
left on October 7th for Salonica, where he arrived on 
October 12th, but the haste with which this expe- 
dition for the rescue of Serbia had necessarily been 
organized was evident from the first. Twice during 
General Sarrail's voyage from Paris to Salonica his 
instructions as to the plan of campaign to be followed 
were changed. At the moment of his arrival the 
decision stood that the French Forces were to remain 
concentrated at Salonica, but forty-eight hours later, 
under the pressure of events, and in response to 
telegraphic reports and proposals received from 
General Sarrail himself, this scheme was altered, and 
permission was given to the French Commander to 
make an effort, desperate although the situation in 
Serbia by this time was, to push up the Vardar, and 
try to join hands with the Serbian Army where it 
stood at bay. 

The troops now at Salonica available for this 
operation were : — 

General Bailloud's Division (the 156th). 

The 113th Brigade from France. 

The 10th English Division from the Dardanelles. 

Two more French divisions (the 57th, formed of 
the 113th Brigade and another which arrived, and 
the 122nd, from France) landed shortly afterwards 



in time to follow up-country and play their part in 
the operations in Serbia. 

The 10th English Division had come with orders 
from the British Government to establish itself for the 
winter in Salonica and not to cross the Greek frontier 
unless this was violated, but on the decision being 
reached that the French should push up into Serbia, 
General Mahon received authorisation from London 
to advance the 10th Division as far as Lake Doiran, 
just across the Greek frontier. Here he relieved the 
French who were holding the right wing of the Allied 
front, and protected the line of communications of 
the main French Force which had been pushed on and 
become engaged with the enemy eighty miles up the 
Vardar from Salonica. A suggestion that the English 
troops should instead proceed to the support of the 
Serbs in the Babouna Pass, by way of Monastir, was 
held to be too hazardous and far-distant an operation 
to be practicable. In addition the idea was opposed 
by the Greeks, who were already obstructing us as 
much as possible. 

The principles upon which the French Government 
had decided upon the advance of its troops into 
Serbia were those of demonstrating to the Serbs, now 
in desperate straits, that the Allied Powers had not 
deserted them, and also of contributing some material 
help, however slight, to their outnumbered army. 
As regards the latter aim there were two ways in 
which this might be effected. The French troops 
might have been rushed up the railway to Nish 
directly each detachment of them arrived. This 
was the desire of the Serbian Government, and it was 
awaited by them with such confidence that the town 
of Nish in the second week of October was beflagged 
in expectation of the immediate arrival of the Allied 
reinforcements. Or, secondly, General Sarrail might 
have contented himself with occupying the Vardar 


valley so as to protect Serbia's sole line of communi- 
cations with the outside world. The considerations 
which governed the choice between these alternatives 
were, first, the time available to the Allies, and, 
second, the strength of the forces at their disposal. 
Of these, the first was so short, and the second so 
limited, that General Sarrail decided for the latter 
scheme — an advance up the Vardar valley to secure 
the railway line, and to threaten the flank of the 
invading Bulgars. 

The reasons against hurrying the French troops 
right up the railway to Nish, nearly 200 miles distant 
from Salonica, were several. First of all the result 
would simply have been that the French divisions 
would have been engaged battalion by battalion as 
they arrived at Nish. Their strength was not 
sufficient for them to have made any considerable 
difference to the general situation, and in consequence 
of such action General Sarrail, instead of having 
under his own hand the force with the command of 
which the French Government had entrusted him, 
would have been obliged to transfer the practical 
authority over his troops to Serbian General Head- 
quarters. The French Army would furthermore 
inevitably have become involved in the disastrous 
Serbian retreat across Albania which followed. 
Moreover by this time the very evident hostility of 
the Greek Government and the pro-German attitude 
of King Constantine made it necessary to take special 
heed of the safety of our lines of communication, and 
even of our base at Salonica. We were surrounded 
on all sides by the Greek Army on a war footing. 
Many of its officers openly showed preference for our 
enemies and we had always to bear in mind the 
possibility of a sudden and treacherous attack upon 
our rear. 

On October 14th, then, the French advance north- 


wards up the Vardar began, with the limited objects 
of securing the railway, with the denies and tunnels 
through which it passes, and of joining hands with 
the Serbs, if the development of their retreat should 
be such as to make that possible. On October 19th 
General Bailloud established his Headquarters at 
Strumnitza Station, and during the following week 
his Division began to drive the Bulgars back in the 
hilly region to the east of the line towards the Bul- 
garian frontier. The French occupied Tatarli, Kal- 
kali, and the ridge to the north of these villages, thus 
securing a position which our 10th Division later took 
over from them. On October 26th the first detach- 
ments of this English Division began, indeed, to 
arrive on the sector between Dedeli and Lake Doiran. 

During the first fortnight in November the French 
continued to be fairly actively engaged with the 
Bulgars in the right angle formed by the road running 
from Strumnitza Station to Strumnitza town — the 
two places being separated by a distance of twelve miles 
of mountain as the crow flies. In this sector, on 
November 11th, they took Hill 517, on which stands 
the village of Islaz, by a frontal infantry attack in 
three waves which carried two Bulgar positions in one 

So much for the right wing of our forces now 
established in as advanced a position as it was ever to 
reach. Meanwhile the left and more mobile wing of 
the Allied Army in the Balkans had pushed further 
north. Their advance up the railway line was made 
by successive stages, the first point north of Strum- 
nitza Station that was occupied being the ravine of 
Demir Kapu. This was a most important place to 
secure, for here the railway and river are penned up 
together in a narrow gorge ten miles long, which acts 
as the neck of a bottle, restricting the main route of 
ingress into Southern Macedonia from the north. 


The entrance to this ten-mile corridor is a narrow gap 
just wide enough for the brown, swirling river to pass 
between perpendicular walls of rock 200 feet high. 
The railway only gets through by tunnelling into the 
mountain alongside. 

The Demir Kapu defile was, in fact, seized only 
just in time, for the Bulgars were already advancing 
to the river from the east. So quickly did they come 
on, in hot pursuit of some Serbian frontier guards, 
that they ran quite unexpectedly into some French 
outposts thrown out on the left bank of the river. 
The enemy was unable to establish a fixed position, 
however, to threaten the defile, and could only shell 
it irregularly with small mountain guns. 

The next stage of SarraiPs up-river advance was 
to the town of Krivolak, which stands on the Vardar, 
twenty miles south-east of Veles, otherwise called 
Kuprulu. The first French Brigade arrived at 
Krivolak on October 20th. 

Up to this date it had been General Sarrail's inten- 
tion to go on to Veles, where the Serbian General 
Vasitch held out, though almost surrounded, until 
October 28th. The junction between the French 
and the Serbs at Veles, if it could have been brought 
about, as it might have been had the Allies landed 
in Salonica a fortnight earlier, would have changed 
the whole fate of the Serbian Army. Not only 
would it have secured to them a line of supply by 
rail from Salonica and the sea, but it would have kept 
open an avenue of retreat down which they might 
have fallen back without undue hardship on to our 
new Allied base, instead of being obliged, as they 
eventually were, to undertake that terrible and 
costly march across the pathless mountains of Albania 
through mid-winter snows. 

But the lateness of the arrival of the Allied troops 
in the Balkans had laid a blight upon this scheme 


which withered it utterly. Uskub had been taken on 
October 9th, after heavy fighting. Veles fell on the 
28th. The cutting of the railway at these points, 
which severed the Serbian Government at Nisli and 
the Serbian Armies in the valleys of the Southern and 
WestenuMorava, at Tetovo, and in the Babouna 
Pass, from all communication with the south, was the 
first great achievement of the Bulgarian invasion. It 
drove a wedge between the Serbians retiring south- 
westwards and the French advancing northwards 
up the Vardar to their succour. Was it still possible, 
in spite of the enemy forces thus thrust between them, 
for the junction between these two Allied Armies 
to be effected by fighting ? Two attempts were 
made to accomplish this. Each was a forlorn hope, 
and neither met with success. 

To begin with, it was clear that the French forces 
advancing up the Vardar were nothing like strong 
enough to re-take Veles so as to join the Serbians 
there. The possibilities of the limited number of 
troops which the French possessed were, in fact, 
exhausted* Two French divisions had reached 
Krivolak — the 57th and the 122nd. The third 
French Division, the 156th, was back down the 
Vardar at Strumnitza, engaged, together with the 
English, in ensuring the long line of communications 
of this small force. The idea of advancing from 
Krivolak upon the Bulgars at Veles was not to be 
thought of. It would have been to run upon sure 

But if the French could not retake Veles from the 
Bulgars, could the Serbs do it ? 

The Serbs tried to in the first week of November. 
This attempt is known as " The manoeuvre of Kat- 
chanik." It failed. To understand it without going 
into too complicated detail, it must be remembered 
that under the converging pressure of the Austrians 


and Bulgarians the Serbian Army had now fallen 
back into the region west of Uskub, which, together 
with Veles, as has been said, was in the hands of the 

This being the situation, it was clear that the only 
way for the Serbs to force their way through to join 
the Allies was to abandon Old Serbia and then, 
concentrating in the plain of Kossovo, to try to 
break through the enemy forces now posted from 
Katchanik along the Karadagh to Konculj, so as 
to reach Uskub and Veles behind them. To do this, 
as many troops as possible were withdrawn from the 
north, those in the valleys of the Southern and 
Western Morava being the first to be recalled. This 
retirement, though harassed by energetic pressure 
of the enemy from the north and from the direction 
of Leskovec to the east, was rapidly and safely carried 
out, and on November 4th the push for Uskub began. 

For this forlorn hope of an offensive the Serbs 
disposed of five infantry divisions, one cavalry 
division and two strong " detachments," but they 
were much outnumbered by the Bulgars facing them. 
The latter, threatened by this attack on their flank, 
delayed their advance towards Monastir down the 
Babouna pass, where for a month past five thousand 
Serbs, with practically no guns and little food, had 
been holding up four times their number of the 
enemy, and troops were even called back up the 
Babouna to meet the attack on Katchanik. 

From November 4th-8th, in the battle of Kat- 
chanik, the Serbs were attacking the enemy on 
Velika Planina and Mount Jegovatz, the crest of 
which they captured. But their troops were tired 
out, they were short of mountain guns, and the 
enemy was pressing from the north towards Prepo- 
latz and Prishtina. It became clear that there 
would not be time to force a way through to Uskub 


before the communication of the troops at Kat- 
chanik broke down. So on November 8th the 
attack was called off, and the wearied Serbian Army, 
with its artillery ammunition exhausted, was with- 
drawn to the left bank of the Sitnitza river, and 
there on November 12th the order was finally given 
for that ghastly retreat to begin across the bitter 
and inhospitable mountains of Albania, which for 
the time, at any rate, was the end of the Serbian Army. 

But though neither French nor Serbs were strong 
enough to break through and make a junction at 
Veles or Uskub there still remained another possi- 
bility. At the end of October, when the French reached 
Krivolak, there was still that small Serbian force in 
the narrow and steep defile of the Babouna pass 
along which the road from Veles runs to Monastir. 
The flank of this Serbian force was, indeed,threatened 
by a flying column of the Bulgars which was working 
round to turn its position by means of a pony track 
across the mountains to the north, and in the end 
did oblige it to retreat. 

But on October 20th, when the French reached 
Krivolak, there still appeared to the energetic mind 
of General Sarrail to be a chance worth attempting 
of striking westwards across country from the Vardar 
and attacking the left flank of the Bulgar force advan- 
cing from Veles on Monastir in the hope of getting 
into touch with this detachment of the Serbian Army 
which was resisting in the Babouna pass. It was a 
daring scheme, almost reckless perhaps from a 
strategic point of view, that this weak force of two 
divisions with its long and most precarious line of 
communications should engage itself with a much 
more numerous and victoriously advancing enemy, 
and General Sarrail was constantly being cautioned 
by the French Government not only of his danger of 
being cut off and surrounded by the Bulgars, but also 


of the vaguer and consequently even more disturbing 
possibility of being attacked from the rear by the 
Greeks, who controlled the first fifty miles of his 
railway communications and were by this time so 
frankly unfriendly that Sarrail was driven to the 
length of establishing a great supply depot at Guev- 
gheli, just across the Serbian frontier, for no other 
reason than that he could not be certain of the 
security of his base area further south. In fact, one 
needs only to glance at the map to realise the difficulty 
of the operation which the French now began to 
attempt. From their railhead at Krivolak, on the 
Vardar bank, to the Babouna pass, where the Serbs 
were standing on the defensive, is a distance of 
thirty miles across country, but that distance conveys 
small idea of the obstacles with which it was filled. 
After securing the railhead at Krivolak by establish- 
ing a strong outpost on the opposite bank of the 
Vardar, the French troops destined to attempt 
the junction with the Serbs had to turn their backs 
upon the railway and march by the single, primitive, 
up-and-down road that runs south-westwards, through 
Negotin and Kavadar, to where the long wooden 
bridge of Vozarci crossed the swift and deep Cerna 
river, a tributary stream which here flows north- 
eastwards to join the Vardar. The road of their 
advance continued for four miles further beyond the 
Cerna, up the valley of the Rajek, a mountain torrent 
that falls into it ; then they had to cross the Rajek 
by another wooden bridge and turn due northward 
along the left bank of the Cerna, where they climbed 
up into the outer fringe of the mountains that form 
the eastern wall of the Babouna pass. And here at 
length they found themselves in face of the entrenched 
positions of the left wing of the Bulgarian Army that 
was pushing its way down the road from Veles to 


A single-track railway a hundred miles long, 
threatened by open enemies on the greater part of 
its length and exposed to secret enemies on the rest, 
followed by eighteen or twenty miles of a bad road 
which included two wooden bridges across formidable 
rivers — such was their sole line of supply and their 
sole line of retreat. Under these conditions was the 
French advance westwards from the Vardar through 
Kavadar begun. 

The first thing for the French to do after their 
arrival on October 20th at Krivolak was to cross the 
river and secure the commanding height of Kara- 
Hodjali on the other side, from which, if the enemy 
had been allowed to establish artillery there, he 
could have shelled the whole of the " Kavadar 
triangle," the sort of peninsula between the con- 
verging Vardar and Cerna rivers across which lay 
the line of advance towards the Babouna. 

No sooner did General Leblois, commanding the 
57th Division, arrive at Krivolak on October 27th, 
than he gave orders for this position of Kara- 
Hod jali to be occupied as a northerly bastion to 
the new French area of operations on the right bank 
of the Vardar. There is no bridge across the river 
here, and the Vardar, always a swift stream, was 
carrying a strong head of flood-water, but there 
was time for no delay, since already Bulgar cavalry 
scouts had been seen dotting the crest of the black 
forbidding mountain. So a leaky Turkish fishing- 
punt was found, and a whole French regiment with 
a mountain-battery were taken across in it, a dozen 
at a time, the crazy ferry-boat never ceasing its 
journeys for a day and a night. Meanwhile a com- 
pany of Irish pioneers was brought up from Salonica 
to build a floating bridge. 

But the Bulgar General realised, though late, the 
importance of Kara-Hodjali as a menace to the new 


French position south of jKrivolak, and on October 
30th he attacked it in force, supported by 5-inch 
guns. The attack was beaten off with heavy loss, 
though the Bulgarian infantry got close enough to 
the French trenches for the defenders to use their 
hand-grenades. On November 2nd and 3rd renewed 
attempts to outflank Kara-Hodjali were repulsed and 
after that |the Bulgars contented themselves with 
digging in to face the French. Railhead in its 
exposed position at Krivolak was never safe from 
a few shells at long range, but it was protected from 
actual attack so long as the French continued to hold 
Kara-Hodjali, or " Kara-Rosalie," as the French 
soldiers called it, giving it the nickname of their 
blood-reddened bayonets from the hand-to-hand 
fighting that took place there. 

It was a mountain even less attractive than the 
average stony, barren, treeless Macedonian height, for 
its ravines were filled with skulls and bones from the 
last Balkan wars — whitened relics of which the story, 
though but three years old, was already lost except in 
the archives of some General Staff — a grim reminder 
of the ephemeral motives for which war demands 
the surrender of men's lives. 

But before the French abandoned Kara-Hodjali a 
month later they had added considerably to its 
collection of human remains by the Bulgarian corpses 
they scattered on its slopes, for the Bulgars moved 
always in column and attacked in mass -formation, 
as a result of which they lost heavily. But the 
French also had meanwhile the opportunity of 
realising the devastating effects of their own 75-mm. 
guns, since the batteries which the Bulgars used 
against them were some which they had bought from 
Creusot before the war. The enemy's shells, however, 
varied much in quality, Turkish ammunition and even 
practice shells ^eing sometimes used. [The |Bulgars 


had no aeroplanes at this time though a few German 
machines showed themselves over the French and 
British by Strumnitza. The Bulgar gunners, on the 
other hand, always stopped firing when an Allied 
airman appeared. 

Railhead being thus secured, the main body of the 
French turned westwards to attack the left flank and 
rear of the Bulgars operating against the Babouna 
pass. By this time the 57th Division had established 
its headquarters at Negotin, and the 122nd at 

A dreary place was this " Kavadar triangle " — 
almost treeless ; the once fertile fields deserted ; the 
rare villages in ruins, burnt by the comitadji bands 
which used to ravage the Balkans in the interests of 
conflicting national propaganda. The wretched popu- 
lation was the usual mixture of Bulgarian, Serb and 
Mussulman, but with each section accustomed to 
change their racial and religious labels under the 
application of terrorism. Order was kept among 
them with a strong hand by an ex-comitadji named 
Babounski, who made short work of doubtful 
characters, hanging them or " sending them down to 
Salonika," as he euphemistically termed it, which 
meant a summary execution on the banks of the 
Vardar, after which the body was thrown into the 
stream. Mud, filth, half-wild dogs were the most 
conspicuous features of the countryside. No supplies 
of any kind could be drawn from a region whose 
resources even in the way of fuel were limited to 
cakes of bullock dung, dried by being stuck on to the 
decaying walls. 

On November 5th news was received that the 
Serbs had been driven back halfway down the Ba- 
bouna pass to Mukos. Time pressed ; that same 
day the first French troops were ordered to cross 
the Cerna, and make a strong reconnaissance of 4 the 


slopes of Mount Archangel, the strongest point of 
the Bulgars' left flank, and held by the 3rd Macedonian 
Regiment reinforced by the 49th and 53rd and 
probably by one other. 

For the next fortnight there was constant and 
desperate fighting along a front of ten miles on the 
slopes on this left bank of the Cerna. The dull 
rumble of the Bulgarian guns shelling the Serbs in 
the Mukos defile, only ten miles away in a direct line, 
came rolling through the mountains to the ears of 
the French as they tramped across the long wooden 
trestle bridge over the Cerna at Vozarci. The whole 
question was — could the French fight their way 
through, in time to join these Serbs before the latter, 
vastly outnumbered, were driven back into the 
Prilep plain behind them towards Monastir ? The 
hope that this might be done proved vain, through 
sheer lack of numbers on the part of both the Allies. 
But not for want of fierce fighting during the fort- 
night from November 5th-19th. One French regi- 
ment, indeed, was continuously in action for nine 
days. On November 10th the village of Cicevo, on 
the slopes of Mount Archangel, was carried with a 
rush by an encircling attack delivered by a French 
infantry regiment. Battalion by battalion, as French 
troops arrived up the railway line, they were hurried 
across the Kavadar triangle to the other bank of 
the Cerna and thrown into the fighting. 

On the 13th and 14th the conflict reached 
its greatest violence. Even these French divi- 
sions coming straight from the Western front had 
never heard such violent rifle and artillery fire 
as during those two sternly contested days. As for 
the Bulgars, prisoners who had fought in the last 
two Balkan wars said that they had never realised 
before how terrible a battle could be. But by this 
time the offensive had passed to the enemy. The 


French had exhausted their strength, they had failed 
to cany Mount Archangel, and on the evening of the 
13th the Chasseurs a pied evacuated Cicevo, which 
they had won. 

The French, though unable to break through the 
Bulgars to join the Serbs, nevertheless proved 
formidable in defence. At one point the Bulgars 
following them down the slopes of Mount Archangel 
got to within twenty yards of trenches held by the 
Chasseurs. Then with a fierce yell and cries of " The 
knife ! " they rose to their feet to charge. But the 
Chasseurs had made steps of earth ready to get 
quickly over their parapet, and in a second they, too, 
were out of their trench and rushing forward to meet 
the enemy with the bayonet. The suddenness of 
this counter-movement took the Bulgars by surprise; 
they hesitated an instant, then broke and ran. " If 
we had only had one fresh brigade then," sighed an 
officer who was there, " we might have been at Veles 
that night." 

The Bulgars made persistent attempts to work 
round the left flank of the French and cut them off 
from the Vozarci bridge. If they had succeeded 
in this they would have caught in a trap all the 
French troops who had crossed the Cerna, rolling 
them up against the unfordable river in their rear. 
Failing in these attempts, however, their attack lost 
much of its vigour, and they seemed content with 
having checked the French push towards joining the 
Serbs. The French losses were not very great, 
though the proportion of officer casualties was high, 
but the Bulgars left 3,500 dead on the ground after 
the fighting on Mount Archangel alone. 

The French were hopelessly outnumbered, the 
Bulgars having a superiority of five to two. By the 
end of the second week of November two and a half 
Bulgarian divisions were facing the two weak French 

20 Miles 30 

_i i_ 



divisions on the Cerna front, and a Bulgar division 
counts no less than 25,000 men. It was believed, 
in fact, that the whole of the Bulgarian First Army, 
about 125,000 men, were spread along the Veles- 
Prilep road, and available to be used against the 
25,000 French on the Cerna, and the 5,000 Serbs 
who were gradually being pushed down the Babouna 

So the attempt to join the Serbs had failed ; it 
had broken against the Bulgar positions on Mount 
Archangel. All that was now left to do was to 
retreat upon Salonica, leaving the Serbs to their 
fate. For the French to stay where they were, 
at the end of so difficult a line of communications, 
threatened by the Bulgars, and seeming very likely 
also to be attacked by the Greeks, was clearly im- 
possible. Indeed, it looked by no means sure in 
the third week of November that the French would 
be able to extricate themselves from their contact 
with the enemy by the one difficult route open to 
them without considerable loss. 

It was impossible to withdraw troops, ammunition, 
and material in a single movement.- If that had 
been attempted, the enemy would have followed up 
and forced the French to stand and fight on ground 
not of their own choosing. The retirement was 
accordingly carried out by stages. An appearance 
of activity was kept up at the front, while a series 
of strong entrenched positions was prepared at 
intervals down the Vardar. Each of these " bridge- 
heads," as they are technically called, was held 
and defended by a section of the French force, while 
the rest were being withdrawn to the shelter of the 
next one. It was a retreat by echelon. These 
defensive positions, thus held in turn to guard the 
rear of the retreating army, were : 

(1) Defile of Demir Kapu. 


(2) The heights of Gradec. 

(3) Boimia river — Mirovca. 

(4) Near Guevgheli. 

(5) Smol (north-west of Ardzan lake). 

The force which General Sarrail had to bring out 
of Serbia in this difficult manner was two divisions 
strong. It must be remembered how awkwardly 
the French troops on the Cerna were situated with 
regard to getting back to their railhead at Krivolak. 
This has already been explained. And when that 
was accomplished even worse lay ahead. From 
Krivolak down to Salonica there was no road possible 
for wheeled traffic at all. The only means of com- 
munication was the single line of railway, and a 
few extremely bad, very steep and rough tracks 
which could be used by men on foot and by pack- 
animals only. To add to these difficulties, it was 
now bitterly cold, with twenty degrees of frost, and 
the snow lying thick. 

The first thing to be done was to evacuate the 
large depot of supplies and munitions which had 
been built up at Krivolak. There had been accu- 
mulated here, in view of the possibility of joining 
up with the Serbs, eight days' supply of food for the 
two divisions and 1,000 rounds per gun. To facili- 
tate the feeding of the Army, Gradsko, the next 
station north of Krivolak, had also by this time 
been occupied, but on the approach of the Bulgars 
was evacuated, because its retention was not con- 
sidered worth the casualties that its defence would 
have entailed. Owing to the absence of roads, all 
the carts, motor-lorries, and other material, wheeled 
and stationary, used in the Kavadar triangle had 
to be brought down from Krivolak by train. When 
this had been done, and the prepared defensive 
position at Demir Kapu had been occupied by troops 
drawn from the 156th Division at Strumnitza, the 


retirement of the troops fighting the Bulgars beyond 
the Cerna could begin. By November 29th they 
were all back on the right bank of that river, blowing 
up the bridge at Vozarci behind them. 

All that day the artillery continued a violent 
bombardment of the Bulgar positions in the hills 
beyond the Cerna, and during the night following 
the whole French force fell back on Krivolak and 
entrained, leaving only small rearguards which fol- 
lowed as soon as the Krivolak railhead was cleared. 
This first stage of the retreat was carried out with a 
loss of only about twenty men. The Bulgars were slow, 
as they usually are, in grasping the new situation, 
and the whole of the two divisions got safely back 
behind the fortified position of Demir Kapu. But 
when the Bulgars did come on, they followed up 
the retirement with stubborn persistency. I had 
a good account of their advance about six weeks 
later from a Bulgarian corporal, born of Armenian 
parents at Rustchuk, who deserted later. He had 
been engaged in a fight for the possession of the 
Rajec bridge beyond the Cerna, which I had wit- 
nessed from the French side on November 19th. 
The bridge across the Cerna at Vozarci having been 
blown up, he told me, the Bulgars first tried to throw 
a temporary pontoon bridge across, but the swift 
current carried it away, so the Bulgarians actually 
crossed the Cerna by wading, though the rapid 
stream ran breast-high, and it was snowing heavily 
at the time. They even forded it by night, each 
man holding his rifle above his head with one hand, 
and gripping the shoulder of his neighbour with the 
other. Out of the regiment to which this deserter 
belonged twenty men were swept away and drowned 
that night in the fast-flowing, icy-cold water. The 
strength of the force that followed up the French, 
he, as a simple non-commissioned officer, did not 



know, but he believed that there were three Bul- 
garian divisions available which had been opposing 
the French beyond the Cerna. They found the 
Kavadar triangle an empty waste of snow and 
slush, for the French had made good their retreat 
to Demir Kapu. The Bulgars, to whom the rigours 
of a Balkan winter caused less suffering than 
to their opponents, tramped relentlessly after 
them. From the Cerna to Demir Kapu they were 
thirty-six hours on the march without sleep and 
without rations. After their soaking in the bitter 
Cerna their officers no doubt feared frostbite among 
the troops were they to halt for long. The men 
begged bread in the wretched, half-depopulated 
villages through which they passed. And if it was 
not given immediately they took it, together with 
anything else portable that seemed worth looting. 

The Bulgarian guns could not, owing to the state 
of the primitive road, keep up with this rate of 
march, and the French artillery posted on the Demir 
Kapu position accordingly caused the enemy con- 
siderable loss when they reached it. A violent 
infantry attack was nevertheless made on the Demir 
Kapu trenches, but the French beat it off, and gave 
time for their main body to get back, though in 
great apprehension of being outflanked by a Bul- 
garian movement through the mountains, into the 
next " watertight compartment " at Gradec, and 
so to Strumnitza station. The Bulgars, following on, 
next attacked the Gradec position, the defence of 
which cost the French 100 men. The two French 
divisions which had been up country were now in 
the area occupied by the 156th Division, part of 
which withdrew across the Bojimia river, where it 
took up a defensive position, in relation with another 
fortified " bridgehead " at Mirovca, on the right 
bank of the Vardar. 


But as the French thus steadily fell back, the con- 
ditions of their retreat, desperately hard as they 
were already rendered by the deep snow, the bitter 
cold, the fog, and the unspeakable mud and slush, 
became more difficult in proportion as the numbers 
of the retiring force were augmented through its 
being withdrawn upon itself. For the available 
routes remained limited to the railway and to 
adjacent tracks, such as would be considered im- 
possible in Europe. Motor-cars sank to the axles, and 
could only make progress at all with the aid of 
constant tows from double teams of bullocks, for- 
tunately plentiful in the country. Limbers and 
wagons were bogged in every dip of the ground, 
and the mules harnessed to them would often grow 
fractious and refuse to continue the weary struggle. 
So bad were the conditions that the 57th Division 
took a whole day to cover four miles. The men, 
sinking ankle-deep in mud at every step, were dead- 
tired, staggering under the weight of their packs, 
wet to the skin, starved with cold and hunger ; they 
had been marching and righting for days in the 
snow over rough, steep paths high up the rocky side 
of the Vardar gorge where a slip meant death, often 
sleeping such sleep as they could get shelterless in 
the open. They were covered with lice. For a 
fortnight they had not had their boots off or washed 
even their faces. Like all armies of spirit, they were 
disheartened by the fact that they were retreating, 
although it was a retirement that carried with it no 
disgrace. Nor were the inhabitants of some of the 
villages, they passed through friendly in their recep- 
tion. Long experience of wars — regular and irregular 
— has filled the population of the Balkans with 
terror and dread of armies on the march. Moreover, 
the Turkish and Bulgarian sections of the population 
of Macedonia were naturally hostile to their coun- 


tries' retreating enemies. In more than one village 
straggling French soldiers were found murdered 
with their eyes and tongue torn out by the frenzied 
women of the place. 

And now Strumnitza station, one of the most 
important depots on the line, with its accumulated 
heaps of supplies and ammunition, its strings of lim- 
bers, its parks of carts and waggons of every kind 
requisitioned in the country, had to be evacuated 
during the night, while all troops were pushed on 
south of the new entrenched position astride the 
Vardar from Mirovca to the Bojimia valley. In 
front of this position the Vardar leaves its mountain 
ravine and enters upon a flatter tract of country, so that 
the ground became more favourable for the pursuing 
enemy's attacks. Violent fighting took place here, 
as the Bulgars attempted to turn the flanks of this 
line of defence, while the French were improvising 
yet another position near Guevgheli, to protect the 
evacuation of the large depot of stores and Serbian 
supplies which had been collected there, because 
of the apparent likelihood of the interference by the 
Greeks with the railway to Salonica further south. 

There was a large military hospital, too, at Guev- 
gheli, full of wounded, and with the limited rolling- 
stock which was all that the Greeks could be per- 
suaded to provide it seemed very doubtful whether 
all these men and material could be got away in time. 
Guevgheli railway bridge, one of the principal 
engineering works on the line from Salonica to Nish, 
was mined ready to be blown up just as the ruined 
one alongside it had been blown up in the Balkan 
War three years before. Unceasingly the plodding 
files of men passed over, hustling along with them 
many of the little country donkeys which they had 
picked up on the retreat to carry cooking pots and 
part of their heavy packs. The donkeys sometimes 


jibbed^at the sight of the rushing stream below. 
When this happened there was no time either to 
persuade or to drive them. The way must not be 
blocked for a moment. Over into the river, 20 feet 
down, with a splash and a squeal, donkey, kit and all 
had to go and be swept away by the remorseless 
Vardar. There were strings of rickety carts half 
a mile long ; here a convoy of ambulance waggons ; 
there a train of artillery limbers. Staff cars bumped 
violently over the harder sections of the road or 
ploughed with boiling radiators through the swampy 
parts, throwing out fountains of mud on both sides. 
Flocks of sheep and goats straggled along, being 
saved from the Bulgar. There were the incessant 
blocks that always occur when the multitudinous 
traffic of an army is thus congested. Sometimes, 
in the crossing of a swollen stream, horses and cart 
would sink hopelessly into a patch of bottomless 
mud; the load would have to be hurriedly trans- 
ferred to another already over-burdened waggon 
and the struggling team abandoned to gradual 
suffocation unless a kindly driver shot them before 
going on. Everyone was wet, weary, thoroughly 
fed up. Yet the French soldier, thanks perhaps to 
his safety-valve of picturesque and blood-curdling 
oaths, kept up his spirits, as he usually does on every 
occasion, however miserable, and seized on the 
smallest excuse for a laugh, though it were only at 
his own misfortunes. 

The difficulties of the retreat were not at all 
lessened by the fact that the working of the two rail- 
ways which brought the Allies down from the Greek 
frontier was in the hands of Greek officials, thanks 
to which a train ran off the line at a critical moment 
and considerably hampered our use of the railway. 
No one was hurt, which was a suspicious circum- 
stance, and the event furthermore occurred at the 


same spot as a similar incident in the Balkan 
War, so that there was some justification for 
strong suspicion of deliberate obstruction by the 

On the last night at Guevgheli the scene was one 
characteristic of the terrors of war. The town had 
already been set on fire, and the big barracks were 
blazing. The red light flashed back fitfully from the 
eddying Vardar. It was raining. The tail-end of 
the bedraggled procession of the retreating army 
was still defiling across the river and on into the mire 
and the black night beyond. Behind it the rifles 
and machine-guns of the rearguard rattled without 
pause. The Bulgarian deserter with whom I later 
had several conversations was in the forefront of 
the pursuit and described it to me graphically. 
" The French guns," he said, " did great damage to 
the Bulgars at Guevgheli ; for our own artillery 
was following on behind, much delayed by the snow. 
My regiment was advancing in column, not knowing 
that the French were so near, when their batteries 
suddenly opened fire. We should all have been killed 
if we had not been partly hidden from the French 
gunners by the mulberry trees at the side of the road, 
which screened us. At Guevgheli we were in so bad 
a way that even our officers were ready to order a 
retirement, and when we saw that the French were 
retreating still further across the Greek frontier we 
were so astonished that at first we thought it was a 
ruse. The rifle and machine-gun fire of the French 
was very deadly for us, too," he said. " We could 
see the French mitrailleuses in the open and our 
officers were discussing the chances of rushing them, 
but they lacked the confidence when it came to the 
point. The fight lasted five hours, and only finished 
after dark. When at last we advanced beyond 
Guevgheli a general order was given that we were 



to halt at the Greek frontier. At this we were 
overjoyed and said, ' The war is over.' 

" Five or six days passed so, and then we began to 
talk about Salonica. The rumour was that we were 
waiting for German reinforcements who were to go on 
and take Salonica and then hand it over to the 
Bulgarians. But when a whole fortnight had passed 
and we were still in billets at Gurincet, near Guev- 
gheli, often bombed by French aeroplanes, and on 
very short rations — half a pound of bread a day 
and very little meat — we began to grumble and say, 
' Where are the Germans ? ' Food got shorter and 
shorter. The soldiers stole each other's bread and 
so fighting began. Bread was as precious as diamonds. 
Those that were wise ate their ration directly they 
got it, or they would be attacked and have it taken 
from them. At last my regiment was ordered to 
furnish the frontier guard, and I, as a corporal, went 
out on rounds and so got a chance of slipping away." 

When the last train had cleared Guevgheli of its 
wounded and stores, the order was given to the 
French to retire across the Greek frontier, and under 
the final protection of a mixed brigade at Smol the 
exhausted troops back from the Cerna completed 
their arduous but successful issue from so many and 
great dangers, and were withdrawn by railway and by 
all available tracks to what is now the line of the 
defences of Salonica. Meanwhile, the 156th Division 
on the left bank of the Vardar had been heavily 
engaged under much the same conditions as those 
described in the account which follows in the next 
chapter of the retreat of the 10th Division and had 
fallen back by a parallel route. 



I have related in the last chapter how, a few days 
after the landing at Salonica, it had been agreed be- 
tween the French and British commanders that the 
British contingent of the Balkan Expeditionary Force 
should act in support of the French. Accordingly, 
the 30th Brigade of the 10th Division, in the last 
week of October, moved up from Salonica to Guev- 
gheli, on the Vardar at the Greco-Serbian frontier, 
and marched through Bogdanci by the Chenali river 
to Dedeli. After concentrating there this brigade 
took up a position facing north between the villages 
of Tatarli and Robrovo, with the French holding 
the range of hills just in front of them, while they were 
encamped at its foot in second line. The two other 
brigades of the 10th Division shortly afterwards 
followed the 30th and encamped on the Doiran- 
Dedeli road. 

On November 20th-21st, however, the 10th 
Division took over the line in front of them which 
the French had hitherto held, and thus British 
troops came for the first time face to face with the 
Bulgars. The position which these Irishmen were 
now holding formed the right of the Allied Balkan 
front, of which the left wing, composed entirely of 
French, was thrown much in advance, having for a 
month past been pushed far upj^the Vardar, and 



become heavily engaged with the Bulgars on the 

The sector for which we thus became responsible 
lay in the heart of a steep, confused, rocky mass of 
mountains between Kostorina and Lake Doiran. 
From Kostorina, where we linked up with the French, 
to just west of Memisli, our line was held by the 30th 
Brigade, which consisted of the 6th and 7th Dublins 
and the 6th and 7th Munster Fusiliers. Memisli 
village, including an important advanced position 
800 yards north of it, known as Rocky Peak (Piton 
Rocheux), which was later to be the fulcrum of the 
Bulgar attack against us here, was held by the 31st 
Brigade, who had the 5th and 6th Inniskillings 
and the 5th and 6th Irish Fusiliers. Their line ran 
as far as Prstan. The 29th Brigade on the extreme 
right (10th Hampshires, 5th Connaught Rangers, 
Irish Rifles, Leinsters) had detached two battalions 
to reinforce the 30th Brigade. The rest of it was 
echeloned in the rear of the two forward brigades on 
the ridge above Humzali and Jumaabasi. 

Comparatively peaceful conditions prevailed on the 
front of this new British position until the end of 
November. The Bulgars seemed to be content to 
mask us with a skeleton force. To reach our lines 
from Salonica you took the train and arrived at 
Doiran four hours later. Nineteen miles of good 
motoring-road led on from the station to Dedeli, 
where Divisional Headquarters were. You passed 
through Doiran town, skirting the edge of the broad, 
shining lake, and then gradually climbed up the wide 
valley north-westwards — how often since one has sat 
on the hills east of Doiran and watched the enemy's 
transport coming down that same road ! 

Dedeli itself is a characteristic Turkish village of 
unpaved lanes and alleys filled with loose boulders. 
Its low, two-storied houses, each in a little compound 


of its own, are the kind of dwelling you find all over 
Macedonia. The lower rooms are dank, earth-floored 
stables or storehouses, where the winter's supply of 
Indian corn is kept. A ramshackle outside wooden 
staircase leads up to a broad verandah on the upper 
floor. You need to walk gingerly, for half the planks 
are loose. Off this open the two or three rooms that 
make up the dwelling. These, when they have been 
cleaned with the vigour which the British soldier puts 
into such operations, when years' old accumulation 
of filth has been scraped off the floor and burnt, and 
when walls and ceiling have been whitewashed, 
become quite tolerably habitable. The half-dome 
fireplace, indeed, reminds one rather of modern villa 
architecture at home. The furniture, if any, is of the 
roughest, but the roofs of these cottages are generally 
sound and the soldier asks no more. It is always 
astonishing to observe the resourcefulness and zeal 
with which army batmen will manufacture tables, 
chairs, washstands, bookcases, for their officers. 
They " scrounge " the material somehow under the 
most improbable circumstances, and are amply 
rewarded for hours of labour in what might have been 
their own spare time by a casual remark of their 
"boss." "Oh, by the way, Jenkins, the Colonel 
liked that armchair you knocked together for me, 
when he was in here to-day. He wants to know if 
you can't make one like it for him." And yet all 
their labour is of no more than temporary service. 
When the battalion moves on these products of 
ingenious carpentry must be left behind. With 
four officers' kits to go in one half-limber there is no 
room for chairs. But where would you find such 
energy in peace time ? If a castor came off a sofa 
would your butler, at 30s. a week all found, put it 
on again for you ? If he noticed you had nowhere 
to keep your smoking things, would he sit up at 


night in his pantry carving you a pipe-rack ? Yet 
your batmen, at half-a-sovereign a month, will 
improvise you a bed or a bath-tub as cheerfully as he 
brings your morning tea. War is a great energiser. 
As soon as British troops on campaign arrive in a 
new place they start improving it. I suppose the 
dry torrent-beds of Macedonia have been used as 
roads by its inhabitants for thousands of years, yet' 
until the British came in 1915, not a man of all the 
dozen races that have lived there thought of moving 
a single boulder out of the way to give pack-horses 
easier passage. If it is the right season our men plant 
gardens. If it is winter-time they lay out neat little 
paths all up and down the mountain-sides with a 
regular edging of white stones. They make the 
wilderness look almost ridiculously tidy, like a wild 
man of the woods with his hair brushed back and 

The 10th Divisional Headquarters at Dedeli over- 
looked the half-mile broad valley of the Bojimia 
river, whose bed, however, was a dry waste of sand 
and rocks. Cotton, hemp, mulberry trees, withered 
vestiges of the inevitable Indian corn, witnessed to 
the fertility of the district whose inhabitants had been 
driven away by the approach of hostilities — a kind 
of migration to which, as Macedonians, they were 
thoroughly accustomed. On the ridge on the far side 
of the Bojimia valley our entrenched positions lay, 
and a short walk eastwards along the river-bed took 
you to Tatarli, where the General Commanding the 
31st Brigade had his headquarters. The Bulgarians 
were understood to hold a line of trenches, block- 
houses and sangars along the ridge parallel to ours. 
It was estimated that there were about 10,000 of 
them spread out between the Greek frontier and 
Strumnitza, and believed to belong to the 2nd 
Philipopolis Division. Deserters would come in 


voluntarily in little bodies. They complained of 
shortage of food in the enemy lines. One sheep had 
to be divided between 250 men. They were generally 
men between 25 and 35 and seemed to be townspeople. 
One drew a good contour map to explain how he had 
come ; another mended the watches of the Divisional 
Headquarters Staff. They were eager to show that 
they had not fired their rifles. One deserter had 
taken off his tunic to make him less likely to be shot 


A rough ride of four miles took you from Dedeli to 
the headquarters of the 30th Brigade at Cadjali. 
The French on November 3rd had driven the Bulgars 
up the broad dry Cadjali ravine along which one 
passed, and through the village above. It had been 
a stiff action and the Bulgars lost out of one battalion 
alone 350 men. The French then had occupied the 
crest above Cadjali and the Bulgars the next one 
across a valley about 1,400 yards broad, where their 
main position was on Hill 850. While the French 
were laboriously building up their new line and had 
still only prised elementary trenches a few feet deep 
out of the rocky ground, with no wire in front of them 
at all, the Bulgars attacked on the night of November 
16th with an energy which was a foreshadowing of 
that which they displayed a month later against 
ourselves. Creeping down the gullies on their side 
of the valley wearing their opinskis, a native sandal of 
untanned leather, and climbing noiselessly the rough 
variegated slopes which led up to the French positions, 
they made a determined effort to rush them, and 
failing in the first onslaught, flung themselves down, 
a bare forty yards from their adversaries, where from 
behind the meagre protection of " scrapes " of earth 
hurriedly thrown up they poured in a point-blank 
rifle fire, to the violence of which the piles of empty 
cartridge-cases lying by each individual position was 


evidence that still remained when we got there. But 
the attack failed and the Bulgars left 300 dead behind 

The line which the 30th Brigade set themselves to 
dig, on taking over this position, lay along the ridge 
just below the crest. The ground was of unrelenting 
rock, so hard to work that the French had chiefly 
relied on sangars or stone redoubts, but these being 
liable to splinter under shell-fire, the 30th Brigade did 
not occupy them, leaving them empty to draw the 
enemy's artillery. On this brigade front as on that 
of its neighbour there was no action at all during 
November, the only losses being caused by an 
unlucky Bulgar shell which fell in a group of Dublin 
Fusiliers, killing nine and wounding a dozen. 

But while these Irish Brigades were still imperfectly 
installed on the barren, inhospitable Dedeli ridge, 
they were savagely smitten by that cruel three-day 
blizzard which caused bitter suffering to our troops 
not only in the Balkans but at the Dardanelles. It 
began on November 27th with torrents of rain which 
soon turned to snow. Then it froze so quickly that 
the drenched skirts of greatcoats would stand out 
stiff like a ballet-dancer's dress. Even down at 
Strumnitza station in the valley 7 '6° below zero 
Fahrenheit was registered, and up on that exposed 
knife-edge ridge where our trenches were the biting 
wind made the cold more piercing still. The men had 
no shelter but waterproof sheets pegged across the 
top of the open trench and the weight of accumulated 
snow soon broke those in. They had had no time to 
make dugouts in the rocky mountain side, and if 
they had had time they had no materials. 

In that terrible weather our patrols and those of 
the Bulgars which used both to visit the unoccupied 
village of Ormanli would be driven to shelter and 
light fires in houses so close together that each could 

{Ojjiciul Pdotoerabh. 



hear the other talking, and each by tacit agreement 
left the other undisturbed. It was too cold to fight. 
There were 750 cases of frostbite in one brigade 
alone during those three fierce days, when it seemed 
as if the Balkan winter were showing the worst of 
which it was capable. Men frozen stiff were carried 
in scores from the trenches to the first-aid posts to 
be rubbed back to life again. Warm under-clothing 
reached the division in the very middle of the snow- 
storm, but the cold was too bitter for the men to 
undress to put it on, and it was added anyhow to the 
sacks and blankets and other additional garments 
that each did his best to accumulate, a pair of drawers 
being used as a muffler or tied round the middle. 

It must be remembered, too, that the men of the 
10th Division were already in poor physical con- 
dition when this severe ordeal came upon them. 
They looked worse indeed than they had at Suvla. 
The faces of most of them were yellow and wizened 
and their bodies thin. The trying climate of the 
Gallipoli Peninsula had sapped their strength. 

On December 1st the 6th Munsters and 6th Dublin 
Fusiliers of the 30th Brigade had suffered so much 
by cold that they were relieved in the front line by 
the 5th Connaught Rangers and the 10th Hampshires 
of the 29th Brigade. 

It was on December 4th that the Bulgars' artillery 
fire began to be better directed and concentrated ; 
and the fact became evident that they had received 
reinforcements. On December 5th they started an 
attack on the French upon our left to the west of the 
Doiran-Strumnitza road. Meanwhile their activity 
against us increased and small parties of Bulgars 
began to creep up the little nullahs towards our front 
line and open rifle fire. The weather since December 
2nd had become extremely foggy. 

To meet the increased Bulgar artillery activity, 


two batteries of field guns had been man-handled 
with great difficulty to a position 1,000 yards south 
of Memisli. These were the guns that had later 
to be abandoned in the retreat. It was only by the 
hardest labour that wheeled guns were ever got up 
to such a position at all, but we had no mountain 
artillery, and unless this step had been taken we 
should have been without reply to the enemy's 
shelling. There was a working party of 100 men 
told off to get the guns away had there been time, 
but to move some of them it was necessary to go out 
in front of the position and even then it was calcu- 
lated that two days' careful work would have been 
required to withdraw them. 

At length, on the afternoon of December 6th, the 
Bulgar attack on the 10th Division began. Eight 
hundred yards north of Memisli was the advanced 
post known as Rocky Peak. The effect of our 
occupying this had been to deny to the enemy 
artillery access to the right flank of the 30th Brigade. 
The hill had originally been held by a battalion of 
Irish Fusiliers. But there was no cover there ; it 
was nothing but a treeless, shelterless, boulder- 
strewn height, and the battalion had suffered so 
severely during the blizzard in that isolated position 
that it was withdrawn and only one company and one 
machine-gun were left to hold it. In their first 
attack on Rocky Peak, in the afternoon of December 
6th, the Bulgars captured a small trench, but later 
were driven out and off the hill again. 

During the same night, however, they crept along 
the ravines that surrounded the isolated peak and 
carried it by storm at 5.30 on the morning of Decem- 
ber 7th. About thirty of our troops holding it were 
captured ; the rest got away. This loss gave the 
enemy a serious footing in our line, for the Bulgars 
brought up mountain artillery and machine-guns 


on to Rocky Peak and began to enfilade the front 
of the 30th Brigade, which was also bombarded from 
the other side by field-gun batteries at Cepelli. The 
30th Brigade had a line which made a salient, and 
was thus considerably exposed, and it became clear 
that they were to be the object of the main Bulgar 
attack. During the night of December 6th-7th 
two attacks were also made on the trenches of the 
Connaughts on Kostorino ridge by largely superior 
forces of Germans and Bulgars, but these were driven 
off, and all night long the artillery bombardment, 
strangely muffled by the fog, continued with enough 
severity to hinder supplies from reaching the trenches. 
Only gradually was it realised that the hitherto 
passive Bulgars were about to make an attack in 
force upon our right. General Mahon, who was at 
30th Brigade Headquarters on the morning of the 
7th, had asked General Sarrail to expedite as much 
as possible the retreat — which was now in full progress 
under most difficult conditions— of the French con- 
tingent down the Vardar. An air reconnaissance had 
reported no signs of Bulgar reinforcements arriving 
on our front, but this was due no doubt to the pre- 
vailing fog. The converging artillery fire upon the 
30th Brigade front was now becoming very severe 
and causing heavy losses to the 10th Hampshires 
and 5th Connaughts. The Connaughts were holding 
a salient which was in fact too big for them, and the 
Bulgars began massing for an attack in some dead 
ground 600 yards in advance of their trenches, where 
our artillery could not reach them. At 2.40 p.m. 
this attack was launched in mass on 600 yards of 
front, at a place where the ground gave cover close 
up to our line. The Bulgars had about four battalions 
to our two, but the Connaughts had already lost so 
heavily that having come up into the line 960 strong, 
they could only muster 350 after this day's fighting. 



The 10th Hampshires retired to the prepared second 
position a mile behind, losing about 200 killed and 
wounded. The Connaughts, who had been badly- 
cut up by the heavy artillery fire, fell back too. The 
commander of the 31st Brigade, having the im- 
pression that his right flank was being surrounded, 
retired also about the same time. This new position 
to which the 30th Brigade withdrew lay between 
Cadjali and Tatarli on Crete Simonet with an advanced 
position on Crete Rivet. The Bulgars pushed on 
after us, but were held back from continuing the 
pursuit by the fire of our field artillery which pre- 
vented them from crossing the Kostorino ridge. 
Their advance to that point was witnessed at close 
range by a young subaltern of the 7th Munsters 
who had been on the left flank of the Connaughts, and 
was left behind with his platoon in a wood. He was 
never found by the enemy and got safely away with 
his men at night. The Bulgars came on, he said, 
with their rifles slung on their backs, shouting and 
singing. He saw many Germans among them. 
They entered Kajali, 30th Brigade's old headquarters, 
and a British Army doctor who had arrived in the 
middle of all these events and wanted to report at 
Brigade Headquarters, straying innocently into 
the village that night, stumbled to his astonishment 
upon Bulgars rejoicing round their bivouac fires. He 
was fired at, but got away in the fog. 

December 8th was a day of heavy artillery and 
machine-gun fire upon our new position. During the 
night we had been reinforced by three French com- 
panies and a mountain battery. The fog grew con- 
stantly denser, and in this broken country of steep, 
twisting ravines and pathless hillsides it was 
difficult to know whether the enemy might not be 
pushing on upon the flanks to surround us. 

At 5 p.m. on December 8th the 30th Brigade 


were ordered to withdraw to a new line across the 
Dedeli pass, while the 31st was to take up a posi- 
tion in alignment with them along the Karabail 
ridge behind which runs the road back to Doiran, 
and where two battalions of the 29th Brigade 
were already established. The 30th Brigade started 
retiring at 5.30 p.m., and as the last battalion 
left the position the Bulgars rushed up the hill 
with cheers, firing flares as they came. The gallant 
rearguard of two companies which had held on to 
Crete Rivet, the advanced position 800 yards in 
front throughout the whole day, under very heavy 
shelling gave them a final burst of rapid fire as they 
came It was thanks to these two companies that 
the main position of Crete Simonet was only attacked 
as we left it. The costly retirement from the 
original line, where the advanced position on Rocky 
Peak was lost, contrasts in this respect with the 
safety with which Crete Simonet was evacuated. 
In these two companies which held off the Bulgars, 
however all the officers were killed or wounded, 
and one came away only 29, the other 59 strong. 
Meanwhile the Fiench on our left, being now exposed 
to the danger of outflanking, retired southwards on 
December *8th to Cestovo, their line facing north- 
west, and later to Kizil-Doganli. 

On December 9th the 31st Brigade on Karabail 
was replaced by a brigade of another division winch 
began to arrive, the 31st going into reserve. I he 
general commanding this division came up at the 
same time and took charge of the operations. The 
dense fog made it difficult for the new brigade to 
orient itself, and for the 30th to get in touch with 
them so that a proper liaison was not made before 
the 10th. On that day the French were heavily 
attacked on their new line at Cestovo, while their 
left again was being rapidly driven back down the 


Vardar on Guevgheli. By the afternoon of the 
next day the Bulgars were pressing so hard upon 
the French that they had fallen back to a front 
stretching from Furka through Bogdanci to Guev- 
gheli, and it was the 10th Division's turn for its 
flank to be left in the air. The Bulgars furthermore 
were now also trying to get round our right flank, 
and so down to Lake Doiran to cut our only road 
of retreat, where it reaches the north-west end of 
the lake. Fortunately the pathlessness of the moun- 
tains prevented that attempt from succeeding. 

But Dedeli had to be evacuated hastily on the 
night of the 11th or it would be too late. Accordingly 
a general order was given for the 10th Division to 
retire across the Greek frontier. It was not, of 
course, sure whether the Bulgar pursuit would stop 
at this political obstacle, and there was further a 
strong report that the Greeks were coming in against 
us, and that the communications of the division with 
Salonica were anything but safe. The 31st Brigade, 
already concentrated, marched back first, then the 
30th Brigade was withdrawn south of Doiran and 
bivouacked near the lake. 

A good deal of confusion inevitably attended 
these rapid movements of retreat. Thus at 1 a.m. 
on the morning of the 12th, when the 30th Brigade 
received orders at Dedeli to retire on Doiran, one bat- 
talion had all its company cooks (about fifteen men) 
sleeping together in a house. Dedeli, like all Mace- 
donian villages, is a straggling place, and when the 
order was being circulated the cooks' house was 
overlooked. So, huddled round their comfortable 
fire, they slept on undisturbed till daylight, when, on 
going to the door, they were horrified to find the 
street full of Bulgars. The cooks seized their rifles, 
and the Bulgars at this sign of what looked like 
hostile action took cover and opened a charac- 


teristically ill-aimed fire, of which the .cooks took 
advantage to make a bolt for it as hard as they 
could go down the road to Doiran under cover of 
the fog, and all rejoined their battalion safely. 

The Bulgars advancing down the Stiuinrntza 
road stopped just short of the Greek .frontier tone 
on the outskirts of Doiran town, the 30th Bugade 
Headquarters only leaving Doiran about ten minutes 

before their arrival. cdnnioa bv 

The 30th Brigade now came down to Satauca , by 
train, and a remark that indicates -theco itoons 
prevalent at the time was made by the Greek station 

*- „+- -n^irnn is the first tramload ot Britisn 
master at Doiran as toems^ 44 ^ 

soldiers went out. I am pro Airy, u * » 

the man at Kilindir is pro-German, and probably 

won't allow your train to pass. 

The other brigades came down by road and the 
worn-out 10th Division then went into camp at 
Kapudjilar, just outside Salonica ™^ *?"£?£ 
up to hold the line along ^e late and a^ss to 
Stavros, which was made part of the entrenched 

To^ended the British share in the retreat from 

"tur* first encounter with the Bulgars a, JgjgJ^f 
not been one to fill us with oini»^*^ 
but at the same time there were many sound reasons 
for considering that the 10th Division had made 
the best of very unfavourable conditions To begin 
™L \t had been very heavily outnumbered. The 
^ sti ^tttefTt the'time, 5 the «*£*£ 
the Bulgars brought to bear upon ^^^^^ 
which would have meant about 100,000 men ims 
feno doubt exaggerated, but where the mam attack 
wafmide uponfhe 30th Brigade they were probably 
4 to 1, and elsewhere they were 2 to 1. IMy ™* 
the advantage of possessing much mountain artil 


lery, which in this rough and broken country was 
far more effective than our field guns. 

jThe explanation of the arrival of these increased 
Bulgarian numbers upon a front which had been 
supposed to be held by almost a skeleton force is 
that after the enemy's capture of Monastir the 
troops that had been held in reserve for that opera- 
tion, and were now no longer needed, were brought 
down from Uskub along the Strumnitza road on to 
our front. 

[Except for the guns which had to be abandoned 
at Memisli, little material was left behind in the 
retreat of the 10th Division ; a certain amount of 
ammunition was lost, especially at Crete-Simonet, 
and perhaps one day's rations in all were aban- 
doned. All the transport was got away. The fog 
played a very important part in these operations. 
It stopped all aerial scouting, and greatly interfered 
with artillery observation. It kept on constantly 
gathering and lilting alternately in a way that made 
this confusing country, where every feature is the 
twin image of a hundred others, unusually baffling 
for an outnumbered force unaccustomed to the 
ground. The fog favoured us in so far as but for it 
the enemy might have pushed on faster and shelled 
us heavily from commanding positions as we fell 
back. On the other hand, it helped him in his 
infantry attacks, for several times our men held 
their fire when Bulgars loomed up through the mist, 
hesitating to shoot lest they might be detachments 
of our own troops. 

And now the principal objective which the Allied 
public, at any rate, and even the majority of the 
righting soldiers concerned, had ascribed to our 
expedition to the Balkans — that of the rescue of 
Serbia from her invaders — had come unmistakably 
to naught. Monastir, the last town in New Serbia, 


and one of the coveted prizes to gain which Bulgaria 
joined in the war, had fallen into the hands of the 
enemy. The whole of the national territory was 
overrun, and the Serbian Army was no more than a 
disorganised multitude of starving men streaming 
across the savage mountains of Albania towards the 
Adriatic, and falling by thousands in the snow to 
die on the way. With the disappearance of what 
was popularly regarded as the primary object of the 
expedition, had vanished, too, the hopes, unpractical 
though they had always been, of a rapid advance on 
Sofia, or at any rate to some point on the trans- 
Balkan railway where a barrier could be erected 
to cut off the through communication by train 
between Germany and Turkey, which was now com- 
plete, and which would aggravate considerably our 
already unsatisfactory position at the Dardanelles. 
The point we have now reached, therefore, marks 
an important stage in the story of the Salonica 
campaign. It is the beginning of a long spell of 
military inactivity, but of great labour of pre- 
paration for renewed action against our enemies — 
German, Austrian, Bulgar and Turk— who were 
unfortunately able during the same period to estab- 
lish themselves in most formidable defensive positions 
to guard what they had won. 

The Bulgar pursuit of the retreating Allies was 
not carried across the Greek frontier. It stopped 
on a line from Guevgheli to Doiran. It was half 
expected at the time that the enemy might keep 
on with his advance and try to drive the Allies into 
the sea. But there were several good reasons against 
it. For one thing, our Army was falling back on to 
reinforcements which had arrived and had had time 
during the recent operations to receive their full 
equipment of guns and material. Another explana- 
tion depends upon the theory that the Bulgars may 


have had a secret convention with the Greeks about 
entering their territory at that time. 

But physical conditions alone were enough to 
hold up the Bulgars at the southern frontier of 
Serbia. They were as exhausted as the French ; 
they, too, had suffered from the bitter weather 
conditions, and they had had heavy losses in their 
successive attacks upon the series of entrenched 
positions which had protected the French retreat. 
Moreover, the lack of available routes of march was 
an obstacle even more formidable for the Bulgars 
than it had been for the French, for the latter had 
naturally blown up the tunnels and bridges as they 
came down the railway, so that the enemy could only 
use the tracks from village to village, which were in 
an appalling condition and quite incapable of carrying 
the supply columns and artillery of an army. To press 
forward yet another fifty miles with exhausted 
infantry and only mountain artillery upon an adver- 
sary close up against his sea base, with the heavy 
guns of warships behind to support him, would have 
been a rash undertaking. The Bulgars had won 
the parts of Macedonia they coveted, and they 
could afford for the present to pause. 

And now the question naturally arose : what is 
to become of the Allied Expeditionary Force ? For 
the present there was no more Serbia and no more 
Serbian Army except a disorganised mass of men 
struggling across Albania into exile. It became 
necessary to consider the Near Eastern situation as 
a whole. The Salonica Expedition had an essential 
relation with the campaigns at Gallipoli (which was 
now on the eve of being evacuated) and in Egypt. 
General Monro and Lord Kitchener had already 
successively visited both the Dardanelles and Salonica 
to examine the situation on the spot and to consider 
the bearings of the new Balkan enterprise on the 



projected evacuation of the former zone of opera- 
tions. One scheme that had been mooted at that 
time was the withdrawal of our forces from the 
Balkans to make yet another landing at the Darda- 
nelles in a final attempt to get through. As a result 
of Lord Kitchener's visit, however, it had been 
decided that it was the Dardanelles that should be 

It was still necessary to take into consideration 
Egypt, under whose command the British contingent 
at Salonica, as part of the Mediterranean Expedi- 
tionary Force, was. Egypt at that time was exposed 
to the possibility of attack from both sides, and it 
might be debated whether at any rate the British 
troops in the Balkans could not be more profitably 
used there. But strong arguments could be advanced 
against that scheme. For one thing, if Salonica 
were to continue to be held in such a way that the 
port should be secure from long-range bombardment, 
in case of an enemy advance, the line of the defences 
would have to be so long that it could not be main- 
tained unless the full number of Allied troops then 
in the Balkans remained there. Evacuation might, 
too, have entailed the destruction of a large quantity 
of stores, to keep them from falling into the hands of 
the enemy, as happened at the Dardanelles. These, 
and doubtless many other considerations, had all 
to be taken into account by the Allied Governments. 
And the issue of their deliberations was that the 
joint expedition to the Balkans should remain. 
General Sarrail accordingly proceeded to create for 
himself a firmly established and protected base for 
future operations by the construction of the " en- 
trenched camp of Salonica." 



The entrenched camp of Salonica is the most con- 
spicuous of the many great engineering works which 
the Allied Armies have carried out in Macedonia. It 
has made what was, on the landward side, an open 
town into one of the principal fortresses of the 
world, and so thoroughly has the work been done that 
such will Salonica permanently remain on condition 
that the trenches are kept from decaying under the 
weather and that the government responsible for 
Salonica disposes of enough men and guns to garrison 
the long line. 

For the first four months of 1916 the building) 
the entrenched camp engrossed the energies of the 
Anglo-French army at Salonica, assisted by a good 
deal of native labour. The ground behind the town 
lent itself to the construction of a strong defensive 
position. Eight miles to the north of the city there 
is a high ridge running east and west which forms 
a natural rampart dominating the broad plain be- 
yond. The work of fortifying this ridge and extend- 
ing the position on each flank to the sea was carried 
on under completely peaceful conditions, the enemy 
remaining inactive thirty miles away, where he had 
halted after our retreat from Serbia, and where 
he, too, began to dig himself in. 

The trenches of the Salonica defences were sited 
and re-sited with the most painstaking care. General 



Sarrail laid great stress upon a thorough and elaborate 
system of wiring. Roads and light Decauville rail- 
ways were laid to carry men and ammunition rapidly 
to different parts of the front. Great was the labour 
expended. Some of the works that I have visited 
there are remarkable examples of strength and con- 
venience, combined with complete concealment. 

The whole of the perimeter is not, of course, covered 
by a continuous trench-line. There are sectors 
which Nature has already made sufficiently impassable, 
such as the marshes along the lower banks of the 
Vardar, south of the bridge on the Monastir road. 
About 25 miles of the eastern end of the defences, 
too, which is the British sector, are covered by the 
broad lakes of Langaza and Beshik. 

Though it is by no means likely that these elaborate 
defences will ever be attacked, provided that the 
existing conditions in the Balkans continue, with the 
Allies holding a series of strong lines much further 
up-country and having the initiative of the fighting 
in their hands, it is impossible, of course, to describe 
in any detail the defences of Salonica, despite the 
fact that the enemy, with his all-pervading Balkan 
spy-system, probably knows as much about them as 
anybody. But there are a few interesting facts 
about them that are common knowledge, and indeed 
within the reach of anyone who has a good map, 
such as the Austrian one, which we use. 

During the first four months of 1916, however, 
a German push southward seemed quite possible. 
Enemy agencies announced with a reiteration that 
became more and more unconvincing that the Allies 
at Salonica would be overwhelmed and that Germany 
would extend her sphere of influence to the limits 
of the Balkan Peninsula. " You will be driven into 
the sea," prophesied, with sinister satisfaction, 
General Dousmanis, chief of the General Staff at 


Athens, " and you will not have time even to cry 

for mercy." , 

In presence of the possibility that Salomca might 
have to resist a siege, the defences of the town were 
devised on three main principles : 

1. To keep the town and harbour as safe as possible 
from long-range enemy bombardment. 

2. To make the defended front of such extent that 
the enemy would need to dispose of large forces to 

attack it. 

3. To have both wings of the line of defence strongly 
supported, so as to ensure that the enemy should not 
be able to take the town by an encircling attack from 
the mouth of the Vardar on one side and Karaburnu 
on the other — imitating Napoleon's successful tactics 
at the siege of Toulon (where he captured the town 
by first taking the fort of Malbosquet that com- 
manded the harbour, and by posting French guns 
there which cut the garrison off from the support of 
the Fleet). 

A front that is of so varied a nature as that of the 
entrenched camp is clearly not all of the same im- 
portance from the defender's point of view. A glance 
at the map will show one, for instance, that the only 
way for an enemy attack to reach the most easterly 
sector, at Stavros, is by following the road from the 
mouth of the Struma along the shore of the Gulf of 
Orfano ; that is the one route along which heavy 
artillery and wheeled transport could pass. And 
this road would be absolutely covered by the big 
guns of the British monitors in the Gulf of Orfano, 
so that the enemy, if he came that way, would have 
to run the gauntlet of 12-inch shrapnel. 

The whole of this sector, however, was at first under 
the disadvantage of having very bad communica- 
tions with Salonica. Stavros was supplied by sea 
round the Chalcidice peninsula, but a lot of work 


in the way of building piers had to be done there 
before this was satisfactory, and in case a Bulgarian 
attack had taken place German submarines would 
no doubt have done their best to interrupt this 
sea-transport. Since the defences of Salonica were 
completed, however, some excellent roads have been 
made connecting the town with this eastern sector, 
and now lie there as monuments of British energy in 
valleys that are once more deserted. Macedonia, 
in fact, is the only one of the world's theatres of war 
where military operations have done more good than 
harm. We have tamed the wilderness and civilised 
the waste, reclaimed the barren and opened up the 
inaccessible. Along steep gorges where two years 
ago a laden donkey could hardly find a path there 
now winds the white ribbon of a first-class road with 
carefully calculated gradients, stone bridges and 
culverts, sign-posts, parapets and drainage-gutters, 
and big English motor-cars travel at speed where 
even the plodding peasant used to make his way with 

But in the early days, before these means of 
communication existed, and when an attack was 
possible at any moment, the principle that had to 
be kept in view for this right-hand sector of the line 
was that too many troops should not be immobilised 
there as a permanent garrison, for they might be 
needed to reinforce some other part of the long 
perimeter. So the system then adopted was to have 
at the Stavros end of the defences a series of fortified 
posts, capable of stopping a weak enemy attack and 
of keeping alert watch and ward. Behind these 
outposts was a stronger line upon which reserves 
from Salonica could be concentrated to offer stouter 
resistance in case the enemy attack should develop into 
a serious one. 

The next sector westwards of the Salonica lines was 


a very important one because into it runs the Seres 
road, which comes down from the Struma valley 
and was the most convenient route for the enemy 
to use for his siege artillery and transport. The road 
entered the entrenched camp at the village of Aivatli, 
only eight miles from Salonica, a point that was 
strongly fortified by a Scottish brigade. Fortunately, 
as regards a hostile attack — though later on the 
disadvantage of it was felt keenly by ourselves — 
the Seres road has no railway running alongside it, 
and for the last ten miles of its approach to our lines 
it crosses a perfectly flat plain which our positions on 
the hills completely dominate. One used to ride 
about on those heights and imagine the wonderful 
spectacle that would be seen from there if the enemy 
ever did come down to the attack. The broad flat 
plain stretched away from below your feet till it 
faded into the winter mists, out of which rose the 
first of the four parallel hill-ranges that cross the 
road to Seres and make the journey to or from the 
Struma a weary switchback of steep ridges and deep 
valleys. It was like looking from the battlements 
of a mediaeval castle, and the enemy would have been 
able to conceal nothing from your view. With 
field-glasses you could have watched his camps and 
depots beyond the reach even of our naval guns. In 
fact, had the Bulgarians advanced on Salonica we 
should have been in exactly the same position to- 
wards them as the Turks at Achi-Baba occupied with 
regard to us. 

With such a field of fire in front of your defences 
the question was more than usually debatable 
whether or not advanced positions should be occupied. 
I will not say what conclusion was come to, nor 
whether, among other possible advanced posts, it 
was decided to hold that conspicuous and incon- 
venient height of " Gibraltar," which towers, a 


lonely landmark for miles round, out of the desolate 
flat plain I have just been describing. 

Gibraltar lay too far out for it to be included in 
our main line. Its shape is indicated by its nick- 
name ; it is an isolated, barren, treeless hill, that 
falls almost sheer on one side. 

The remaining sector of the Salonica lines, lying 
between the Galliko and Vardar rivers, is on a rolling 
plain. The French put a vast amount of work into 
fortifying this sector. There are cemented machine- 
gun emplacements, dugouts of unusual depth and 
solidity, broad bands of wire twisting everywhere 
across the grass, and forming compartments each 
swept by cross-fire from the flanks, so that a break- 
through at any point would only mean penetration 
into more formidable defences beyond. Behind the 
line, too, are many ravines, which provide natural 
shelter for ammunition dumps, and further back 
there are, of course, whole systems of reserve trenches. 

The circumstance which made all these works so 
strong was that they were constructed, not only with 
all the experience of modern warfare that their 
designers had gained in France, but also under 
conditions of absolute peace. The scientific ideas 
underlying the plan of the defences were accordingly 
able to be developed to a high degree of perfection, 
the second line not being the haphazard product of 
the varying fortunes of battle, but made to correspond 
fully to the tactical needs of the first. In fact, the 
defences of Salonica may be regarded as some of the 
most formidable in the world. 




At the same time as this vast scheme of defence was 

being carried out, the network of roads with which we 

have changed the face of Macedonia was being 

steadily woven. You best realise the immense extent 

of the system of highways with which the Allies have 

endowed the deserted hinterland of Salonica when you 

fly above it in an aeroplane. Main roads, meshed 

like a spider's web below you, run for miles in 

directions where before we came there was not even a 

goat-track. Often they take the form of a broad 

ledge blasted out of the sheer rock. There are 

bridges that will support a three-ton motor-lorry over 

every torrent ; there are stone culverts to carry off 

the spates of spring. You will notice artesian wells 

that pump water by the thousand gallons an hour ; 

supply-dumps with their mountains of yellow packing 

cases are scattered broadcast. As for buildings in 

corrugated iron of every sort, from bath-houses to 

general hospitals, there is a townful of them. And 

this scene, though densest and largest around 

Salonica, is reproduced on smaller scales at several 

points up-country as far as Corps Headquarters near 

the front. Every feature in it had to be constructed 

from the beginning. When we first got to Salonica 

no lighter could even reach the shore except at the 

Quay. By the present time there are twelve piers 

F2 65 


at which unloading is almost constantly going on. 
Where the Main Supply Base now stands — a dry, 
clean expanse of gravel — was then a sort of Greek 
remount lines, just a foetid mass of mud and manure, 
and the first motor-lorry that ventured along what 
have since become in the wettest weather firm, hard 
roads had to be pulled out by another with ropes, 
bogged to the axles. 

Work — any amount of it — and all of it work that 
was absolutely preliminary to the idea of undertaking 
operations. You cannot begin operations in the 
field when your Main Supply Base is sinking into a 
swamp, nor when there is not a road in the country 
capable of bearing up under the Army's motor-lorry 
traffic for two wet days together. We had first to 
build up the necessary elements of modern civilisation 
in Macedonia before we could begin to " get on with 
the war." 

But the Salonica Army did not by any means lose 
sight of the enemy while these necessary defensive 
works were being carried out. We had by now come 
to an arrangement with the Greeks about moving our 
troops as military needs required into the region 
between Salonica and the Greek frontier, and 
mounted troops with headquarters at Kilkish were 
keeping daily watch upon the Bulgars and the 
Germans by Lake Doiran, and eastwards along the 
line of the Krusha-Balkan. I spent some time with 
them, going out with their patrols which played a 
game of hide-and-seek — the " seek " chiefly on our 
side — with the German Uhlan cavalry, who were 
reciprocally full of inquisitiveness about us. A 
lovely country for the Balkans was this debatable 
land into which we rode, a region of wooded, irregular 
hills, from whose heights could be seen mile upon 
mile of the Struma plain, with its shining river on the 
one side and the hilly country beyond Lake Doiran 


on the other. At such look-outs as the Gola ridge, to 
which patrols both of the Germans and ourselves 
went every day, always trying to ambush each other, 
you could sit among the bushes and through your 
glasses watch life in the enemy's lines as comfortably 
as from a grand-stand. Here, down the same 
Strumnitza road as the 10th Division went up into 
Serbia in November, 1915, comes a German motor-car, 
making for Doiran town, which lies below you by the 
side of its black, Norwegian -looking lake. There are 
convoys of pack animals, too, heading for that supply- 
dump where piled tin cases lie flashing in the sun like 
heliographs. It was just the sort of view as you may 
have from the North Downs of an English main road 
on a summer's day. Occasionally the French would 
send up a couple of 8-inch guns, mounted on an 
armoured train to steam along the Karasuli-Kilindir 
loop-line and disturb these peaceful enemy activities, 
and one feature of the scene in consequence was 
always a German observation-balloon, looking like a 
ghostly grub in the sky, as it hung there on the look- 
out for the flashes of this elusive artillery, which 
always opened fire from a different place. 

Meanwhile, the infantry back in the Salonica area 
was smartening up its soldierly qualities again after 
three months of digging by carrying out brigade 
route-marches with tactical exercises on the way. 
The change was a welcome one from the confinement 
of the narrow gullies into which the men had been 
tucked away for the last four months while they 
carved endless trenches in Salonica's stony rampart 
of hills, and they marched out of the gaps in the wire 
as gaily as boys on a holiday. For while no soldiers 
dig better than the British, none hate it more. 

Theday'sprogrammeof twenty miles of foot-slogging 
under a hot sun in a permanent fog of white dust, each 
man with a heavy pack on his back and a separate 


halo of flies round his head, could hardly be called 
relaxation, but the relief from the drudgery of 
swinging pick and shovel was enough to make the 
labour a delight. I used to find great pleasure 
myself in accompanying these route marches (I 
admit that it might have been otherwise if I had not 
had a horse to do them on), but this gratification was 
derived chiefly from watching the men. The war was 
only twenty months old, but how much in the way of 
bigger muscles and broader chests it had put on to the 
frames of these soldiers, I do not know. I am certain, 
though, that the result of their training at home and 
in France, followed by six months of good food, fresh 
air and daily digging out here, was that a heftier, 
healthier set of men you could have found nowhere, 
and that the towns from which they came would not 
have recognised them for the slim-built clerks and 
shop-assistants and the pale-faced artisans that they 
once were, and would still have been if the war had 
not called them. There were battalions like one of 
the Wiltshires which would march a thousand strong 
all day and not a single man fall out. 

It is a picturesque scene, too, as the Brigade 
marches on to the ground where it is to bivouac for 
the night. In half -an -hour you will see an empty dell 
or a deserted hillside changed into a busy military 
town, with its appointed districts each set out in 
regular streets of little shelter-tents, its fixed drinking 
and washing places, its cook-house fires burning, its 
own hospital established in a big marquee, its head- 
quarters mess-table set up and laid and its own 
telephone and telegraph office sending and receiving 
messages incessantly. The staff-captain who rode 
ahead to choose its site works his miracle even quicker 
than the genie of the7 Arabian Nights, who needed 
from sunset to sunrise^to raise his magic city in the 


And if you spend a night like this with a British 
Brigade on the march you realise how it is that our 
Army keeps in war that look of freshness and smart- 
ness that characterises it in peace. The British 
soldier as regards his personal habits is probably the 
cleanest in the world. No matter how footsore the 
men may be, no matter how exhausted by their long, 
heavy-laden tramp in the sweltering heat, the first 
thing they do after getting their equipment off and 
their bivouac set up is to take their towel from their 
haversack and make for the nearest stream. The 
sentries posted to fix the limits of the washing-places 
have all they can do to regulate the rush. In a few 
minutes there are, first dozens, then hundreds of men, 
standing most of them stark naked by the waterside, 
washing themselves from head to foot. I have seen 
a good many civilians at home who ought to be taken 
to see British soldiers wash. It is a lesson in thorough- 
ness. Face and neck and scalp disappear under a 
thick layer of lather and are scrubbed and rubbed and 
scoured with almost vindictive energy, as if they were 
so much harness being polished. Then, after a 
tremendous slooshing with water, the head vanishes 
again into the folds of a towel so rough that it might 
be made up into hair-shirts for anchorites, and finally, 
with much blowing and panting, the man emerges, 
clean, fresh, content, with a face as red as a poppy and 
as glistening as the morning. 

Uneasy at the preparations the Allies were making 
in the Balkans, though affecting to mock at Salonica 
as his " biggest internment camp," the enemy tried to 
perturb us and perhaps raise trouble through arousing 
the fears of the civilian population by carrying out 
night air-raids on our base at Salonica. Aeroplanes 
came once at dawn in March and turned to and fro over 
the centre of the town dropping bombs. But they lost 
three if not four machines on their way back. A 


zeppelin also made a successful raid on February 1st 
and set a warehouse belonging to the Bank of Salonica 
on fire, besides killing several civilians. 

But the second visit of the same zeppelin to 
Salonica, after several unsuccessful attempts to 
return there, led to its destruction. In the small 
hours of May 6th the town was awakened by the 
crash of anti-aircraft guns from the hills behind and 
from the ships in the harbour, and there, floating 
yellow in the glare of the searchlights over the heart 
of Salonica, was a zeppelin, the first the townspeople 
had set eyes upon. A characteristically silly panic 
started, the people rushing out of their houses, and 
scurrying in contrary directions along the streets. 
The zeppelin made for the harbour as if to bomb the 
warships there. At first it was too vertically above 
them for the naval gunners to fire, but a moment 
later the airship altered course, and a 12-pounder 
mounted on a high carriage on the forward bridge of 
H.M.S. Agamemnon brought it down in a long slant 
on to the marshes at the mouth of the Vardar, where, 
a moment after it had touched, the zeppelin burst 
into flames. A startling long-drawn-out cheer rang 
from the silent English and French warships at the 
sight and echoed through the darkness across the 
frightened town. 

It was the zeppelin's own crew who had set fire to 
it when it stranded, and they tried afterwards to 
escape through the swamps around ; they were 
rounded up, though, next morning by French cavalry 
as they were drying their drenched clothes in the sun. 
The prisoners' account of themselves was that the 
zeppelin had come from Temesvar in Hungary ; it 
had previously carried out raids on Riga, Dvinsk 
and Minsk in Russia. It was 200 yards long and had 
four six-cylinder engines. It had been launched in 
the second half of 1915. I myself found a pencilled 


inscription on the aluminium framework of the nose 
reading, " Potsdam, August 11th, 1915," which 
must have been a date when it was under construc- 
tion. The crew said that they were astonished at 
the way they had been picked up by our anti-aircraft 
batteries and followed all down the line to Salonica. 
By the time they got there they were so blinded by 
the glare of the searchlights converging on them that 
they could not see to drop their bombs. 

Directly the zeppelin came down a British torpedo- 
boat patrolling on the boom landed a party to arrest 
the crew, if they could be found, and bring away 
anything of importance from the wreck. After 
an accidental encounter among the dense reeds 
between one detachment and another in which 
each thought it had found the enemy, and the first 
imperiously called " Hands up ! " to which the 
second immediately rejoined, " Hands up your- 
selves, you blighters ; we've been looking for you 
all morning," they reached the wreck and there 
found a German naval war flag hanging from the 
stern, undamaged by the fire. This ensign of the 
zeppelin which H.M.S. Agamemnon finally brought 
down — whether it had been previously hit or not — 
now finds a place in the War Museum at the Invalides 
in Paris. But the Agamemnon's have, as a consola- 
tion, one of the propellers of the zeppelin hanging 
on the wall of the Captain's quarters in memory of 
their exploit. 

I went out to the wreck early next day. It was 
a strenuous journey. The shoalwater of the Vardar 
mouth is too shallow for even a rowing boat to 
approach the shore, and when you have waded to the 
bank you find that you must still go knee-deep in 
water for a mile or so with the reeds meeting above 
your head. A Canadian medical officer was even 
drowned trying to Teach the wreck on horseback. 


One would never have believed it possible that a 
single zeppelin would carve up into so many souvenirs 
as that one did. Amid the harassed protests of its 
French guard, English officers, sailors, even nurses 
who had made the muddy and exhausting journey 
would hack and twist at the broken framework for 
days afterwards, yet when later on it was officially 
cut up and removed several bargeloads of fragments 
still remained. 

Rumours, that are always more popular when 
they are grisly, alleged that two men of the crew had 
been pinned underneath the wreck and burned alive. 
A midshipman, in fact, burrowing in the mud, even 
found what he proclaimed in triumph to be a 
" charred human hand." It certainly had that 
shape. Though blackened by fire and covered with 
ooze, the form of the clutching fingers could be clearly 
seen. Their crooked grasp seemed to have been 
straining in a last agony for something solid to seize 
upon amid the spongy slime. The grim trophy was 
bottled in spirits of wine and much admired, until 
one day its owner consented, at the entreaty of a 
friend, to cede him one finger of the blackened relic. 
The ship's surgeon was asked to perform the operation 
of severing the finger, but, to the surprise of everyone, 
his knife sliced right through it at one cut. It then 
transpired that the clutching hand of the burnt 
Boche was nothing more gruesome than an empty 
glove singed by the flames and tight-filled with caked 



The story of our relations with the Greeks is a great 
part of the whole history of the Balkan campaign. 
Our extraordinary situation made that inevitable. 
There we were, fighting on neutral territory to which 
we had come by invitation from the national Govern- 
ment — that must never be forgotten — but where, 
owing to a subsequent unconstitutional change of 
that Government, we found ourselves thoroughly 
unwelcome guests and had to consider our hosts as 
also our secret enemies. 

It was never fully realised at home how much the 
Greeks did hamper us during the first part of the 
Balkan campaign, not so much by what they did 
as by what they might do. They interfered with us 
actively in petty details — until General Sarrail pro- 
claimed martial law and took over the administra- 
tion of the Army area — and they were always a 
threat and an obsession in the larger matters of 
politics and strategy. The criticism at home was : 
" Why don't you get on with your war against the 
Bulgars and stop bothering about these insignificant 
Greeks ? " The answer to that is that when you have 
got any job of work to do and all the time have behind 
you a man who is, or whom you believe to be, about 
to stab you in the back as soon as you get well into 



it, you cannot help your attention being distracted 
from your principal occupation. 

The trouble was that the Allied Army in the Orient 
could do nothing to clear up the situation and get a 
firm, sure base to work on until their Govern- 
ments at home gave their consent. And the Allied 
Governments, being made up of men who have never 
been to the Balkans and are consequently quite un- 
acquainted with the special mentality of the Balkan 
peoples, have always fallen into the natural mistake 
of considering Greece and other Balkan states as 
being replicas on a smaller scale of the big Western 
European nations, swayed by the same considerations, 
governed by the same motives, looking at things 
from the same angle. Of course, that is not so, but 
hence very many of our mistakes in that part of the 

You really need to have been to Salonica to realise 
what a nuisance and a danger the Greeks were to us 
until M. Venizelos improved things by his revolution. 
I could give a long list of instances, but that would 
not convey a full impression. It was a sneaking, 
underhand hostility that King Constantine's officers 
and officials practised. Outwardly they were correct 
and coldly courteous, but many of the chief of them 
were working deliberately for the Germans against 
us all the time, and you felt the atmosphere of 
enmity in your bones. 

A simple parable will perhaps convey as well as 
anything an idea of the situation we found on arriving 
at Salonica. Imagine that you were a Parliamentary 
candidate going down to fight an election in a town 
where there is only one possible hotel. The manager 
of this hotel, who is a friend of yours, and a thorough 
adherent of your party, offers you a set of rooms at 
the hotel and you take the offer. The manager 
promises, too, to help in every way he can with your 


campaign. Just as you are arriving, and when all 
your arrangements have been made, you learn that 
the managing director of the hotel, who is a bitter 
opponent of your political party and devoted to the 
other side, is furious that his manager has let you 
the rooms and has dismissed him in consequence. 
It is too late for him to prevent you taking the 
accommodation that you were offered,. but the manag- 
ing director gives strict orders to his staff to make 
you just as uncomfortable as they can. They will 
not answer the bell ; they cut off the light and water ; 
they will not serve you with food in the hotel, on the 
plea that there would otherwise not be enough for 
the other guests ; they open and read your letters ; 
they spy upon you in every way ; they communicate 
your plans to your political opponent so that he can 
anticipate them ; and, the election becoming a rowdy 
one, you receive information that the managing 
director has the intention, on the first occasion that 
you try to address the crowd from the balcony, to 
have you sandbagged from behind. Now, under 
those circumstances, who could give full and un- 
divided attention to fighting the election and 
refuting the political arguments of his opponent ; 
who would not be at the same time very much 
preoccupied in taking precautions against the trouble- 
some managing director of the hotel ? 

We have had two kinds of relations with the 
Greeks — local commercial relations, which have been, 
needless to say, exceedingly profitable to them (and 
in the term Greeks I include the large Hebrew popula- 
tion of Salonica which is of Greek nationality), and 
the larger political relations of which the chief land- 
marks have been the proclamation of martial law at 
Salonica in June, 1916, the " Salonica Revolution " 
of August, the coming of M. Venizelos to Salonica 
in October, and finally the occupation of Thessaly 


and the expulsion of King Constantine in June, 

The arrival of the Allies, and especially of the 
English, at Salonica was the sort of opportunity for 
money-making that the local Greek and Israelite 
population could not have surpassed in their wildest 
dreams. We came bringing practically unlimited 
money and needing whatever could be bought locally 
so as to save the delays and risks of sea transport. 
The trade of Salonica, which had gone steadily down 
since the day when it passed from the Turks to the 
Greeks, and the town at the same time lost its ancient 
and natural hinterland of the whole of Macedonia, 
free of customs barriers, has revived and increased, 
since our coming, to proportions of artificial magni- 
tude. Men who were on the verge of bankruptcy 
are now rich. The Greek or the Jew trader who 
counted himself lucky to make, say, £800 or £1,000 
in the twelve months at present makes £10,000 
and will doubtless continue to made it as long as the 
Allies are there. Prices are very high ; profits are 
very large. Rubbish has sold at the price of first- 
class European goods because the | difficulties of 
transport have prevented English firms from getting 
consignments out to Salonica. The attitude of the 
local trader towards the Allied troops in their private 
purchases has been " take it at the price or leave it." 

As for house rents, they rose in one bound on our 
arrival to the same scale as the best parts of the 
West-end of London. This is due partly to the 
limited number of even approximately modern 
buildings and houses and the consequent com- 
petition of the Staffs of the various contingents of 
the Allied Armies to secure them, and also to the fact 
that when we arrived in Salonica no one expected 
that we should still be there two years later. I 
think the general belief at that time was that we should 


either have got on or got out before the autumn of 
1917. Accordingly, there seemed small reason for 
any effort to alter the tradition of open-handedness 
which has always distinguished the British Govern- 
ment in its dealings with foreigners and neutrals. 
Moreover, the officers who had, at very short notice, 
to secure accommodation for Army Headquarters 
were perhaps not all of them experienced in the 
Oriental method of bargaining, the recognised prin- 
ciple of which is that the seller begins by demanding 
twice as much as he is willing to take, while the buyer 
responds by offering half as much as he is prepared to 
give. When the Greek or Hebrew proprietor of a 
jerry-built villa, of most inadequate sanitation, 
explained with an abundance of reasons and an air 
of great finality that he could not let it furnished 
(it is a definite case that I am referring to) for six 
months for less than £800, a straightforward English 
officer, unaccustomed to guile and hating a haggle, 
would incline to take him at his word and, cursing 
him in his heart, or even openly, for a thief, would 
sign the contract, to the astonishment and satis- 
faction of the Levantine proprietor. 

To give one concrete instance of the way in which 
the inhabitants of Salonica deliberately blackmailed 
our Army by refusing to let buildings except at an 
iniquitous rental — there is a two-storied villa standing 
in the main residential street of Salonica ; it is 
certainly passably furnished, and has a shady garden 
round it. It affords accommodation, I believe, on 
its two floors, for fourteen officers and their batmen, 
and the price the Army has had to pay for it, furnished, 
is £200 a month, or just about twelve times its rent 
under normal conditions. For a hotel of thirty-two 
rooms, needed for the sleeping accommodation of cer- 
tain officers at the base, twelve thousand drachmas, 
or about £490 a month, was exacted. Nor was this 


profiteering confined to individuals. Public bodies 
took advantage of the boom. For a Greek orphanage, 
needed as the nucleus of a General Hospital (it would 
only hold 500 beds), we had to pay rent at the rate 
of £9,000 a year, and then spend between £5,000 and 
£10,000 on rilling up the existing cesspools and 
draining it to the sea. 

Such establishments as Floca's Cafe and the White 
Tower restaurant and cabaret have, of course, made 
fortunes for their very wide-awake proprietors. My 
memory of Floca's from visits to Salonica before the 
war is of a large plateglass -sided room, furnished 
with many chairs and tables, but normally containing 
not more than a score of Greeks or Jews, who had met 
there to discuss business deals while twiddling their 
inevitable strings of beads. None of them, though 
they might remain two hours, would buy more than 
a cup of Turkish coffee (pre-war price Id.), or a 
' mastic " (|d. more), and even with that they would 
demand a series of plates of meze — a sort of kors- 
d'ceuvre, consisting of scraps of salt fish, olives and 
slices of sausage (thrown in free before the war). 
The more frugal-minded would content themselves 
with a glass of water (served free). Tips were un- 
known to the humble waiters of Floca's in those far- 
off days. Only on Saturday and Sunday — the Jew 
and Christian Sabbaths — would there be an affluence 
of expensively dressed Levantine ladies from the 
Quartier des Campagnes, which is the residential 
suburb of Salonica, and they would bring custom 
amounting perhaps to a fourpenny lemonade or a 
fivepenny ice, but as they would sit over it from 
tea-time till dinner, and a party of five secure its 
right to a table on the terrasse by giving only two 
orders, it is clear that the amount of the receipts 
necessary to make Floca's a paying concern under 
normal conditions was small. 


But since the Allies came Floca's is full from early 
morning, when officers arriving from the front by 
overnight trains breakfast there (two boiled eggs, 
Is. 2d. ; coffee, 8d. ; bread, 4d.), to late at night, 
when the last liqueur-glass with a generous margin 
of air at the top is emptied and paid for at 80 centimes. 
Several times the French military authorities have 
fallen upon Floca's and it has been consigne (or as 
we say, put out of bounds) for charging too much 
or reducing too considerably the size of the portions 
it serves. Then for the duration of the order the 
cafe that is normally thronged with officers of six 
nationalities on town leave, for breakfast, the morn- 
ing refresher, the glass of vermouth before luncheon, 
the liqueur after luncheon, tea (sometimes with the 
company of nurses to swell Floca freres' receipts), the 
aperitif before dinner, the liqueur after dinner, and 
the final beer or whisky-and-soda before turning in, 
is reduced to a meagre clientele of civilians. But 
as soon as the prohibition is lifted the place immedi- 
ately swarms once more with customers impatient at 
the indifferent service and indignant at the exagger- 
ated bill, but obliged to go there because it is the 
only rendezvous. In passing, one may say that the 
fact that Floca's is always full by no means indicates 
that the Army at Salonica is slack. Floca's has a 
constantly changing set of patrons, made up of officers 
down from the front on three days' leave (remember 
that there is far less leave home from Salonica than 
from France), and of officers arriving with drafts 
and quartered for a few days in rest-camps round the 

How much better it would have been if we had 
taken over Salonica on a businesslike basis at the 
beginning of the Balkan campaign and regulated 
prices on a just scale which would have prevented 
this flow of money from British into alien pockets. 



The Greeks are a commercial people. It would have 
appealed very strongly to their instincts as money- 
makers if we had said to the Greek Government as 
soon as the expedition was decided upon, "We 
need Salonica as a base ; we must have full control 
of its administration while the sovereignty remains 
yours, the revenues are collected by you and the 
Greek flag continues to fly. For this undisturbed 
control we will pay you a rent of so many millions a 
year." We could then have gone to Salonica as to an 
Allied town. Instead of having to pay iniquitous 
sums without protest for fear of oh'ending neutral 
feeling, we could have requisitioned whatever we 
needed at equitable rates, and we could have fixed 
prices on a pre-war basis with due allowance for 
increase in cost of raw materials. This, in view of the 
vast augmentation of business that we brought, 
would still have left a large profit to the traders, 
while we should have been protected against the 
corner-maker and the profiteer who have both done 
so well out of all the Allies. 

And just as the foregoing was being written, 
there comes news of what really sounds like a judg- 
ment upon the greed of Salonica. Two-thirds of the 
town within the walls has been wiped out in two 
days by an extraordinary conflagration. The 
business section and what one may call the native 
quarter have entirely disappeared. Floca's, the 
Odeon, the Splendid Palace, the Rue Venizelos — all 
of them names that had gradually become as familiar 
to scores of Englishmen in the Balkans as Ciro's, 
the Empire, the Savoy and the Strand are, on a far 
different plane, to Londoners — exist to-day as 
nothing but charred and smoking ruins. The 
Salonica Club, which was saved for a time by being 
kept practically underwater by the converging 
hydrants of the Fleet from the opposite side of the 

.■■■ s :;-! 



Quay, was the last building to succumb. It will be 
missed more than any, for it has the only comfortable 
chairs in Salonica and the readiness with which it 
opened its doors to Allied visitors was very welcome. 
The loss of the whole of the shopping area will be 
keenly felt by officers up-country, for whom the 
town was, however inadequately, the sole source of 
the conveniences of life. Salonica, formerly the 
solitary outpost of civilisation in Macedonia, now 
stands as desolate as any muddy village of the 

Though practically all our military establishments, 
being outside the area of the old town, were unharmed 
by the fire, this disaster must nevertheless hamper 
us as an army for some time to come. To begin 
with, we have, at the time of writing, some 60,000 
of the burnt-out inhabitants on our hands. We are 
feeding them, we are lodging them, and the energies 
of the Greek Government, which would otherwise 
have been engaged in preparing their country to take 
its share in our Balkan campaign, will now be occupied 
for some time in housing and equipping these destitute 
refugees. The town can only be said to have brought 
the disaster on itself. Though chiefly built of wooden 
houses its fire brigade was simply Gilbertian — a 
wag once suggested in the Balkan News that as 
more water escaped out of the leaks in the hose than 
through the nozzle it would be more advantageous 
to lay the pipe sideways on to the fire. And in fact 
the Salonica firemen always proved themselves 
incapable of coping with the most trivial house- 
burnings unless reinforced by fire-parties from our 
Fleet. So that Salonica, with the huge fortune it has 
made out of us as a town, seems only rightly punished 
for the fecklessness of its civic organisation. 

As a spectacle the conflagration must have 
equalled Rome burning. The part of the town 


r * * » « 


destroyed rises as an amphitheatre within the still 
complete girdle of its mediaeval walls. Most of it is 
a maze of rambling, crooked little alleys, mysterious 
and picturesque. The church of St. Demetrius, 
forcibly converted for four and a half centuries of 
Turkish occupation into a mosque, but still showing 
faintly on its walls the stiff-figured frescoes that 
artists of the Eastern Roman Empire drew, has met 
this lurid fate at the end of its eventful history. Few 
towns, indeed, have had so tumultuous a past as 
Salonica. Sack and massacre, siege and revolution, 
war and civil strife, have all convulsed it again and 
again. It has been left until the time when the 
greatest war of all had brought to Salonica Allied 
troops from every corner of the earth for the most 
historical part of the town to find destruction in the 

The official relations of the Allies with the Greeks, 
as distinct from those of commercial intercourse, 
were characterised from our first landing by covert 
obstruction on the part of the royalist authorities, 
officials, and administration of the town. Their 
first action was to interfere with the free choice by 
the Allies of encamping sites on the vast area of 
waste land which surrounds Salonica. Thus they 
insisted on apportioning to the French the Zeitenlick 
camp, which was notoriously unhealthy ground. 

Furthermore, within the town, when we began to 
negotiate for houses to lodge the various offices of 
Army Headquarters, the Greek military authorities 
would requisition them to prevent our getting the 
accommodation, and when they heard of the negotia- 
tions too late they even prosecuted proprietors for 
letting their property without official sanction. Part 
of our headquarters was consequently lodged in most 
inconvenient buildings, which had to be changed later 
on when circumstances at last forced General Sarrail 


to take matters more into his own hands. When the 
Allies bought foodstuffs locally, the Greeks would 
often requisition these before delivery, and once 
they went so far as to place a sentry on some stores 
that were being transferred by process of sale from the 
English to the French Army, basing their action upon 
some technical point. Finally the Greek Government 
issued an order that no foodstuffs were to be sold to 
the Allied Armies at all, an order which the latter 
made no attempt to go behind. The object of it 
was evident. King Constantine's Government wished 
to deprive us of the advantage of finding ready to 
hand in Greece any of the stores necessary for our 

But the scope of Greek obstruction extended 
much beyond the limits of the town. The Greek 
Army, mobilised on a war footing, lay between us 
and our enemy, and formed a tight cordon round 
the Allies at Salonica. Strong posts held every 
road, at a distance from the town that was in some 
places of only five or six miles. On the Seres road, 
until at least the end of the year, the Greek Army 
refused to allow our yeomanry and cyclist patrols 
to go beyond Kar. Into the zone beyond their 
rearward outpost line the Greeks forbade even a 
mounted reconnaissance to enter. This obstruction 
on the part of the Greeks even prevented our Staff 
officers for some time from studying the ground on 
which the fortifications of Salonica would have 
later to be constructed. 

The railways, of course, afforded a most convenient 
opening for covert interference. When the French 
General Staff asked the Greek authorities for railway 
wagons (on hire, be it always understood), they could 
never get them in anything like the quantity that 
the available rolling stock could have provided, as 
was shown by the fact that meanwhile empty wagons 


would be left standing in stations up the line. When 
the French asked for three hundred they would be 
offered forty-five, and if flat trucks were needed it 
was almost certainly covered ones that would be 
sent. The object of this system was to delay the 
landing and transport of our stores. 

Furthermore, in the working of the two lines we 
used there were endless delavs. It must be remem- 
bered that the fact that we were in a neutral country 
prevented our putting them under military manage- 
ment. The Greek personnel, much of it of more 
than doubtful disposition towards the Entente, 
remained at its posts to assist (or hinder) our traffic 
movement. Consequently the line during the opera- 
tions in Serbia in November and December, 1915, 
never carried more than six to eight trains a day, a 
figure which would have been absurd with efficient 
management. And as for speed — to come from 
Guevgheli to Salonica (under sixty miles) took from ten 
to twelve hours. Two derailments occurred under 
this Greek control of the line, both rather unaccount- 
able, both capable of gravely hindering our retreat 
from Serbia. Later on, when we were organising 
our base at Salonica, trucks would be sent as if by 
chance to the far ends of the line — Fiorina or Xanthe 
— so that we could not get hold of them and use 
them, while they would be there for the Bulgars to 
seize immediately they crossed the frontier, should 
they advance. In the same way coal would be 
transferred from the depot at Salonica on various 
pretexts to points up the line, such as Fiorina, where 
the Greek prefect of the town was later arrested by 
the French in red-handed conspiracy with the Ger- 
mans and Bulgars for smuggling supplies across the 
frontier to them. 

Whenever we wanted to make use of Greek tele- 
graph lines, the habitual reply was that they were 


needed for Greek Government purposes. When 
circumstances admitted of our establishing a parallel 
line of our own we had first to get the permission of 
the Greeks to do so, and, beyond all question, tele- 
graph wires of the French General Staff were tapped 
by Greek officers. Allied wireless was often jammed, 
so that the warships in the harbour could not get 
messages reporting enemy submarines. 

There existed, moreover, in the early days at 
Salonica, a well-organised system of official espionage 
which had every means of ascertaining our strength 
and movement and communicated the information 
it collected to quarters that, beyond doubt, passed 
it on to the enemy. This organisation was under 
the control of Colonel Messalas, the Greek Base 
Commandant at Salonica. He used to send in his 
reports in triplicate every week, one to the Minister 
of War at Athens, one to the King, and the other 
direct to Queen Sophie. No one can doubt that 
these reports were coded and transmitted by wire- 
less to the German General Staff. One of the first 
acts of this official anti-Ally organisation was to 
remove from their posts all the French, Italian, and 
other pro- Ally officials employed on the railways, 
and replace them by Greeks who could be trusted 
to obey orders. The guards of goods trains on the 
Macedonian railways, who travel in a sort of little 
sentry box fixed on to the end of a truck, and rising 
above its roof, had to give a written report after 
every journey of any movement of troops they had 
seen, or any military works they had noticed in the 
course of construction. 

Meanwhile, with our characteristic punctiliousness 
of respect for the rights of neutrals, we agreed to 
furnish the Greek port authorities with a return of 
all the material we landed at Salonica. This was 
for purposes of estimation of the dues to be paid on 


it. Of course, our Staff protected itself as far as 
possible by using vague terms — " so many tons of 
artillery material," " so many tons of forage," and so 
on — but the Greeks even had the boldness to ask 
for details, which, needless to say, they did not get, 
and after some time the system was abolished, being 
replaced, I believe, by one based on averages. 

For the spy Salonica is Paradise. He thrives and 
multiplies there like a microbe in jelly. If a spy had 
the chance of creating an ideal environment to work 
in he could not improve upon Salonica. Imagine a 
town where the languages commonly and regularly 
spoken are old Spanish, much adulterated, Greek, 
Turkish, Italian, Bulgarian, Serb, Roumanian, and 
French; where everyone has changed his subjection 
at least once during the last five years — from Turkish 
to Greek — and where before that several thousands 
of people had all sorts of claims to European nationali- 
ties, based on the complicated Turkish system of 
the Capitulations (under which one brother in the 
same family would be " French," another " English," 
another " Italian," perhaps without one of them 
being able to speak a single sentence in the tongue 
of the nationality he claimed) ; where the old part 
of the town is a maze of densely inhabited alleys, 
most of them without names, where the houses, 
Turkish fashion, present usually nothing but a blind 
wall to the street, and have a high-walled, stout- 
doored courtyard in front of them ; where there is 
no directory, and where the people living in a street 
have no dealings with or knowledge of other people 
living in the same street who are not of their race, 
language, and religion ; where you are up against the 
traditional Eastern idea of the seclusion of women, 
and where many women — Turks and Dounmehs 
(Mohammedans of Jewish race) — always go veiled ; 
where there is an unknown number of secret under- 


ground rooms and passages, as you might expect in 
a modern town built on the ruins of an ancient and 
prosperous city ; and where at first the local authori- 
ties of the place were not at all ill-disposed towards 
the spy, but inclined to protect him if possible 
against our military police ; where many of the 
town's richest and most influential inhabitants had 
strong personal reasons for sympathising with the 
enemy — Jewish money-lenders of Salonica held mort- 
gages on estates in Hungary and Austria, and the 
town had always swarmed with Austrian agents 
spreading the idea that its future prosperity depended 
on its becoming linked with Austria-Hungary as the 
outlet of the Central Empires to the Mediterranean. 
Imagine but a fraction of these conditions and you 
will realise something of how easy it was for enemy 
agents to work against us, and how hard it was for 
our counter-spy service to hunt them down. 

The spies of Salonica were run by committees. 
Each of the enemy nationalities had its committee, 
has still very likely, and these employ agents on 
that ingenious secret-society principle by which 
each man knows only two others. They found their 
tools chiefly among the civil labourers the Army 
employed. * 

I went out several times with the military police 
on their almost nightly work of arresting spies. 
The rendezvous would be in the small hours. As you 
reached it something familiar would strike you in 
the mere attitudes of the little squad of khaki-clad 
Army policemen waiting in the shadow at the street 
corner, something more familiar still about their 
walk. It was the deliberate manner of the London 
constable, unmistakable even without the dignity 
of helmet and blue, for many of the P.M.'s men at 
Salonica have had a beat in the Metropolitan area. 

Strung out to make the tramp of feet less noticeable 


in the silence, the party would make its way up the 
hill into the old town — an informer as guide, followed 
by the P.M. and the police. The dark streets, 
twisting about on the hill within the city walls, 
are just what the lanes of Tudor London must have 
been. Crooked gables lean out across the narrow 
way and the space between the houses on either 
side widens and narrows after the haphazard of 
their building. Rough, slippery cobbles are under- 
foot ; an open drain trickles along the edge of the 
street. Never can you see for more than twenty 
yards ahead, and the shadows among the crazy old 
wooden house fronts, with their heavy doors and 
iron-barred windows, are picked out only by a 
feebly flickering little oil-lamp here and there along 
the walls. 

" This is the place," whispers the native agent 
who guides the party. A low doorway of grey wood, 
which leads evidently into the small courtyard that 
separates each of these houses from the street. The 
heavy hand of a policeman beats a tattoo upon it 
that soon brings a gabble of frightened Greek or 
Turkish from within. " Open quick ! " calls a secret 
service officer in reply to a torrent of enquiries, and 
then, i4 Well, we can't give him time to get away. 
Just push the door in, one of you." A heave from 
the shoulder of a fourteen-stone policeman sends it 
flying with a crash, and a neat little stone-flagged 
courtyard, with a sycamore tree rustling in the 
corner and the bluewashed wall of a house on the 
other side, lies open before us. Figures with candles 
in their hands are peering anxiously out of the door- 
way, and when it is a British uniform that steps into 
the courtyard a wail goes up that testifies to uneasy 
consciences. The business of making the arrest is 
soon over. No resistance is offered. It would so 
clearly be futile. 


" Is Hakki Mehmed here ? " Hakki Mehmed 
admits his identity quite unconcernedly. The Turks 
certainly show character and self-possession under 
these trying circumstances. They never raise their 
voices or get excited. They suggest, as one gentleman 
to another, that the privacy of their harem shall be 
respected, and they reassure the weeping black- 
veiled figures who crane from its doorway with the 
confident statement that they will certainly be back 
again to-morrow. Then a military policeman closes 
in on each side of them and off they go. Perhaps 
they will come back, as they say; perhaps penal 
servitude in Cairo will be their lot before they see the 
little blue-walled courtyard again. 

Eerie scenes, some of those that are lit up by the 
native oil-lamps and the electric torches of the 
soldiers in these high-walled courtyards in the heart 
of Old Salonica. Odd galleries and gables jut out 
above ; there is a quaint old wellhead in the middle, 
and though the women are shrouded in their regu- 
lation black, the men wear padded garments of 
brightly coloured print, halfway between a frock-coat 
and a dressing-gown. The whole household sleeps 
almost fully dressed on the low cushion divans that 
are the only furniture in the whitewashed carpetless 
rooms. The place looks clean enough at the first 
glance, but you do well not to cross its threshold, for 
the walls are swarming with the vermin that live in 
the crannies of the century-old woodwork. And 
some strange old figures totter out to blink at the 
flashing lights— Turkish great-grandfathers of un- 
certain age and many deformities, who never venture 
into the streets but spend their days crouched in a 
corner of the closed-in dwelling, waiting for death to 
take them. g 

Sometimes arrests have to be made in Turkish 
houses of a better class, and there the additional 


complication of a part of the house being supposed to 
be strictly barred off as the harem makes the search 
more complicated. The servants, with the ingenuity 
of the Levantine mind, are expert in lying to conceal 
their master's whereabouts. " Since you must know," 
said the butler of one suspect, " my master is unfor- 
tunately addicted to excessive drinking, and often 
stays down town all night getting drunk with friends. 
He has not come home to-night, and I expect that 
that is where he is." And this plausible story, told 
with the shamefaced air of a faithful servant letting 
a stranger into the family secrets, might have been 
believed if one of the search party had not happened 
just then to notice a small door that had not been 
opened. It led into a little private garden belonging 
to the harem, and there, standing in his nightshirt 
among the bushes in the middle of a flower-bed, was 
the supposed secret drinker and master of the house, 
who was so badly wanted by our police. 

Although the privacy with which Turks surround 
their households makes arrests there rather more 
exciting, there are plenty of suspects of other races 
to be dealt with. They are discovered in all sorts of 
places — presenting forged passes to pickets on the 
roads ; at the railway-station ; on the quay when 
steamers come in ; or even in the midst of their 
astonished friends in the cafe. And if there is one 
thing that adds to the impression that these arrests 
make on the local population, it is the quiet and 
unperturbed way in which they are carried out by 
our people. No fuss, no threatenings, no drawn 
revolvers — just an almost casual " Is that the man ? 
Bring him along," the sharp click of a handcuff 
locking, and another enemy agent is led mildly away 
to a fate which his conscience tells him is full of 
unpleasant possibilities. 

There are plenty of misdemeanours less grave than 


spying, however, that bring the local population of 
Salonica into contact with our military police. 
Stealing or receiving goods stolen from our supply 
dumps and stores is the commonest of them. A 
regular business sprang up in stealing and secretly 
disposing of portable property of the British Army 
directly we landed in Salonica. Blankets, breeches, 
condensed milk, biscuits — hidden stores of them were 
accumulated all over the town and traded off at very 
remunerative prices. Our agents usually got on to 
their track by employing a Greek to pose as a 
purchaser and would seize both the goods and the 
money provided to induce a sale just as they were 
being exchanged in great privacy between the guilty 
receiver and the paid informer. 

There are thousands of Greeks employed about the 
quays discharging ships, and in the early days they 
had all sorts of tricks for pilfering. They would 
knock a case off a lighter in a pre-arranged spot so 
that they could come back at night and fish it up 
again. At one dump, surrounded by a barbed wire 
fence, they even tunnelled down to beneath the pile 
of packing-cases and then opened them from below 
and extracted their contents, leaving the emptied 
boxes in place so that they looked as if they had 
never been touched. The Greek soldiers were even 
bold enough to form bands and hold up isolated 
motor-lorries laden with stores, so that an order had 
to be issued that each lorry should carry a guard of 
two armed men, and A.S.C. drivers always had their 
rifles by their sides. Gradually, however, the 
activities of our preventive organisation, and the 
robust handling which a Greek thief caught red- 
handed might expect from the military police, made 
the game too risky to be worth playing, and thieving 
from the Army has now decreased to insignificance. 




The expulsion of the German, Austrian, Bulgarian 
and Turkish consuls from our midst at Salonica was 
the first step that the Allies took which emphasised 
the inevitable conflict of authority in the town. Up 
till then the situation had really been Gilbertian. 
Here we were at war with all these four states, the 
Salonica Army being actually engaged with three of 
them, while at the base and headquarters of that 
Army the official diplomatic representatives of the 
enemy countries were still going about freely and 
openly — not organising a spy system against us, for 
all that had been done long before — but supervising 
it, meeting every day, exchanging information, 
sending off reports in code, posting letters by the 
train which ran daily to Constantinople, sitting down 
at lunch and dinner in crowded restaurants at the 
same table with French or British officers, who never 
imagined for a moment that the unobtrusive civilian 
in a black coat at their elbow was the Bulgarian 
consul, perfectly acquainted with their language, and 
at the head of an organisation which was working 
night and day with the sole object of their personal 
destruction and national undoing. The Bulgarian 
consul, M. Nedkoff, was the most active and intelligent 
of the four enemy consuls. I had known him 



personally in earlier years ; in fact, I remember his 
drinking the health of King George with sincere 
enthusiasm on Coronation Day, 1910, when both he 
and I were the guests of the British consul in 
Monastir at a dinner given in honour of the event. 

Some were in favour from the first of arresting 
these consuls, but General Sarrail's decision was to 
respect their extra-territorial rights which they 
must be considered to possess as consuls on neutral 
soil, unless and until they could be proved to be 
carrying on espionage. That was just the difficulty. 
The Greek police protected them ; it was impossible 
to catch them in the act. The Allied secret service 
agents were shadowed by Greek detectives who warned 
the consuls of danger. Yet there was a moral cer- 
tainty that the enemy consuls were not only carrying 
on espionage but also concealing stocks of bombs 
and arms. 

At last, however, the Germans took hostile action 
against Salonica — not on the camps around but 
against the town itself. They sent their aeroplanes 
to bomb it, thereby showing that they at least did not 
consider it neutral territory. Upon this Sarrail at 
once decided to expel the enemy consuls, and in the 
afternoon of the day of the aeroplanes' visit they 
were arrested with all their families and staffs and 
deported. Search of the consulates, which some 
months later were taken over for General Staff 
purposes, confirmed to the full the suspicions that had 
centred round them. 

The seizing of the Greek forts of Karaburnu, which 
command the entrance to the harbour of Salonica, 
was the second act by which circumstances forced 
the Allies to tighten their grip on the town which 
was their base. 

In December, 1915, when M. Pallis came from 
Athens to see General Sarrail, with the so-called 


, *h~ . 

ae . *l.LL_f 

[Official Photograph. 



mission of dissipating misunderstandings between 
the Greek Government and the Allies, Sarrail men- 
tioned that the naval command at Salonica insisted 
that the question of the forts of Karaburnu should 
be examined, as they were in a position to do much 
harm to the Allied Fleet and cut off the town from 
the sea. Pallis promised on behalf of King Constan- 
tine that whatever happened the forts of Karaburnu 
should not fire — " whatever," though unexpressed, 
meaning of course the eventuality of an overwhelming 
enemy attack obliging the Allies to evacuate the 
Balkans and re-embark at Salonica. The matter 
was left at that. But the practical situation was so 
little improved by this vague pledge that at length 
General Sarrail was informed that the French Minister 
of Marine had ordered the French naval forces at 
Salonica to occupy Karaburnu. 

The Allied naval commanders consulted together 
about this and decided that although of course the 
ships could, in the event of resistance, shell the forts, 
it would be more convenient for the purposes of 
permanently occupying them that the Army should 
furnish a contingent of the garrison. The seizure of 
the forts was, indeed, an operation which needed 
careful preparation, for our naval captive balloon 
in H.M.S. Canning had been up every day taking 
photographs which clearly showed that the Greeks 
were busy building new gun-emplacements. We 
later found that they had also laid in a stock of 
armour-piercing shells of recent pattern. 

Admiral Gaucher, the French admiral commanding in 
the Eastern Mediterranean, accordingly got into touch 
with General Sarrail, and it was arranged to make a 
joint operation of it, the whole of the Allied fleets being 
represented, the Italian Piemonte and the Russian 
Askold, then at Salonica, taking part as well as French 
and English ships, the latter also landing marines. 



The seizure of the forts was made on the morning 
of January 28th, 1916. It was very thoroughly 
arranged by the French, and all precautions for over- 
coming resistance were taken. The delicacy of the 
operation ]&y in the fact that at that time our relations 
with the Greeks were very near to breaking-point, 
and it would have needed little more than a fight at 
Karaburnu for us to have had the whole Greek Army 
on top of us. 

Three thousand French troops were the main force 
employed. They marched round behind Salonica 
towards Karaburnu Point, on the east side of the 
Gulf, coming fifty miles in two days. At 10.30 p.m., 
on the night before the forts were to be occupied, 
they cut the telephone wires connecting them with 
the Greek garrison and headquarters at Salonica. 
At 7 a.m. on January 28th our contingent of 100 
marines landed from H.M.S. Albion and reported 
to Colonel Curie, the French officer who was in com- 
mand of the whole operation. They were placed on 
the left wing of the attacking party. Several English 
battalions Mere farther back, in reserve for eventuali- 
ties, but were kept in ignorance of what was going on, 
being led to their positions by Staff officers and after 
remaining there two days were marched back to 
camp again. 

The forts were really rather shore batteries than 
forts properly so-called. Their normal garrison was 
250 men. There were two 8*4-in. guns in the main 
battery, which had been inherited from the Turks 
and of which the " strips " on the sights with. Turkish 
numerals had not even been replaced. Two 6-in. 
Armstrong guns and some German field-guns formed 
the rest of the armament. 

The French troops with the party of British 
marines then advanced on the forts, making occasional 
halts of abouttwenty minutes. Each time this happened 


the French threw up " scrapes " of earth in front of 
them, and when they got to within 2,500 yards of 
the forts the mountain guns were put together and 
dug in too. There was a screen of cavalry behind, 
cutting off all connection with Salonica, and three 
Farman aeroplanes overhead. No chances were 
taken, for the stake was great. We were really in 
a weak position at Salonica, for all our apparent 
strength. King Constantine was believed to be even 
eager for a pretext to be driven into hostilities against 
us, and if a fight with the Greeks had started, sup- 
ported as it would have been very quickly by German 
detachments rushed down the railway, we should 
have been in an unpleasant situation, with our backs 
to the sea and a hostile and treacherous population 
all around us. 

When the Allied force got near Karaburnu Point 
the English marines were ordered to go on ahead 
and occupy Tuzla Fort, an outlying work about three 
miles beyond the others. They set out and had gone 
some way when they met a detachment of Greek 
soldiers under a sergeant who at once halted his men 
and gave the order " Fix bayonets ! " The English 
continued to advance with sloped arms and without 
bayonets fixed, when the Greek N.C.O. suddenly 
produced an automatic pistol and levelled it at the 
head of the marine captain in command of the party. 
On this, the marines halted and the intelligence 
officer of the Albion, who had been brought up in 
Turkey and spoke Greek excellently, opened a parley. 
He said : " We have come to occupy the fort. It's 
quite all right. Everything has been fixed up by 
this time with the Greek CO. at Karaburnu." 

The N.C.O., on this, said that he would let them 
pass if they would give him time to send a messenger 
back to Tuzla to ring up Karaburnu. The messenger 
was sent, but it afterwards transpired that he took 



a recommendation to the Greek officer there to serve 
out ball-cartridge and prepare to defend the fort. 

Our men continued to advance along the barren 
coast-line, and when they reached Tuzla found some 
of the garrison lining a breastwork in front of the 
fort and the rest in the windows of the red brick 
building used as a barracks. The subaltern in com- 
mand came out to parley. He said that his CO. had 
gone to Salonica on forty-eight hours' leave. He refused 
to let the marines enter, so the English captain sent 
back to the French to say that he was held up. The 
garrison of the fort was only seventy strong, but they 
were behind cover and in any case the possible conse- 
quences of a fight were so serious that it had to be 
avoided except as a last extremity. A French 
officer soon arrived, and he, together with the captain 
of marines, again addressed the young subaltern. 
" You must surrender to superior force," they said. 
" If you resist, the Fleet has orders directly it hears 
the sound of firing to shell every strategic point in 
Salonica." (This was true ; the battleships and 
monitors had their guns ready trained on the barracks 
and public buildings.) This argument was strong 
enough, and the Greek subaltern, who had throughout 
the parley been at a white heat of indignation, opened 
the gates of the fort. He explained that he had 
taken part in the first Balkan War, and had helped 
to turn the Turks out of these very forts, " and now 
you've turned us out," he added despondently. 

Meanwhile the French had occupied the other 
forts and the whole of the dangerous position of 
Karaburnu was in our hands before the Greek 
headquarters in Salonica knew that anything was 
even projected. 

When our men had installed themselves in the 
captured fort, there was an old Turk who used to 
come to sell vegetables to them, whose white beard 


would shake with laughter as he handed them over 
the gate. The interpreter asked him what he was 
laughing at. " Ah ! it is such a pleasure," said the 
old man, " to see the English instead of the Greeks 
where my brothers the Turks used to be." 

So things went on, in an atmosphere of consider- 
able strain, although the French were giving the 
Greeks the use of twenty motor-lorries daily to supply 
Seres and other places up-country with food, at an 
expense to themselves of £50 per day. Gratitude, 
however, was not a conspicuous feature of the tem- 
perament of the people with whom we had to deal. 
It was remarkable how instinctively and unani- 
mously the soldiers of the different Allied armies — 
as heterogeneous a collection as possible of charac- 
ters, tastes and standards of conduct — agreed in 
detesting the Greek at this time. 

Thousands of Greeks, men, women and children, 
have been taken into the service of the British Army 
as labourers and muleteers. The stone-breaking 
for the ceaseless repair of those new and hard-used 
roads with which we have laced the desert of Mace- 
donia is all done by civilian labour, paid from three 
to seven francs a day (the higher rate for foremen), 
fed and housed in large camps under British officers 
who speak the local tongues. Every mile or two as 
you drive you will find the road lined on both sides 
with a black fringe of these peasants, refugees or 
local villagers — of all the races of the Balkans, Serb, 
Turkish, Bulgar (though of Greek allegiance), the 
mixed race that calls itself " Macedonian," Kutzo- 
Vlach, and Greek. Full-trousered old grannies with 
grey hair, hammering industriously away, sit along- 
side youngsters with chubby (and very dirty) bare 
feet, chipping just as vigorously. The men and the 
boys — harder-working boys than I have seen any- 
where — do the heavier wheelbarrow work, and all of 


them are under the benign but alert control of an 
English sergeant whose acquaintance with Balkan 
tongues ends at " Hidey " — a general word of in- 
citement — but who gives orders by means of the 
phrase, " Hi, Johnny," followed by expressive pan- 
tomime. " Johnny " was the term used from the 
first by the British soldier as the only way of address- 
ing an inhabitant of Macedonia, and the population 
of the Balkans, imitative as parrots, have responded 
by adopting it on their part for us. " Shine, Jawhn- 
nie ? " screech the Salonica shoeblacks as you walk 
the muddy streets, hammering their boxes with the 
backs of their brushes. " Penny, Jawhnnie," whine 
the gipsy brats, running along at your elbow and 
making disconcerting efforts to kiss the skirt of your 
coat. " Finish, Johnny," is a phrase likely to be a 
permanent addition to the vocabulary -of the Balkans 
for expressing the simple idea that it conveys. 

Aboriginal though the workers of the road-gangs 
look in their rough and generally filthy national 
dress, they sometimes give you a surprise. On a 
rough hill road in a lonely region, where I had stopped 
with a boiling radiator, a black, rough-coated fellow 
with the cowl of his picturesque frieze jerkin drawn 
over his head — a sort of foreman of the gang at work 
there — came and stood by the car. " Isn't that a fine 
type of savage ? " I said casually to my companion. 
The next remark to be made came in fluent trans- 
Atlantic English from the object of this faint praise 
of mine. " Guess you wahnt some wahter ? " he 
said. " I'll send one my fellers fetch you some." 
I started in some confusion. " Where did you learn 
English ? " I asked, though the question was needless. 

" Buffalo, five year," he jerked in reply. " Ye-es, 
I'd like fine get back there, too. This country no 
dam use, anyhow. No money. Can't get away, 
though, now." 


They all say they want to get back to America 
as a matter of fact. But the homing instinct in the 
inhabitant of the Balkans, and particularly the 
Greek, is so strong that he will leave the new-found 
civilisation of street-cars and telephones and soda- 
fountains and cinemas as soon as he has saved a 
little money, and return all the way again to his 
remote, squalid, muddy, tumble-down village where 
nothing but the dreary monotony of a peasant's life 
on the reluctant soil awaits him. 

The Greek Muleteer Corps that we enlisted was at 
first dressed in khaki uniform, with only a tin badge 
on the arm as a distinguishing mark, and one used 
to have the shock of meeting what seemed to be the 
most rapscallion, untidy mob of English drivers you 
had ever set eyes on. Later on, however, the Mule- 
teer Corps' dress was changed to black tunics and 
slouch hats. They get three drachmas (2s. 6d.) a 
day all found. They are not so good as English 
drivers, of course, but transport is such an immense 
problem in the Balkans that we had to have more 
drivers from somewhere, and Greek labour was the 
only solution. It is always undesirable, of course, 
to use aliens in the zone of an army in the field, and 
on a few occasions some of these people have been 
found carrying letters with spy-reports for the 
enemy, which they were to hide in pre-arranged 
places to be fetched by other agents, but we have 
never had enough men in the Balkans to do any- 
thing big as it is, and we should have had fewer 
combatants still if we had had to find drivers for all 
the horse and mule transport that we use. 

Rupel is a black word with our Army in the 
Balkans. When the Bulgars suddenly advanced 
and took over from the Greeks (by previous secret 
arrangement) the fort that commands the Struma 
valley, they threw a five-barred gate across the only 


way by which we might later on have been able to 
advance into Bulgaria. The Bulgars stopped the 
gap we might have gone through. They put them- 
selves across the path of any advance northward, 
and on the flank of any advance eastward. Since 
then the wall of strong positions over against us has 
been complete, and to achieve anything on what 
later became the British sector of the front it was 
made practically inevitable that we should first 
attack the strong position of Rupel. 

Why did not the French, whose troops were on the 
Struma at the time, seize and hold Fort Rupel 
before the Bulgars got there ? It is a question that 
has been often asked. Certainly we had plenty of 
reasons to expect that they would advance on the 
fort. What restrained the French General Staff 
from occupying it, however, was that, with the 
limited forces which General Sarrail had at his dis- 
position, it would only have been possible to send a 
regiment (say 2,000 men) to hold it and the mouth 
of the defile which it protected. This would not 
have prevented the Bulgars from coming down in 
force, and the destruction or the capture of the 
isolated garrison thrust far out in advance of the 
main Allied Army would have been a defeat for us 
and an injury to our cause. 

It was on the morning of May 26th that the Bul- 
garian force sent to seize Rupel appeared in the 
valley of the Struma. At first it was reported as 
one brigade . strong, then as one division. The 
infantry of the force seems to have consisted of 
three whole regiments and part of another, and 
there was also artillery, three companies of German 
sappers, and some Uhlans. The enemy came in 
three columns, of which the centre one moved on 
Rupel. The fort had a Greek garrison, of course, 
the Greek Army being still in occupation of Serres 


and Demir Hissar, and as the Bulgars approached 
the Greeks fired a few shells at them — a pro forma 
resistance evidently — to which the Bulgars made no 
reply, but instead sent at noon a white flag to demand 
the surrender of the fort. The officer in command 
said that he could not give it up without orders 
from Athens, so a delay was granted for these to be 
obtained, and at 2.30 p.m. the telegraphic order 
came that the Greek garrison was to evacuate the 
fort and withdraw to Demir Hissar. So the Greek 
flag was hauled down and the Bulgarian one hoisted. 
The Bulgars and Germans signed an inventory of the 
contents of the fort, and told General Bayeras that 
they only wanted it for defensive purposes, to stop 
an Allied move northwards. A telegram to the 
Athens Government from General Bayeras, who 
commanded the 6th Greek Division at Serres, which 
came to the knowledge of the French General Staff, 
goes far to confirm the idea that Rupel was sur- 
rendered by King Constantine to his friends and our 
enemies by deliberate previous collusion. " The 
Germans and Bulgars arrived at Demir Hissar 
station this morning to occupy it," telegraphed the 
General a day or two later. " I told them that I 
could not hand over the station without previous 
reference to you, because the transference of Demir 
Hissar station was not comprised in the treaty." 

Only a year later, in July, 1917, did it become 
known, from the disclosures made by the re-established 
Venizelist Government in Athens, that, immediately 
before handing over Fort Rupel to the Germans and 
their Allies, King Constantine's Government had 
obtained (as the price of it) a loan of £3,000,000 from 
the German Government, while at the same moment, 
with characteristic duplicity, it was trying to avail 
itself of the long-suffering benevolence of the Allies 
to get another loan of £5,000,000 out of them. 


Demir Hissar station was occupied immediately 
after Rupel, treaty or no treaty, and the Bulgarians, 
crossing the Greek frontier at other points, waited 
only until they were ready to make a simultaneous 
push on the other flank of the Allied front before 
carrying the zone of their occupation down to Kavalla, 
so that it enclosed our positions in a great arc. At 
Kavalla part of the garrison under Colonel Hatzo- 
poulo went over to the side which had always had 
their sympathies and were carried off to Berlin for 
" training." Colonel Christodoulo, who had brought 
down a contingent of anti-Bulgar Greeks from Seres, 
got across to Thasos island and so back to Salonica, 
where he was received by the population with hero- 
worship, and later became the first General of the 
Venizelist forces. Salonica, as a part of New Greece, 
was indeed much perturbed by the invasion of the 
Struma valley by the Bulgars. Her townspeople 
remembered by what precarious means Salonica had 
become Greek, and they knew that the Bulgars aimed, 
and aim still, definitely and ardently, at recapturing 
the coveted port in which their troops temporarily 
set footing during the first Balkan War. There was a 
large public meeting of protest against the action of 
the Greek Government, held in Salonica, which the 
Royalist municipal authorities tried in vain to prevent, 
and from that time a feeling of resentment and 
apprehension grew among the townspeople and the 
officers of the garrison until it brought about the 
" Revolution " of August 30th. 

Following upon the Bulgarian descent into Greek 
territory, and their seizure, by connivance with the 
Greek Government, of the fort of Rupel, General 
Sarrail (on June 3rd) seized the control at Salonica 
of the services of communication and of the police 
force of the town. The step was one essential to our 
military security. It was the knowledge which 


reached the French General Staff of the telegram to 
the Greek Government, proving its complicity in the 
advance of the Bulgarians against us, that armed 
Sarrail's hand. His reply to the surrender of Fort 
Rupel was the proclamation of martial law at 
Salonica and throughout the zone of the Allied 
Armies, and the military occupation of the public 
buildings of the town. With the swiftness and 
decision which are characteristic of Sarrail's actions, 
the step was taken on King Constantine's birthday, 
the preparations for the celebration of which were 
hastily called off as French patrols with fixed 
bayonets suddenly appeared before all the public 
buildings and at every street corner. The civil 
administration of the town, except Posts and Tele- 
graphs and police, was left in the hands of the Greeks, 
but several officials who had been particularly active 
in their hostility to the Allies, such as Troupakis, the 
head of the gendarmerie, were expelled. 

I will not go into the question of the blockade of 
the Greek coast by which we brought pressure to 
bear on Athens. That was a political -matter ordered 
in the first place by the French Minister of Marine, 
the French Government acting as the delegate of the 
Allies in the relations of the Entente with Greece. 
Several times troops were embarked at Salonica to go 
and lie off Athens ready to land if the Greek Govern- 
ment proved obstinate. Dense secrecy prevailed, of 
course, about these movements, and rumours of the 
greatest variety about their destination would spring 
up in the town like mushrooms after rain. 

As a result of these demonstrations, we won some 
pseudo-concessions from the royalist Government at 
Athens. Thus after June 21st, when we threatened 
to occupy the capital, the King agreed to demobilise 
his army — but he proceeded to arm civilians, who 
formed bands of irregulars in our rear just as capable 


of giving us trouble as Greek uniformed troops would 
have been. 

At length, at the end of August, 1916, came the 
" Salonica Revolution." This was an outburst of 
the indignation of the Greeks of Macedonia against 
the simultaneous invasion of still larger tracts of 
both Eastern and Western Macedonia by the Bulgars, 
which took place in August, when they occupied 
Fiorina and Banitza and advanced to Lake Ostrovo 
in the west and pushed on to Kavalla in the east. 

By a sudden and rather dramatic upheaval, such 
as appeals to the Greek temperament, allegiance to 
King Constantine and the Athens Government was 
renounced by the majority of the Salonica garrison 
and population and the resistance of the Royalist 
minority was overcome after five minutes' fighting in 
the dark. The " Revolution " had the distinct 
advantage for the Allies of clarifying the situation. 
The transference by the revolutionaries of their 
adherence from King Constantine to the Entente 
made General Sarrail's authority supreme in Salonica . 
And after that there was no more trouble. 

A revolutionary feeling had been growing in 
Macedonia ever since the Greek troops, under orders 
from the Athens Government, abandoned Fort 
Rupel and a considerable extent of Greek territory 
to Bulgarian occupation. The jealous hatred which 
is the chief feature of the international relations of the 
Balkan races was stirred to frenzy, and a really 
bitter feeling of indignation sprang up and grew 
against the pro-German king and his Ministers ; nor 
was this indignation based solely upon sentiment. 
Well-founded apprehension had no small part in it. 
The graves were still fresh of the victims of the 
Bulgarian massacres at Doxato, in the very district 
which was now tamely surrendered to them. The 
hopes of this Greek pro -Ally party which was forming 


at Salonica had been raised for a moment during the 
last week of August by the news from Athens that 
General Dousmanis, Chief of the General Staff, the 
arch-enemy of the Entente, and principal pro- 
German plotter, had lost, his post, and been replaced 
by General Moschopoulos, who had previously com- 
manded the Greek Army Corps at Salonica. But 
though Moschopoulos had been personally friendly 
with the Allied Staffs, he was above everything a 
professional soldier, anxious not to forfeit his post 
for political reasons, and he quickly came into the 
orbit of King Constantine and the pro-Germans with 
whom he had to work in Athens. 

And the last circumstance which encouraged the 
pro -Ally party at Salonica to pass from sympathy to 
action was the fact of Roumania's entry into the war. 

It must be remembered — though the recollection is 
bitter now — that it was then expected with confidence 
that this event marked the beginning of the triumph 
of our Balkan campaign. Bulgaria would be crushed 
by a converging attack from both sides. Russia — 
mysterious, but with her strength as yet undoubted — 
would begin an irresistible offensive at the same time ; 
the Allies at Salonica would march victoriously 
forward through the Balkans. There would be 
redistribution of territories and a recasting of 
frontiers, and from all this, Greece, as the pro-Ally 
party at Salonica felt, would be shut out and left 
without a friend in the world. 

So on the afternoon of August 30th a proclamation 
suddenly appeared on the walls of Salonica, addressed 
to the Greek people and the Greek Army and signed 
by Colonel Zimbrakakis, the leader of the movement, 
by Colonel Mazarakis, by the Venizelist deputy for 
Seres, and half a dozen other lesser personages, over 
the title, " Committee of National Defence." In 
brief, what they said was, " The present state of 


affairs has lasted long enough. The surrender to the 
Bulgars of Greek forts and territories is a betrayal of 
the fatherland to foreign interests. The time has 
come for Greece to place herself by the side of the 
Powers of the Entente, who have always been her 
friends." The proclamation urged the Greek soldiers 
at Salonica to reject all further orders from Athens 
and to join the Allies in driving the Bulgars off 
Greek soil. 

The news spread through the town that the Greek 
gendarmerie — largely Cretans, and therefore Veni- 
zelists — had joined the movement in a body, and that 
the officers of the three Greek regiments at the 
barracks were holding a meeting to discuss their 
attitude. Meanwhile Colonel Zimbrakakis, at the 
head of the gendarmes, all wearing a blue and white 
silk armlet, which was to be the badge of the Revo- 
lution, and followed by a nondescript crowd of 
volunteers, hastily equipped with any weapons 
available, marched through the town to offer his 
services and theirs to General Sarrail. The side- 
street in front of French Headquarters was packed 
with an excited crowd, for the Greek loves political 
demonstration above any form of entertainment. 
Colonel Zimbrakakis made an impassioned speech 
from horseback amid loud cheers of " Zito ! " then 
went in to offer the support of his adherents to the 
Allied cause for the liberation of Macedonia. Sarrail 
accepted the proffered services, having already been 
in the habit of taking Greek volunteers into the 
French Army since the Bulgars came into Greece. 
At the same time he issued a general warning that 
he would intervene if public order were disturbed. 
Though there was no definite repudiation of loyalty 
to the Greek Crown, I heard many cries from the 
crowd of " Down with the King ! " and there was a 
feeling in Salonica that night that trouble was in the 


air. AH British troops were ordered out of the town 
at dusk, but everything remained quiet until 4.30 a.m. 
next morning. 

My own quarters when in Salonica happened to 
be in a house looking directly on to the broad parade- 
ground which lies in front of the main barracks, and 
I was suddenly awakened by a violent rifle-fire very 
close at hand. One always thinks instinctively 
of aircraft nowadays when disturbed by explosive 
noises at night, but this tumult evidently required 
another explanation. It was a pitch-black night. 
I went out on to the verandah at the back of the 
house to find the whole of the parade-ground flickering 
with the flashes of rifles. Bullets were flying to every 
point of the compass. Some hit my house, which 
was at right angles to the line of fire, others fell in 
Allied camps a mile away. Then came much whist- 
ling and shouting and the firing gradually died down 
and stopped. But the creaking of wheels and 
the noise of footsteps and lowered voices told 
of the presence of a good many men. It was 
evident that the revolutionary gendarmes were 
attacking the Royalist infantry and cavalry in their 

Dawn came in an hour or so, and the position grew 
clearer. Overnight the revolutionary gendarmes had 
demanded the surrender of the barracks by the cavalry 
and infantry that occupied, them. The officers of 
the latter refused, and when the time fixed by the 
revolutionaries for the evacuation of the building 
arrived the Royalists posted their men along the 
front wall of the tree-filled garden. At 4.30 a.m., 
suspicious of the silence and fearing a surprise attack, 
they sent out from the barracks a reconnoitring patrol 
of sixty men. These were groping across the parade- 
ground in the dark when they ran into the gendarmes 
silently assembling to invest the barracks. Each 


side thought that the other was attacking and began 
to fire wildly. 

And now at daylight there they were, the blue- 
coated gendarmes lying down lining the tramway- 
street on one side of the parade-ground, the khaki 
soldiers behind the wall of the barracks on the other. 
A dead horse and a few pools of blood lay about, 
but the losses in the splutter of rifle-fire were only 
one killed and two wounded on the side of the gen- 
darmes, and two killed among the Royalist troops. 
One or two Greek civilians, poor vagabonds sleeping 
out, also stopped stray bullets. 

There is a long and unsavoury stream -bed that runs 
along one side of the parade-ground past the bottom 
of my garden. It was amusing to watch from the 
roof of the house Royalist and revolutionary skir- 
mishers begin simultaneously to steal along this, 
each hidden from the other by the twists and turnings 
in it. They would get within about thirty yards before 
catching sight of each other, then both would bob 
down with great alacrity and lie there under cover, 
with their rifles ready to fire. 

pj^But there was to be no more fighting. Some of 
the civilian volunteers, looking very comitadji-like 
in plain clothes with assorted rifles and bandoliers, 
did indeed arrive, and seemed to be gathering for a 
flank attack under the corner of my house, but 
their spirits were so undecided that when a Royalist 
officer came out of the barracks, walked up to them 
and began to abuse them, they only listened sheepishly 
in awkward silence. "If we get hold of Zimbra- 
kakis," remarked this officer amiably, " we will cut 
him in pieces." 

But General Sarrail had already decided that the 
Greeks could not be allowed to settle their political 
differences by sniping each other in the streets of 
the town that was his military base. So at 6 a.m. 


a hundred French infantry and half a troop of 
cavalry marched on to the Champ de Mars with the 
deliberate and business-like air of police arriving 
at a pacifist demonstration. Half-an-hour later a 
thousand more followed. They lined the sides ol 
the parade-ground, sent two platoons round to the 
back of the barracks, set up their machine-guns, and 
lay down, ready to open fire at a word. An anti- 
aircraft motor-lorry drew up and trained its field-gun 
on to the main gate of the royalist fortress at 300 
yards' range. A battery of six trench-mortars was 
set out in a suitable position. Three aeroplanes 
came and circled overhead. 

The garrison at the barracks watched these cold- 
blooded" preparations with evident dismay. Heads 
kept on bobbing up and down anxiously behind 
the wall. Were the revolutionary gendarmes being 
reinforced by the French for a joint attack to over- 
whelm the royalist defenders and convert them at 
the point of the bayonet? The outpost in the 
stream-bed was recalled inside. Then a little convoy 
of empty carts came very peaceably out of the mam 
gate, presumably to fetch the day's rations, and 
try to restore things to a normal basis by following 
out the regular routine. The revolutionary pickets 
sternly turned it back, however, to the undisguised 
discouragement of the garrison, who had been watch- 
ing the fate of this important mission with anxiety. 

It was curious to see how little attention the 
ordinary population of Salonica paid to these happen- 
ings They went streaming past on foot and in the 
trams along the street at the bottom of the parade- 
ground, hardly turning their heads to notice the 
blue-coated revolutionaries and the khaki -coated 
royalists facing each other with arms in their hands 
at the side of the street. A population that has seen 
so many uprisings and disorders within the last few 


years — the bullet-holes in the walls have not yet 
been filled up after the street fighting between Greeks 
and Bulgarians in 1913 — could hardly be expected 
to give great attention to so haphazard a bickering 
as this. 

At 10.30 General Sarrail arrived on the parade- 
ground. At the same time about fifty royalist officers 
without their swords trooped out of the barracks and 
walked across to a building on the parade-ground, 
where Sarrail followed them. The interview was 
of a few minutes only, and it took place standing. 
General Sarrail is always energetic and decisive, 
and he dominated this situation very completely. 
" I don't want to mix myself up between Greek and 
Greek," he said, " but I will not have shooting going 
on in the streets of this town which is my base and 
headquarters," and, turning to Colonel Tricoupis, 
the leader of the royalists, Sarrail told him bluntly 
that he must come at once to a peaceful settlement. 
Tricoupis replied that the royalist officers refused 
to have any dealings with their revolutionary 
opponents, but that they had no objection to 
concluding an agreement with the French. On 
this, Sarrail called for their immediate sur- 
render, and pointed out that he had troops 
of his own there in considerable strength to en- 
force submission if it were refused. The officers, 
he said, could keep their swords. The men would 
be disarmed and marched to the French camp at 

The surrender demanded was accorded without 
further resistance. The " revolution " was over, 
and the Committee of National Defence, taking over 
the administration of Salonica, though French 
martial law continued to exist there, issued next 
day a decree mobilising the 1915 class throughout 


Macedonia, which was the beginning of the co- 
operation of Greek forces with the Allies in the 

Meanwhile the movement spread to other towns of 
the province and gradually gathered strength. 




In December, 1915, the Serbian Army had ceased 
to exist. The retreat across the Albanian mountains 
in the snow had left it no more than a rabble of 
literally starving men. Yet in May, 1917, the 
Serbian Army was in being again. It was certainly 
reduced to less than a third of its original numbers, 
but it was a fighting force once more and stood by 
the side of its Allies at Salonica. 

This reconstruction or rather re-creation of the 
Serbian Army is one of the finest feats of organisation 
that the Allies have performed in the whole war. 
The credit of it is due not only to the unquenchable 
patriotism and spirit of the Serbs but to the resource- 
fulness, the energy and the tact of the " Military 
Missions," one of which was sent out by each of the 
Allied Powers to meet that rout of half-demented 
survivors of the sufferings of Albania, to feed them, 
clothe them, equip them, help them to get back their 
military efficiency and finally transport them to our 
base in the Balkans, from where they might begin 
again their struggle against the tyrannical invaders 
of their country. 

The terrible story of the retreat across Albania 
has been vividly told by those who went through it. 
There is no record in history of so ghastly a march. 
It surpasses in horror the story of the Grande Armee's 



withdrawal from Moscow. The tracks the starving 
host followed through the snow-covered mountains 
were marked by a trail of corpses. Austrian prisoners 
and Serbian civilians were mixed haphazard with the 
disorganised army. The former were " marching 
towards Scotland through the snow," as I heard a 
survivor of the retreat describe it, for the English 
Government had offered to find accommodation in 
Scotland for the Austrian prisoners of Serbia. Few 
of the Serbian civilians survived their sufferings. 
The banks of the Skumbi river were strewn for days 
with the corpses of well-dressed men, women and 
children, refugees from Belgrade, whose strength had 
failed in fording the stream. They lay there till 
the dogs devoured them. 

Literally without any food at all for days together 
the long files of wretched men plodded on through 
rain and snow, over precipitous goat-tracks and 
through waist-deep marshes. Often they had to 
turn and drive off attacks from the treacherous 
Albanians, and many a man preferred death by his 
own rifle or by sinking into the fatal sleep of utter 
exhaustion in the snow to a continuance of such 

And it is morally certain that even the strongest, 
who kept on through it all to the end, would have 
died when they reached the coast of the Adriatic 
if it had not been for the system of food supply 
which the Allies organised. At Scutari many men 
did not touch food for six days. The officers were 
able to buy a little bread at 12s. to 15s. a loaf. 

The British Military Mission, whose headquarters 
had now been established at Rome, had organised 
with great difficulty a service of pack-animal food 
convoys from Medua to supply the Serbians at 
Scutari. The apprehension that the food ships 
might be attacked by the Austrians delayed their 


sailing. One ship, indeed, went down with a loss 
of sixty English A.S.C. details. 

The Serbs were so exhausted, however, that for a 
few days it looked as though they would never find 
the heart to make another effort. But if the Serbian 
Army was yet to be saved they must once more set 
out on another march of five or six days, over swampy 
ground, and in danger of attack from the Albanians, 
as far as Valona. To have embarked them north of 
that port would have been to take a big risk of 
attack from the Austrian fleet lying at Cattaro. 

The only way to encourage the Serbs to start 
out again for Durazzo was to create food depots 
along the road. The decision, indeed, to make the 
Serbs undertake this fresh journey was a desperate one. 
The men were so weakened by dysentery that many 
were simply swallowed in the marshes on the road, 
not having enough strength to struggle out of them. 
On this part of their journey to safety the British 
Mission saved thousands of lives. They organised 
ferries across the rivers, improved the road in the 
worst places, and saw to it that the dispirited soldiers 
had enough, but not more than enough, food to take 
them on their way, for after their weeks of starvation 
many of them tended to eat more than their enfeebled 
constitutions would stand, and so died when their 
hardships were all but over. 

From Valona the Serbs were transported by the 
French very expeditiously to Corfu. The 80,000 
men who marched down from Scutari were increased 
to 130,000 by another contingent which had made 
straight for Valona. But even when the safety of 
Corfu was reached the exhausted Serbs were still in 
a desperate condition. The Serbian Government 
has since bought the land where many of them are 
buried, in the little island opposite Corfu town that 
was used as a quarantine station, and on it a memorial 


will be raised after the war to those who died 

It took some time to organise — in abominable 
weather — the housing and feeding of the dispirited 
host at Corfu. The Allied Missions only arrived 
there a week before the men, and transport had to 
be imported, and piers built for the supply of so 
great a multitude. 

The refitting and re-equipment of the Serbian 
Army had been arranged by an Allied conference at 
Paris. The French provided rifles and artillery, and 
the feeding and clothing of the destitute army was 
shared in equal proportions by France and England. 
Gradually, as the spring drew on, the Serbians 
got back their strength again, and the work of re- 
organising them into an army could be begun. 

Another and equally difficult process, however, 
yet remained to be performed. The Serbs had to 
be transported to Salonica through waters where 
enemy submarines were waiting for this very chance. 
So closely did they keep their watch on the island that 
they were even seen by Serbian troops at drill on 
the shore. The French were responsible for the 
organising of this transport of the Serbs to Salonica, 
and they did it extremely well. Fifteen transports 
and two auxiliary cruisers were available for the 
work, each vessel making three and a half voyages 
a month. The first shipload of Serbs reached 
Salonica on April 15th, and the last had arrived 
several days before the end of May. 

Not a man was lost on the voyage, and, greatly 
though, this redounds to the secrecy and efficiency 
with which the French made their plans, much of 
the credit is also due to the British trawlers which 
helped to escort the Serbian troopships, patrolling 
and sweeping up mines in the waters through which 
they were to pass. The transports left Corfu in 


pairs with an escort of destroyers. They would 
start out as if heading for Marseilles or Bizerta, 
and, when away from the island, alter course and zig- 
zag the rest of the way to Salonica. The enemy 
submarine commanders certainly missed a remark- 
ably good opportunity. It can scarcely be that 
they were lulled into inactivity by the negotiations 
that were carried on as a bluff by the Allies with the 
Greek Government for the transport of the Serbians 
from Patras overland. 

Special piers had been built for the arrival of the 
new contingent at Micra, a deserted spot on the shores 
of the Gulf of Salonica east of the town, and there 
two or three vessels would arrive regularly during 
the night. While the process of discharging was 
going or French gendarmes kept anyone from 
approaching the pier, and everything in connection 
with their arrival was carried out with the greatest 
secrecy. % 

An entire town of tents and huts and storehouses 
had soon sprung up on the empty green flats of 
Micra and the Vasilika valley, and the big, brawny, 
simple-mannered men, all with their characteristically- 
shaped caps, but some wearing English khaki and 
some French horizon-blue, began to add yet another 
costume to the motley aspect of the Salonica streets. 

The Serbs even possessed the nucleus of a navy. 
Admiral Troubridge, who was in command of the 
international naval division which helped to defend 
Belgrade, had'arranged for the training of about forty 
men, who had mostly been boatmen on the Danube, 
by cruises in British warships. They wore British 
uniform, except for the cap-ribbon, and the fact 
that the officers were in soldiers' khaki. 

Their little craft, the Greater Serbia, was an old 
Greek torpedo-boat that had since been used as a 
ferry-boat, and was bought by the Serbian Govern- 


ment at Corfu. There was a story that, when it was 
about to be brought round from Corfu to Salonica, 
her captain applied to the Allied Military Missions 
for a gun to be mounted on board. But the Allies 
gravely replied that as the Greater Serbia would 
probably make the voyage to Salonica on the deck 
of a transport they considered that a gun was hardly 

But, though unarmed, the little steamer with the 
Serbian ensign at the stern did useful, though humble, 
work at Salonica in towing men and stores from place 
to place on the shores of the Gulf. 

It was a remarkable thing, but one that is signi- 
ficant of the buoyancy of their spirits, that, in spite 
of past sufferings and present exile, the Serbians 
immediately on their arrival at Salonica began to 
entertain their comrades of the other Allied Armies. 
They showed eagerness to make closer acquaintance 
with them, and their own hospitality and frank, 
open ways caused a particularly close feeling of 
friendship to spring up between the Serbs and our 
English soldiers, though most of these had never in 
their lives seen a Serbian before, nor had they one 
word of common language. The Serbian " slava " — 
a sort of regimental festival and feast — became a new 
feature in the social life of Salonica, though it was 
one which required considerable robustness on the 
part of foreign guests unused to hospitality on the 
Serbian scale. 

A " slava " would begin at about 9 a.m. It is an 
outdoor affair and the first hour or two would be 
devoted to a religious service, with quaint rites like 
the blessing and ceremonial cutting up of a cake, and 
to military parades and speeches ; " slavas " usually 
commemorate the exploits of some hero or a battle 
against the Turks in the Middle Ages, for, as Mr, 
Lloyd George has since said, this little people since 


the fourteenth century has kept alive the memory 
of its defeat by the Turks in the sure and certain 
hope of ultimate deliverance. Then about eleven 
o'clock, at a long table under an arbour of leaves, 
the officers of the regiment and their guests sit down 
to lunch. That lunch would last till three, and it left 
one with a vivid idea of what a mediaeval baronial 
banquet must have been like. The succession of 
courses, many of them Serbian national dishes of 
unusual composition, seemed unending, and the 
colonel of the regiment, whom custom required not to 
sit down but to move constantly about looking after 
his guests, saw to it that one's glass was never empty 
for the frequent toasts that the presence of so many 
Allies of different nationalities made necessary. 

Towards the end of luncheon the regimental band 
would appear in front of the arbour, followed by a 
rush of soldiers who join hands and begin to dance 
the " kola." Like most national dances of the 
Balkans the " kola " is a sort of sideways shuffle danced 
by any number of people, hand in hand, to a wailing 
skirl of flutes supported by a lot of banging on the 
drum. The Serbian officers would spring from their 
seats to join their men in this fandango, which would 
go on for an hour together, and it was evidence of the 
feeling of being at home with which the easy-going 
hospitality of the Serbs filled their guests that English 
and French officers would be drawn in too and skip 
and spring and caper without the slightest feeling of 
making themselves conspicuous. 

The unbroken spirit of these big-built men simply 
astonished one. They had gone through more than 
any nation among the Allies. In each of the six years 
from 1912 to 1917 they have been at war. Their 
losses have been terrible. There is very little of the 
manhood of the nation left. 

The whole hope of the regeneration of Serbia lay, 


in fact, with those hundred thousand men who landed 
at Micra pier, and so heavily have the Serbs lost in 
the fierce fighting that they have since waged among 
the rocky hills on the banks of the Cerna that the 
repopulation of their country, when it has been 
won back again, will be a problem of the lack of 

Yet it is rare to see a despondent Serb. " Those 
are my wife and children," a Serbian officer will say, 
showing you a photograph. " I have not seen 
them or heard of them since we left Belgrade in 
October, 1915. I have tried to get into touch with 
them by advertising in Swiss papers, which the 
Germans allow to be imported into Serbia, but I have 
had no reply. Whether they are alive or dead, 
whether they have money or are starving, even 
whether they have been allowed to remain in Serbia 
at all, I haven't the vaguest idea." 

It is with such heavy griefs weighing upon each 
individual's mind that the Serbian Army has fought 
so stoutly, and that it yet rejects the offer, which 
the Bulgars and Austrians have held out, of bringing 
this suspense and separation to an end on the in- 
glorious terms of national surrender. 

The Serbian Crown Prince Alexander came among 
the first to Salonica, but his dark, aquiline face is 
not often seen by the people of the town. When he 
is there he keeps to the grounds of the villa that was 
reserved for him in a quiet side street, studying, as 
I found him already doing on the morning after his 
arrival, the maps which cover the table in his plainly 
furnished workroom, and receiving reports from the 
officers of his staff. His father, King Peter, for 
whom he acts as Regent, had reached Salonica from 
Corfu earlier in the year, but he maintains a strict 
seclusion. He has grown a beard which preserves 
'him from recognition by any stranger who may 



catch sight of him, and except for a short visit to 
Vodena has hardly left his house in Salonica. 

Prince George of Serbia, who was formerly the heir 
to the throne, but resigned the succession to his 
younger brother, is a familiar figure on the Serbian 
front. Very impetuous and entirely offhand in his 
actions, casually dressed, usually in a couple of muddy 
raincoats, the one underneath longer than the one on 
top, he makes no parade of princedom. "He is 
always the first out of the car to shove," says an 
English officer who often travels with him, and those 
who have motored much in the Balkans know how 
often the opportunity for energy and self-sacrifice 
of that kind arises. Prince George's readiness to 
expose himself to the risks of the firing line is con- 
spicuous. He has arrived sometimes in the front 
lines just before an attack takes place and has gone 
over the parapet with the men. During this summer 
of 1917, indeed, the Prince has had his horse shot 
under him while reviewing Serbian troops close up 
to the front. 

One may be permitted while on the subject of the 
Serbians to remark upon a happy innovation which 
the British Government has introduced into the 
maintenance of our relations with them. This is 
the attachment to the staff of the Serbian Crown 
Prince of a senior British officer of wide experience in 
the person of Vice- Admiral E. T. Troubridge. Ad- 
miral Troubridge had greatly assisted in the defence 
of Belgrade during the autumn of 1915 when in 
command of an international naval force there. He 
organised a flotilla of gunboats on the Danube, and 
his naval guns were some of the most efficient artillery 
that the Serbian capital possessed. After accompany- 
ing the Serbian Army in its desperate retreat across 
Albania, the Admiral was sent out again to the 
Balkans to be attached to the Serbian Crown Prinj^« J*)^ 



and to take command of the naval brigade that might 
have been despatched there had the campaign made 

But the services which so experienced an officer 
has been able to render to the relations, sometimes 
delicate, between ourselves and the Serbs have been 
more valuable even than those of an artillery com- 
mander in the field. With the knowledge of inter- 
national relations which a former Chief of the War 
Staff possesses and with the assistance of such an 
expert in Balkan affairs as Commander Alfred Stead, 
his flag officer, Admiral Troubridge has done more 
than any one individual to keep our relations with 
the Serbians at the degree of cordiality and confidence 
which has always characterised them. When our 
attitude in some matter has puzzled the Serbs they 
have come to him for explanation and re-assurance. 
When they have had some view which they wished 
to put before our Government it has often been to 
Admiral Troubridge that it was submitted first. 
This role of super-liaison officer, or unofficial military 
ambassador (for the Serbian nation is now no more 
than its army), is one that might well be renewed 
in our relations with others of our Allies ; though 
it is true that its vp.lue and success depend entirely 
upon the personality and the abilities of the man 
chosen to fulfil it. 

And while the whole of the Serbian nation that is 
free is now based upon Salonica as an army in the 
field, the machinery of the Serbian Government, 
left without a country to administer, has waited 
patiently at Corfu. Had our recapture of Monastir 
been followed, as was expected, by the repulse of the 
Bulgars as far as Prilep, the Serbian Ministry would 
have been brought back on to its own territory and 
regained a limited exercise of its functions. But 
Monastir is still a place where you need a shrapnel 


helmet and a gas mask, so the Government of Serbia 
has remained until now in its exile at Corfu. 

I went to Corfu in the spring of 1917 and was 
received there by M. Pasitch, the aged Serbian Prime 
Minister. The island is another of those places 
which the war has strangely transmogrified. Despite 
its five-storied, green-shuttered, Italian-looking 
houses the atmosphere of the place is peculiarly 
English, but English of that mid-Victorian period 
when we abandoned it as a gift to the since ungrateful 
Greeks. Though you will hardly find an Englishman 
among the Serbs, Italians, French and Greeks, who 
at present throng its streets, the stamp of our occupa- 
tion was solidly enough impressed to be apparent 
still at every turn. 

There is the heavy portico-fronted Government 
House, in a neo-Doric style which is the reproduction 
of similar official buildings that British architects 
were putting up at the same time all over the world, 
conservatively regardless of considerations of climate 
or convenience. Here you have the trim parade- 
ground, or Maidan or Belvedere, with its inevitable 
classic temple, looking as if it might be a part of 
Tunbridge Wells in the Regency days. Here is the 
Hotel St. George, with solid, heavy, shining mahogany 
furniture and a big tin mid-nineteenth century tub 
that is produced when you ask for a bath. The very 
shops and arcades persistently remind one of a sleepy 
little old-fashioned English country town. Ran- 
dolph Caldecott might have drawn Widow Blaize 
looking out of those quaint little square-paned win- 
dows. You feel as if you expected to meet a crinoline 
or a bob-wig at every street corner. 

• : J 



Salonica is a very museum of the Allies. Of the 
principal Allied Armies in the field only representa- 
tives of the Americans and Portuguese are lacking, 
and there used to be rumours that even they were 
coming. In the Balkans there is none of the isola- 
tion that keeps the armies of different nationalities 
apart in France. All of us rub shoulders at our com- 
mon base of Salonica. The Annamite and the 
Serbian sit side by side in the tram without either 
finding the juxtaposition odd. A brigade of blonde 
Russians may be relieved by a brigade of black 
Senegalese. Italian, Frenchman, Englishman and 
Greek will share a table in a restaurant, and it is very 
satisfactory to find that in spite of his customary 
ignorance of any language but his own — in which 
respect he is no worse than the average Frenchman, 
however — the Englishman seems as generally popular 
all round as any of the Allies. He fraternises with 
the Russian — a particularly convivial soul ; he 
exchanges inarticulate but hearty handshakes with 
the Serb ; he embarks courageously upon conversa- 
tions in his best Rouen French with the Frenchman ; 
and as any number of the Italians speak English, he 
gets on all right with them. 

But what a curse these obstacles of language are, 
and how much envy is aroused by the galling fluency 
of that Englishman over there whose parents sent 

K 127 


him to live in France at an age when most of us 
were at a private school. Of course, French is the 
common tongue of the Allied Armies, but few English- 
men can really speak that well enough to make 
conversation a pleasure, especially for the Frenchman 
whose ear is so sensitive to maltreatment of his beauti- 
ful tongue. I have a scheme for after the war for 
which I have already obtained the approval of 
Frenchmen, who suffer from the same barrier of 
tongues as we do. It is this. When peace comes 
it will leave the Frenchman — it may be said between 
ourselves — with an increased respect for English 
institutions and particularly for the character which 
is the unique educational product of the English 
public school ; it will leave the Englishman with 
an increased respect for the brilliance and intelligence 
of the French, and with a determination that his sons, 
at least, shall not be so tongue-tied as their father 
was directly he left his own country. Many French 
parents will want their sons to have an education 
on the English system— games, prefects, corporal 
punishment, esprit de corps — that has produced the 
keen, sporting, gallant type of Englishman he has 
come to respect. But the Frenchman hates sending 
his boy abroad ; he does not like going abroad him- 
self — France is very properly the cream of the earth 
for him. And the Englishman does not care to send 
his son to a French lycee of the present type, great 
though the advantage of learning the French language 
well may be, because he does not wish the boy to 
lose the character-training of an English public 

A big inter-Ally school in France, therefore, with 
English masters and organised on public school lines, 
would meet both these cases. The English boy will 
learn the language of the country and still live under 
the same regime as if he had gone to a school at home, 


and the French boy will benefit from the same treat- 

To get the right spirit from the start, the best way 
to bring the scheme into being would perhaps be to 
bring about the amalgamation of some existing 
English school with a well-known lycee in France. 
The thing would want carrying out well in the way 
of buildings and equipment, and it ought to form a 
special sort of tie between the Allied countries. 

The two Russian brigades that began to arrive on 
July 30th brought flat caps and sad-coloured linen 
blouses as an addition to the assortment of military 
costumes which throng the streets of Salonica. The 
men composing them were all volunteers for service 
abroad and were remarkable for their size. They 
seemed to average at least thirteen stone. 

They marched up to their camp at Zeitenlick, 
where they had three months of vigorous training. 
People used to turn off the Lembet Road to see the 
Russians practising a charge. The line of hundreds 
of long thin Lebel bayonets, each with a heavy 
Russian shouting behind it, looked, as it came sweep- 
ing over a rise in the ground, about as formidable 
a thing as you could find in the way of human 
mechanism of the battlefield. 

I was with these same Russians during part of 
their march up to the front before Monastir in 
October. It was beautiful to go into the little 
Greek church of a village near which they camped for 
the night and hear the deep-toned, musical Gre- 
gorian chanting of the responses from the mass of 
devout and stalwart soldiers crowded together in 
the dim light of the tapers feebly flickering before 
tawdry pictures of Orthodox saints. 

On August 10th, only a few days before the battle 
of Ostrovo, related in the last chapter, the first 
detachments of a very strong Italian division, the 



35th, under General the Marquis Petiti di Roreto, 
one of General Cadorna's most trusted lieutenants, 
arrived at Salonica. 

They surprised the rest of the Allied Army in the 
Balkans. Very few, indeed, of us had then seen 
Italian soldiers in the field in this war. And we had 
not expected troops of such excellent quality. The 
men were rather on the small side, perhaps, but they 
were solid and stocky and bronzed by months of 
fighting in the Trentino. The smartness of the 
turn-out of both officers and rank and file struck 
one at once and has never since varied. The men's 
equipment is of a greenish-coloured leather that har- 
monises with the slate-grey of their uniform. The 
officers' clothes are cut with a graceful line that makes 
them picturesque without detracting from a soldierly 
appearance. There is a touch of brightness in the 
white neckcloth just showing above the collar that 
takes away from the dullness of a field-kit, and on 
the collar itself are pretty gorget -patches varying 
in colour, shape and material with the wearer's corps. 
An Italian officer tilts his smart, black-vizored kepi 
at a hardly discernible angle, but for all their well- 
dressed appearance the frequency of the blue ribbon 
of the medal for valour on the chests of these slim 
young soldiers and the bullet -tattered colours of 
their regiments were signs that they were no carpet 
knights — as indeed they soon proved by their remark- 
able efficiency in the Balkans. 

Their march through Salonica from the Quay 
was watched with friendly curiosity by crowds. 
Walking alone, but of a stature that would have 
made him conspicuous anywhere, was their general, 
Petiti di Roreto, an Anak among men, about six feet 
four high and vast in breadth and solidity, who has 
since been promoted to the command of an Army 
Corps in Italy. It was he who three months later, 


while in Monastir a few days after its capture, was 
badly wounded in the leg by a shell which killed 
several men close to him. Two of the orderlies who 
were with him tried to lift their huge general to carry 
him to cover, but could not move him, so they ran 
off to get help, leaving General Petiti to the care of a 
little Italian soldier about one-third his size, who, 
as the shells continued to burst near, kept on ex- 
claiming, " Courage, general ! " with such buoyancy 
that the prostrate general, despite the pain of his 
wound, could not help chuckling in his white beard. 
In February of this year I went to stay with General 
Petiti at his headquarters at Tepavci. He had just 
come back from the Italian Hospital in Salonica to re- 
join his division, although his wound was not yet healed. 

The Italians needed no time to re-organise on 
landing at Salonica. They went up on September 1st 
to take over a sector of the Allied front line, along 
the Krusha-Balkan heights which face the Bela- 
shitza range, and carry our front round from the 
end of the Vardar-Doiran sector to the Struma 
valley. There they had an English division on 
their right and a French colonial division on their 
left. The division which the Italians relieved was 
also French. 

The front they were to hold was twenty-seven miles 
long. It had as yet no wire in front of it, except about 
the scattered redoubts that took the place of a con- 
tinuous line of trenches. It looked across the broad 
green valley to the high wall of the Belashitza beyond. 
Down this valley runs the line from Salonica to Con- 
stantinople after its sharp turn to the east at Doiran. 
There were, however, four isolated posts right across 
the valley at the foot of the Belashitza (Upper 
Poroi, Palmis, and two others), which the French 
had occupied. Each of the four villages was held by 
one company, and was so far from the possibility of 


support that General Petiti decided to evacuate 
them. But on the day fixed for this — it was in the 
middle of September — the Bulgars suddenly attacked 
Poroi with a battalion and a half, under cover of a 
barrage from the Bulgarian guns up on the steep 
Belashitza slopes behind. The Italians could do 
nothing to silence these batteries, for it was a curious 
circumstance imposed by the formation of the ground 
in this sector that the artillery of either side was 
out of range of the other. Each side had its guns 
on the hills dominating the flat valley between, and 
neither could do more than put up extreme range 
barrages to cover its own infantry in an attack. 
The Italian company at Poroi was ordered to hold 
on there to the last in order to cover the retreat of 
the three companies in the other isolated villages. 
It was impossible to send out troops to reinforce 
these little outposts owing to the concentrated and 
continuous enemy barrage. So that, although three 
of the companies got back by noon to the Italian 
lines, the fourth, protecting their retreat at Poroi, 
became surrounded. It might then have surrendered, 
its duty done and hope of extricating itself being 
gone, but instead continued fighting all the after- 
noon. Night came, and still the rattle of their rifles 
and machine-guns did not cease. It was not until 
next day, after thirty-six hours of resistance, when 
their ammunition must have been exhausted, that the 
gallant two hundred, or what was left of them, 
brought their struggle to an end, probably by a 
charge, for cries of " Avanti, S avoid!" rang out 
across the valley to the saddened hearing of their 
comrades back on the Krusha-Balkan. Then fol- 
lowed silence. 

The first encounter of the Italians with the Bulgars 
had ended, not triumphantly, but with all the 
honours of war upon the side of our Allies. 


When the 57th French Division on the Italian 
left was ordered away from the Krusha-Balkan to 
the Monastir front, the Italians at very short notice 
took over part of their line, and at the beginning of 
October, at the other end of their sector, they made 
a demonstration attack against Butkovo Djuma to 
assist the Serbians in their fighting in front of Monas- 
tir, in the same way as we at the same time attacked 
Zir, Bala and Yenikeuy. 

But at the end of November the Italians were 
withdrawn from the Krusha-Balkan front. 

The excellence of the roads, bridges and hutments 
that they had built, and the readiness with which 
they helped our men in the process of settling in, 
made a great impression on the English. 

One of their brigades had the previous month 
gone up to Monastir ; it was their headquarters in 
the newly captured city that General Petiti was 
visiting when he was wounded. The rest of the 
Italian division now moved up the same way, and 
by that end of December, 1916, had taken over the 
ground that the Serbs and the French had won in 
the loop of the Cerna river. 

Of all the desolate country included in the long 
line of the Allies in the Balkans I think that ten 
miles of front in the " U " that the Cerna makes on 
the east of Monastir is the most dreary. Not a tree 
grows there ; hardly a shrub. It is a savage waste 
of stones and rocks and boulders and ravines ; the 
mountain-side slopes steeply ; close ahead of you 
lowers the forbidding skyline of fierce crags and 
formidable cliffs. Except for infrequent and misera- 
ble hamlets, like Brod, and Veliselo and Tepavci, of 
a squalor unusual even in Macedonia, there is no 
sign of human habitation. Behind you lies the 
fertile flat of the plain of Monastir, with the Cerna 
marshes gleaming in the light, and beyond, fifteen miles 


away, the fair prospect of the well -tilled mountains 
that bar off Lake Prespa. On that side much 
beauty, but ahead nothing but barren, unrelenting 
slopes. And if you took your eyes from the distant 
prospect to examine more closely the ground about 
you, what you saw there was grimmer still, for the 
rough surface of the ground was covered with an 
extraordinary litter of war material abandoned by 
the German troops who had unavailingly been hur- 
ried here to stiffen the Bulgarians in their resistance 
to the Serbian advance beyond the Cerna, which 
gradually levered the enemy out of Monastir. Un- 
exploded hand grenades lay so thick that it was 
almost dangerous to walk, and certainly dangerous 
to ride about. There is a sort of German drumstick 
bomb which explodes five seconds after you pull a 
string ; sometimes bombs of this kind were covered 
with earth, leaving only the string showing, and 
inquisitive Serbian and Italian soldiers occasionally 
would pull at these strings to see what was at the 
other end of them, with results fatal to themselves. 
Bayonets, smashed and twisted rifles, the fragments 
and fish-tails of aerial torpedoes, grey German 
helmets, and enough gas-masks to equip a brigade, 
were scattered everywhere. And it was one of the 
strange little contrasts of war on this desolate Mace- 
donian height to pick up picture postcards showing 
the Zoologischer Garten, or some Berlin cafe that 
one had known well in years gone by, addressed to 
Fusilier Jakob Kautsky or to Gardejaeger Wilhelm 
Reinhardt, with those trivial little messages of news 
and love from home which the German soldiers, 
like our men, receive. Most gruesome of all the 
relics of the fierce fighting that had taken place in 
this Cerna sector were the graves of the German 
dead. For the ground had been too hard to bury 
them, and the mound of scraped-up earth and 


stones, built instead over the body where it feH, 
had often been washed away by the winter rains, 
so that a pair of heavy field boots, a grey-clad 
shoulder, or an earthy hand thrust itself out from 
the grisly heap. A thankless land to fight for, it 
must have seemed to these German soldiers, that 
even refused them burial when they were dead. 

This line, when the Italians took it over, was not 
well entrenched, but they set to work on it with all 
the energy and skill that they had learnt in fighting 
among the rocks of the Trentino. The Italians are 
extraordinarily efficient at mountain engineering. 

Their transport system is another matter in which 
they especially excel. From their model motor- 
transport depot at the base to the topmost hauling 
station of their aerial cable ways in the mountains, 
they are thoroughly practical and efficient. To 
begin with, the Italians have only two types of 
motor-lorry, a fact which greatly simplifies the 
problem of spare parts, that was such a nightmare to 
the transport of other armies in the Balkans. They 
have a 25 h.p. 30-hundredweight Fiat lorry and 
a little 1-ton Itala of 14 " mule-power," as the 
Italian M.T. officers call it, because it will go up 
the steepest slopes and over the roughest surfaces. 

The Italian Division's use of the single railway 
line, which they had to share with the French, Serbs 
and Russians, was limited to eighteen trucks a day 
as far as Sakulevo. They supplemented this, how- 
ever, by long distance motor transport on the road. 

To get stores from Sakulevo to Brad on the Cerna 
gave them another occasion for showing ingenuity. 
The little Sakulevo river flows from Sakulevo to Brod, 
where it falls into the Cerna, and the Italians partly 
economise the use of the eight miles of road between 
these two points by floating supplies in bridging 
pontoons down the river with the stream. Two 


pontoons lashed together with two or three men 
to steer them carry two tons and at Brod the 
pontoons, when unloaded, are simply sent back in 
the lorries which would otherwise have had to return 
empty to Sakulevo. As a caustic English officer 
said, " In our Army we could not have done a thing 
like that without correspondence with the Admiralty 
and the appointment of a naval transport officer." 

But the speciality of the Italian organisation is 
their aerial railways, which they call " Telefericas." 
These aerial cable ways carry steel baskets which 
take 5 cwts., one basket each way each trip, moving 
at five miles an hour. The power comes from a 16 h.p. 
motor-engine at the higher end of the line, supported 
on a framework of steel, which is ballasted with 
stones. The cables are slung on supports of hollow 
steel tubing. The whole installation can be taken 
down and carried away in loads of quite moderate 
weight, and the effect of the Teleferica is to make 
what would otherwise be the hardest part of the 
transport route the easiest. Lightness and trans- 
portability are prominent characteristics of all 
Italian material ; their tents even are less bulky 
though no less comfortable than ours, and the big 
mess tents are of a picturesque, rakish design that 
calls to mind the pavilion of a Roman general, just 
as the splendid swing with which an Italian officer 
throws the end of his long grey cloak across his body 
and back over his shoulder must be the direct descen- 
dant of a similar gesture with the toga. 

Staying at the Italian headquarters mess reminded 
me of nothing so much as being at a Swiss winter- 
sports hotel. You came out of a driving snowstorm 
through a draught-proof wooden door into the 
electrically lighted marquee, warmed by one of those 
black Tuscany stoves called, from their shape, 
porcolini, with a tray of water on the top to prevent 


the air from getting too dry. The cooking was most 
excellent ; the mess waiters had acquired their skill 
at the Carlton or the Savoy, and similar hotels in 
every capital of Europe. A thing one noticed was 
that hardly anybody drank even wine, while there 
was no sign at all of the vermouth, the whisky, the 
port and liqueurs without which we English should 
find life on campaign miserable indeed. 

The Italians had a hard time during the winter 
in this exposed sector ; in January they evacuated 
250 cases of frostbite, as many men as were sent down 
wounded during the same period. 

The chief feature of the enemy position over against 
them was the precipitous height of Hill 1050. This 
peak on the left of their front was first captured by 
the 2 me bis Zouaves on November 20th, under the 
command of General Misitch — an action for which 
they were awarded the distinction of the fourragere. 
When the Italians took over Hill 1050 they established 
an observation-post there which was of great value 
to them, and it was to prevent this use of the crest 
that the German Gardejaeger launched, on the 
evening of February 12th, the first flame attack 
they made in the Balkans. Just as darkness fell 
tongues of fire and dense stifling clouds of black and 
sooty smoke leapt suddenly from the German front 
line, which was close up to the Italian positions on 
the hill. The burning liquid ran down the steep 
incline of the Italian trenches, destroying everything 
it met with. The enemy followed up their surprise 
by an immediate infantry attack. The failing light 
made it difficult to distinguish friend from foe, and the 
Italians were driven from the crest of 1050, and from 
the trenches to the left of it, towards Piton A, losing 
200 men to the destructive flames. But after occu- 
pying these trenches the Germans were held up by 
Italian reserves only a little way further down the 


slope, and General Petiti, informed of the attack 
by telephone, immediately ordered a counter-assault, 
which was renewed again and again throughout that 
night and next day until practically all the lost 
trenches were taken again at a cost of 3 officers and 
80 men killed and 70 wounded. On February 27th, 
a few days after my stay in the Italian headquarters, 
the Italians made an attempt to reoccupy the crest 
of the hill which had been, since they lost it, virtually 
neutral ground. The Germans, however, had used 
their time since the last attack in mining the summit, 
and though the Italians won it back, taking 69 
prisoners, it was only to have a number of men 
blown into the air. 

But although the advantage of position was so 
much on the side of the enemy the Italians never 
lost ground and still continue to hold their rockbound 
sector in the Cerna loop. 

•W ■•-- - -* 

I Ml ,-. 



The seizure of Fort Rupel I have related in a chapter 
on our relations with the Greeks. It effectively 
blocked one of our most feasible lines of advance. 
Admittedly the fact that we had no railway up to the 
Struma, but only the hilly Seres road, would have 
made a march on Nevrokop or Petritch a difficult 
operation from the point of view of supply. The 
use of a railway to the mouth of the Rupel Pass 
might indeed have been secured, as a glance at the 
map will show, by driving the Bulgars off their hill- 
positions behind Doiran town so as to get the use 
of the Junction — Salonica-Constantinople line, which 
there makes a right-angled turn to the east. The 
attempt to free this corner by Lake Doiran of the 
enemy was begun in the late summer of 1916 by the 
French, abandoned when the Bulgar offensive from 
Monastir towards Ostrovo on our western wing 
developed, and renewed by ourselves in April and 
May, 1917, when the elaborate defences and heavy 
artillery which the long pause had enabled the 
Bulgars to establish there proved too much for us. 

Their descent upon Fort Rupel — a movement 
arranged with the connivance of the Greek Govern- 
ment, whose betrayal of their territory to their natura 
enemies had been purchased by a German loa 

139 M, \ 


together with its sequel of an advance upon Kavalla, 
enabled the Bulgarians immensely to improve their 
strategical position in the Balkans, for they thus 
linked up their eastern and western forces between 
which the Greek districts of Seres and Drama had 
previously been a wedge. With the single incon- 
venience of bulk-breaking at the Demir-IIissar 
bridge over the Struma, which the French had blown 
up in January, 191G, train communication was made 
possible from Doiran to Okjilar, in the part of Bul- 
garia that comes down to the iEgean. When we 
moved up to our positions on the Krusha-Balkan 
mountains and the Struma river our guns came close 
enough to this railway to stop the use of it for through 
lateral communication, though in the thick of the 
fighting which resulted in the taking of Yenikeuy on 
the Struma in October a Bulgarian train loaded 
with ammunition deliberately steamed along in full 
view, dumping its cargo at different places, and got 
safely away again, though one or two of our shells 
seemed to go right through it. 

But the principal advantage to the Bulgars by their 
occupation of Greek territory between the Struma 
and the frontier was that it made it possible for them 
to bring reinforcements and supplies from Eastern 
Bulgaria or even from Turkey all the way by train 
with the greatest convenience ; the railway on the 
east of Seres was too far away from our lines for us 
to interfere with this use of it. 

Later on, in August, when the Bulgarian plans for 
a general offensive against us were mature, and 
simultaneously with their attack upon our left wing 
which led to the battle of Ostrovo, they advanced 
further southwards from Rupel to the Struma, pushing 
before them the French forces that were beyond the 
river. Some confused fighting took place during the 
whole of one day, and a column of British yeomanry 


was sent out, which carried on a rearguard action 
while the French were getting back over the Orliak 
bridge, the only line of retreat open to them. This 
retirement had been foreseen as inevitable, should 
these circumstances arise, owing to the weakness of 
our force compared to the enemy. The object of 
going beyond the Struma had only been to hold 
bridgeheads, not to occupy territory permanently. 

But events on the Struma were of small importance 
in comparison with the Bulgarian offensive in force 
upon the other wing of the Allied front, the brunt of 
which fell upon the Serbians, who had lately taken 
up position there, and who were at first pressed back 
as far as Lake Ostrovo. 

As I have said elsewhere, when the construction cf 
the entrenched camp was finished General Sarrail 
began to move his forces up to the Greek frontier, 
on the other side of which the Bulgars were. His 
twofold object in entrenching himself there was to 
stall off a possible enemy advance on Salonica at as 
great a distance as possible from the entrenched camp, 
and also to hold the enemy along the whole line 
while gradually and as secretly as possible concen- 
trating troops at one point to make there a sudden 
offensive movement of his own. 

The point he had chosen for this attack was the 
valley of the Vardar. It was chosen because the 
railway ran up the course of the river, and a modern 
army must have a railway behind it if it is to fight its 
way any distance. 

To co-operate with this plan the British Army in 
Macedonia thinned out its line on the Struma (though 
faced with the risk of a reinforced enemy attack from 
the Bulgarian division concentrated at Xanthe, and 
other columns advancing from the north), and massed 
two divisions south of Doiran, while holding two 
others ready to move there also, if necessary, to give 


backing to the French in their thrust up the Vardar 
valley. This attack up the river would probably 
have been followed by a push for Monastir ; but 
Sarrail's plan was for the Vardar operation to be 
carried out first, both to draw Bulgar forces to that 
sector and to make it appear that the arrival there of 
British troops was to reinforce, and not replace, the 

For this Vardar attack the manifold preparations 
necessary were meanwhile being made. When you 
want to go anywhere with wheeled traffic in the 
Balkans you have first of all to build a road in the 
direction you have chosen. This General Sarrail had 
done. He had furthermore gathered his heavy 
artillery, worked out a scheme of transport, arranged 
the supply of food and ammunition, and made all the 
various dispositions required to put an army into 
action on a certain front. 

But our schemes in the Balkans have never been 
more than a small part of the vast operations of war 
going on all round Europe, and they have conse- 
quently always been controlled and conditioned by 
considerations arising in connection with other 
theatres of war. It is the function of the Allied War 
Council, which alone has the means of seeing the 
military situation as a whole, to co-ordinate move- 
ments in all these different zones of operations, to 
check action, although it may appear locally desirable 
in one place, to order an offensive in spite of its seeming 
doomed to failure in another — all for reasons arising 
out of strategical considerations of the widest nature. 

On such legitimate grounds as these, no doubt, the 
prepared offensive of the Allies in the Balkans was 
delayed by successive orders, though meanwhile the 
local tactical situation and the need of holding enemy 
forces there obliged General Sarrail to make a limited 
attack with French troops at Doiran which succeeded, 


under cover of the Anglo-French artillery, in taking 
Tortoise Hill and the village of Doldzeli, while the 
Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry co-operated by 
taking Horseshoe Hill. 

It was reasons of high strategy and politics which 
led to the postponement of General Sarrail's attack. 
To have brought the Roumanian Government to 
sign a convention of alliance was a diplomatic triumph 
for the Allies, but there yet remained a period of ten 
doubtful days between the signature of that con- 
vention and its ratification by a formal declaration 
of war upon Austria and Bulgaria. During those ten 
days Roumania might still have changed her mind, 
and it is now no more than a matter of history how 
both the Central Powers and ourselves vied in bluffing 
against each other (it is not the exact word in our 
case, but none conveys the impression so exactly) 
during that critical period while the adhesion of our 
new Ally yet hung suspended in the balance. 

In the Balkans the pressure which the Allies 
brought to bear to reassure the Roumanians took the 
form of ordering that the push forward up the Vardar 
valley should begin. If this attack met with success 
in the first week's fighting, the encouragement to 
Roumania to clinch her entry into our alliance would 
be considerable. The victorious advance of the 
French frcm the south would be an incentive to 
Roumanians to repeat, even though under more 
difficult conditions, their own march upon Sofia 
of 1913. 

But Bulgaria's bluff forestalled ours. It was her 
object to cow the Roumanians into continuing their 
neutrality by putting before their eyes the spectacle 
of a successful Bulgarian offensive in Macedonia. 
German agents — who swarmed at Bucharest, which 
always reminded one of a German Besidenz-Stadt 
rather than of the capital of an independent race — 



together with the Press of the Central Powers, vehe- 
mently announced that the moment had at last 
arrived when the Allies would be driven, not only 
back to Salonica, but into the sea. Owing to the 
delays of the Allied Governments the initiative in the 
Balkans had indeed passed to the enemy. 

All the disposition of the French, then, had to be 
recast, and owing chiefly to the lack of bridges over 
the Vardar it took a fortnight to get their guns from 
the Vardar-Doiran front out to the support of the 
Serbs, who needed them so badly. The latter, taken 
by surprise owing to the connivance in the Bulgarian 
advance by the Greek troops on the frontier, were 
driven from ridge to ridge until they had their backs 
to Lake Ostrovo. There they held their ground 
until the French were able to get into position on 
their left flank. When that had been accomplished 
a counter-offensive was started that gradually, with 
many delays and checks, carried the Allies back over 
all the ground they had lost and eventually into 
Mon astir itself. 

The line which the Bulgars had held from the time 
they captured Monastir in November, 1915, until 
this attack of theirs in August, 1916, lay along the 
Serbo-Greek frontier. The sector on which they now 
advanced was limited by the commanding height of 
Kaimakchalan in the east and by Lake Prespa in the 

The Serbs were separated from the Bulgarians by 
a fringe of Greek frontier guards. During the night 
of August 17th those frontier guards unobtrusively 
withdrew, leaving the way clear for the Bulgars to 
press on and attack the handful of scattered Serbs at 
Fiorina with all the advantage of surprise. 

The Bulgar advance began at 2 a.m. Two columns, 
each of one regiment of infantry, with several guns, 
marched southwards across the Greek frontier, one 


through Negocani, the other through Sakulevo and 
Vrbeni. The concentration and the preparations 
made for these columns to move had been carried 
out secretly, and they came by little-used hill- 

The feeble Serbian outposts to the north of Fiorina 
could do nothing but retire before the overwhelmingly 
superior strength of the Bulgars, though they offered 
what resistance was possible, and when, at 10.15 a.m., 
the Bulgars with 100 German pioneers occupied 
Fiorina station, which is three imles from the town, 
they had not made this progress without loss. 

But the advance of the enemy had already cut off 
all the other Serbian irregulars to the west of Fiorina, 
and they were only able to get back to the main body 
of their army, after losing 120 killed and wounded, 
by making a great detour through the mountains 
southwards, travelling only by night over unknown 

On August 18th, in the early morning of the day 
following their first move across the frontier, the 
Bulgars attacked the Serbs with about 12,000 men. 
The Serbs could only gather half that number to 
oppose them. The fight took place along a line from 
Boresnica through Vostaran to the Ceganska Planina 
heights, and as a result of it the Danube division fell 
back into Leskovec, Vrtolom and Rosna, all of them 
villages south of the Monastir road. 

On August 19th there was a hotly contested fight 
round Banitza, where the road from Monastir branches 
off, one arm to Salonica, the other southwards to 
Sorovitch. At 6 p.m. a mass attack by six battalions 
of Bulgarian infantry took Hill 726 beside the town 
and the Serbian troops holding Hill 950 further to 
the south were forced back to the east of Cerovo. 
The retreat was made in good order, and the next 
Serbian line of defence ran from the northern end of 



Lake Petrsko along the Malkanidje range of hills 
to the Ceganska Planina. 

The following day, August 20th, was the most 
critical of all. The righting was being carried on in 
great heat on these stony hills where it was abso- 
lutely impossible to dig, and where the only shelter 
to be obtained consisted of a heaped parapet of stones 
which, if a shell struck it, was an added danger 
rather than a protection. The Serbs suffered much 
from lack of water. Fortunately the Vardar division, 
which had been away back in reserve, was beginning 
to arrive by now, but for all that the Serbian centre 
was forced off the Malkanidje ridge on to the hills 
which form the very bank of Lake Ostrovo. And 
now the situation became really serious. Losing 
ground west of Lake Ostrovo did not matter much, 
but if the Serbs were forced to abandon this last ridge 
before the lake there would have been no way of 
retreat for them except around the northern end, 
and that would have left it open for the enemy to 
advance round the other and cut the railway to 
Salonica between Agostos and Vodena, so putting 
themselves astride the Serbian line of supply. The 
17th Regiment of the Drina division was sent to 
reinforce the Danube division at the threatened point, 
while the rest of the Drina on the Serbian right wing 
further to the north attacked and took the lower 
spurs of the steep mountain Kaimakchalan. 

The success of the Bulgarian offensive had reached 
high tide, however. Their soldiers were boasting 
exultantly, as we heard later from the peasants of 
the villages they occupied, that they would be in 
Salonica in a week. The rapidity with which they 
had crumpled up our left wing and the advantages 
which they enjoyed, thanks to the complicity of the 
Greek authorities and the native inhabitants of 
Bulgarian race of the region they were fighting in, 


doubtless encouraged confidence. Their columns 
were guided in their advance by Greek gendarmes 
in uniform, and their cavalry patrols even succeeded 
in getting round to the eastern side of Lake Ostrovo. 

But the capture of Pateli, which reduced the 
Serbian hold on the western bank of Lake Ostrovo 
to one-half of the length of its shore, was the last 
success that the Bulgarian invasion registered. 
After that they seemed exhausted, as, indeed, they 
might well be, at the end of a whole week of such 
marching and righting as they had had. And mean- 
while the Serbs were growing daily stronger. A 
brigade of the Timok division, which was in general 
reserve down at Vodena, arrived ; the irregulars, 
the best fighters in the Serbian Army, suddenly 
appeared on the left wing after their precarious retreat 
from Fiorina ; the first detachments of French and 
Russian reinforcements were getting into line at the 
southern end of Lake Ostrovo. 

On August 22nd five separate Bulgar assaults on 
the ridge west of Lake Ostrovo were beaten back by 
counter-attacks. The losses of the enemy were 
estimated at five times those of the Serbs. 

This was the climax of the battle of Ostrovo, and 
its further development, and ensuing conversion into 
a successful Allied advance, is told in the chapter 
on the push for Monastir. 



When the Allied Forces first left the entrenched 
camp and marched up towards the Greek frontier 
to make a new line there, French troops originally 
moved in all three of the principal directions, towards 
Seres, Kilkish and Monastir. The result was that 
the British on the Seres road and in the Kilkish 
area found themselves interspersed with French. 
General Sarrail's aim in this arrangement was that he 
wished French troops to be available to take part in 
any action that might occur, and it could not be 
certain where righting would begin. But General 
Milne and his Chief of Staff (General Milne having 
succeeded to the command from General Sir Bryan 
Mahon in May) saw in this mingling of Allied forces 
a danger of confusion. The different supply systems 
would conflict on the limited routes available, and 
the lines of communication of the French and British 
Armies, instead of being separate and distinct, 
would intersect each other. So, with a view to 
securing administrative efficiency, General Milne 
asked General Sarrail that the English might be 
accorded an independent and homogeneous sector 
of the Allied Balkan line ; and General Sarrail agreed 
to this at once. 

The reshuffling of divisions thus rendered necessary 
led to a good deal of marching and counter-marching 



that seemed futile and aimless to the troops who had 
to do it, but which simplified considerably the 
organisation of the British force. 

Before the change was made one of our divisions 
had been since April 18th at Kilkish, with a French 
division on its left and two French divisions carrying 
on the line to its right. Our division's front was 
from Hirsova to Dereselo, a trench-line of about 
10,000 yards. We had no exact junction with the 
French, but they said that in case of a Bulgar advance 
down the plain towards Kilkish they could stop the 
enemy with their 75' s alone. For the function of 
our division was that of the stopper in the neck of 
what was known by the French as the trouee deKukus. 
The idea was that on either side the French were 
pushed forward and held hill positions that formed 
salients, while, in between, was the inviting flat 
plain of Kilkish, down which the enemy, if he felt 
like an offensive, might come, only to run into our 
22nd Division, behind its wire, at the head of the 
gap, while the French shot at him from either side. 

But the Bulgar was not to be tempted. In fact, 
bis whole campaign has been a defensive one, con- 
ducted, thanks to his German masters, and their 
undivided authority, with unvarying skill. The 
Bulgar has got nearly all he really expected out of 
the war, and he is content to sit tight on it. He is a 
stubborn fellow, too, in defence of his possessions. 

The chasse-croise of our divisions with the French 
was over by the time the Bulgar offensive against the 
Serbs, which culminated in the battle of Ostrovo, 
began. It was ending, indeed, when the Serbians 
first began to move out of Salonica at the end of June. 

The holding up of the Bulgar offensive on the Allied 
left wing at the battle of Ostrovo (related in Chapter 
X.) was followed by a lull which lasted until the 
middle of September. The Bulgars did not retire ; 


they and the Serbs sat and looked at each other from 
behind their stone parapets, which ran about the 
hillsides, where it was too rocky to dig trenches, in a 
way that resembled those loose stone walls which 
divide the fields in North Wales. I say " looking at 
each other " advisedly, for the Serbs, at any rate, 
were extraordinarily casual in the way they exposed 
themselves. " Just stand up here," a Serbian officer 
would say with the whole of his head above the 
parapet, when you visited their front line trenches. 
' You see that line of grey stones about 100 yards 
down the hill ? That's their front line. Now just 
watch the edge of that and you'll see their heads show 
now and then. There ! See that one ? " One always 
professed to detect a head very quickly, this entertain- 
ment being trying for the nerves ; but I have often 
noticed that the Germans have not taught the 
Bulgarians to be anything like as good at sniping as 
they are themselves. 

From July 20th, however, the British force began 
to settle down into position, from the Vardar in the 
centre of the Allied line round by Lake Doiran and 
the Struma to the sea — a front of ninety miles. 

The French, at this period of midsummer, 1916, 
had no actual sector. Some of their troops were 
getting into position on the left flank of the Serbians 
to begin the push backwards towards Monastir, and 
they had two divisions, in Army reserve, available for 
reinforcing any part of the front. While we were still 
in process of relieving the French we co-operated with 
them in seizing some hill -positions in the corner by 
Lake Doiran, which carried the Allied line forward to 
the foot of those heights of the " Pip Ridge," Grand 
Couronne and Petit Couronne, which have since 
barred our further progress. 

The enemy forces between the Vardar and Lake 
Doiran now consisted of three German infantry 


battalions on the left bank of the river, with two 
others in reserve at Bogdanci, and sixteen Bulgarian 
battalions on the rest of the line as far as Doiran, with 
several others in reserve. 

On August 15th the French infantry, supported 
both by English and French guns, occupied Tortoise 
Hill and the village of Doldzeli. Next day, and on the 
night following that, the Bulgars violently counter- 
attacked Doldzeli, and the village changed hands 
several times, finally remaining neutral ground, with 
the opposing forces entrenched on either edge of it. 
To support this French force in its new position, the 
Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry rushed Horseshoe 
Hill in the night of the 17th with the bayonet. The 
French originally proposed to go on and attack Petit 
Couronne, then less formidable than it is now, all 
these offensive movements being intended but as the 
prelude to a strong French thrust up the Vardar 
valley, as has been related in Chapter X. But just 
then came the sudden Bulgar offensive southwards 
from Monastir, and operations of any scope in the 
Doiran-Vardar sector had to be called off, so that all 
available strength might be used to meet the danger 
on the left wing. 

On September 11th, a couple of days before the 
date fixed for the start of the combined push which 
the French, Serbians and Russians were preparing to 
make from Lake Ostrovo, the British, to co-operate 
with this movement, began a holding attack on the 
Macukovo salient close to the left bank of the Vardar. 
This salient was very thoroughly fortified, and was, 
moreover, held by German troops. We began with 
three days' artillery bombardment by all calibres, 
using heavy howitzers and field-howitzers to smash 
the enemy trenches, field-guns to cut their wire, and 
60-pounders and long 6-in. guns to silence the enemy's 
artillery. On the night of the 13th the infantry 


attack was made. It began by officers' patrols creeping 
up to find the best gaps in the wire. The length of 
front on which we were attacking was only a mile, for 
our object was not to pierce, or even permanently to 
occupy, part of the enemy's front, but merely to seize, 
and, if possible, hold for a little time, the position 
called " Machine-gun Hill," with a view to keeping the 
Bulgars interested in this part of their front, and thus 
preventing them from sending reinforcements round 
to oppose the impending Franco-Serbian attack in the 
west. It was the first time our troops in the Balkans 
had made an attack of this size upon entrenched 
positions of the enemy, but in one hour and twenty- 
five minutes from the time that the order of attack 
was given at the place of assembly the whole of the 
trenches indicated were in our possession. Fifty 
prisoners with nine machine-guns were taken, and 
the Lancashire Fusiliers and Liverpool Regiment, 
supported by the East Lancashires and Royal Welsh 
Fusiliers, who had captured the position, began at 
once to reconstruct its defences. Not without reason, 
for the Bulgar infantry counter-attack, which they 
beat off during the night, was only a prelude to a most 
violent bombardment next day by every Bulgarian 
battery within range. The next afternoon, in con- 
sequence, to avoid further losses, and as the limited 
object of the attack had been fully carried out, the 
Brigade was withdrawn. 

Meanwhile, the Franco -Serbian counter-offensive 
had started and met with very satisfactory success. 
The Serbs had in line the whole of their Third and 
First Armies under General Vassitch and Voivode 
Misitch respectively. Their Second Army remained 
where it had been since before the Ostrovo battle, 
further round on the right, facing the Bulgars among 
the steep, scrub-covered mountains of the Moglena. 
And in co-operation with the Serbs, at the northern 


end of Lake Ostrovo, was practically the whole French 
force in the Balkans, with a contingent of Russians. 
The Serbs were also supported by French heavy 
artillery, having no guns of their own bigger than 
120 mm. 

I returned immediately after witnessing the attack 
on the Macukovo salient to the Serbian front. By 
this time, September 18th, the Franco-Serbian Army 
had pushed forward to within a few miles of Fiorina 
on the left wing, their new line running in a north- 
easterly direction from there back towards Kaimak- 
chalan. The Serbs took back thirteen miles of lost 
ground in three days. The Gornichevo pass and the 
village of Banitza, on the main road to Monastir, had 
been regained, and as you drove along it you passed 
ample evidence that the Bulgarian retreat had been 
considerably hurried. Abandoned guns, to the number 
of nine, and thirty limbers, lay by the side of the 
road. The victorious Serbs had not yet had time to 
drag them away. All the rubbish that a hastily 
retreating army leaves behind was scattered right and 
left. Bullet-pierced caps and helmets, greatcoats, 
broken rifles, ammunition pouches, marked the trail 
of the retreating enemy, and from the top of the hill 
at Banitza, where the road drops steeply down to the 
plain, you could see the Serbian infantry spread out 
on the green turf, each in his little individual shelter- 
trench, while the enemy shrapnel burst above and 
among them ; and beyond, right away in the distance, 
loomed faintly the white minarets and walls of 
Monastir, their goal on the threshold of Serbia, 
gleaming faintly through the haze, like the towers of 
an unreal fairy city. There was to be much fighting 
during the next two months in this green plain of 
Monastir, across which the enemy had already con- 
structed two strong lines of defensive works before 
he started on his advance to Ostrovo. 


And this is the moment to say how effective a 
contribution towards the success of the Serbian 
advance from Ostrovo was made by the English 
M.T. companies, which had been lent to the Serbian 
Army, the Serbs having no M.T. organisation of their 
own. If I remember rightly, there were at this time 
three Ford companies of 100 lorries each and one 
3-ton lorry company attached . to the Serbians. 
Serbian generals have frequently avowed in their 
Army orders how impossible it would have been for 
them to press so closely as they did upon the heel of 
the Bulgars but for the self-regardless assistance of 
the officers and men of these M.T. companies. The 
drivers threw themselves into the work of punching 
those little Ford vans up appalling hills like the 
Gornichevo pass in a truly sporting spirit. It was 
up to them to see that the Serbians fighting on ahead 
were not let down for lack of ammunition and that 
as many of their wounded as possible should be 
brought back down to railhead at Ostrovo. They 
worked for forty-eight hours on end without stopping, 
over roads crowded with troops and guns, cheerfully 
giving up food and sleep during the push. Some of 
the gradients up which they took their loads were so 
steep that the petrol would not flow into the car- 
buretter, and the only way the cars could get up 
these parts was by a sort of waltzing movement, 
the weary but determined driver twisting his van 
sideways across the road every few yards to get 
another gasp of petrol, and then making on up the 
slope a little further, until his engine was on the 
point of stopping, before repeating the manoeuvre. 
Perhaps the worst of the many bad runs which these 
Ford companies undertook was the one from the side 
of Lake Ostrovo up to the village of Batachin on the 
slopes of Mt. Kaimakchalan. I made one journey 
up it, and though it was once my fortune to chase 


an aeroplane across the Swiss Alps in a 100 h.p. 
racing car, climbing Kaimakchalan in a " flying 
bedstead " of a Ford was a sensation yet more vivid. 
As the car zigzagged up the hairpin ladder of the 
yellow road one was haunted by an incongruous 
memory of how 

" The blessed Damozel lean'd out 
From the gold bar of Heaven." 

For, indeed, one might have been on some celestial 
balcony. Ostrovo Lake, with its ragged fringe of 
trees, and the sandy flats upon its shore, lay far 
below, almost sheer beneath one. And looking 
down upon the roofs of the next convoy of cars 
following, they seemed more like an orderly string 
of ants than of vehicles as big as one's own. 

There is a belt of splendid beech forest half-way up 
Kaimakchalan, but beyond that the bare mountain- 
side stretches nakedly on to its cap of almost perennial 
snow. Its surface is like Dartmoor drawn up at an 
angle to the sky, and right on the top, where the 
north slope drops sheer away to the Cerna valley, 
stand the white frontier stones that mark the boun- 
dary of Serbia. From here there is a magnificent 
outlook across a great confused stretch of rocky 
hills, which from this height appear no more important 
than the wrinkles on a plaster contour map. 

It was on this vantage ground above the clouds, 
with the country they were fighting to win back 
laid out in full prospect before their eyes, that the 
Serbs fought their fiercest battles with the Bulgars. 
The Bulgars had such casualties that one battalion 
of their 46th Regiment mutinied. Little entrenching 
was possible on the stonebound mountain -side. In 
clefts and gullies, behind outcrops of rock or under 
shelter of individual heaps of stones collected under 
cover of the dark, the soldiers of these two Balkan 


armies, not unakin in race, with languages closely 
related and histories that are a parallel story, faced 
and fought each other with savage and bitter hatred, 
under the fiercest weather conditions of cold and 
exposure. The wind there was sometimes so strong 
that the Serbs said they " almost feared that the 
trench-mortar projectiles would be blown back on 
to them." 

There could be little artillery at that altitude to 
keep the battle lines apart. Mortar, bomb and 
bayonet were the weapons that worked the slaughter 
on Kaimakchalan, and so fiercely were they used 
that Serbs would reach the ambulances with broken- 
off pieces of knives and bayonets in their wounds. 
You came upon little piles of dead in every gulley ; 
behind each clump of rocks you found them, not 
half-buried in mud or partly covered by the ruins of 
a blown-in trench or shattered dug-out, but lying 
like men asleep on the clean hard stones. The fish- 
tail of an aerial torpedo, the effect of whose explosion 
had been magnified by flying clouds of stony shrapnel, 
usually furnished evidence of the nature of their 
death. Not only for days but for weeks after dead 
Bulgars lay there, preserved in the semblance of life 
by the cold mountain air, looking with calm, un- 
seeing eyes across the battleground that had once 
been the scene of savage and concentrated passion 
and activity, and then lapsed back again into its 
native loneliness, where the eagle is the only thing 
that moves. Some still held in their stiff fingers the 
bandage they had been putting to a wound when 
death took them ; here was a man with a half-eaten 
bread-crust in his hand. On others you could see 
no sign of hurt. They must have been killed by the 
shock alone of the explosion of that aerial torpedo 
whose black fragments lie among them — killed, 
too, at night probably as they waited for the dawn 


to start fighting once more. In other places you 
would find bodies of Serbs and Bulgars mixed together 
where they had met with the bayonet. Yet on none 
of the dead faces that you looked into did you see 
the trace of an expression of anger or fear. They 
slept dispassionately, calmly, as if finding in death 
the rest and release from suffering that war had so 
sternly denied them. 

Meanwhile, in the broad corridor of flat green turf 
that leads northward from Fiorina to Monastir the 
Serbs and French fought unremittingly to drive the 
Bulgars further. Delay was caused to our advance 
by the fact that the Bulgars in their retreat blew 
up the railway viaduct across the gorge at Eksisu ; 
and the need of pausing while the French wheeled 
round into line at Fiorina to conform with the right- 
angled change of direction necessary for the advance 
on Monastir allowed the enemy time to settle into 
his Kenali trenches which held us up for six weeks 
more. A preliminary Bulgar stand was made on a 
line that ran through Petorak, Vrbeni and Krusograd. 

It was open fighting in the fullest sense of the word. 
From the crest of one of the rolling ridges of grass 
you could watch the movement of every individual 
infantry soldier from the time he got up at the foot 
of your hill, through all his two-mile advance in 
skirmishing order across the bare plain, until he reached 
the enemy wire, which was clear to see with glasses 
in front of the black copses of trees that surround 
the villages of Petorak and Vrbeni. 

Once during that righting, on September 19th, I 
saw a Bulgarian attempt at a cavalry charge. It was 
only an affair of two squadrons and it was swept away 
by machine-guns, the body of the young captain who 
led it being found afterwards on the ground. But 
cavalry charges are rare now, and an open flat 
country like this plain of Monastir, where you could 

[Official Photograph 



gallop till your horse dropped dead without meeting 
any obstacle more formidable than a drainage-ditch, 
was a rare setting for one. The Serbian infantry 
were scattered in the' open, not in a continuous trench- 
line, but in those little irons individuels, like the 
beginnings of a grave, which each man digs for 
himself. The Bulgar guns were shelling them with 
shrapnel in a half-hearted way. It seemed a slack 
sort of battle-day. Then one noticed an indistinct 
little black blob moving about on the edge of Vrbeni 
wood four miles away. The glasses revealed it as 
horsemen, formed in two separate bodies. Could it 
be that they were going to charge ? Evidently, for 
they began to move towards us, keeping their close 
formation for a little, then opening out on to a wider 
front. They trotted on a little distance in this way, 
with shells beginning to drop in their direction from 
batteries which had noticed the unusual phenomenon. 
The trot broke into a canter and then the two 
squadrons suddenly strung out into another forma- 
tion, a long diagonal line, and lengthened into a 
gallop. It was a gallant sight, and when the Serbian 
machine-guns began a rattling fire that eventually 
stopped the charge, one's sympathy seemed drawn 
somehow to the horsemen. For one thing a mounted 
man coming down is much more dramatic a sight than 
a foot-soldier falling. Horse and man, if it is the 
horse that is hit, go sprawling and rolling over, or if 
the man is shot and falls from the saddle, the horse 
either comes galloping on riderless or else rushes 
wildly away on his own ; whereas when you watch an 
infantry advance you cannot tell which men are 
dropping because they are hit and which are only 
taking cover or lying down to get breath. Those 
Bulgar horsemen never got up to the Serbian infantry. 
As soon as they were within a thousand yards the 
leading files of the diagonal lines withered away 



before a hail of bullets from rifles and machine-guns ; 
they could never have seen the troops they had been 
sent to attack, and indeed the whole thing seemed a 
very futile and unpractical sort of enterprise to have 
undertaken at all. What was left of the two 
squadrons frayed out into a line that became more and 
more ragged till it just broke off, and the survivors, 
wheeling round, galloped back for Vrbeni wood again. 

The right use for cavalry in modern war was shown 
a little later when the Serbs forced the passage of the 
Cerna river. That was part of this same battle for 
Monastir, but occurred when we had got a little 
further forward and the Serbs were pushing on to the 
right of the town so as to threaten the enemy line of 
communications and force him to abandon the place. 

The continuous trench-line which the Bulgars had 
built across the plain of Monastir ran in front of 
Kenali and then mounted a conspicuous sandstone 
bluff forming the left bank of the Sakulevo river, the 
line of which it followed till it reached the Cerna at 
Brod. East of Brod the Cerna, hitherto open on one 
bank to the flat plain of Monastir, enters a valley 
between rocky mountains as it begins to turn north 
again. On the corner which the Starkovgrob heights 
make on the southern bank of the river, like a high 
bastion looking out over the Monastir plain to the 
west and across into the welter of stony hills beyond 
the Cerna to the north, the commander of the 
Serbian Morava division had fixed his battle obser- 
vation-post. There you could stand among pinnacles 
of rock and watch every move of the fight across the 
valley. Alongside you, concealed by the crags, 
French field-guns pounded the stony heights that rose 
like an unbroken wall beyond the river, j where, 
dotted about among the huge boulders, you could see 
the Serbian infantry clambering upwards to the 
assault. To make their horizon-blue coats more 


distinguishable against the slate-coloured rock so 
that the French gunners and their own should not 
drop shells among them, every man had a square of 
white calico fastened to his back and the leader of 
each section carried a little flag, so that the steep 
slopes opposite were dotted with moving points of 

Brod, the village on the river bank, was burning and 
had been abandoned by the enemy. Veliselo, the 
squalid little hamlet above it, hiding in a pocket of 
the mountains, was the Serbians' next objective. 
And suddenly, as we watched the Serb infantry climb 
upward among the rocks with their screen of friendly 
shells creeping on ahead of them, a number of little 
black figures sprang into sight on the hillside above 
and went racing off among the rocks towards Veliselo. 
It was the Bulgars in retreat. And soon Veliselo 
itself, whose thatched mud huts were plainly to be 
seen, began to show signs of panic-stricken activity. 
A string of Bulgarian carts started pouring out of the 
further end. With your glasses you could see 
stragglers running into the village, dodging about 
among the houses and then out along the track 
beyond, on the trail of the retreating column. The 
Bulgars were in full flight for their next prepared 
position among the mountains behind. To cut off as 
many as possible before they got to the protection of 
the new line the commander of the Morava division 
ordered up the Serbian cavalry. They appeared 
from behind us down in the plain below on our left — 
a long column trotting and cantering alternately in a 
dry stream-bed. While they followed that the 
Bulgar and German gunners on the rocky slopes 
beyond the Cerna could not see them, but soon they 
had to leave it and strike for the river bank across 
the open. It was a splendid spectacle — a half-mile 
column of horsemen cantering over the grass. Shells 



began to fall about them, now on this side, now on 
that. One or two men fell, hit by flying fragments, 
but the rest swept on and crossed the Cerna with a 
mighty splashing. Erod, the village on the other 
side, was already on lire and a bombardment of it 
was begun by the enemy to hinder the Serbian 
cavalry from passing, but they formed up under the 
cover of the river bank and then squadrons began to 
set off on individual adventures after the flying 
Bulgars. One of them captured a whole "enemy 
battery, limbers, gun-teams and all. 

While the Serbians were thus fighting with gradual 
success upon the right of the Monastir sector the 
French made one or two frontal attacks upon the 
Kenali trenches in the flat plain, and the Russians 
had some rough fighting among the mountains that 
stretch westwards to Lake Prespa. These attacks, 
of which the chief was that of October 14th, were not 
successful, for the Kenali lines were made with all the 
skill and thoroughness of positions on the Western 
front, while we had nothing like the same weight or 
quantity of artillery at our disposal to smash them, 
So that when the Serbs carried Kaimakchalan and 
began to get on in the loop of the Cerna river on one 
flank of the Kenali lines, in such a way that if they 
won much more ground they would succeed in turning 
the defences of Monastir, General Sarrail withdrew 
troops, both French and Russian, from his left wing 
to strengthen his right, and put these French rein- 
forcements under the orders of Marshal Misitch, 
commanding the Serbian First Army, who proved 
worthy of his confidence. The tactics which led 
finally to the recapture of Monastir were, in fact, 
manoeuvring and pressure along the whole of this 
sector, combined with a definite attempt to pierce the 
enemy front at one point, this effort being made by 
the Serbs, to whose persistence under most severe 


fighting conditions the credit for the winning back 
of their own city belongs. 

While our Allies on the left were engaged in this 
heavy fighting, the British Army on the Struma 
undertook an attack upon some fortified villages on 
the other side of the river. The main object of this 
was to jhold the Bulgars in front of us and keep them 
from sending troops round to the Monastir sector to 
strengthen the resistance to our Allies there. 

When you have journeyed about forty miles up and 
down the hills of the winding Seres road you come to 
the crest of the last ridge and find yourself looking 
across the broad green Struma valley, on the far side 
of which, fifteen miles away, the white houses of 
Seres shine out from among black trees at the foot 
of the opposing hills. 

Further to the left, also under the slope of the 
ridge opposite, is Demir Ilissar, and there, where the 
river comes down from the north into the plain, is 
the only break in the heights that close the view 
before you ; that break is the pass of Rupel, where 
stands the now famous fort. To the west again of 
this rises the black wall of the Belashitza mountains, 
capped with snow far on into the spring. 

The plain of the Struma at your feet looks from 
this height flat as a billiard table, but is by no means 
so level, for its surface is scored with little nullahs, 
dried-up stream-beds, and sunken roads, that make it 
quite difficult to find your way about when you get 
down there. You can often see only a few yards on 
either side of you ; every track looks alike ; every 
tree is the twin model of every other. The villages 
scattered about the plain are recognisable enough 
from up here, but down there, if you have lost your 
bearings a little and approach one of them at close 
quarters, there is nothing in its single-storied, tumble- 
down, dingy-white plaster cottages to distinguish it 


from half-a-dozen others, and moreover they are all 
so straggling that troops told off to occupy a village 
were often hard put to it to tell where it ended and the 
next one began. 

The Struma river, here gleaming like a silver band 
across the grass, there hidden by black clumps of 
trees, is the explanation both of why this is one of 
the most fertile stretches of ground, yard for yard, in 
Europe, and why it is also one of the most dangerous 
malarial belts in the world. The best cigarettes you 
can buy in Piccadilly are probably made of tobacco 
grown on the fields through which we have since cut 
our trenches. That is one of the reasons why they 
are now so dear. Before the Bulgars moved down 
and we moved up to the Struma the Seres road 
would be dotted with strings of donkeys laden with 
bales of pale gold tobacco leaf coming down to 
Salonica for shipment. A fair but unhealthy region, 
which I will describe more fully later on. 

What we were setting out to do beyond the Struma 
was to expand the small existing bridgehead beyond 
Orliak bridge into a big crescent of new trenches, 
including within its limits several villages which we 
now prepared to capture. The two which were 
gained on September 30 th are called Karadjakeui- 
bala and Karadjakeui-zir. 

During the previous night two brigades of one 
division and the 29th Brigade of the 10th Division 
crossed the Struma below Orliak bridge, and by 
8 a.m. the Gloucesters and Cameron Highlanders had 
taken Bala, meeting with little opposition. 

Zir, the next objective, was only a mile away 
across the open, and at 10.20 a.m. the Argylls and 
the Royal Scots were about to push on against it, 
when from the village of Yenikeuy, next to the west, 
the head of a Bulgar counter-attack appeared. It 
was made by one regiment, but it got a very little 


way. The heavy guns of another division whose 
artillery was co-operating smashed it up at once ; 
the Bulgars could be seen falling fast, and the rest 
soon turned back and were lost to sight. 

The unusual feature of this fighting on the Struma 
was the remarkably good artillery observation you 
could get. From the artillery command post on one 
of the foothills at the edge of the plain one saw every- 
thing. Our men and the enemy were equally visible, 
and the work of the British artillery was even better 
than usual in consequence. 

The attack on Zir was delayed for a time by an 
enemy trench which enfiladed our troops as they 
advanced, and it was decided to renew the attempt 
at four, beginning with an intense bombardment of 
the village. 

Never did a battle look more like a chess game 
than from this hill. The Corps Commander and his 
staff were standing there among the scrub. A deal 
table behind them was covered with maps. 

On another hillock the artillery general had his 
command post. New white telegraph poles brought 
a criss-cross of wires to it ; a battery of telescopes 
of all calibres were directed to different points of the 
valley below. At the telephone a gunner staff- 
officer was ringing up different batteries all the time. 
" Is that the adjutant ? What reports have you 
about ammunition ? What's the bearing of that 
gun ?— 5780 magnetic, did you say ? What's that ? 
Enemy convoy proceeding along road to Hristian 
Camilla? Right. Tell one-four-three to get on to it." 

A moment later he would be talking to the 6-in. 
howitzers, squat guns with caterpillar wheels, lurking 
in depressions of the ground at the foot of the hill, 
and looking, under their roofs of anti-aerial observa- 
tion fish-netting, like some strange and gigantic fowl 
in a pen. " Are you there ? You are to stop firing 


now until four o'clock. At four you are to start 
shelling Zir one round a minute. Then at 4.10 
whack in all you can everywhere round about inside 
the village. Now what time have you got ? The 
infantry are going to try to rush the village at 4.15. 
Not a round is to be fired after that time. It's now 
15.48. Pass that round to the batteries." And a few 
minutes later — " I want to synchronise your watch 
again. It's 3.56— three-five, four-oh, four-five, five- 
oh. five-five, 3.57." 

Then an officer at another telephone would inter- 
rupt—" Oh — Esses-Beer reports enemy troops ad- 
vancing from Yenikeui north-east, sir." 

All glasses are converged on to Yenikeui. " I can 
see a few," says someone. " Yes, they're advancing 
from the N.E. There are some in the middle of 
the village, too. Lot of single men behind. Now, 
there's a man on a horse behind. By Jove, it isn't a 
man on a horse. It's a gun. Well, they're not 
moving. I wonder if they're dummies. They put 
up very clever dummies sometimes." 

But the pulverising of Zir was the most pressing 
business on hand. The chatty arrangements one 
had heard made over the telephone had conjured up 
hell for Zir and ordered it punctually to the minute. 
Every calibre of gun we had, big, middling and small, 
concentrated on that four-hundred-yard ' front of 
village, and with each single second half a dozen 
fountains of parti-coloured dust and smoke sprang 
up along it simultaneously into the air. Grey 
smoke, black smoke, yellow, brown and white, 
elbowed and overlapped each other. Fierce red 
flames flashed among them, dulled by the inferno of 
smoke. Fleecy shrapnel bursts grouped themselves 
in bunches overhead. By this time not a house in 
the village could be seen. There was not a gap 
between the shell -bursts. Zir was literally hidden 


behind a dense curtain ; until at last the very smoke 
itself was hidden by more smoke, the outlines of 
individual shell-bursts being engulfed and swallowed 
up by a formless fog of drifting yellow fumes. Then, 
in the same manner as the bombardment had begun, 
it stopped, as suddenly as you turn off water at a tap. 
Three hundred and thirty 6-in. shells had fallen into 
the village in the last five minutes. Then Zir slowly 
emerged again, but smashed and battered into a 
shape that its oldest inhabitant would not have 
recognised, with sluggish drifts and wisps of lazy 
smoke crawling through its narrow streets. 

It was next the turn of the twin village of Bala, 
which we had newly won, to endure temporary smoke- 
eclipse, for the Bulgars, expecting our attack, put up 
a violent curtain fire. The two villages were linked 
by a mile-long bar of brown smoke and dust. Through 
this at 5 o'clock the Royal Scots and the Argyll and 
Sutherlands pushed on, as fast as man could move, 
carrying two days' rations, pack, rifle, 220 rounds of 
ammunition, and pick or shovel. They were still 
enfiladed by machine-guns, but found the Bulgars in 
poor trenches on the outskirts of Zir. The enemy 
stood their ground till our men were close upon them, 
then threw down their arms, and Zir was ours. Just 
after dark, however, a Bulgar counter-attack was 
launched, and the black plain sprang into a vivid 
illumination of coloured glares and "Very" lights. 
Another attack broke loose at 1.15 a.m. It was a 
pitch-black night with a sickle moon just peeping 
over the hills. For five minutes nothing but small 
arms were at work. Then one solitary green ball of 
fire shot up and drooped slowly down again. Im- 
mediately the waiting Bulgar guns opened, and the 
whole darkness round Zir was torn by flashes of burst- 
ing shells. The flare of the discharges flickered 
across the sky like summer lightning. From the 


trenches where our men were firing as fast as they 
could work the bolt, brilliant white " Very " lights 
followed one another into the air like a Roman candle 
display, and threw their circles of pale cold radiance 
upon the bare grass dotted with dark Bulgar forms. 
On their side, too, red and green flare-signals towered 
up unceasingly for the guidance of their energetic 
guns. Then our people brought our own artillery to 
work, though in less measure, and 5-in. shells, which 
hurtle across the sky with the noise of a tube train 
approaching a station, began at deliberate intervals 
to burst upon the rear of the Bulgarian attack. It 
was a fierce onslaught, but it failed, and when dawn 
came, cold and grey, Zir and Bala awakened side by 
side looking as sleepy as they had always done, with 
nothing at first sight to show that this particular 
morning they were the centre of a violent battle- 

Strange are life's little contrasts, especially in war. 
During the most eventful part of that afternoon's 
fighting, when the whole plain below was tumultuous 
with devastation, there was an officer's soldier- 
servant sitting behind the hill from which I was 
watching, on a cushion taken from a car, making tea 
for his master at a little spirit stove, skimming the 
pages of an old monthly magazine, and whistling 
Tosti's " Goodbye," or playing with a stray mongrel 
dog, without the faintest sign of any knowledge that 
such a show of life and death was going on within 
easy view over his shoulder. 

Zir and Bala having been won, it remained to 
capture the big village of Yenikeuy, which stands on 
the main road from the Orliak bridge to Seres. At 
5.30 a.m. on October 3rd the 6-in. guns fired thirty- 
five salvoes into the village. Then they lifted from 
its front edge and swept through it. The field-guns 
proceeded to repeat this process exactly, and after 


them the Royal Munster and Royal Dublin Fusiliers 
entered with little opposition. 

But immediately a very strong counter-attack 
started out from Topolova. At least three battalions 
took part in it, and the long lines of men coming on 
across the open were an impressive sight. But they 
never got within rifle range, for as soon as they could 
be reached with the heavies they had 6-in. shells 
bursting right among them. 

They persevered awhile, for the Bulgar is a stubborn 
fellow, but when the field-artillery opened on them 
with shrapnel, they turned first south, then east, 
then broke up and fled into the shelter of the nearest 
nullahs and the last seen of them was a line of men 
disappearing into Kalendra. One more counter- 
attack was attempted a little later and driven back 
in the same way with heavy loss. 

But at 4 p.m. the Orliak bridge and other bridges 
upon which we were dependent for bringing up rein- 
forcements were heavily shelled by some enemy heavy 
batteries which now first came into action, and at the 
same time a particularly determined counter-attack 
by six or seven battalions advanced upon Yenikeuy 
and succeeded in re-occupying the northern part of it. 
The garrison of the village was stiffened by another 
battalion sent up from the river side, and heavy 
fighting went on all night, which finally secured for 
us undisputed possession. 

This attack on Yenikeuy had been a field-day, too, 
for the armoured motor-cars, four of which were given 
a run across the Orliak bridge in the morning, and 
did some useful work with their machine-guns, 
coming back with their tyres all ripped and flattened 
by enemy rifle-fire. 

Next morning the Bulgars evacuated Nevolyen 
village after artillery bombardment alone. Hristian 
Kamila, too, was evacuated. The bridgehead which 


it had been intended to create was now complete, and 
the Bulgars withdrew the greater part of their force 
to behind the railway, though they left a strong 
garrison in Bairakli Djuma. 

They were indeed thoroughly discouraged. Their 
7th Division had lost a third of its righting strength. 
The 10th Division brought up from Xanthe had also 
suffered heavily. Our burying parties dealt with 
1,500 Bulgar corpses. At a moderate estimate their 
losses must have been 5,000. Three hundred and 
seventy-five prisoners and three machine-guns were 

We could see Bulgar columns marching off towards 
Rupel and it almost looked for a while as if they 
might be going to abandon the Struma valley 

A still larger operation on the Struma was carried 
out on October 31st, in the sense that we had more 
troops engaged than at any one time before in the 
Balkans. Attacks were made at about half-a-dozen 
points along the fifty-mile-long Struma front. Some 
of these were only intended as demonstrations, the 
main objective being the strongly fortified village of 
Bairakli Djuma, which stands on the way to the 
entrance to Rupel pass. Three new bridges had been 
built across the Struma for this attack, and on the 
night of the 26th the villages of Elisan, Ormanli, and 
Haznatar were seized without opposition as a taking- 
off area. The attack on Bairakli Djuma was then 
ordered and carried out on the morning of October 
30th-31st with small loss, thanks to a daring deploy- 
ment of three battalions on the west of the village 
which, though exposed to attack from the flank, was 
entirely successful. The scheme was that three 
battalions should deploy and attack the village from 
the west, while one company with three Vickers guns 
demonstrated and held the enemy to the ground on 


the south, the remaining three companies being held 
in brigade reserve at Ormanii. 

The plan worked well, the King's Own, East 
Yorkshires and K.O.Y.L.I. attacking from the west, 
while a company of the York and Lancasters demon- 
strated so successfully on the south that most of the 
enemy knew nothing of the flank attack until they 
were surrounded and their retreat cut off. The 
total of prisoners taken by this surprise attack was 
three officers and 320 other ranks, while one officer 
and 17 other ranks were found dead. Our troops, in 
taking the village, only had one killed and three 
wounded, though the subsequent enemy shelling 
brought our casualties up to five officers and 48 other 



As November drew on the heavy autumn rains 
converted the trenches in the Kenali plain into a 
swamp of the utmost wretchedness. There had been 
no progress there, but meanwhile the Danube 
Division, among the snow on the heights in the Cerna 
loop, had taken, first Polog, then Iven, and finally got 
up half-way the steep side of Hill 1212, one of the 
main positions in this confused tangle of mountains, 
which, however — as is the heartbreaking way of the 
Balkans — is dominated in turn by the next height, 
Hill 1378. 

On November 14th an offensive was ordered along 
the whole line from Kenali to the Cerna. Two 
brigades of French infantry attacked Bukri and what 
was now the Kenali salient at noon. Three bayonet 
assaults were met by such heavy machine-gun fire 
that they failed ; but at 2.30 the attack was renewed 
and two Bulgar lines at Bukri were carried and held 
against two counter-attacks — all this in teeming rain, 
penetrating cold and the worst mud conceivable. 
The result was at last to force the Bulgars out of the 
Kenali line, which they had held for two months, and 
back on to the next prepared position on the Bistrica 
river, five miles behind, towards Monastir. Twenty- 
four pieces of artillery were taken from the enemy in 
three days. 

The Serbs made prisoners in this fighting no less 



than twentv-eight German officers and 1,100 other 
ranks — a big haul for the Balkans, where the Germans 
are used only as stiffening for especially threatened 
positions. These captives cursed the Bulgars freely, 
saying that they had bolted and let them down. 

On November 17th the Serbs carried both Hill 1212 
and Hill 1378 beyond. On that, two days later, 
without further pressure, the Bulgars suddenly left 
the Bistrica line and abandoned Monastir itself, 
falling back down the road to Prilep. 

Like many things long and earnestly awaited, the 
evacuation of Monastir finally came as something of a 
surprise. It seemed when the winter rains and snow 
began as if we should hardly get there before the 
spring. Even the night before the city was actually 
evacuated, when I was riding back to Vrbeni from a 
visit to the Serbian sector of the front with some 
English Staff officers, and we saw an enemy column 
marching out of Opticar village on the Bistrica, 
while earlier in the afternoon we had also noticed 
a string of wagons crossing the Novak bridge to the 
other side of the Cerna, it only seemed as if the 
Bulgars were moving troops from their centre to 
reinforce their hard-pressed left. I slept that night 
in a shell-riddled house in Vrbeni, which I had shared 
with some French officers who had moved on since 
the Kenali lines had fallen. It was a dingy, rickety 
place, its shattered windows carefully patched with 
sheets of German maps and a pencilled screed on one 
of the doors to say that it was " reserved for three 
Staff officers of the map-making section of the Staff 
of General Mackensen's Army." 

Next morning, wading out into the river of fluid 
mud which served as the main street of Vrbeni, I 
met a Serbian cavalry officer on horseback, clearly in 
a mood of some excitement, who waved his hand 
and shouted : " Be bonnes nouvelles ! De bonnes 



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nouvelles ! Monastir is taken ; the town is in 
flames ! " 

It was not the first time that people had assured 
me with equal emotion of the capture of Monastir, 
but though one still felt doubtful it was the least one 
could do to go and see. So the mud-caked Ford car 
was turned out with all speed, and I started along 
the well-known and terribly bad road that led to- 
wards Monastir — twelve or thirteen miles ahead. 

As usual, the road was crowded with every sort 
of transport, from creaking, solid- wheeled, bullock- 
drawn ox-carts that the supply service of Charle- 
magne's army might have used, to three-ton motor 
lorries, skidding and splashing through the mud. On 
either side were spread camps and bivouacs and dumps 
and depots of every kind ; heaps of carcases of meat, 
mounds of petrol tins, piles of long black cylinders of 
gas for the observation balloon, timber, tin, wire, 
carefully scattered supplies of ammunition. 

One thing caught the eye at once as the presage of 
a day that would live in history. The most perfect 
triple rainbow I ever saw hung over Monastir, 
spanning it in a brilliant arch of colour. One foot 
rested on the mountains to the west, where the 
Italians had been fighting shoulder to shoulder with 
the Russian and French troops in the plain ; the 
other was planted on the rocky heights beyond the 
Cerna, from where the Serbs, worn by much hard 
fighting, were looking down upon the city which their 
dogged determination had done most to win. 

As one got nearer to what the night before had been 
the enemy's line on the Bistrica, the Monastir road 
became less and less thronged. And here the ability 
of the German road-engineers forced itself upon the 
attention by a remarkable contrast. Presumably 
there had been as much traffic along the road up to 
their front line as along that which led to ours, and 



the weather had certainly been the same for both. 
Yet while our part of the Monastir road had a surface 
like rock-cake covered with mud of the consistency 
of porridge, directly you passed into what had been, 
until that morning, the German lines, you found 
yourself on a hard, smooth surface as good as an 
English road at home. 

I got to Monastir at eleven. The first French and 
Russian troops had marched in together at nine, 
three-quarters of an hour after the last of the German 
rearguard left the town. 

The enemy retreat had been skilfully arranged. 
At three o'clock in the morning the sentries in the 
new French line opposite the Bulgar trenches on the 
Bistrica had seen a great fire start in Monastir. It 
was the barracks, which the enemy had set burning. 
Then, a little later, the French patrols reported that 
the enemy front trenches had been found empty in 
several places. The Bistrica line was accordingly 
occupied along its whole length, the Russians wading 
the stream breast-high, and the Allied force began to 
feel forward to get into touch again with the retiring 

By seven o'clock the advanced patrols reported 
that the town seemed unoccupied. They were then 
at a distance of two miles from it, and as Prince 
Murat, a young French cavalry officer and descendant 
of Napoleon's general, at the head of the mounted 
scouts of his regiment, approached the town at 
8.30 a.m. he caught sight of the last German battery 
left to protect the retreat limbering up and making 
off at the trot. 

At first it scarcely seemed as if there were any 
civilian population in Monastir, but they were only 
hiding in their shuttered houses, and when the French 
marched in many of them came out and threw 
flowers or hung up French and Serbian flags, which 


they must have hidden somewhere all the twelve 
months the enemy was there. The British consulate 
flag — the Union Jack with an official " difference " in 
the centre — had been tucked away in a mattress all 
that time. 

I turned into what used to be the " Imperial and 
Royal Austro -Hungarian Consulate " in the main 
street of the town. In the hall, littered with broken 
packing-cases and other signs of hurried departure, 
were two placid-faced French Sisters of St. Vincent 
de Paul, with their white-winged headgear as stiff 
and spotless as if they were in a peaceful French 
country town instead of a newly captured Mace- 
donian city. They had come there to try and re- 
claim their piano, which some German officers had 
commandeered and carried off to their quarters 
at the consulate. 

The nuns said they had organised a hospital at 
their convent, which had been under the supervision 
of German medical officers ; seventeen dying Germans 
had been left behind in their charge when the army 
retreated the night before. " The Germans were 
correct but brusque," said one of the Sisters. "The 

Bulgars were " And she made an expressive little 


Twice before, they said, the Germans and Bulgars 
had made all preparations for abandoning Monastir. 
The first occasion was on September 17th, after the 
retaking of Fiorina. That was followed, however, 
by the delay necessary for the slow wheeling round 
of the French and Russians into line with the Serbians 
again, facing the north, a manoeuvre that had to be 
carried out with caution, so as to give the enemy no 
chance of thrusting himself into a gap between them. 
So the enemy took heart once more. 

The second time the Bulgars had been ready to 
leave Monastir was on October 4th, after the capture 



of Petorak and Vrbeni, and the thrusting back of the 
Bulgars to the Kenali lines. 

Finally, the army's doctor in charge of the nuns' 
hospital had gone to Prilep on November 18th and 
telephoned from there at three in the afternoon that 
the hospital was to be evacuated and transferred to 
Prilep that night. 

There is no doubt that the enemy was thoroughly 
discouraged and, for the moment, beaten. Nothing 
less would have caused the Bulgars to abandon 
Monastir, the sign and token of that dominion in 
Macedonia which they covet. Had the Allies dis- 
posed of fresh troops to carry on the pursuit, we 
might have taken Prilep too, and pushed the enemy 
back into the Babouna pass on the way to Uskub. 
All that the Bulgars left behind was a rearguard on 
the Prilep road, about three miles out from Monastir, 
to cover their retreat. But when they saw that the 
French, Serbs, Russians and Italians were all equally 
exhausted, that we had not a single fresh division 
with which to press upon their heels, but that the 
same wearied troops, their effectives often reduced 
by three-fifths, who had been fighting for six weeks 
in the mud before Monastir, were now hurried straight 
through the town and thrown into action again beyond 
it against the enemy rearguard, they took heart and 
began to hold on in greater force to the semi-circle 
of hills which dominates Monastir from the north. 
They had conceived the idea of keeping the town 
within shell-range and making it as far as possible 
uninhabitable for their foes. 

This they have been able to do with effect. For a 
few weeks after its recapture Monastir was thronged 
with troops, supply depots and the headquarters of 
various Allied contingents. But the daily shelling of 
the congested streets made it more and more un- 
suitable for all these purposes, and now, though the 


French still hold all the ground they occupied beyond 
the town to the north on November 19th, 1916, the 
place itself is deserted, the only population left being 
the poorer class of Greeks and Serbians, who live 
huddled in their cellars and would have starved but 
for the rations issued to them at first by the military 
authorities, and later by the Serbian Relief Fund. It 
was while superintending this work in Monastir that 
Mrs. Harley, a sister of Lord French, was killed by a 
shrapnel bullet in one of the daily bombardments. 

All of us who had been on the Serbian front knew 
and respected profoundly the courage and energy of 
this gallant white-haired lady. And there are not a 
few other gently nurtured Englishwomen living, if 
not in actual danger, at any rate amid dreary, mono- 
tonous and squalid surroundings on the Serbian 
front, in order to bring relief to the population of 
that much-afflicted region. There are, for instance, 
the Hon. Mrs. Massey, who was wounded by a splinter 
from an aeroplane bomb while at her post in Sakulevo, 
Miss Stewart -Richardson, and several more. The 
Scottish Women's Hospitals are associated more 
especially with medical work in the field. They are 
attached to the Serbian Army and take in wounded 
in the ordinary way. The Serbians were never tired 
of expressing their admiration for these plucky, 
cheery, short-skirted girls, in their grey uniforms, 
who worked as nurses in the hospitals under the 
trees by the Ostrovo Lake and at the base at Salonica, 
or drove their little Ford ambulances over the worst 
roads without any resource to count on but their 

Poor Monastir ! It is the only town in Macedonia 
for which you can feel any liking ; most picturesquely 
situated, looking southwards down the long green 
plain, and shielded to the north by the well-tilled 
slopes of mountains dotted with little white villages. 


Its streets, though of rough cobbles, are clean. It 
has a few modern buildings and the rest are a degree 
above that dreary, ugly squalor that makes the 
average Macedonian township so uninteresting. The 
population is mixed, of course ; all Macedonia is a 
salad of nationalities — a fact which doubtless led 
some Balkan-travelled cook to invent the name 
macedoine de fruits. We consequently had some 
little trouble with enemy agents among the Bulgarian 
section of the inhabitants. Underground telephone 
wires were found leading to the enemy positions. 

The whole population, in fact, whatever its national 
sympathies, had to go through the outward signs 
of sudden conversion when we came in, for the 
Bulgars had imposed the Bulgarian language and 
writing with severity. So all the Bulgarian shop- 
signs had to come down and Serbian ones go up. 
Czar Ferdinand must be jerked out of the place of 
honour on the wall and a portrait of King Peter put 
there instead. In the Balkans everyone has a 
picture of his political ruler in the house, as a kind 
of national emblem. At the time of the Salonica 
" Revolution," for instance, the boom in photographs 
of M. Venizelos was tremendous, while hundreds of 
excellent studio portraits of King Constantine could 
have been, and doubtless were, bought for their value 
as old pasteboard by some speculator in the un- 
certainties of future political developments. 

There was one hotel in Monastir for whose plight 
in this respect I felt real sympathy. I went there to 
get quarters for my servant, and looking round for 
the name, saw only splashes of fresh whitewash in 
the places where you would have expected the sign 
of the hotel to be. 

" What's the name of the hotel ? " I asked the 
Greek proprietor. 

He smiled uneasily. " Oh, you will find it quite 


easily again," he said ; " there's the main street just 

there and you turn up by " 

" Yes, I know ; but what's its name ? " 
" Well," said the owner, with hesitation, " it 
hasn't got a name yet." 

However, next morning a new name went up. I 
found a flamboyant fresh gilt sign with the title 
"Hotel Europeen" being hoisted into place. I then 
learned the eventful history of the hotel's designation. 
When the Serbians had won Monastir from the Turks 
the proprietor had suitably commemorated the event 
and striven to attract official favour by changing its 
original name to that of " Hotel de la Nouvelle 
Serbie." Three years afterwards to the same month 
the Bulgars had taken the town from the Serbs, 
and the establishment quickly became " Hotel de la 
Nouvelle Bulgarie." Now, exactly twelve months 
iater, the Serbs had recaptured Monastir, and the 
' Nouvelle Bulgarie " sign had to come down with 
a run to avoid certain trouble. So the proprietor 
told me that he had now given up trying to keep in 
touch with these constant changes of the town's 
nationality. The need of continually having his 
sign repainted was eating into the profits of his business 
and delay in getting rid of the old one, or an error 
in tact in choosing the new might well lead to harsh 
suspicions of the kind that are disposed of by firing- 
parties at dawn. So he had decided in future to 
hedge. Under the sign of " Hotel Europeen " he 
told me he felt that, for some time at any rate, he 
could have an easy mind. The armies of conflicting 
states could stream down the main street alongside, 
their officers could spend persecuted nights in his 
dubious beds, without their wrath being still further 
inflamed by indignation at the national sentiments 
expressed by the name of the hotel. And in the 
flush of confidence which the unexceptionable yet 


dignified title of " Hotel Europeen " inspired, T 
noticed, when I came to pay the bill, that the pro- 
prietor had raised his prices for rooms two francs 
above any other hotel in the town. 

Monastir was taken on Sunday, and on Tuesday 
the Crown Prince of Serbia and General Sarrail went 
up by special train and drove round the town. On 
the occasion of this victory, which is indeed the 
principal achievement of the Salonica Expedition, 
General Sarrail issued a General Order to the Army, 
dated from Monastir, and addressing the troops of 
each nationality in turn. To the British he spoke 
in terms which showed appreciation of their especially 
ungrateful role. " Your task," said the French 
Commander-in-Chief, " has been most thankless. 
You are on a front which has hitherto been defensive, 
but you have not husbanded your labours or spared 
your efforts. You are ready to take the offensive 
when the order comes." 

The confidence new-born in the enemy by the 
realisation that, though we had driven him out of 
Monastir, we were too weak to follow him up, was 
shown by the proclamations their aeroplanes let 
fall on the town. " People of Monastir," they said, 
" be of good heart. We shall not shell you or bomb 
you, for we are coming to retake your city." 

Probably with this end in view, a whole German 
division had arrived as reinforcements on the Monastir 
front, coming from the Somme. Bulgars had also 
been transferred here from the Dobrudja. 

The fighting around Monastir was now heavy, 
the French making determined attacks in the attempt 
to push back the enemy out of gun-fire range and the 
Bulgars having received, orders, as prisoners told us, 
not to retreat a yard. They were on Snegovo Hill 
to the north of the town, on Hill 1248, the scene of 
many bitter encounters since, and on the terraced 


brown slopes of snow-topped Peristeri to the west, 
with the Cervena-Stena ridge running down towards 

From the lower ridges of Snegovo the battle was a 
spectacle that lingers in the memory. Below you 
were the red roofs of the town, broken by the domes 
and minarets of two white mosques. Above these 
the Bulgar shrapnel burst from time to time in 
milk-white puffs, while the dense black smoke of the 
heavier shells that were intended for the French 
batteries sprang up all round the outskirts of the 
place. The French artillery, hidden by whatever 
feature of the ground afforded shelter, was firing 
as fast as the guns could be reloaded. 

On the other side, higher up Mount Snegovo, you 
looked plainly into the French trenches on the steep 
hillside, and beyond them on a further slope, separated 
from the French by a hidden depression in the ground, 
were the Bulgarian positions. Once, as I watched 
the French infantry leap out of their trenches and 
run forward to the attack, an unusual thing happened. 
The French had passed from sight into the dip in the 
ground from which they would be climbing the slope 
beyond to reach the Bulgar line. And suddenly the 
trenches they were attacking were outlined by a fringe 
of black figures, which seemed to start out of the 
ground, as indeed they literally did, for the Bulgars, 
impatient to fire more effectively upon the attacking 
French and regardless of the shrapnel bursting above 
them, had sprung upon their parapet and stood 
there in full view. It was as though the bare slope 
had been suddenly covered with a forest of black 

Those Bulgar front-line trenches were taken by 
the French, but lost again later. The bad weather 
had made aeroplane reconnaissance of the enemy's 
positions ineffective, and the French did not know 


what strength the Bulgars had concentrated in 
reserve. These reserves counter-attacked the newly 
gained position and retook it. Next day, however, 
November 28th, the French retaliated by shelling 
the Bulgar front line heavily for a time. The enemy 
withdrew his troops while the shelling lasted, but 
then the French sent out strong patrols to make a 
demonstration, which gave the Bulgars the impression 
that another attack was about to be made. On this, 
they rushed up reinforcements and manned the front 
line strongly again. The French patrols were then 
withdrawn and their heavy artillery at once onened 
an intense bombardment on the Bulgar trenches, 
which caused very heavy losses among the men who 
had been crowded into them. 

The town of Monastir began to be an uncom- 
fortable place to live in. The Bulgars had been 
forced to realise that they had no chance of taking it 
back by a counter-offensive, but the French, on the 
other hand, were not strong enough to thrust them 
out of artillery range. So the shelling of the city, 
which for all that only damaged the civilian popu- 
lation, began to become more regular and more 
intense. One quarter, which was especially exposed, 
was evacuated and the refugees crowded into 
another. There was a grave shortage of food. But 
it was as yet impossible to evacuate the civilian 
population owing to the danger of blocking up the 
road which was the single line of supply until the 
blown-up culverts and smashed points on the railway 
could be repaired. To be in a shelled town that is 
crowded with women and children is an unpleasant 
thing. An almost continual sound of apprehensive 
moaning filled the streets while a bombardment was 
going on, and whenever a shell with a whirr and a 
crash sent one of the flimsy houses flying into a 
cloud of dust and charred and splintered fragments 


the tremulous wail would rise to a shriek of 

If it had not been for the Greek threat in his rear, 
which became more urgent after the Athens street 
fighting of December 1st, and led General Sarrail to 
concentrate troops to meet a possible Greek attack 
on our communications with Monastir, and par- 
ticularly if we had had reinforcements to use, the 
next step after the taking of Monastir would have 
been a move on Resna to the north-west. Resna is 
an important depot of supplies, and one of the 
results of taking it would have been to hamper the 
enemy's communications with his forces in Albania. 
But the attempt to realise this scheme had to be 
deferred for some months more, for in addition to our 
own inadequate numbers and our preoccupation 
with the Greeks, the mud and the snow of winter 
now began to impose their annual immobility upon 
the armies in the Balkans. 



Winter in the Balkans is always a time of rain over- 
head and mud underfoot. To move anything heavy, 
such as a gun, the distance of a mile or two is an 
affair not of hours but of days, and can very often 
only be accomplished by enlisting supplementary 
assistance in the way of additional teams or motor 
tractors which may be in the neighbourhood on 
quite different business. For the men in the trenches 
this weather brings not a respite, but an addition of 
labour, the digging of the dry season being varied 
and increased by constant pumping and revetting 
of the sides of trenches with a skin of empty sand- 
bags held in place by wire netting, in default of which 
the rain would simply wash the sides of the trench 
away. The roads, as I have said before, go all to 
pieces. A hole eighteen inches deep and two yards wide 
is a common thing to find in the centre of a main 
highway, despite all the patching and rolling that 
goes on even by night as well as day. 

As a rule the weather does not get really bad in 
the Balkans until after Christmas, but the first three 
months of the year are most unpleasant, and of a 
nature to put all operations of any importance out 
of the question. 

Last winter, though, 1916-1917, the Greeks occu- 
pied almost as much of the attention of the French 



General Staff as did the Bulgars. Troops, to which 
the English contributed a contingent of London 
Territorials, were sent to occupy the five-mile 
" neutral zone " which it had now been agreed to 
mark out between the respective spheres of influence 
of the Venizelists and the royalists. In this zone 
the French had established posts to keep the peace 
between these mutually hostile sections of the 
Greek nation. The neutral zone reached the sea 
at Ekaterini, where our troops were stationed, being 
occupied with making roads and building piers. 

Meanwhile, a certain amount of small trouble 
broke loose in the Chalcidice Peninsula, which forms 
the eastern side of the Gulf of Salonica, and lies in 
rear of our Army area. Armed reservists and other 
royalist agitators began to make disturbances there, 
which were, however, suppressed by Venizelist 
troops. The most interesting part of the Chalcidice 
Peninsula is Mount Athos, the easternmost of its 
three prongs, which is a sort of religious theocracy 
made up of Orthodox monasteries of all the nationali- 
ties that adhere to the Eastern Church. They are 
of great wealth, not only in the way of jewels, sacra- 
mental gold plate and vestments, but also as the 
possessors of valuable farms scattered all about 
the Mgean, which have been bequeathed to them 
by the pious dead. The principles of celibacy are 
carried so far upon this peninsula that no female 
animal of any sort, even a hen, is allowed to set foot 
there, and no male is permitted to spend more than 
a limited time at Mount Athos without assuming 
at any rate the black habit of the monk. The long 
hair of the monks is tucked up in a " bun " beneath 
their characteristic headgear, which is like a dull 
top hat with the brim taken off. They have a 
sailing ship, manned by themselves, which they 
send on a monthly visit to Salonica for purposes of 


transacting business, and one of the oddest sights 
in ail that city of the bizarre is to see these hybrid- 
looking figures with their black skirts, long hair 
and untrimmed beards pulling and hauling on the 
tackle of their schooner. Since there were Bulgarian 
and Greek monks as well as Russian and Serbian in 
Mount Athos, the peninsula had to be regularly 
visited by a destroyer to ensure that no illicit sup- 
plying of petrol to submarines was going on. But 
the monks always received our officers with ready 
hospitality, and were proud to show them the 
treasures of their ancient and religious foundations. 

Another important event of the winter affecting 
the fate of the Salonica Expedition was the meeting 
of the Allied Conference in Rome, which was under- 
stood to have been convoked with the especial view 
of considering Balkan affairs. General Sarrail and 
General Milne were both summoned there, and 
General Sarrail was able to make a full report of his 
position in the Balkans in person to the Prime 
Ministers, War Ministers and Chiefs of the General 
Staffs of France, Italy and Great Britain. The 
results of this discussion were, however, not per- 

A big air raid on February 27th by fifteen large 
German triple-engined aeroplanes of a new type, 
each carrying four machine-guns, was another event 
of the inactive season. It caused not a few casualties 
which were spread among the contingents of the 
various Allies, and a remarkable and tragic coincidence 
that occurred in connection with it was that some of 
the British soldiers who were wounded in the first 
raid were taken to a General Hospital which was 
bombed on the following Sunday by another German 
raiding squadron. As a result of this, some of the 
wounded of the Tuesday were killed in their beds by 
a similar agency on the Sunday, a risk against 


which one would say that the chances, whatever 
they may have been from an actuarial point of view, 
would under circumstances of ordinary luck be very 
many hundreds of thousands to one. 

Nor was this General Hospital the only sufferer 
by German ruthlessness. The very large English 
hospital which the British had provided for the 
Serbs (6,750 hospital beds in all were furnished by 
the R.A.M.C. for the Serbian Army) was bombed on 
March 12th, in spite of being surrounded by a ring 
of most conspicuous red crosses, and although after 
a similar exploit in the previous year German aviators 
had dropped a message there, apologising for bombing 
it under the plea that they had done so by mistake. 
On this present occasion two nurses, several others 
of the staff, and a number of patients were killed. 

One may take an opportunity here of referring to 
the remarkably efficient, energetic and persistent 
work in the Balkans of the British squadron of the 
R.F.C., which, though it did not reach Salonica until 
the summer of 1916, has been since then one of the 
most active branches of the service. Almost every 
day the enemy dumps and aerodromes behind the 
front are bombed, and only considerable preponder- 
ance both in numbers and in quality of machines has 
enabled the Germans to raid Salonica at all. A 
typical morning of one of these Salonica airmen, 
flying a B.E. 12, is as follows : 

" Met six hostile machines. Attacked rear one — 
twin tractor biplane carrying four machine-guns, 
three firing astern and one ahead. It dropped bombs 
which missed. Its engines were both stopped. 
Attempt was made to place third drum on Lewis, 
but it was shot out of pilot's hand. Opened fire with 
Vickers, which jammed after fourth round. Hostile 
machine fell, turning on back when landing. Re- 
turned to repair Vickers and get more ammunition 


for Lewis. Left again and met five more double- 
engined machines. Attacked one. Petrol seen to be 
streaming out and observer hanging over side. Then 
attacked by four remaining machines. Having no 
more ammunition for Lewis, used Vickers, which 
jammed after second round. Returned our lines 
at 2,000 feet, pursued by four enemy machines." 

The R.N.A.S., of whom we at Salonica saw less, 
as they for a long time had their base in the island 
of Thasos, also did a lot of successful bombing of 
railway bridges and burning of crops in the enemy's 
country. The two most striking nights of the 
campaign were made by Louis Noel, the French 
airman whom Londoners used to know well at 
Hendon. On July 3rd, 1916, he flew to Sofia, dropped 
bombs there, and got back to Salonica in five hours, 
and on September 22nd he returned from a flight 
to Bucharest and back with a passenger, 400 miles 
each way, over mountainous enemy country, and 
under stormy weather conditions. 

When at last, at the end of the enforced inactivity 
of the winter, spring came and the mud began to dry, 
the Balkan Force stood at the highest point of 
efficiency that it had yet reached. Reinforcements 
and drafts had been received during the winter ; 
many roads had been built, especially a remarkable 
mountain one in the loop of the Cerna, ten hilly 
miles long and made in twenty-two days ; reserves 
of ammunition had been accumulated, and every- 
thing prepared for a spring offensive which should 
test whether, with the means then at the disposal 
of the Allies in the Balkans, it was possible to dis- 
locate the Bulgar front at any point in such a way 
as to compel their whole line to fall back, and so win 
not a local tactical advantage, but a larger strategic 

The weight of enemy effectives against us was 



certainly as strong as, if not stronger than, those we 
could bring to bear upon him, and he had incom- 
parably the advantage of position. In addition to 
this,, too, the Bulgars could await our spring attack 
in the sure confidence that even if the Allied strength 
against them had developed to the point of being 
able to break their line so effectively as to bring an 
advance northwards towards the trans -Balkan railway 
at length within the bounds of possibility, the 
balance of the military situation would be quickly 
restored by the arrival of as many German divisions 
as might be necessary, for the Germans would not 
spare any effort to maintain the present position in 
the Balkans. Hitherto they have had considerable 
reason to be satisfied with the existing state of affairs. 
The Salonica Expedition is not doing them any vital 
harm ; it is Bulgars, not Germans, who are being 
killed by our attacks. The presence of the Allies 
in the Balkans is, indeed, a guarantee that Bulgaria 
will not begin to wilt and cause Germany anxiety 
about her direct communications with Turkey and 
the Near East ; for so long as we are pushing at the 
door of her own territory and of the coveted Serbian 
regions which she has grabbed, Germany can always 
use us as a bogy to scare the Bulgars into abject 
compliance with the will of Berlin. Moreover, the 
German General Staff knows that Salonica is a heavy 
drain upon the resources of the Allies. 

Such considerations render the Germans quite 
content to see the present deadlock in the Balkans 
continue. Some of the most highly trained troops 
in the British Army are held up there, and nearly 
all the units of the Salonica Force have been together 
so long and have been so hard worked that their 
standards of discipline and efficiency are very high 

Such reflections may inspire regret, but the spirit 


in which they should be taken is to remember that 
the circumstances of the war at that end of Europe 
have changed utterly, thanks to the temporary col- 
lapse of Russia and the over-running of Roumania 
since the expedition was despatched. The English 
General Staff, perhaps, had clearer vision than others 
in being from the first somewhat sceptical about the 
possibilities of carrying on operations in the Balkans 
on the large scale which alone would enable definite 
results to be obtained. But in every coalition some- 
thing has to be sacrificed now and then to solidarity. 
If we embarked upon an enterprise which has not 
yet achieved anything of striking utility from the 
standpoint of the major aims of the war, we at least 
put heart into Serbia, kept our alliance united, denied 
the Central Powers access at an important point to 
the Mediterranean and established a depot of Allied 
military resources in the Near East which may yet 
play its part in hastening the final phase of the 
disintegration of the enemy's coalition, and has 
meanwhile held up more than its own weight of 

One circumstance about the attacks which were 
undertaken by the various Allied contingents on 
their respective sectors in the spring of 1917 is that 
they were not simultaneous. 

The series opened with a French attack on March 
11th in the sector between the lakes of Prespa and 
Ochrida in Albania. This met with the bad luck 
in the way of weather which seems to haunt Allied 
enterprises in this war. The preparations for the 
action had been most laborious. The one single line 
of supply was by road from Fiorina round the southern 
end of Lake Prespa, over seventy miles of absolutely 
abominable surface, and crossing, among other 
mountains, the Col de Pisoderi, ten miles from 
Fiorina, which is the biggest climb I have seen 



anywhere in the whole Allied area, where the mud 
was so thick that you had to run in first speed even 
going down the steep hill. Pisoderi at this season 
could only be negotiated by pack-transport, the 
motor-lorries taking supplies on from the top. 

The objective of the French was Resna, at the 
north end of Prespa Lake. If the early success that 
was planned had been won, the French cavalry, of 
which five squadrons were ready waiting, would have 
dashed on to secure the Kozjak bridge a few miles 
south of that town. But delay occurred, and the 
result was that the Germans had time to bring up 
reinforcements ; and then a devastating snow bliz- 
zard began. I did not visit this sector of the front 
until a little later, but as one toiled up the sides of 
those steep, rock-strewn mountains in dry weather it 
seemed impossible to believe that the French had 
been fighting there with the snow lying several feet 
thick, for this late snowstorm was one of the worst of 
the whole winter. 

To co-operate with this attack which was to follow 
a N.E. direction from between Lakes Prespa and 
Ochrida, a converging attack northwards was ordered 
from Monastir, and the dominating Hill 1248, the 
chief among the complex of heights which overlook 
the town from the north, was won, with 400 prisoners, 
which were in addition to 1,400 more captured by the 
French in that week at a cost of comparatively small 
casualties to themselves. But the crest of 1248 
could not be maintained, and French and Bulgars 
remained each hanging on to the opposing slopes of 
the mountain, the summit remaining part of No 
Man's Land. But though the villages of Snegovo 
and Kirklina and a considerable section of the enemy 
first line was won, the Bulgars and Germans were 
still within shell range of the town, and no further 
progress had been made towards Resna. 


These early spring attacks had met with only local 
success, but the greater part of April was spent in 
preparing further offensives, and on April 24th it was 
the turn of the British to engage in the most con- 
siderable action they have yet fought in the Balkans 
— the attack upon the Bulgar hill positions by Lake 



The cluster of steep hills that rises from the side of 
Doiran Lake stands almost at the geographical centre 
of the Allied front. Chief among these heights are 
the positions of Hill 535 with the Pip Ridge — so 
called from the series of little hillocks on the shoulder 
descending towards the British lines, which are dis- 
tinguished as Pips 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 — the Grand 
Couronne and Petit Couronne. On these steep 
slopes the enemy has three distinct systems of 
trenches about a thousand yards apart, each line 
higher up the hillock than those in front of it, and 
consequently commanding them. But it is not 
altitude or steepness alone which gives to these 
positions their formidable nature. What makes 
them so difficult to attack is the irregularity of the 
welter of smaller hills at their feet, which provides a 
series of natural bastions and outposts. 

If you glance at a good contour map of this country 
by Lake Doiran, your eye will be confused by a 
tangle of abrupt slopes divided by steep precipitous 
ravines which twist in and out among a bewildering 
number of hillocks, spurs and under-features that 
make the ground especially arduous for an infantry 

As you look at this position from the front you are 
strongly reminded of an old mediaeval citadel. For 
there, in one corner of the whole enceinte, you usually 



find a concentrated group of towers and bastions that 
formed the main stronghold of the defence. Over- 
topping all is the keep, but assembled around that 
are lesser towers and turrets, each supporting, but at 
the same time dominating, the other, so that, should 
some of these works be conquered by an enemy, 
he still remains in a position of inferior advantage 
until he has won them all. 

The configuration of the ground at this corner of 
Lake Doiran is in exact parallel to such a mediaeval 
fortress. Hill 535 is the keep of the enemy's citadel. 
It towers above the other hills he holds, and ever 
since we took over this sector from the French, " the 
Dub," as it is also called, has haunted the British 
Army. Go where you will, that blunt, bald-browed 
head is looking at you. Quite a long way back from 
the fighting line, as you go up a ravine that ap- 
parently is open to nothing but the sky, you will find 
the road screened by an artificial hedge or marked 
' for use by night only," and should you ask why, 
the inevitable answer is : " Under observation from 
the Dub." The Dub is the strongest point of the 
enemy's third and main line of defence. Its twin 
height in the same trench system is Grand Couronne, 
a mile nearer Lake Doiran, and of proportions only 
slightly less. Both these hills are conical in shape, 
with steep and barren sides. The white scars of the 
Bulgar trenches stretch across them like a girdle, and 
the humps of the long rampart-like " Pip Ridge " 
are each strongly fortified. Pip 3 is part of the 
second line of defence. Pip 4| was the westernmost 
objective of our first attack in force on April 24th. 

After two days' artillery bombardment, which 
began on April 22nd, our first attack was delivered 
on the night of April 24th. 

>On the same evening, at the other end of 
Vardar-Doiran front, a small demonstration 

■' ' •■-. 




was to be made against the position known as 
the " Nose." 

The number of guns available on each side, about 
200, was about the same ; but the enemy artillery- 
ran to heavier calibre, for they had several batteries 
of 8 -in. howitzers, which did us very great damage 
in our attack. In strength of infantry, too, each 
side was approximately equal. 

Our aim in this attack of April 24th was to carry 
the enemy's first system of trenches, consolidate 
there, then bring up the guns and renew the assault 
on the trench systems behind. The immediate 
objectives of the troops actually engaged were as 
follows : On the left the infantry had to cross about 
900 yards of ground and dig themselves in along the 
side of Jackson ravine, a little behind the enemy's 
original front line. The length of this new front of 
theirs would be 1,500 yards ; but it had the dis- 
advantage of being dominated not only by the 
enemy's second system of trenches further up the 
slope (the Tongue, the Knot, the Hilt, etc.), but also 
by the Petit Couronne and the rest of the enemy's 
front line which was the objective of the brigades on 
the right, so that if the attack on the left succeeded 
and the attack on the right did not, the troops on the 
left would find themselves under extremely exposed 
conditions in its new line. This, in fact, is what did 
happen. But the troops on the right had most 
difficult conditions to face in their attack ; for they 
had to cross the very steep and rocky Jumeaux 
ravine, about 300 yards wide, which separated their 
front line trenches from those of the enemy. The 
infantry assault was fixed for 9.45 p.m., and half an 
hour before that time the enemy opened a barrage 
along our whole front. All up and down the high 
amphitheatre of hills on which the Bulgarian lincs^j^ j>^ 
lay flickering points of light flashed out, and njriK*^.? $. 



batteries constantly sprang into action to swell the 
thunder of the re-echoing reports. Powerful Bulgar 
searchlights, one in Doiran town and the other higher 
up the slopes behind, threw their cold white light 
along our front line trenches, which were fringed by 
dense and writhing columns of the smoke and dust 
of bursting shells. Through this concentrated bar- 
rage the infantry pressed gallantly on to the attack, 
and everywhere entered the enemy's line, only to be 
driven out again by the heavy fire which the Bulgar 
guns opened on their own captured front trenches, 
and by determined counter-attacks. Down by the 
lake our men twice reached the enemy trenches, but 
had to fall back each time. On their left they met 
with strong resistance, and the few of them who got 
into the enemy's front line were not strong enough to 
stay there. A battalion attacked Petit Couronne, 
and by midnight were reported to have won a footing 
there. Other units, too, gained temporary mastery 
of their objectives. But the reinforcements sent to 
strengthen them could not get across that death-trap 
of Jumeaux ravine, into which the Bulgar trench 
mortars were dropping a barrage of projectiles as you 
might pitch pebbles into a trough. Such was the 
force of the explosions in that narrow space that men 
were blasted to death against the walls of rock by 
the shock alone ; this was in addition to ceaseless 
shelling by their 8-in. howitzers. 

In the darkness of the ravine, lit only by the flashes 
of the explosions and obscured still further by a 
drifting haze of dust, it was difficult for the infantry 
to keep in touch. In parts of it there was so much 
water in the stream at the bottom that the men had to 
wade waist-deep. As one looked from an artillery 
observation post up that dust, and flame-filled gorge, 
it appeared impossible for anyone to get across it 
alive at all. 


Bulgarian reinforcements had been rushed up to 
the trenches from the ravines behind where they 
normally live in comparative safety. They fought 
with stubbornness and determination. " Come on, 
Johnny," they kept calling through the din to our 
soldiers struggling up the rocky slopes to reach the 
gaps in their wire. 

The result of all this fighting was that by daybreak 
the whole of the two right-hand brigades were back 
in their original lines. The troops, however, on the 
left had captured the whole of their 1,500-yard objec- 
tive and held it throughout the night against four 
counter-attacks. The position, though to this 
extent improved in our favour, was now an awkward 
one. We had, so to speak, advanced with one 
foot and been unable to bring the other up along- 
side it. 

One satisfactory feature of the fighting was the 
chivalrous way in which the Bulgarians allowed our 
stretcher-parties to go out in broad daylight between 
the lines and pick up wounded who were left lying 
there after the night attack. So steep are the rocky 
slopes of the Jumeaux ravine and so completely is it 
swept by enemy fire that it would otherwise have been 
extremely difficult to bring in the unfortunate fellows 
who had been left behind when we retired from the 
enemy trenches. But the morning after the fighting 
our doctors and stretcher-bearers with great gallantry 
stepped out directly into the open, trusting to no 
other protection than the Red Cross. For a moment 
fire was opened upon them from the Bulgar trenches, 
but almost immediately an enemy officer jumped up 
on their parapet waving a blue flag. The fire at once 
ceased, and a message was evidently telephoned back 
to the Bulgarian batteries, for there was no shelling 
while our stretcher-parties were at work. The 
Bulgars even allowed one of them to walk through a 


gap in their wire and pick up a man who was lying 
within ten yards of the enemy's parapet. 

There was now a lull in the fighting for a fortnight, 
during which time the position remained as it had 
been on the morning of April 25th, the troops on the 
left maintaining the newly won footing in the enemy 
front line, though under miserably rainy weather 
conditions which were made even more trying by the 
fact that the men, living like rats in holes in the side 
of Jackson ravine, could not have warm food or even 
tea, while they were so overlooked by the enemy that 
to stand up, much less to move about, brought upon 
them shelling and enfilading machine-gun fire. 

A French attack at Monastir and in the Cerna loop 
was to have coincided with this offensive of ours, but 
heavy snow, even at this advanced season of the year, 
came on to delay the operation. The first attack of 
any importance made by the Greek contingents at the 
front took place, however, on the evening of May 5th, 
and gained ground to the extent of 500 to 1,500 yards, 
on a front of three miles on the right bank of the 

The next day we started artillery preparation again 
for a renewed assault upon the Doiran sector, though 
this time only holding attacks were to be made west 
of the Jumeaux ravine, the main effort being directed 
to capturing the enemy's front line trenches between 
that and the lake. The Bulgars had by now, how- 
ever, received reinforcements in guns and four new 
regiments of infantry, though the latter were in a 
rather weakened state. 

With the last of the daylight on the evening of 
May 8th we began a violent final bombardment of 
the enemy's line. Right and left, in front and behind, 
his trenches sprang into fountains of flying earth. 
The dense smoke was pushed slowly along the bare 
slopes by the evening breeze, until by the time 


darkness fell the whole of the narrow front which our 
infantry was waiting to attack was covered with a 
heavy mist, through which the brilliant Bulgar star 
shells shone with no more than a sullen glow, 
i. Night had scarcely fallen when, in answer to red 
and green flares thrown up from Petit Couronne, the 
Bulgar batteries on the high ridge behind Doiran 
town began a like bombardment of our own entrench- 
ments. The enemy was thoroughly aroused. His 
searchlights played anxiously along our front. The 
unmistakable sharp " crump " of trench mortars 
could be heard mingling with the drum-like din of the 
flickering batteries on the distant slopes. Sometimes 
would come a lull of a few short seconds, and while 
it lasted the " croak-croak " of the frogs in Doiran 
Lake alone broke the peace of the spring night, as it 
had done for thousands of years before high explosives 
were invented. 

Five minutes more to "X," the secret hour fixed 
in advance for the first wave of infantry to cross the 
parapet. The uproar of our own guns reached its 
maximum ; the flames of the discharges flickered 
like summer lightning all round the hills. By this 
time one's view of that formidable Jumeaux ravine 
which protects the front of the enemy's position like 
a moat was just an opaque blur, among which count- 
less lights of varying intensity flared and flashed 
without ceasing. Overhead, just visible as a black 
shadow against the violet sky, one of our aeroplanes 
droned by and crossed over into the enemy's territory. 

Then suddenly broke out a fierce rattle of rifles and 
machine-guns. Our men were over the parapet and 
moving across that tumultuous, shell-pounded open, 
and for the rest of the night the only explanation of 
what was happening before one's eyes came in the 
form of scrappy telephone messages from Artillery 
Brigade Headquarters to the battery commander. 


The result of the night's fighting was in the end 
exactly the same as that of the previous attack. The 
enemy line was entered, but made untenable for us 
by bombing and counter-attacks. 

Just before dawn the sectors on either side of 
Petit Couronne were recaptured by the enemy with 
the bomb and the bayonet. But the infantry in 
Petit Couronne still stood their ground. They were 
on the southern slope of the hill, the top, with the 
trench on the edge of it, being empty. When day 
broke, and all through the morning of May 9th, one 
could see them moving about there, picking up 
wounded and occasionally working up in little parties 
to the top of the hill, where they would be met by 
enemy shell-fire. Their colonel was wounded, but 
they hung on to Petit Couronne until 12.30 p.m., 
when they were called back, since the rest of the line 
had been evacuated, and it would have been im- 
possible to maintain their position there. 

Meanwhile, troops to the west of Krastali were 
carrying our line forward, but as the broad tract of 
ground here existing between our positions and the 
enemy's was only occupied by a few unimportant 
outposts, this amounted to little more than a re-siting 
of our trenches. 

The natural strength of the enemy's line had com- 
bined with his equality, if not superiority, of numbers 
to render his resistance effective, not only against us 
but at other points where he was attacked along the 
Allied line. 

For there were going on, simultaneously with this 
attack, similar Allied offensive movements — on the 
right bank of the Vardar by the French and Greeks ; 
among the Moglena mountains by the Serbs ; on the 
right bank of the Cerna river by the Serbs and the 
Russians brigaded with them ; in the loop of the 
Cerna by the French, Russians and Italians ; and 


especially on that semi-circle of hills west and north 
of Mon astir, where the French were faced by a strong 
concentration of Germans, Austrians and Bulgars. 
Local improvements of our line were made at several 
points, but nowhere was it found possible to drive the 
desired wedge into the Bulgar front. 

And now the spring campaigning season was nearing 
its end, and it was time to think of what dispositions 
should be taken for the unhealthy summer. The 
sector principally concerned by the approach of the 
hot weather was the Struma. If we were to stay 
down by the malarial riverside, nothing could prevent 
a repetition of the heavy sick-list of the previous year. 
We were obliged to come up into the hills, and prepa- 
rations for this withdrawal had been going on, in fact, 
for some months. But to delude the enemy as to our 
intentions an attack was made on May 15th upon 
three of his advanced groups of trenches covering the 
approach to the fortified village of Spatovo, which in 
turn bars the way to the Rupel Pass. 

These systems, known as the Essex, Drumstick 
and Ferdie groups, were carried and seventy prisoners 
taken. The same evening the 29th Brigade occupied 
Kumli village, where they were heavily shelled, 
being under direct observation from Savjak ridge 
opposite them, but nevertheless held their ground. 
Other troops also moved up the railway line to Kupri 
in co-operation. 

Though there had been little action of a prepared 
character on the Struma since the successful attacks 
on Zir, Bala, Yenikeui and BairaklivDjuma the 
previous autumn, there had been constant patrol 
activities, for there was room enough between the 
opposing lines for this to be developed on a large 
scale. The Yeomanry held points out in front 
every night, where they were frequently attacked 
by the Bulgars. The " Battle of the Level Cross- 


ing " became almost a standing fixture, and the 
infantry met constantly in Patrol Wood, between 
Kalendra and Hristos. 

Ambushing was developed to a fine art by our 
troops on the Struma, and here the infantry had an 
advantage over the cavalry, for a mounted man's 
head can be seen coming above the rank crops of 
maize and the banks of sunken roads, so that the 
enemy can lie up for him with greater certainty. 

But now (summer, 1917) we have withdrawn the 
main part of our troops from the line we had estab- 
lished beyond the Struma, and hold only a series 
of fortified bridgeheads which would be quickly 
reinforced from the hills if the enemy came on ; 
but the Bulgar is as well aware of the unhealthiness 
of the Struma as we are. He put out placards : 
" We know you are going back to the hills, so are 
we," and now he, too, only has a strong outpost-line 
in the plain. The only forces that hold the Struma 
valley in strength are the mosquitoes, and their 
effectives may be computed by thousands of millions. 




The situation in Athens all this time showed no 
improvement in the way of the renunciation by the 
King of his pro-German sympathies. Nor had the 
Allies in their indecision and unwillingness to take 
extreme measures done anything to force him out 
of the path of hostility, veiled by a guise of neu- 
trality, in which his inclination kept him. 

There seems to have been in England at this time 
a general feeling of rather naive astonishment that 
King Constantine should ever have adopted, much 
less persisted in, this unfriendly attitude. We still 
have a somewhat insular standpoint in these matters, 
and do not easily bring ourselves to view a situation 
from the angle of the foreigner. There are no 
grounds for defending King Constantine ; he acted 
unconstitutionally, deceitfully, treacherously ; and 
besides being false to his Serbian allies, did his best 
to bring to naught our efforts to help them. He was 
wrong even in his most plausible argument — that he 
was acting for the good of his people. But I believe 
it is incorrect to imagine, as apparently many did, 
that his opposition to us was inspired by sheer 
perversity and German pigheadedness. This refusal 
to credit King Constantine with any sincerity or 
regard for the interests of his subjects, the Greeks, 
had the disadvantage at the time of breeding the 

P 207 


constant expectation in England that he would sud- 
denly see the error of his ways, and turn and be con- 
verted to readiness to co-operate with M. Venizelos 
on behalf of the Allies. This seemed a consum- 
mation so reasonable and inevitable that we were 
always inclined to be patient and moderate, and give 
him just one more chance. 

But the King's misguided hostility towards the 
Entente had its origin in many motives, and some of 
these at least were sincere. To begin with, King 
Constantine w r as naturally an obstinate man. You 
needed only to look at his big, square, fleshy, heavy 
head for a sign of that. He was imbued, too, with 
the doctrine of the Divine right of kings. Venizelos 
himself told me that w r hen, in September, 1915, he 
urged Constantine to fulfil his treaty obligations to 
Serbia, the King replied : "I am content to leave 
the internal affairs of my country to my Government, 
but for its foreign relations I hold myself alone 
responsible before God." 

Furthermore, the King had been trained as a 
soldier in the German Guard, and, like others among 
his generals of a similar experience, he saw r during 
the first year of the war a translation into action by 
the Germans of so many of the lessons which he had 
learnt in theory at the Kriegschule that he was very 
naturally filled with a profound admiration for the 
genius and infallibility of the German military 
machine. " The Germans may not win, but they 
cannot be beaten in a hundred years," said King 
Constantine to a friend of mine, walking in his 
garden in the summer of 1915, and the ties which 
bound the Greek King to Germany were concisely 
defined by the German Emperor himself when, on 
August 4th, 1914, at the very beginning of the war, 
he caused the Greek Minister in Berlin to telegraph 
to his master : " The Kaiser asks you — appealing to 


you as a comrade, and reminding his brother-in-law 
that Greece kept Kavalla thanks to the Kaiser's 
support— to mobilise your army, to place yourself 
at his side, and to march with him hand in hand 
against Slavism and the common enemy. If Greece 
does not side with Germany," added Emperor Wil- 
liam threateningly, " there will be a complete breach 
between Greece and the Empire." And all these 
influences, beliefs and prejudices which combined 
to keep King Constantine a German vassal were 
fortified and encouraged by his wife, that able and 
strong-minded lady, the Kaiser's sister, Queen Sophia. 

Remember, too, that this Balkan monarch very 
naturally based his opinion of the Allies chiefly upon 
their conduct of the war in his immediate neighbour- 
hood, and their treatment of questions in which he 
and his people were chiefly interested. And what a 
melancholy spectacle of military failure and diplo- 
matic inefficiency it was that we placed right beneath 
his eyes ! There was the Dardanelles. Before that 
operation began the Allies proposed that the Greeks 
should co-operate in it with us. King Constantine 
and his General Staff replied : "If you attack the 
Dardanelles you will fail : they are impregnable : we 
investigated the matter thoroughly in the first 
Balkan War." The Allies paid no attention to this 
warning ; at that stage they could probably hardly 
have done so if they would. They went ahead, 
attacked the Dardanelles, and failed most expen- 
sively. The obvious result was that the military 
foresight of King Constantine and his General Staff 
rose immensely in their own estimation. 

The summer of 1915 went on ; they watched our 
diplomats and our statesmen at home being hope- 
lessly bluffed by the Bulgarians. They themselves, 
as natives of the Balkans, knew well the bitter hatred 
of Bulgar for Serb, the deadly resentment in Sofia 



of the Treaty of Bucharest, the fierce resolve of the 
Bulgarians not to rest until they had won back what 
they wanted of Macedonia. Our politicians, com- 
placently unaware that any special or local know- 
ledge was required for dealing with Balkan questions, 
gulped down the reassuring dissimulations of M. 
Radoslavoff, and were lulled into fatuous security 
by a nation of Balkan peasants until the latter were 
ready to strike. But the contempt which the 
Greeks felt for our inadequate diplomacy was in- 
creased to indignation when it was found that in the 
course of our negotiations with Bulgaria we had 
proposed that she should take the Greek port and 
the district of Kavalla as a set-off against what she 
demanded from the Serbians. What made it worse 
was that no mention of this altruistic proposal had 
been made to the Greeks, nor were steps even taken 
to ascertain whether the Bulgars would accept the 
proffered territory before the offer was officially 
made ; the Greek people had the mortification of 
seeing its own possessions thrown into a bargain as 
a make-weight by one side, contemptuously rejected 
by the other, and all without their views as to this 
proposed disposal of their territory being ascer- 
tained at all. So that when the Bulgarians at 
length attacked the Serbs, and the Greek King, 
looking round, saw that nowhere had the war situation 
changed conspicuously in favour of the Allies, it is 
not surprising that he should have persevered in his 
original opinion that the Germans were the winning 
team. That being so, he was naturally anxious not 
to be on the other side. Hence his unconstitutional 
overthrow of M. Venizelos, who was preparing Greece 
to join the Allies, and hence the consistency of his 
subsequent efforts to keep out of the war on the side 
of the Entente at all costs, while showing his per- 
sonal sympathy for the Germans by allowing their 


agents full liberty of propaganda and action in his 
territory, and by doing all he could himself to obstruct 
and restrict our action in Macedonia. What was at 
the back of the King's mind in all this was the thought : 
" The Germans will ultimately win. When they 
have won I want to be able to say to them, ' I could 
not join you in the field ; the situation in my king- 
dom forbade it ; but this and that have I done, so 
far as in me lay, to help you and to hinder your 
enemies.' " 

The difference between the political short-sight of 
the King and the political long-sight of M. Venizelos 
lay simply in this — that Venizelos looked beyond the 
Allies' blunders and delays and failures in the present 
and saw the vast resources and latent powers that 
would in the long run make their success inevitable. 
He realised that the future welfare and development 
of Greece would depend upon them. The King, on 
the other hand, could not see so far ahead. Im- 
pressed by the present strength of the Germans and 
by the initial failures and mistakes of the Entente, 
he sincerely believed that the interests of his people 
were united with those of the Central Powers. That 
belief cost him in the end his throne. These two 
figures, Venizelos and Constantine, therefore, were by 
nature irreconcilable, antipodean. Yet for months 
our diplomats clung with feeble obstinacy to the hope 
of being able to bring them together, trying to mix 
oil with water, to promote harmony between the 
wolf and the sheep-dog. And all this time Germany 
by her thorough projmganda work did much to 
strengthen the King's hand, while we did nothing 
at all to support Venizelos. But the faith of M. 
Venizelos in the Allies, which still is strong, must be 
considered all the more praiseworthy when you 
remember how Serbia and Roumania have been 
overrun at the very threshold of his country. It is a 


true remark that M. Venizelos is a European and not 
merely a Balkan statesman. He can take big views. 

In September, 1916, M. Venizelos and his friends 
at Athens decided that passive protest against the 
unconstitutional action of the King had lasted long 
enough, that the country was being lulled into 
inertia by their own apparent acceptance of the 
existing state of things, and that the time had come 
to take a strong line. They determined to leave the 
capital, which was done by stealth, and proceed to 
Crete, where the idea of a Government independent 
of the King appeared in the form of the " triumvi- 
rate " — Venizelos, Admiral Condouriotis, and General 

After touring the Greek islands which are the strong- 
holds of his party, Venizelos came to Salonica. His 
arrival on October 9th was in a way a surprise. He 
himself did not know when he landed whether he 
would stay there or return to Mitylene. The question 
was, of course, one that depended to some extent on 
the views of the Allies, who might have seen dis- 
advantages in the establishment of a Macedonian 
Government at their military base. But no objection 
was raised, and M. Venizelos, after a landing of great 
enthusiasm, at which General Sarrail appeared for a 
moment, though unofficially, established the head- 
quarters of the " triumvirate " in the villa which had 
hitherto been King Constantine's palace at Salonica. 
It is an ugly house, resembling a pavilion at a Shep- 
herd's Bush Exhibition, and decorated and furnished 
in the abominable taste that comes of imitating 
German standards, which in matters of art and 
architecture are supreme in the Balkans, thanks to 
their commercial domination of that field. 

Venizelos at first abstained from definite renuncia- 
tion of allegiance to the King. The purpose of his 
independent Government was but to guide Greece 


into the path he considered the only one for her 
welfare. " We consider Greece," he said to me on 
October 10th, "to be a kingdom with two Govern- 
ments in it, as in the case of Ml countries at civil war, 
though actual civil war is the development we are 
trying to avoid." The heading " Kingdom of Greece " 
was maintained on the Provisional Government's 
decrees. Venizelos, however, desired recognition by 
the Powers as a Government de facto, and got it in 
the following January, when Earl Granville and 
M. de Billy were appointed English and French 
Envoys-Plenipotentiary to the Provisional Govern- 

But the treacherous attack on British and French 
troops in Athens on December 1st changed every- 

A demand for the surrender of ten batteries of 
artillery by the Greek Government had not met with 
compliance, and the French Admiral Dartiges du 
Fournet landed men from the French and English 
warships to occupy Athens, on some alleged under- 
standing with the King that there would be no 
opposition. The men were ambushed and fired on, 
the French losing 83 killed, and the English a smaller 
number. The demonstration collapsed in grotesque 
failure, and our landing parties were withdrawn. 

It needs only a slight acquaintance with the over- 
weening, mercurial, semi-Oriental temperament of 
the Greek to imagine how cock-a-hoop and arrogant 
the epistrates, or armed civilians, who formed the 
King's supporters at once became. They had beaten 
Allied troops in action ; the Allies had swallowed the 
insult meekly. They and their King, they at once 
concluded, were invincible. A reign of terror began 
against the Venizelists of Athens. Many were shot in 
prison ; many beaten and robbed. 

We were nearer to war with the Greeks on Decern- 


ber 2nd than we had ever been, and were none too 
well disposed for receiving their attack. A British 
monitor was sent to blow up the railway line from 
Athens to Larissa at the top of the Lamia gulf, 
where it runs on culverts within range of the sea, but 
the order was countermanded before it could be 
executed. Once more King Constantine was let off 
with a serious talking-to, which took the form of a 
demand that he should withdraw all his Army from 
Thessaly — " above the strength necessary to maintain 
order " — into the Peloponnese, south of the Corinth 
Canal. But before this withdrawal could be begun 
or arrangements made for controlling the process, 
our position at Salonica was most awkward. 

The Allied Army had just retaken Monastir. We 
were pressing hard upon the Bulgars in the hope of 
driving them out of shell-range of the town and back 
to Prilep. This offensive was now stopped at once, 
and new positions taken up to face the fresh danger 
threatening our rear. 

And this danger had distinct existence since we 
were connected with Monastir — a point to the main- 
tenance of which we were henceforth committed — by 
a single line of railway 100 miles long. This line 
makes a great loop southwards at Verria, towards 
Old Greece, and was consequently exposed to the 
possibility of being cut and rendered useless by 
raiding parties of the new Greek enemy. 

In conformity with the turn the situation had 
taken, Greek royalist troops moved north in a 
threatening manner, and General Sarrail recalled 
French detachments southwards to be ready to 
oppose them if necessary. 

The events of December 1st had, too, a great 
effect on M. Venizelos's attitude. " Between me and 
the King there is now a lake of blood," he said to me, 
speaking with a vehemence noticeable even above his 


usual energetic and emphatic manner. ' Two hun- 
dred of my friends have been killed because they 
held different political opinions from those of the 
King ; because they thought that Greece would do 
better to join with the Entente than with the Central 
Powers. For that they were murdered. King Con- 
stantine and I henceforth face each other across an 
impassable abyss. If the majority of the people of 
Greece should choose after the war still to keep the 
King as their ruler, I and my friends will have to 
leave the country." He was ready for the idea of 
war with the royalists, should they attack the Allies. 
" If I had received from the Allies the material and 
equipment promised me when I came here," he said, 
" I should now be able to hold up all the royalist 
Army with the troops of the Provisional Government 
alone. We promised to raise an army corps of three 
divisions, and even two army corps, by March, 1917, 
if the necessary equipment was provided. So far 
(December, 1916) none has been received. The one 
division we have raised was equipped with what we 
had in hand except for about one-tenth of its material. 
If in a week I could have rifles and uniforms, I could 
instantly mobilise the reservists of Crete and of the 
division of Chios, Samos and Mitylene. With these 
two divisions alone we could hold up the royalist 
Army. Should the Entente find King Constantine's 
troops on its hands, that will be its own fault." 

But though King Constantine never actually 
attacked us, he was always posing as being on the 
point of doing so, and by that means distracted the 
attention and drew off some of the strength of the 
Allied Army in the Balkans from its main objective — 
the Bulgarian and German forces in front of it. The 
Allied Fleets were blockading the coasts of Greece all 
through the spring of 1917, but though this caused 
a certain shortage of bread, which forms a much 


larger part cf the food of Balkan peoples than of our 
own, it did not reduce the King to obedience by 
bringing him into danger of starvation, one reason 
being that a country which produces vegetables, 
fruits and sheep in such abundance as Greece can 
hardly lack seriously for food, and the other that the 
granaries of the country were well stocked with 
reserves of wheat. As these reserves dwindled, 
however, it became evident that the King's passive 
attitude was chiefly due to the fact that he was 
anxious to be allowed to reap the Thessalian corn 
crop undisturbed. Once this was garnered he would 
again be independent of foreign supplies for seven or 
eight months, and could begin once more with 
impunity to flout the Allies. By that time, indeed, 
with the turn that things were taking in Russia since 
the Revolution, he might hope that the Germans 
would be able to withdraw 100,000 men from that 
front and send them to attack us in the Balkans, 
which would give him an excellent opportunity for 
co-operation. The French Higher Command at 
Salonica and M. Venizelos both urged upon the 
Allied Governments the need for occupying Thessaly 
and seizing the corn crop — on payment, of course, to 
its owners. Not only was this a measure of self- 
defence, but we needed the food. The islands which 
had adhered to Venizelos were indeed very short of 

At the beginning of May the occupation of Thessaly 
was decided in principle by the Allied Powers, but 
there followed the usual period of hesitation and delay 
before theory was transmuted into action, and until 
the very day (June 10th) when the telegram authori- 
sing the operation reached General Sarrail from Paris 
it was always doubtful whether we should advance 
southwards or not. 

Would the people of Thessaly support the Kiug 


in opposing our occupation ? Venizelos said not, 
and he proved to be right. When guaranteed against 
the royalist reprisals by the presence of Allied troops, 
he maintained that the majority of the inhabitants 
of Thessaly would adhere to his cause. 

During May Sarrail concentrated troops on the 
frontiers of Old Greece, though it was not yet sure 
that he would be allowed to use them. Four regi- 
ments of cavalry, Chasseurs d'Afrique and Spahis, 
moved to the village of Servia near the entrance of 
the Sarandaporon pass. A Russian brigade was at 
Verria. Annamites, Zouaves, colonial infantry and 
other regiments were gathered at Kozani. The 
Entente Governments had decided that trouble 
would be less likely if Greek nationalist troops did 
not take part in the operation. But half a battalion 
of English (East Yorkshire Regiment) were detailed 
to co-operate under the orders of General Venel, who 
commanded the Division Provisoire which had been 
formed for the purposes of this operation. The 
share of the English contingent in the occupation 
of Thessaly was limited, however, to coming down 
the railway from Ekaterini, and establishing them- 
selves at Demirli, a mosquito-ridden spot on the 
plain of Pharsala, where Caesar beat Pompey. The 
columns which advanced into Thessaly by road and 
seized the chief towns were all French, and the 
principal one of these I accompanied, being indeed 
the only Englishman who had that opportunity. 

We had been waiting at Servia for a week in 
hot summer weather — a quaint little place, called 
" Servia " because some Serbs had been quartered 
there in the time of the Emperor Heraclius. That 
is one of the fascinating things about the Balkans ; 
roads are so few among the pathless mountains that 
all the countless hosts that have warred here since 
time began have had to tread exactly in each other's 


footsteps. Xerxes and his invading multitude, or 
part of it, doubtless passed up this very valley to 
take the road we are expecting to move along any 
moment down the Sarandaporon pass. Very much 
the same problems, too, must in many respects have 
exercised the minds of those old warriors. Where 
is the next spring of good water ? Is the mud in 
that bottom too deep for the wagons to pass ? And 
the same old nuisances, too. Alexander the Great's 
legionaries probably ejaculated their equivalent for 
" Damn the flies ! " quite as heartily and often as we 
did during that wait of ten days at Servia. 

I never ate so much lamb in my life as in that week. 
There was but one alleged restaurant in Servia. It 
formed the lower storey of the ramshackle "town 
hall," and was a dismal whitewashed room with a 
grimy kitchen the size of a cupboard opening off it. 
The staff consisted of an old Greek with that grey, 
faded look that never washing and never taking 
the clothes off eventually produces, and his fat little 
granddaughter, Theodora, who could actually take 
an order in French. Not that this required a large 
vocabulary, for the only dish provided by the res- 
taurant was lamb. Every morning one sat down 
under the great plane tree on the terrace of beaten 
earth that looked down the steep and rock-strewn 
main street, and asked, hoping against hope for a 
change, " Ti cchis, Theodora ? " And Theodora, 
disdaining to speak her own tongue to a foreigner, 
would reel off, in a tone of refreshing novelty, the 
unvarying programme : " Agneau aux fives, agneau 
aux haricots, cotelettes oV agneau, foie $ agneau, agneau 
roti" So for breakfast, lunch and dinner one ate 
lamb — lamb — lamb, without even bread to relieve 
its monotony. I fed from every part of a lamb's 
anatomy at Servia except the trotters, but Theodora, 
when I asked for those, seemed to think I was trying 


to be funny and to victimise her with some European 

" It's all off. We shall never start. How could 
you expect the Allies to come to a decision about 
anything ? " So grumbled the impatient officers 
of the Spahis and Chasseurs d'Afrique as they sat 
under the plane tree in the evenings, drinking mastic, 
and cursing it, the Balkans, the delay, and the 
tedium of Servia with equal fervour. 

And then suddenly at eleven on Sunday morning, 
June 10th, just as I was sitting down to lunch with a 
colonel of Spahis in his mess, the order came. Lunch 
was bolted in a flurry of final preparation, and at 3 p.m. 
we were off — a seemingly endless column of cavalry 
with a battery of artillery in support and two armoured 
cars, winding along the road at the foot of the 
mountains that led to the Iron Gates at the mouth 
of the Sarandaporon pass, the gateway of Old Greece. 
Five other columns beside this one had started 
simultaneously on their march from different points 
along the Greek frontier. In all the strength which 
the French were devoting to this operation was : 

A " provisional division " of infantry, with another 
division in reserve at Ekaterini ; 
5', Four regiments of cavalry ; 

A proportionate quantity of field-artillery and 
some 6-in. guns. 

|&The news which secret service agents had brought 
in related nothing but half-hearted preparations of 
opposition on the part of the royalists. Outposts of 
Greek gendarmes had been watching for several 
days past for signs of movement on our part, from 
the heights on either side of the Sarandaporon pass. 
Throughout the afternoon and all that night the 
long mounted column trekked on. It passed through 
the wooded Sarandaporon gorge, across the plateau 
at the southern end of it where the Greeks defeated 


the Turks in 1912, and on to Elassona. As you 
looked back from the head of the column as the 
procession set out, tier above tier, on the zigzags 
of the descending road behind, the spectacle that 
you saw was one of the old warfare that has disap- 
peared from Europe for ever. These picturesque and 
well-trained cavalrymen, mounted on their handsome 
little barbs, with carbines slung across the back and 
sabre thrust beneath the saddle flap, are the type 
of soldier that was once the pride and the strength of 
armies. Their dash and determination in attack 
put the consummation to victory ; their courage and 
self-sacrifice protected the defeated army in retreat. 
And now — they have waited in idleness and tedium 
for months before finding even this second-class 
employment of going to occupy some cornfields in 
a country that officially at least is not even hostile. 

Elassona we reached at dawn, a picturesque 
little place nestling against the hillside, and looking 
across a plain yellow with the fast-ripening corn that 
we had come to seize. The population was dis- 
tinctly reserved in its welcome, but showed a better 
disposition after it had witnessed, with visible respect, 
the arrival of the guns. Some motor-lorries accom- 
panied the infantry, so that in case the cavalry 
advance guard came upon a prepared position of 
defence one battalion could be rushed up quickly 
to attack it. 

Resting through the hot day at Elassona, we left 
again at dusk, and from the ridge of the Meluna 
pass, one of the points where opposition had been 
thought likely, we could see shining out brilliantly 
in the blackness of the plain below the lights of 
Larissa, the chief goal of our occupation. The night 
was pitch dark, except where the acetylene lamps of 
the armoured motor-cars flung a startling glare 
upon the road. We paced sleepily and slowly on, 


halting sometimes for the guns to pass a bad bit of 
road, and meeting with no sign of life upon the way. 
Tyrnavo, the only town upon the road, passed 
through in the small hours, was as silent as if it had 
been deserted — not a dog in the streets, and no one 
even at his window to see what this midnight noise 
of trampling hoofs and jingling bits might be. 

There was still a long and monotonous ten miles 
to be done across the flat, corn-waving plain. I was 
so sleepy after two nights on the march that I nearly 
fell out of the saddle, and for a change put the driver 
of my Ford van, which was following behind, on to 
my horse, and took his place in the car. But driving 
at the pace a cavalry column walks proved even 
worse. I nodded over the wheel as we crawled 
along, and the man who can sleep on a Ford car on 
a Greek road must be more than a little tired. 

Then suddenly I noticed something which banished 
my sleepiness immediately. General Venel, com- 
manding the whole force, drove past in his car, 
stopped at the head of the column, and took in 
Colonel de Fourtou, the officer in command of the 
cavalry, and then drove on ahead towards Larissa. 

I put the Ford to its best speed and followed, 
and at about 6 a.m. we arrived at the bridge across 
the river which was the entrance to Larissa. 

There in the open road was waiting a small throng, 
of which the central figure was General Bayeras, 
the commander of the Larissa garrison. General 
Bayeras had had experience of this sort of situation 
before, for he was the General who, on orders from 
Athens, had handed over Rupel Fort to the Bul- 
garians a year before. He looked as if his present 
position pleased him even less. He is a short -built 
man, with a pointed white beard, and an expression 
of petulance. 

The French and the Greek officers saluted each 


other frigidly. General Bayeras began : "I have 
had orders," he said, " not to oppose your entry to 
Larissa, and I have come to meet you to consult as 
to what arrangements we can arrive at for the joint 
occupation of the town by your troops and mine." 

" That arrangement would be quite impossible," 
replied General Venel. " I have orders to occupy the 
town and take the garrison prisoners. You, mon 
General, I must ask to consider yourself a prisoner." 

This ruffled General Bayeras. He got back into 
his car — a big limousine of German make, driven on 
some appalling petrol substitute, for the importation 
of petrol itself had been stopped by the blockade, 
and the stocks in the country were all held to be 
sold at high price to German submarines. There 
the General sat and sulked awhile. 

Then suddenly he got out of his car, spoke a few 
words to General Venel, and was into it again and 
over the bridge at once, with Colonel de Fourtou, in 
General Venel's car, behind him. " Follow them," 
said General Venel to me, and accordingly I brought 
up the rear of this little procession, which passed 
through streets lined with uneasy people, their shops 
close-shuttered behind them. I was struck by the 
large proportion of young men of military age whom 
I noticed, not only then but throughout the day, 
with apparently nothing to do, and it transpired 
afterwards that these were, as suspicion had sug- 
gested, epistrates, or armed reservists in plain clothes, 
■whom the royalist Government had sent up to 
Larissa only a day or two before. Their rifles were 
hidden somewhere, and if the French had been in 
less strength than they were, these ambiguous 
individuals would have dropped the pose of peaceful 
citizens at a simple order and joined in shooting our 
troops down as heartily as they had done at Athens 
on December 1st. 

[Official Photograph. 



When, following General Bay eras 's car, we reached 
the barracks, we found proof of what we had already 
suspected — that the rapid advance of the French 
column had taken the Greek garrison by surprise. 
They had not reckoned on two night marches run- 
ning. And so we came upon the officers of the 
barracks in full preparation for flight, which was 
to have taken place an hour later so as to escape 
surrendering to the French. Their baggage — shabby 
trunks, like the pitiful, battered boxes of a little 
maid-of -all -work — was corded and waiting for the 
cart. The officers themselves, in full field kit, with 
swords and revolvers on, were gathered in front of 
their mess. About a hundred soldiers, with their 
packs already on their backs and rifles in hand, 
were drawn up to one side under the trees. General 
Bayeras got out of his car and spoke a few sentences 
to the officers in Greek. Then he got back into the 
car and drove off, with a French soldier on the box 
as a sign of his captivity. Colonel de Fourtou, 
who had been charged by General Venel with taking 
the surrender of the Greek officers, naturally sup- 
posed that all was now arranged, the General having 
admitted that Athens ordered no resistance. The 
Colonel had no troops with him, not even an escort ; 
he accordingly simply told his interpreter to invite 
the officers to come into the principal room of the 
mess building and put their swords on the table. 
The Colonel and the two or three French officers 
with him went up to the room — a bare, shabby place 
decorated with dreadful frescoes of the Bosphorus — 
and waited. There was a chatter of excited Greek 
voices from the corridor, but no one followed us in. 
" Eh bien," said the Colonel mildly, " I am waiting." 
The interpreter came in. " Mon Colonel, they say 
they won't give up their swords." 

" I am not here to discuss it with them," replied 



Colonel de Fourtou. " I have orders to take their 
surrender. If they won't give up their swords I 
shall go away and it is war." 

This phrase, " Je m'en vais ; c'est la guerre" 
became, in fact, a sort of leitmotif of the noisy 
quarter of an hour that followed. I confess I was 
surprised at Colonel de Fourtou's calm and self- 
control. I had expected more severity and less 
consideration. Surrounded by excited, shouting 
Greek officers, led by Colonel Grivas, gesticulating 
with the absurd exaggeration which only a Greek 
can attain, he never raised his voice or changed his 
manner. " Eh bien, encore dix minutes. Apres dix 
minutes, je m'en vais, c'est la guerre." 

The final ten minutes ran out with the Greeks 
still talking at the top of their voices, and Colonel de 
Fourtou was already walking into his car to go 
away, and order an advance in force against the 
barracks, when the reason for the anxiety of the 
Greek officers to prolong the palaver became sud- 
denly clear. Captain Bellenger, Colonel de Fourtou's 
staff-captain, rode up — a soldierly figure, his face 
a mask of white dust after the night's march. " Mon 
Colonel," he exclaimed, " there's a whole battalion 
of Evzones escaping across the cornfields at the back 
of the barracks." 

The scene instantly became one of stir and military 
bustle. " Bring up the Spahis," ordered Colonel de 
Fourtou, and Captain Bellenger pulled his horse round 
and rode off at a gallop across the flat grass drill- 
ground. By this time about thirty mounted men had 
already reached the barracks independently. " Order 
your men to load their carbines," said Colonel de 
Fourtou to their officer, " and be prepared for what- 
ever may happen. I will send you more men in a 
few minutes." 

The Greek officers, now gathered in a lowering 


but rather cowed group of about forty, heard the 
rattle of the bolts as the carbines were charged, 
and watched the despatch at full speed of messengers, 
one to General Venel, another to bring up the 
armoured cars. 

Then came one of the finest little spectacles I 
have seen in the whole war. In front of the bar- 
racks lay a perfectly flat stretch of grass about half- 
a-mile long. A heavy thudding from the other end 
of this attracted one's attention, and there, coming 
at full gallop, were the Spahis, the French Moroccan 
cavalry, with drawn swords flashing and their little 
Arab horses scampering like animals possessed. 
The swarthy-faced soldiers had drawn out their 
long black locks of hair from under their turbans, 
a thing they only do when fighting is on hand. The 
wild throbbing of the hoof-beats seemed to set the 
ground quivering ; who could stand against such 
troops upon the charge ? Alas for vanished days 
when picturesqueness and efficiency could be com- 
bined in war — a couple of the dumpy Lewis guns 
would make a mouthful of that oncoming cloud of 
horsemen ! 

The regiments swerved into the drive and reined 
up with a scattering of gravel, like shingle drawn by 
a wave. " A battalion of Evzones is escaping 1 " 
shouted Colonel de Fourtou to Colonel Duperthuis. 
" Ou sont-ils ? " replied the Spahi Colonel eagerly. 
De Fourtou pointed down one of the avenues between 
the scattered buildings of the barracks, and the 
Spahis were off again like a mad hunting field. The 
Chasseurs d'Afrique, a crack cavalry regiment of 
Frenchmen only, followed them immediately. 

They had not been gone three minutes when the 
firing started. Rifle shots rattled out irregularly at 
the other end of the barracks, and a few bullets flew 
past us where we stood face to face with the Greek 



officers whose troops and ours were fighting each 
other only two or three hundred yards away. The 
situation was rather odd. There were about forty of 
them, all fully armed, and a hundred of their men with 
rifles and bayonets behind them. Our group con- 
sisted only of five or six French officers with some 
troopers. As a matter of fact, the French infantry 
had necessarily been left so far behind by the forced 
march of the cavalry that if the Greek garrison had 
stood its ground it would not have been greatly out- 
numbered for some hours to come. At any rate the 
chance of Colonel de Fourtou and his staff being 
suddenly fired on where they stood seemed so likely 
that I turned to tell my young English driver to take 
the car out of the danger area. He was only consoled 
for leaving the neighbourhood of the skirmish by the 
fact of a French officer demanding the van to go and 
fetch the armoured motor-cars which were delayed 
through some misdirection, and he drove off, at the 
full speed a Ford can achieve, with a Frenchman 
sitting with a drawn revolver at his side, in case the 
Greek reservists in the town should have taken the 
firing as a signal to start operations. 

The armoured cars made a visible impression on the 
Greek officers when they at last lumbered through the 
barracks ; and soon their machine-guns could be heard 
at work, though at a greater distance than the earlier 
shooting, upon the fleeing Evzones. 

Meanwhile an energetic French major had disarmed 
the Greek soldiers in front of us by shouting in an 
imperative manner and knocking the rifles out of the 
hands of any who hesitated to obey. 

It was at this juncture that we noticed that two of 
the Greek officers who had been most prominent 
during the palaver about surrender, which had been 
interrupted by the discovery of the treacherous 
withdrawal of the troops, were missing. And it was 


not long before one of them, Colonel Grivas, was 
brought in a prisoner. He had slipped away from 
the rest, had had his horse saddled and gone to join 
the troops who were fighting our men ; he had even 
fired on the Spahis when they arrested him. Colonel 
de Fourtou told him that he could not understand 
how an officer could dishonourably start fighting in 
the middle of a peaceful parley, and sent him to the 
cells. Colonel Frangas, another fire-eater, was 
captured later. 

All this time little bands of rounded-up Evzones 
and men of the other regiment of the garrison were 
being brought in, together with news of the French 
losses. Two French officers were killed and a third 
died later. Seven or eight men had been killed and 
three officers and twenty-five men were wounded. 

This fighting all took place among the standing 
corn which spreads into the far distance without a 
break over the flat plain behind the barracks. The 
armoured cars, following the tracks through the corn, 
chased the fugitives for six miles. Going after them 
the same way one saw the Spahis strung out in a long 
line, beating for hidden Evzones through the wheat, 
which bent before their horses' breasts in yellow 
waves — for it was by lying ambushed in the corn 
that the Evzones caused most of the French losses. 
The cunning and deliberation of their action appeared 
in the incident of the tumulus, where the Spahis lost 
two officers killed. A little way back from the 
barracks is a small mound about twelve feet high 
rising out of the corn. On top of it an insignificant 
little practice trench had been dug some three feet 
deep. When they found that the French were after 
them, some of the Evzones put their tasselled caps on 
the parapet of this trench and then lay down in the 
thick corn all round. A party of Spahis drew near 
and seeing the caps, as it were of men standing in the 


trench, rode at the mound full gallop. The Evzones 
held their fire until they were only ten yards away, 
then let fly a volley from their ambush, but I do not 
think that any of the Greeks remained alive more than 
a few minutes after their feat. 

This was the only opposition to the French occu- 
pation of Thessaly. Nor was it visited with any 
reprisals by the French. The population of Larissa 
fully expected to see at least Colonel Grivas and 
Colonel Frangas shot in the town square. But 
nothing worse happened to them or to any of their 
officers than the descent to Salonica as prisoners. 

Volo was the next town of Thessaly to be occupied. 
It had been a centre of the business of supplying 
submarines, from which its inhabitants had drawn 
great profits. German submarines had been so 
much at home there that they used to come into the 
port and the officers would come ashore for lunch. 

A public meeting had been held at Volo on our 
approach to advocate resistance to the Allies. 
Reservists had been brought into the town. There 
were concealed stocks of arms, even, it was said, of 
machine-guns. So that preparations were made by 
the French for a concentration at Velestino, five 
miles away, before undertaking the advance on the 
town, and the armoured cars, always a powerful 
moral factor, set out from Larissa to assist. 

There is a road marked as " good " on the maps 
across that thirty miles of almost unbroken cornfield 
from Larissa to Volo, but actually it is a rough, 
unmetalled track. There had been a heavy thunder- 
storm before the armoured cars started in the evening 
and they stuck in the mud. I left them behind and 
went on, but my own head lights failed. I lost the 
track and had to spend the night where I was, so that 
it was not until 8 o'clock next morning that I reached 
Volo, the time set for the French troops to arrive 


there. I found, however, that the Commandant of the 
battalion which formed the first contingent of the 
French force had entered the town the afternoon 
before without waiting for reinforcements to join him, 
and French pickets were already established at the 
entrance of the town. 

The volte-face made by the townspeople of Volo in 
their attitude towards the Allies was characteristic of 
the quick-change of political opinions that occurred 
throughout Thessaly. In one and the same week 
there was on June 12th a meeting to denounce the 
Allies and support King Constantine, and then on 
the 15th — -the French having occupied Volo on the 
13th — there was a meeting to denounce King Con- 
stantine and support the Allies, some of the promoters 
on the platform being identical at the two meetings. 

French flags appeared on every side in Volo imme- 
diately after the occupation. Failing other emblems 
of the Entente, a tobacconist on the sea front pla- 
carded his shop window with coloured portraits of 
Sir Douglas Haig, General Smuts and Sir John Jellicoe, 
cut from a stray English magazine. The local paper 
which had been fiercely denouncing the occupation of 
Thessaly a few days before now called upon the 
population to join in celebrating its " liberation from 
the tyranny of the King." A stranger to the Greek 
temperament might indeed have been astonished that 
a town apparently hostile to King Constantine 
should have remained so long in his full allegiance. 
Those citizens whose antecedents were too compro- 
mising for this deathbed conversion had fled for 
refuge into the rocky peninsula which forms the north 
side of the Gulf of Volo, paying as much as £10 for a 
cart to take them there. 

The policy of the iron hand in the velvet glove was 
meanwhile adroitly applied by the French in Volo. 
While the regimental band gave concerts on the 


promenade in the afternoon, a proclamation indica- 
ting fourteen distinct ways in which the inhabitants 
might get themselves shot through resistance to the 
French appeared on the walls of the town. 

That the expressed hostility of the people of Volo 
for the Allies never materialised before the French 
arrived into physical violence against the two 
English households and the few Frenchmen who were 
the only representatives of the Entente in the town 
is due in great part to what may be called the 
" hypnotic naval treatment " applied by the R.N.R. 
captain of an armed auxiliary which anchored in the 
port just as feelings were beginning to run high. 

He was advised in a rather apprehensive manner 
by the French consul that an anti-Ally demonstration 
was about to be held on the sea front, and asked if 
he could not have a " landing party " ready to 
protect the lives of the subjects of the Entente, if 
necessary. The small ship's company was not strong 
enough for enterprises of the magnitude of landing 
parties to be undertaken, but the captain asked 
exactly where on the quay the meeting would take 
place. It was to be held after dark, for in Volo 
everyone sleeps all the hot afternoon, and the evening 
is the liveliest time of the day. So about 10 p.m. 
the anti-Ally demonstration was in full swing. 
Excited, stubbly-chinned royalists had begun one 
after another to address the crowd. Who were these 
dastardly aliens who were violating the territory 
of Greece, they asked ? " Remember the glorious 
victories of the Balkan wars. Remember how these 
same foreigners were drugged at Athens on December 
1st. Zito, King Constantine ! Curse Venizelos ! 
Down with the dogs of Allies ! " The submarine 
caterers and government-paid roughs, fortified by a 
series of glasses of raki, were full of sound and fury, 
when, suddenly as a blow, there shot out of the 


velvety blackness of the iEgean night a dazzling 
white beam of illumination which fell full upon the 
meeting — and stayed there without flickering. It 
came from the searchlight of the English ship, and 
its unwavering stare seemed to be looking into the 
face of every man of them as if to see who would 
speak next. But words died away on their lips. 
The unique spectacle was witnessed of a crowd of 
Greeks all silent. The die-hards who had been most 
vociferous a moment before found a strange difficulty 
in uttering more curses ; the worst desperado of a 
royalist last-ditcher ceased to advocate armed re- 
sistance to the Allies and fixed his disturbed gaze on 
the persistent shaft of light that from its unseen 
source held them like an apparition from the next 
world. They simply could not talk with that thing 
staring at them. They fidgeted and smiled uneasily 
and whispered to each other (as if they might be 
heard as well as seen), and then, individually and 
inconspicuously, they slipped away into the grateful 
obscurity of the surrounding darkness. 

After that the searchlight was simply master of 
the situation. The sea front of Volo, where the 
Allies had been so often eaten up in the mouths of 
royalist blow-hards, became as deserted as the 
promenade of a third-rate watering-place in the off 
season. Royalists whose consciences were only 
lightly burdened, and those who could not go without 
their evening raki, did indeed assemble decorously 
the following evening at the tables in front of the 
chief cafe. There the searchlight left them alone at 
first, but suddenly, its suspicions being roused, it 
flashed a sudden glance at them. Then a curious 
but significant thing happened. Nearly all the 
Greeks at the cafe, including the fire-eating royalists 
of the night before, rose to their feet and took off 
their hats; It was a confession of defeat. The 


searchlight had been too much for their nerves ; it 
had broken their moral, and in saluting that little 
converted Irish excursion steamer they were un- 
covering to the watchful determination of the 
British Navy, the spirit of which she represented 
just as fully as any super-dreadnought in the North Sea. 

Trikkala, Karditsa, and other towns in the Thessaly 
corn area were occupied by French troops at the 
same time as Volo, and the Italians showed especial 
energy in co-operating with this movement, carrying 
the extension of their sphere of military influence even 
to Grevena and Janina. 

The British detachment — 500 picked men of 
the East Yorkshire Regiment — who had come from 
Doiran, were at Demirli, a flat, featureless, mosquito- 
ridden railway junction in the middle of the monoto- 
nous cornland. They supplied patrols which visited 
the villages around in conjunction with the French 
Spahis, to show the peasants that infantry as well 
as cavalry was available for the suppression of any 

Searches for arms and the seizure of them had been 
going on since the first entrance into Thessaly and 
before I left, ten days later, 30,000 weapons of all 
sorts had been collected. Such a motley assortment 
of shooting-irons could not be found outside a museum. 
They varied from long Albanian flintlock guns of 
the eighteenth century to modern cavalry carbines 
and from horse-pistols to automatics. 

The occupation of Thessaly by French troops 
brought to an end some other Allied activities which 
had been going on there inconspicuously but actively 
for over a year. The story of them is more like the 
plot of an American crook cinema film than anything 
I have heard in the war, but they were none the less 
most valuable to our cause and not unattended by risk 
to the officers who conducted them. 


These were the measures by which we countered the 
German Secret Service in Greece, and did our best to 
suppress the supplying of petrol to enemy submarines. 
The military officers who were working against the 
Germans in Greece met them with their own methods ; 
the enemy was subtle and secret ; so were we ; they 
were ruthless, and so, when occasion demanded, we 
did not hesitate to use severity too. 

One of the principal duties of these Allied officers 
was to stop couriers who frequently went, or tried 
to go, from Athens into the Bulgarian lines, taking 
spy reports and information of all kinds useful to 
the enemy which had been collected in Greece. 
These men, disguised as peasants, or sometimes 
peasants themselves, would travel by road and 
contrive to slip across to the enemy through our 
lines by little known tracks across the mountains in 

The Germans were prepared to pay big money to 
men who would get these despatches of theirs through. 
The only way we could stop the system was by making 
it so risky a business that no one could be found to 
attempt it. A French officer who was employed for 
months in hunting down enemy couriers told me 
that the price offered for one journey rose in the end 
to £2,000 — part paid on starting, part on delivery 
of the despatches. The way the French officers 
charged with preventing this information from 
reaching the enemy used to work was this. They 
had a local intelligence service of their own, recruited 
chiefly among roadside innkeepers. These men 
would inform the Allied officer of the arrival at their 
establishments of anyone they suspected of being 
an enemy courier. " The man is about thirty ; 
black hair and moustache ; 5 feet 8 inches tall ; wearing 
a European brown suit, much worn, and a soft hat ; 
says he is a commercial traveller for an Athens 


cutlery business. He is sharing an araba, a country 
travelling carriage, with three others. It is drawn 
by three horses — two bays and a black. They will 
start at 5 a.m. to-morrow along the road for Korytza." 

When the Allied officer got such a report as this, 
he secretly collected three or four of the unofficial 
" police " whom he had in his pay. These fellows 
were sometimes Cretans and consequently convinced 
Venizelists, who wanted on principle to work for the 
Allies ; sometimes just tough customers willing to do 
anything for money for anyone. Our man would give 
the slow -moving araba time to get well out into a 
lonely part of the country and then start off after it 
with his men in a Ford car. After an hour or so 
along the deserted road they would catch sight of a 
fully laden carriage crawling along ahead at a slow 
trot. The car, overtaking it, passed without even 
slackening speed, but as it drove by the Allied officer 
had a good look at its occupants. Yes, the wanted 
man was there. 

The Ford passed on in a cloud of dust. If the enemy 
courier had had qualms of uneasiness at the unusual 
sight of four civilians in a motor car, he was reassured. 
They were not looking for him anyway ; all was well. 
But a mile or so further on, at a turn of the road, those 
same four men with drawn revolvers would spring out 
suddenly from behind the rocks. " Halt ! That 
man in the brown suit get out with all his luggage. 
Now the rest of you drive on and don't try to come 
back, or there'll be trouble." 

The companions of the now trembling German 
agent were always too terrified to think of refusing 
obedience. They were only too glad to save their 
own skins and hurried their wretched team of horses 
on, leaving him in our hands. 

Once or twice the German military attache in 
Athens who despatched these men did receive an 


intimation that all had not gone well with them. 
Each courier carried a receipt to be signed by the 
enemy staff officer to whom he should deliver his 
despatches. That receipt occasionally arrived back 
at the German Legation in Athens signed with an 
initial and the words " officier du controle allie.'''' 

And no less romantic work was being done at the 
same time by the officers of the British patrol boats 
which were trying to stop the supplying of petrol to 
German submarines by Greek fishermen. Night after 
night, British naval officers, who let their beards 
grow straggly and untrimmed for the purpose, would 
be rowed ashore to a deserted part of the beach in 
the disguise of a Greek peasant, and with an inter- 
preter would sit about in native coffee-houses 
listening for stray references to stores of petrol, or 
meeting agents of their own to receive reports. They 
found petrol in most unlikely places ; more often 
their informers would take them to hiding-places 
where petrol had been. Once it was in a tiny little 
chapel on a lonely hillside, and the space under the 
altar smelt so strongly of the petrol that the priest 
had been concealing there that the stock could only 
have been removed an hour or so before. 

" I was coming back one day from a hunt among 
the islands after a submarine that had been reported," 
begins a story of one of the captains of these patrol 
ships, " when I caught sight of a motor -boat a good 
way out at sea making for the Greek shore. I came 
up with it and I saw that in it, alone, was a man whom 
I had long known to be supplying petrol to the 
Germans but whom I had never been able to catch in 
the act. I realised at once what he had been doing. 
He had been out with a full cargo of petrol to meet a 
submarine at a lonely rendezvous, and he was now on 
the way back. The thing was as clear as the daylight, 
but what proof had I on which to arrest him ? He 


probably had his pockets stuffed with money that the 
skipper of the submarine had paid him, but it would 
be Greek money and would not compromise him. 
If I arrested him without full proof I should only 
get my hair curled and the scoundrel would probably 
be paid compensation. So I just steered straight for 
him. If there were a collision and he sank, it would 
be a regrettable accident for which I should take full 
responsibility — with a light conscience when I re- 
membered all the poor fellows of ours he had helped 
to drown for money. He saw me coming and knew 
what I was after. He altered course just in time and 
my ship shot past, with the wash rocking him. I 
turned and chased him and during the next half-an- 
hour that petrol merchant had more excitement than 
in all his life before. 

" I was faster and much bigger, but his little open 
boat could of course turn much quicker. It was like 
a bull chasing a mongrel. We made full speed after 
him, while his motor-boat with wide open throttle did 
its best seven knots through the water and he sat 
there with his ugly face turning white over his shoulder 
as he took terrified glances astern. Just as my bows 
were on top of him he would put his helm hard over and 
scurry off on another course with us coming round 
in a circle after him and closing upon him again. It 
took him thirty-five minutes to get back to the 
lonely little creek where he kept his boat, and he 
had enough narrow escapes of a watery end in that 
time to scare him out of the petrol-running business 
for good. I never heard of him trying to sell 
another single tin to a submarine." 

General Sarrail came from Salonica to visit Larissa 
and Volo on June 20th, and had a welcome of 
apparently thorough cordiality. At Volo 4,000 
people gathered cheering in front of the Town Hall. 
Some of the most lovely fruit I have ever seen was 


offered to us there, brought by young girls, dressed 
in white, of that fleeting and exotic but remarkable 
beauty that you sometimes find in Greece. The 
people's friendly attitude was a sign of the success 
of the long-debated, long-hesitated operation of occu- 
pying Thessaly. 

Such is the most plain and straightforward story 
of our relations with the Greeks and the occupation 
of Thessaly by the Allies. What secret reasons of 
state or what varied motives may have controlled 
the development of the Allies' action in all these 
matters, hastening or retarding it, I have not dis- 
'cussed here. I know that in Balkan affairs, especially, 
an obvious and self-evident reason should always be 
received with doubt as the primary cause of any 
event. I have heard more than one interpretation of 
the course which the history of our relation with the 
Greeks actually followed. There is much, indeed, 
that is mysterious in this complicated Balkan situation 
which has resulted in a vastly expensive Allied force 
being held up for two years in a barren region at the 
other end of Europe without accomplishing anything 
proportionate towards the aims of the war. The 
cryptic influence of the Jews ; the restraint upon 
strategy imposed by the Parliamentary politics of 
some Allied countries ; the alleged existence of 
financial aims to be gratified in Greece — these are 
some of the explanations, probable and improbable, 
that you will hear from people who profess to be 
acquainted with the facts of the situation. One 
could not with propriety examine into these motives, 
even if one would, and my own opinion is that until 
all the documents now held secret in different 
countries, Allied and enemy, are revealed, there will 
be very few men indeed who know the inside story of 
the Allies' doings in the Balkans these two years 


And meanwhile, if one turns one's back upon 
the recondite, the simplest explanation seems to fit 
the facts as well as any : that the Greek King was 
hostile, even if only passively hostile, to us, for 
the reasons I have given ; that General Sarrail 
believed, and had sufficient apparent reason for 
believing, that the rear of his Army was in danger 
from the Greeks ; and that the province of Thessaly 
was occupied by the Allies to remove this danger. 
Other motives may have tended to confirm the 
choice of the course which was acted upon, but it 
seems to me at least that the apparent and ostensible 
reasons for that choice were enough in themselves. 

The leading factor of the future of our Balkan 
Army still remains a moot question. Just as the 
failure of the Greeks to keep their treaty pledges 
and their plighted word handicapped and limited 
the Salonica Expedition at its beginning, so the 
tardy atonement of the Greek nation for that defection 
may yet advance the successful end of the enterprise. 

The value to the Allied cause of the Greeks as 
soldiers is increased by two facts : First, they are 
soldiers on the spot ; you have not to go through 
the slow, costly, and risky process of shipping them 
out there first. Secondly, as regards supplies, they 
can to a great extent be fed from the resources of 
their own country, since they are already living on 
those resources as civilians. 

As fighting material they are not at all bad. The 
French Staff officers attached to them, who do not 
distribute praise lightly, are well satisfied with 
the way the divisions already at the front have 
settled down. Of course, they have much to learn, 
like all raw troops in this war. Their own idea 
that the Balkan campaigns had proved them war- 
riors by instinct as well as experience brought them 
one or two rude shocks at the beginning. 


As regards personnel, the Greeks naturally lacked 
good generals, capable of commanding such a 
campaign as this. There are, however, some 
thoroughly efficient officers of high regimental and 
staff rank who have received their military education 
in France and Germany. The company officers 
and N.C.O.'s are full of goodwill, but, as I say, 
untrained. For educational purposes each Greek 
regiment when it goes up to the front is for a time 
linked with a French one. 

When I was in Thessaly with the French troops 
the peasants were saying, " Rather than go to the 
war I would take refuge in the mountains." But 
it is in the character of the Greek to accept authority 
without much trouble if it is firmly enforced, and 
M. Venizelos will probably be able gradually to put 
his army into the field on condition that the Allies 
make up the defects in its existing equipment. 




If the Allied campaign in the Balkans has met 
with little positive success, the reason chiefly lies 
in two important conditions, the prejudice of which 
weighs much more heavily on us than upon the 
enemy. Both as regards transport and as regards 
fever the balance of advantage has always been 
with our opponents, thanks to the physical charac- 
teristics of the region in which we are fighting. 

One of the principal factors of the Success of an 
army in the field is obviously the ease and rapidity 
with which reinforcements, war material, ammunition, 
and supplies can be brought up to the fighting-line. 
And in calculating this, the distance of the battle- 
front from the base, in the ordinary military sense 
of the term, is of much less importance than the 
accessibility of the base from the manufacturing 
districts at home where the weapons of war are 

In this respect it would have been difficult to 
find another theatre of war in the world where the 
advantages of the situation were more completely 
on the side of our enemies than is the case in the 
Balkans. We are on the outside of the circle all 
the time. Our source of supplies, England, and 
our area of operations, Salonica, are both on the 
circumference, and we have to come round a great 
arc, 2,000 miles long, from one to the other. The 

R2 241 


enemy's supply base, the manufacturing districts 
of Germany, is at the centre of the circle, and he 
has only got to bring his material of war down the 
straight, short line of a radius to get to the same 
battle-zone. The comparative advantages and draw- 
backs of inside and outside lines could not be illus- 
trated more glaringly. 

The Germans load up a railway truck with shells 
in an Essen factory yard and that same truck travels 
in perfect security over the best railway system in 
Europe without breaking bulk, right up to the 
Bulgar railhead, not a dozen miles behind the front 
we are fighting them on. What happens to a truck- 
load of shells that we send out from Birmingham ? 
It travels down to a port and is there transferred to 
a ship. Then it either starts on a three-thousand- 
mile voyage by way of Gibraltar, with a good chance 
of being sent to the bottom by a submarine on the 
way, or it is taken over to a French port, discharged, 
and loaded again on to a truck, which crosses France 
to another port, where it is once more put on board 
ship, and still has to face the danger of torpedoing in 
the narrow seas of the ^Egean. 

In case of need, the enemy can rush a whole 
division of reinforcements with all its equipment 
out to the Balkan front from Germany in six days. 
I should think it would take us three weeks at least 
to put through a similar process on our side. 

The consequence of this has been that we have 
simply had to go without things in the Balkans which 
we really need if we are to do anything. Heavy 
artillery, tanks, unlimited gun ammunition — such 
things have not been available for the Balkans 
hitherto owing to the long and exposed transport 
system, with frequent breakings of bulk, which 
was the only way of getting them out there. 

I have made frequent references throughout this 


book to the conditions of local transport in the 
Balkans. They are very bad indeed. We have 
improved the existing railways, and built sidings and 
loops and supplementary lines ; we have immensely 
increased the number of main roads (two) which 
existed in Macedonia when we got there, and have 
raised many others to a standard of surface and 
gradient which enables them to carry motor traffic. 

But still the problem of moving supplies and 
material of war in the Balkans is very great ; the 
country is so hilly and the hills are so impassable, 
with their stony, rocky sides, scored with deep 
ravines and covered with impenetrable scrub, through 
which neither man nor horse can force a way except 
with the greatest labour. To feed Luzista on the 
Struma from Likovan on the Seres road over tracks 
that have been cut along the side of these hills 
needs five echelons of pack- transport. 

And however much you work at your roads, 
however many Greek labour gangs, stone-crushers, 
special tip-up stone-carrying lorries and steam- 
rollers you may accumulate there, when you use 
one single highway as fiercely as we use the Seres 
road, you can't prevent it simply crumbling away 
out of existence under your wheels when the winter 
rains start soaking it. 

With the muddy season you have to increase the 
number of your lorries ; this, in turn, helps on the 
disintegration of the road. Last winter we had 
motor-lorries pounding up the Seres road, day 
and night, together with ambulance cars, staff cars 
and horse limbers innumerable. The result was 
that the road simply disappeared. Last February 
I drove — or rather bumped and crashed wildly over — 
long sections of it on the hill above Orliak bridge, 
where it was worn into holes that made it far more 
like a flight of irregular stairs or the bed of a moun- 


tain cascade than the principal supply route for the 
British Forces in Macedonia. They told me that 
my Ford probably wouldn't be able to get down 
the hill ; certainly it wouldn't be able to get up ; 
the only motor vehicle that could manage that 
road, as it then was, being a four-wheel-drive tractor, 
which is first-cousin to a tank. Without any exag- 
geration there were stretches on it where, if it had 
not been for the ditch on each side, you would not 
have known that it had ever been a road at all. 
You would have thought you were on a bit of the 
earth's aboriginal rough surface. 

The consequence was that instead of supplies 
being taken forty-five miles up the Seres road by 
motor transport, the lorries during ten whole weeks 
in January, February and March could only carry 
them thirty-five. Horse transport had to do the 
rest, right up to the front line, twenty miles on — and 
when you think how many limbers it needs to take 
over the load of one lorry, you can imagine the 
block on that road. To complicate things still 
more there were many places where even horse 
transport could only use one-half of the road at a 
time, the other half having been ground up into 
a treacly pulp of mud. It must have been a ghastly 
experience to be brought down from the Struma 
wounded, in an ambulance wagon, last winter. 
It was exhausting enough to do the journey on the 
front seat of a motor-lorry : you were constantly 
thrown so high in the air by the bumps that your 
head hit the roof of the hood. Fine fellows those 
M.T. drivers proved themselves to be. They started 
driving at four in the morning ; they were often 
not back in Salonica till nine o'clock at night. Some- 
times they had had nothing but cold bully and 
biscuit all that time. Frequently they were so 
dead beat at the end of their run that they had to 


be lifted off their seats. Long after dark the long 
convoys were streaming up and down the endless 
hills, with head lights gleaming like a string of in- 
candescent pearls. It can be no comfortable job 
to steer a three-ton lorry all day and half the night 
over such a surface, and that there was danger in it 
was not unseldom shown by the sight of a lorry 
upside down on the steep slope beside the road, its 
driver having blundered in the dark. 

The supply and transport service of an army is 
one which gets little public appreciation when 
things go well, and is the first to be objurgated if a 
hitch occurs, no matter whose the real responsibility 
may be. Certainly in Macedonia it is the most 
important branch of our whole military organisation ; 
on it everything, literally, depends. And it has 
fought gamely and with a great measure of success 
against difficulties such as no supply system of any 
modern army has ever had to face in the past — 
difficulties which turned out to be greater even than 
was anticipated. 

" The state of the roads, both in regard to surface 
and gradients, has placed a great strain on all motor 
vehicles, and it redounds to the credit of all officers 
concerned with the administration and executive 
control of mechanical transport that the vehicles 
have been kept in a state to undertake the journeys 
that have necessarily been performed." 

That is the praise accorded to the S. and T. branch 
of the Salonica Army by the Commander-in-Chief, 
General Milne, in his despatch of December, 1916, 
and when that was written the M.T. organisation 
had its time of greatest strain still to come. 

Particularly responsible, and particularly trying, 
has been the work of keeping the motor vehicles 
on the road. Macedonia plays the very devil with cars 
and lorries. You need more spare parts and springs 


in two months of Balkan motoring than you could 
find use for in two years of driving at home. And 
the repair situation was complicated by the constant 
possibility that a shipload of urgently needed spare 
parts might be torpedoed and sunk on its way out 
to Salonica. But the Base M.T. depot — under the 
command of one of the youngest lieutenant-colonels in 
the Army Service Corps, his promotion having been 
won by merit displayed under these arduous circum- 
stances — grappled with, and gradually overcame, 
the problem of maintaining in being a mechanical 
transport service in a country where motor vehicles 
had never been thought possible before. 

The Army Corps on the Struma was the worst off, 
because it had no railway to supply it, and every 
round of ammunition, every bale of forage, and 
every tin of bully had to come up one narrow ribbon 
of road ; but the roads in the sectors of our Allies 
in the Balkans were just as bad. I shall never 
forget that patch between Vodena and Ostrovo on 
the Mon astir road. It was only a hundred yards 
long, but for some reason it was left unrepaired, and 
it usually took one hour or two to get over it. The 
road before you reached it, and after you passed it, 
was not so bad. " It had bottom," as a friend of 
mine, well versed in Balkan travelling, would say. 
That meant that although your wheels might be 
six inches out of sight in liquid mud, below that 
there was solid ground, perhaps the stone foundation 
of an old Turkish road, so that they would grip and 
you could get on. Accordingly, one car after 
another — there are not many cars on the Monastir 
road — would come splashing and skidding along, 
seeing nothing unusually bad ahead, and would 
charge into this slough of despond, where every one 
of them would stick like flies on a fly-paper, with 
their engines racing just as unavailingly as a fly 


frantically beats its wings. When this happened 
to your own, you would get out of the car, gingerly 
insert your legs half-way up the calf into the mud, 
and examine the situation. The Ford would be up 
to the axles, and lying over at a drunken angle to 
one side. " I should try backing her," you say 
to the chauffeur. He backs her, with the only 
result that the wheels skid round at a dizzy speed 
and complete your personal demoralisation by splat- 
tering you all over from head to knees with mud ; 
from the knees downward you were under mud 

Then you look around for Greeks, or, better still, 
a team of bullocks. If these are in sight all is yet 
well. Every sensible car carries its own tow-rope ; 
you hitch on the bullocks or the Greeks and you 
are extricated at the cost of a small backsheesh. 
But if the landscape is empty you must take the 
sack that the spare inner tubes are kept in and go 
and look for stones. You stagger back with these, 
and the driver uses them to build for each wheel an 
individual little causeway to run on out of the mud. 
After this he lays a foundation of particularly big 
stones under the back axle, puts the jack on that, 
jacks up the car as high as he can get it, and then, 
with all the passengers shoving, regardless of rank, 
age or condition, you may struggle out, but are 
more likely to skid off the laboriously laid causeways 
and have to start all over again. I once had to wait 
two hours till reinforcements for the Italian Army 
came marching up the road and I could get the 
help of five of them who were not employed in man- 
handling their own mule-carts through the morass, 
to lift my Ford practically bodily and put it back 
on dry ground. 

But if you want to have an accurate idea of what 
the conditions have been in the Balkans with regard 


to the provision of all the conveniences of transport 
and existence that are necessary for an army in 
the field, read the folloAving able account by one 
who can speak with far more authority than I : — 

" The Force in the Balkans is peculiar in one great 
respect. It is expected to hold a front under 
modern conditions with communications which would 
have been considered inadequate in the Napoleonic 
period. In those days armies operated in com- 
paratively compact masses on a narrow front. 
Nowadays the reverse is the case. 

" The extension of the port facilities at Salonica 
and the re-arrangement of roads have gone on almost 
imperceptibly, each extra facility being added as 
it was forced on the armies by stress of circum- 

" As they stood at the end of 1915 the town and 
harbour of Salonica constituted a defile on our 
communications. The streets were narrow and ill- 
paved, and the two main roads, to Seres and Monastir, 
were reached by little better than lanes which broke 
up rapidly under the traffic and necessitated constant 

" This has to a great extent been remedied. The 
approaches to the port were taken in hand and 
vastly improved by the French, notably by the 
cutting of the ' Avenue de la Base,' giving direct 
access from the Vardar gate, known locally as 
4 Piccadilly Circus,' to the quays and the main road 
along the front. 

44 The French, having arrived first, availed them- 
selves of the deep water west of the quays as far as 
the Olympus Brewery to make small floating piers 
to land their stores at. 

44 The British have made two deep-water piers, 
Pinto Pier and Malta Pier, near the Standard Oil 
Company's depot, and two shoalwater piers, Graves- 


end Pier and Marsh Pier, to the extreme west of 
the town. 

" All these piers, French and British, are now 
connected by direct road or rail with the main 
depots on the Monastir road and Seres road, and 
enable the vast amount of stores for the various 
armies to be landed and handled so as to free the 
shipping as expeditiously as possible. 

" So much for the base itself, now expanded until it 
covers a sector of a circle of nearly eight miles radius. 

" There were two main roads, and two only, 
from this base — i.e., that to Monastir on the west, 
and that to Seres on the north. The area between 
these two roads is rolling or mountainous, and quite 
impassable to heavy traffic. 

" The roads themselves were of light construction, 
a mere skin of road-metal laid on an ill-drained 
foundation, and promptly proceeded to break up 
under the traffic imposed on them. During the 
first few months it was a daily occurrence for the 
culverts on these roads to break through. Nothing 
heavier than a slow-moving ox-wagon had ever been 
over them, and the pounding of three-ton lorries 
was more than they could stand. 

" The work of keeping these two roads in order 
was, and has been ever since, an incessant duty of 
the engineers of both armies — the French on the 
Monastir road, and the British on that to Seres. 

" The chief difficulty has been that of obtaining 
suitable stone in large enough quantities near the 
roads and at frequent enough intervals. In many 
cases it is necessary to carry stones as far as nine 
or ten miles. Even then the stone is not sufficiently 
hard to stand the constant grinding, and in wet 
weather a few days suffice to reduce sharp, broken 
stones to rounded pebbles, which make consolidation 


" Many cross-country tracks have been made 
passable for horse-drawn traffic. But the main 
roads on which lorry traffic is possible are still only 
three, spreading fanwise and diverging as they go. 

" Light railways have, to a great extent, enabled 
the country off the Sarigol and Seres roads to be 
opened up, and constitute important lateral com- 
munications in a country otherwise closed to all but 
light-wheeled or pack transport. 

" There are other difficulties. The local labourer 
is not by any means a pattern of industry. Cen- 
turies of massacre have taught him to avoid the 
semblance of riches, and the country population is, 
in consequence, the result of the survival of the 
poorest ; in the rich soil of Macedonia, the laziest. 
And the difficulty of obtaining even this labour is 
not decreased by the demands of the army. 

" Macedonia is to all intents and purposes a 
desert. Everything has to be imported. In the 
beginning Salonica was undoubtedly the Cinderella 
of our Mediterranean efforts, and Salonica had 
largely to subsist on what could be spared after 
Gallipoli and Egypt had been satisfied. With the 
increase in the force, and the shifting of the strategic 
centre, this drawback has disappeared, but there 
is still a long interval between the time stores 
are demanded and that of their receipt. This is, 
of course, inevitable, as it is often impossible to 
foresee requirements until they appear. One con- 
sequence of this is that only works of the simplest 
description have been carried out ; but a con- 
siderable amount of latent ingenuity has been 
brought to the surface by force of circumstances, 
and improvisation has had to be resorted to in a 
marked degree. 

" It is to be feared that a somewhat exaggerated 
opinion of the resources of the town and district 


prevailed at the commencement of operations. 
Tools in particular were scarce, and this alone added 
considerably to the difficulties experienced. 

" As the Force grew and the Base expanded, the 
supply of water began to be inadequate. Surface 
wells, while good as regards quantity, were bad in 
quality, and recourse was had to artesian boring. 
As many as twenty-nine wells have been sunk, 
and these have enabled requirements to be met. 
At the same time advantage was taken of the ancient 
aqueducts in the country round, which constitute a 
network of old pipe-lines, some dry and others 
running to waste, and good supplies have been 
recovered from sources whose origin is lost in 
antiquity. The existence of these lines, often cross- 
ing one another, is a curious indication of the un- 
settled history of the country in times past, as they 
must have been made in times of considerable pros- 
perity succeeding periods of trouble during which 
the records of their precursors were lost. Incidentally, 
the reopening of these sources of water has been 
of value in drying marshy tracts. The plains of 
Salonica and its neighbourhood are full of malaria, 
and the steady draining and drying up of marshy 
ground, both as such and as a means of obtaining 
water, cannot but have a beneficial effect on the 
health of the district. As a matter of fact, malaria 
was almost non-existent in the town itself during the 
summer of 1916, and, according to the statements 
of inhabitants, was much reduced in the country 
immediately round the town." 

Among the most prominent institutions of Mace- 
donia is that horrible little creature the anopheles, 
a mosquito who carries the malarial infection from 
one man to another, and may be known by the facts 
that : 

1. He sits up in a hunchbacked attitude when at rest. 


2. He does not make a singing noise. 

3. He usually has spotted wings (but you must 
catch him first to ascertain this). 

4. When he is killed he lies flat, not curled up, 
like other kinds. 

He breeds in, and lives near, swamps or stagnant 
water, rests all day, comes out at sunset, and pro- 
ceeds to make a meal off any human being who is 
handy. If one of his victims has malarial germs 
in his blood, the mosquito transfers them to the 
blood of the next person he bites. 

Macedonia is one of the most malarial places in 
the world. Hippocrates, I am told, wrote a treatise 
on the disease as he had observed it there, and 
distinguished between three different kinds. It 
kills off large numbers of the natives, and not one of 
them but has got it in his blood and has an enlarged 
spleen. That is why they are so sallow and unhealthy 
looking. In places where the mosquitoes have be- 
come particularly bad, as on part of the Struma, 
where the river has altered its course and left swamps 
that provide the mosquito with suitable breeding 
grounds, you will find whole villages deserted, 
evacuated under the compulsion of this fragile but 
deadly little beast, the anopheles. 

The worst of malaria is that once you get it you 
are liable to go on having it. Men who were first 
infected last summer kept on going sick for a few 
days with the same thing regularly all winter. They 
call them recurrent cases. 

Your symptoms are a high temperature combined 
with a chilly feeling ; you can't stand the sight of 
food ; you probably have a headache ; you tremble 
all over, and you simply have to go to bed and 
shiver and sweat alternately until the attack is over. 
This sort, of thing repeated several times leaves 
you very thin and weak. The only thing to do is to 


take quinine regularly, about five grains a day, when 
you are exposed to infection, and to go to all the 
trouble you can to stop mosquitoes from getting at 
you. Neither of these gives perfect security, but 
they help. In some Salonica hospitals they used 
intravenous injections of quinine. 

When we first arrived in Salonica at the beginning 
of winter a map was made of the Base area with all 
the swamps and pools of water marked. These 
were drained by Greek labour or filled in, or, where 
both those methods were impossible, they were 
sprayed with paraffin. The result of this has been 
that round Salonica itself there is very little malaria 
now, but you cannot carry out those processes in 
the Struma valley, which has ever so many square 
miles of swamps and stagnant water. The only 
thing to do there is to come out of it, and away up 
into the hills in the summer where there are no 
mosquitoes. That is what we have done this summer, 
leaving only outpost and bridgeheads to hold the 
Struma line. And as the Bulgars would have just 
as bad a time as we if they came down into the 
valley in force, the field is more or less left to the 
mosquito alone. 

But malaria is by no means the whole tale of the 
plagues of Macedonia. There are dysentery and 
diarrhoea, both very weakening, and almost un- 
avoidable, at any rate to a mild degree. For these 
the flies are chiefly responsible. In fact, the fly is 
probably as deadly as the mosquito. The only 
way to keep down flies is to see that they get at 
nothing to feed on. All food must be in boxes with 
wooden lids, which are kept shut. Nor will flies 
go where it is dark, so that latrine trenches are 
made eight feet deep. 

There is a sort of local heat fever, too, in Mace- 
donia which is very trying. It lasts four days, 


begins with pains in the neck and head, and causes 
very high temperatures, up to 106° and even higher. 

Last year men would often get malaria and dysen- 
tery together, and then they had little chance. 
This year, thanks to the greater knowledge which 
has come with experience, an official message pub- 
lished August 11th was able to say : " Cases of 
malaria are slightly fewer than last year. Dysentery 
and diarrhoea are appreciably less prevalent. The 
admission rate for fevers other than malaria shows 
a reduction of nearly four-fifths." % teg 

On the figures for 1916 — which, of course, have 
since changed for the better — Salonica's rate of 
admissions to hospital for sickness was nearly two 
and a half times that of France, but only one-third 
of that in Mesopotamia. 



Macedonia is a country of big horizons, a bare and 
treeless land with monotonous stretches of plain, 
covered with thin grass, and ranges of hills that 
are masses of evergreen scrub. Its most charac- 
teristic features are the frequent nullahs that make 
it a most futile thing to attempt to cut straight 
across what looks like an open stretch of country ; 
the steep and narrow little ravines are not to be 
seen until you are right upon them, and if you 
scramble in and out of one in the hope that it may 
be exceptional you only find that you have let 
yourself in for a very slow and laborious journey. 

In the sector that our troops occupy there are 
no mountain positions such as the boulder-strewn 
heights, with their fangs and pinnacles of sheer 
rock, where the Serbs and Italians have been fighting 
in the loop of the Cerna river further west ; nor 
anything so steep as the jagged peaks between 
Ochrida and Prespa lakes, where the French began 
their last spring offensive with a fight in a blinding 
snowstorm. " Gibraltar," a sheer and naked 
pyramid of rock, rises in the middle of our Army 
area, and there is the commanding height of Mount 
Hortiach close behind Salonica, but neither of these 
has called for occupation by our troops. The 
greatest mountain of all in the whole Allied line is 
the 8,000-feet-high Kaimakchalan, where the Serbs 

s 255 


fought well on into last winter among the bitter 
snow, and above, the damp grey mists that veiled 
it from our eyes below like the scene of an Olympic 

Except for the black wall of the Belashitza moun- 
tains in the Bulgarians' country over against our 
lines, there is nothing that can be called grand or 
imposing in the part of Macedonia where the British 
Army is campaigning. The lack of trees or rocks 
to break the monotony of the rolling plain, the rarity 
of water, make of it a landscape of which you soon 
tire. I cannot imagine anyone now belonging to 
the Salonica Army being filled with yearning in 
years to come by the memory of its natural beauties. 
Not but what there is much there that is picturesque. 
I myself have a view above all preferred, and that on 
the very outskirts of Salonica itself. I hit upon it 
quite by accident one Sunday in the winter. I had 
been out for a ride with a paper-hunt, organised by 
officers at the Base, who took revenge upon their 
sedentary duties by that form of exercise on Sunday 
afternoons, and instead of returning home by road 
I made across the hills towards the old citadel of 
Salonica that overtops the town walls at their highest 
point on the landward side. For a time the rolling 
slopes around hid all sight of the town, and then 
quite suddenly, as you came over a rise, there rose 
up before you the long line of the mediaeval wall, 
with bastion, tower and battlement, each standing 
out in silhouette against the sky. The empty 
countryside reached to its very foot ; no modern 
building clashed with the completeness of the mediaeval 
scene. High and stern and solid, softened by no 
sentimental, growth of ivy, marred by no decay, the 
grey stone ramparts faced the naked wilderness, 
abruptly marking off the desert from the town, 
standing in ample defence of the riches of the towns- 


people within against the greed of the marauding 
barbarian without. To come upon such a scene 
in the rich light of a flaming sunset, and to approach 
it by so archaic a manner of motion as on the back 
of a tired horse, was to swing back at once in 
imagination through several centuries. One looked 
at the grim towers just as many a road- weary traveller 
must have seen them with the relief in his heart of 
once more beholding signs of the civilisation that 
he had left behind him at the Danube. That glint 
of light from an embrasure might be from the helmet 
of the watchman of the gate, and the distant hooting 
of a steamer in the port sounded to the fancy- 
haunted ear like the winding of his horn. 

But if you are going to give rein to your imagina- 
tion, Macedonia will have much fascination for you. 
The feet of many of the world's most historic figures 
have trodden the dust and mud of this bleak land. 
Start out from the town along the Monastir road, 
past main supply depots, field bakeries, R.E. 
parks, and through a never-ceasing stream of motor- 
lorries, limbers, ambulance cars and dingy Greek 
labourers on foot. You are following the exact line 
of the old Roman Egnatian Way that led from 
Durazzo on the Adriatic shore to Constantinople. 
Pompey travelled along it in his horse litter ; and 
you will probably meet an English general going 
precisely the same way in a touring car. Fifteen 
miles out from Salonica, where the naked, untilled 
plain stretches away out of sight all round, as empty 
as the prairie, with no sign of human habitation, 
you will come suddenly upon a great stone fountain 
by the side of the road. There is no fountain in 
London so big ; it is even larger than the Fountain 
of Trevi in Rome. You climb up steps to the 
side of a cistern big enough to swim in, and there 
are basins and cascades of water all around. No 



one uses that fountain now, except an occasional 
Macedonian peasant watering his bullock team in 
the middle of their slow day's march, but once it 
was the centre of a big city ; for centuries perhaps 
people came there every day to draw their water ; 
they gossiped round it, made love round it, fought 
round it. For it stood in the market-place of the 
capital of Philip of Macedon, and only a little further 
off you will see rising incongruously out of the 
empty plain a great fragment of a lofty wall, im- 
mensely thick, which once formed part of the 
defences of that wealthy city, of which no other 
traces but these remain. But you have only to 
poke about among the stones and you will pick up 
in five minutes half a dozen fragments of the glazed 
household pottery of two thousand years ago, and 
you will notice, too, that what look like shapeless 
boulders lying about are often the broken and 
weather-worn fragments of the carved capitals of 
marble pillars. Pella, for so the place is marked on 
the maps, no doubt once seemed to whole generations 
of people as permanent and immutable as Piccadilly 
Circus does to Londoners. When the war is over 
I feel inclined to buy a job lot of picks and shovels 
and carts, which, like many other Army implements, 
will be going for an old song in Macedonia then, 
and peg out an excavating claim on the site of Pella. 
It is so tantalising when your car has a puncture 
near the fountain to walk about on the rough grass 
and say to yourself, " Here, where I am standing, 
there may be another Venus of Milo or a Winged 
Victory a bare ten feet underground, while there, 
by that stone, the High Priest of the city buried the 
gold vessels of the temple when the barbarians 
swept down." When you think of all the burying 
of valuables that went on in the days when there 
were no banks and no safe deposits, the dingy green 


grass that covers Pella begins to take on the gleam 
of an El Dorado. 

It was in the company of General Sarrail that I 
first visited the site of the vanished city. The 
French Commander-in-Chief seldom has time for 
an excursion of any kind, and this one, indeed, was 
combined with the inspection of the cavalry outposts 
that were all we had at that time (February, 1916) 
along the Monastir road. I got the invitation 
overnight from the General's son-in-law, Captain 
Bouet, and it brought home to me how strenuously 
Sarrail takes even his rare distractions. " The 
General would be glad if you would accompany him 
on an excursion to-morrow to see the ruins of Pella. 
Start from Headquarters at 5.45 a.m." I rose at 5.15, 
a most unpleasant hour in February. Punctually to 
the stroke of a quarter to six Sarrail appeared at the 
door of the Headquarters building. He had already 
been through the reports that had come in during the 
night and he had presumably had breakfast, which I 
had not. His son-in-law and an interpreter-officer 
made up the party of four. The big limousine did a 
quick time to Pella. There is one basement of a house 
there that can be found with some trouble, intact and 
open to the air. Some archaeologists disinterred it a 
few years ago. The General explored these ruins with 
the energy of a boy. He had question after question 
for the interpreter -officer, who in private life is a 
professor of archaeology himself. To find a fragment 
of a broken vase delighted him ; he was full of jokes 
about the statue of a lady which some French soldiers 
had unearthed ; a weasel, scampering off among the 
stones, drew from him a vigorous view-halloa. But 
for his plain khaki uniform anyone passing would have 
seen no more than a tall, vigorous, white-haired man 
finding unusual zest in his country walk ; they would 
hardly have suspected that on those shoulders rested 


the responsibility for the most complicated campaign 
in which the Allies have engaged. But this easy- 
going mood only lasted for half an hour, about as 
much time as, if he were a smoker, the General might 
spend over an early cigar, and it was not yet seven in 
the morning. By ten minutes past Sarrail was the 
Commander-in-Chief again. We had gone on to the 
headquarters of a French cavalry regiment, and he 
was snapping out his swift questions, and pouring 
out his rapid flow of talk, which loses nothing in 
vigour and intensity from an over-particular choice 
of polite language. 

Energy, concentration, ambition, fearlessness, an 
absolute craving for responsibility rather than the 
dread of it which afflicts some men when at his age 
of sixty they have found themselves loaded with the 
cares and the risks of commanding a large army in the 
field — those are some of the dominant features of the 
personality of General Sarrail. He radiates vitality ; 
he is always keyed up to concert pitch. By these 
things you may know a leader of men. You must 
add to this a remarkable charm of manner, which is 
by no means all due to the fact that he is one of the 
handsomest men in the army he commands. He is a 
tall man, over six feet high, and his height would be 
even more noticeable were it not for a stoop of the 
shoulders which has come to him through years of 
concentration as a military student, but which yet 
accords well with an air of refinement and intellec- 
tuality that is in his bearing. His face is one of 
unusual distinction, clear cut and aquiline, and his 
high forehead rises to fine, wayward hair of that 
radiant whiteness which is an adornment rather than 
a disfigurement of age. His grey eyes are alert and 
full of expression, humorous if he is not crossed, 
glittering with fierceness if he is roused. For General 
Sarrail has a temper that is not slow of kindling. 


" They say I am impetuous," he said once to a friend 
of mine who knows him well. " I am ; I admit it. I 
am patient as long as I can be, but — gave le jour oil la 
moutarde me monte an nez ! " 

There are few generals in the Allied service who have 
been set a harder task than Sarrail. For one thing, 
he commands a more heterogeneous army than has 
been gathered together since the Crusades. Each of 
the Allied contingents under his leadership has a 
different language, different methods, different tradi- 
tions, different prejudices. They all of them want to 
win the war, but among people of such varied character 
and temperament it is easy to see how divergences of 
opinion may arise as to which is the best way to do it. 
There never was yet a football team of eleven men in 
which criticisms and even squabbles did not arise, and 
when you have nearer half a million people of six 
distinct nationalities to deal with the same thing will 
happen. Even the Allied Governments need to be 
constantly meeting in council so that they may 
" bring their views into harmony," but at Salonica, 
which is a microcosm of the Allies, there is nothing 
to keep our different military contingents working 
together in loyal and co-ordinated effort except the 
personality and the authority of General Sarrail. He 
has had to hold his team together as well as to fight 
the enemy and for nearly two years he has carried that 
task through with courage, energy and success. 

And, furthermore, Sarrail has been all the time in 
the difficult position of a workman who is called upon 
to make bricks without straw. The Western front has 
had the first call upon men and material of war. 
Commanders there have had personal access to the 
Allied General Staffs to explain and urge their plans, 
while Sarrail has been in charge of a campaign which 
is liable both to suffer from divergences of view among 
the Allies and to fall into the background through its 


own remoteness. It is easy, when full success fails 
to crown an enterprise, to lay the blame upon the man 
responsible for conducting it on the spot, but in this 
case, given the inadequate numbers of the Balkan 
Army, and the unusual difficulties of the country it is 
fighting in, who can say that another general would 
have accomplished more ? 

The same lack of full comprehension that has in- 
spired criticisms of our generals in the Balkans has led 
to the development of the idea that Salonica is a 
" picnic " for the men. If it were, one can only say 
that people out there keep extraordinarily quiet about 
the good time they are supposed to be having, and 
show praiseworthy self-sacrifice in trying to get away 
from it and back to the Western front. But the idea 
that the soldier lives an easy and safe life in Mace- 
donia is absurdly false. He works as hard as a 
human being can all the time, whether he is in the line 
or out. When he comes out it is not to go into the 
relative rest of billets, as in France. He is brought 
back a few hundred yards and sets up his bivouac 
shelter-tent, which is all he has as protection both 
against summer sun and winter snow, and digs, digs, 
digs eternally. There is very little leave for the 
soldier in the Balkans. There are battalions which 
have been in the front line for seven months without 
relief, and when you consider that our trenches are 
shelled every day and that patrols go out every night, 
seven months needs a good deal of luck to get through 
without hurt. As for malaria, dysentery and other 
diseases unknown to the soldier in France, the figures 
I have given in another chapter are an indication of 
the extent to which they appear in the programme 
of the " picnic." You are about as likely to get 
through the summer without malaria in the Balkans 
as you are to go through an English winter without 
catching cold. 


It is the terrible monotony of life on the Macedonian 
front that is one of its chief hardships. Away up there 
on stony hillsides, with nothing but the same great 
tracts of open country before their eyes, the men 
hanker above everything for a change. They have 
many of them hardly seen a town since they landed in 
the Balkans nearly two years ago, nor even a building, 
except for the mud hovels of a ruined Greek village. 
The official title, " Salonica Army," has led to the 
notion that our force on the Balkan front spends its 
time sitting in cafes in Salonica itself. By far the 
great majority of the men have never seen the place 
except as they passed through it on their way up- 
country, a few hours after setting foot on the quay. 

But/ though I have visited every part of our Mace- 
donian front, I have never seen or heard of the least 
sign of a flagging of their spirits. They are eager for 
a fight when it comes, and between whiles they hold 
the line, and dig, and carry water up steep slopes 
through endless communication trenches with cheer- 
fulness in their hearts, if voice and bearing be any key 
to their feelings. I cannot imagine on what strangely 
inaccurate reports the suggestion made recently in the 
House of Commons was based, that the men of the 
Salonica Army were losing their moral. On the con- 
trary, their discipline is remarkably good, and mili- 
tary " crime " rare. 

They keep themselves amused, in the rare leisure 
that they get, by their own exertions. No companies 
of London actors or travelling cinema-shows reach the 
Balkans, but the quality of the entertainments that 
the men themselves produce is really astonishing. 
One division's pantomime played to 20,000 people 
during its run, and it would have gone with as great 
success on a London stage. A huge barn was fitted 
up by the Engineers as a theatre, close up to the front 
lines, and arrangements were made for detachments 


of men belonging to battalions that were out of the 
line to be brought to see it. A tumbledown Greek 
house next door was fitted up into the " Palace 
Hotel " for officers who had come so far that they 
had to stay the night after the show. 

It was remarkable how every unit that produced a 
show invariably found someone to fill excellently the 
part of principal girl. The leading lady of the highly 
successful revues, " Hullo, Salonica," and " Bonjour, 
Salonique," at the Ordnance Base Depot was a 
marvel of feminine grace and beauty. There was a 
charming brunette in the Durham Light Infantry's 
" Aladdin," who rolled most captivating eyes at her 
audience, while the Kitty of a divisional pantomime 
was the flapper of a dream — dainty, modest, with 
eyes, and a smile, and ankles that made it seem 
impossible, as you looked across the footlights, that she 
should be a corporal in a field-ambulance who had 
been wrestling in the mud with refractory mules all 
day. Kitty and the Beauty Chorus which supported 
her were dressed regardlessly, to the full extent of the 
resources of the dressmakers and lingerie merchants 
of Salonica, and somewhere in the archives of the 
Salonica Army there is a telegram, sent down from the 
front to an officer of the division who was on three 
days' leave in town, in approximately these terms : 
" Urgent. Bring back with you without fail to-night 
the following : Three pairs silk stockings size seven 
and one lace- embroidered camisole for Kitty, five yards 
pink satin for Abanazar's second wife and a black stuff 
dress for Mrs. Twankey." And scrawled across the 
telegram is the indignant endorsement : " G.H.Q. 
demands an immediate explanation of this idiotic 
rubbish passing over Army wires." 

Gardening is another diversion of the British 
Army in the Balkans. It is, indeed, officially 
enjoined, with the aim of raising as much as possible 


on the spot in the way of vegetables for varying 
and expanding the rations of the troops, and prizes 
are offered for the best produce in a brigade or 
divisional area. I remember one quaint meeting 
I had with a stolid old fellow up at the front, elderly 
for a private, who, but for his khaki trousers, would 
have been the type of a family gardener at home. 
His little patch was in a nullah that was shared by a 
battery of 60-pounders, whose particularly violent dis- 
charges filled the echoing ravine with din about once 
a minute. Yet, undisturbed, he leaned upon his 
rake and looked at his plants in that resigned way 
beloved of gardeners : " Yus, the tomaties is doin' 
well, I don't say but what they ain't. Them beans, 
now " — " Cr-r-rash " from a 60-pounder — " them 
beans won't never come to no good. Sun's too 'ot 
for them. Want a bit o' rain, that's what they want. 
That 'ere spinach, now, seeded before it was three 
inches high. Too thin, the syle is, that's what it is," 
and another eruption of the guns punctuated his 
dreary monotone. 

A little shooting is about all that officers get in 
the way of amusement. Game abounds in Mace- 
donia ; there are snipe and duck in the marshes, 
partridges and hares on the plains and hills. These 
excursions lead sometimes to strange encounters. 
There was an officer of Yeomanry on the Struma 
who went out before dawn one day for the morning 
flight of geese to a place he had noticed when on 
patrol between the lines. While lying up there he 
saw with consternation three Bulbars with rifles in 
their hands advancing through the reeds. Was it a 
patrol that had seen him go in, and was bent on 
capturing him ? He tried to move off as inconspicu- 
ously as possible, but the Bulgars saw him, and 
immediately dropped their rifles and put up their 
hands. The situation having taken this agreeable 


turn, the officer decided that there was no need to 
interrupt his morning's sport, so he kept his pri- 
soners waiting until he had shot three geese and two 
duck, and then made them carry them in for him. 

Another sportsman who bears a name well known 
at Olympia Horse Shows in bygone days got out 
several couples of beagles and hunted hares, as in 
the story of Brigadier Gerard. One day his beagles 
ran a hare out through our lines and into Poroi 
station, which was held by a Bulgarian outpost, 
where the Master, who had followed them as far as 
seemed prudent, abandoned them as certain prisoners 
to the enemy, and broke off the hunt. But a few 
hours later his little beagles came trotting in, per- 
fectly safe and satisfied with their run into the 
enemy's country. 

The night patrolling, which makes up so much of 
the day-to-day work of the troops in the front line 
in the Balkans, is entered into with zest. In fact, 
I have heard an officer whisper, when out with a night 
patrol, as the severest threat he could use to a man : 
" If you can't make less noise than that, Brown, 
I won't bring you out again." This night hunting 
appeals to the sporting instincts of the men, and it is 
wonderful training for young officers. For patrolling 
in the Balkans is not, as on the Western front, a 
matter of crawling about in a shell-cratered interval 
of a couple of hundred yards in width, lit up by cease- 
less German flares. The Macedonian method has 
greater scope. It involves a sort of little campaign 
of its own. It fixes on its own line of advance, 
chooses alternate routes for possible retirement, 
has supporting patrols at certain points in rear to 
fall back upon in case of need, decides what defensive 
positions it shall hold if attacked by superior force — 
the Bulgars hardly ever venture out except in parties 
of fifty at a time — sends out scouts ahead and main- 


tains a rearguard behind. For there are places on 
our front where the opposing lines of trenches are 
a couple of miles apart, the lie of the ground being such 
that if either side advanced its position it would put 
itself in a condition of inferiority wit h regard to the other, 
and in that space there is plenty of room for ambushes 
and traps and night surprises. There are hills and 
ravines and woods and ruined villages, the last of 
which are usually the goals of our patrolling parties, 
as the enemy outposts sometimes occupy them at 
night. It is an eerie business moving for two miles 
or so in single file, with all the stealth of burglars 
crossing a wired lawn (for the same reasons, too, since 
the Bulgars occasionally lay trip-wires for our men 
to ring a bell or detonate a bomb, so that they, 
lying up at close range, can get a sitting shot). Each 
step has to be taken as gently as if you were in a 
sick-room, and innumerable times you must crouch 
to the ground completely motionless, while the 
leader reconnoitres a mysterious shadow that looks 
as if it might be a lurking Bulgar. The meeting of 
hostile patrols, when it does come, is a sudden 
affair of bomb and bayonet, which, though it end in 
victory, often means a difficult journey back across 
rough country carrying wounded men in the dark. 

Strange things happen sometimes in villages that 
are regularly occupied by our outposts. In one of them 
our men noticed that punctually at nine-fifteen every 
evening a country-bred dog came loping along the 
main street, and about a quarter of an hour afterwards 
went silently back towards the Bulgar lines. He did 
not look like the ordinary scavenger dog of Greek 
villages, who snaps at your heels till you pelt him 
away with stones. This dog had a serious air, as 
of one in regular employment. He never varied his 
pace ; he was as regular as a City man going for his 
morning train. The men got a little uneasy about 


him. His punctuality and purposefulness were 
uncanny. Titbits of bully beef were held out as he 
trotted past. He did not even glance at them. 
Then someone suggested that there might be a Bulgar 
spy hidden in the village and that the dog had been 
trained to fetch and carry messages between him and 
the enemy. In the first indignation of this idea a 
sergeant took a shot at the dog. It missed, but the 
dog never even growled ; he just swung on a little 
faster towards his mysterious destination. He was 
clearly a soldier-dog, and prepared to accept the risks 
of his calling. So orders were given that the animal 
was not to be shot at any more. He was to be 
tracked instead, followed on his errand. It was a 
clever, elusive mongrel, though, and despite the fact 
that men were posted at the crossings of the different 
streets to watch which way he went, he would slip 
in and out of the confused shadows of those tumble- 
down houses so quickly that in the poor light even 
the sharpest-eyed soldier could not follow him. 

There was a denouement to this. A soldier going 
into one of the deserted houses to look for firewood 
suddenly met, at the turn of the wall, a grey-coated 
figure face to face. Both men, Bulgarian and 
Englishman, started back in mutual astonishment. 
Then the spy leapt round into the darkness, for it 
was at night. The Englishman was after him imme- 
diately, but the Bulgar knew the twists and turnings 
of his lurking-place, and got away — to fall later into 
the hands of a party sent to search for him. Was he 
the mysterious dog-messenger's master ? You could 
hardly expect him to give so faithful an animal away. 

Occasionally the patrols find proclamations that 
have been left for them by enemy parties the pre- 
vious night. These have to be approached cautiously, 
since they are sometimes only a decoy to bomb- 
traps. Here is the text of one that was found while 


I was staying with a brigade on the Doiran-Vardar 
front. We had seen it with glasses, stuck up on a 
bush in front of the Bulgar trenches, and the following 
night a small patrol went out and got it. It begins : 

" To the English and French troops : 
We are Defending the Frontiers of our Country 
and the Rights of Our People. You are well 
aware of the love Bulgarians possess for theier (sic) 
country and the bravery with which they are fighting 
against the aspirations of their numerous enemies 
is well known to you. For our country's glory we 
are ready to die and we shall do every think (sic) 
to prevent the enemy from entering our territory. 
What are you doing in this foreing country ? Are 
you still believing in the hideous lies of your states- 
men telling you you are fighting for the liberty and 
independence of the small nations ? Has it never 
come to your thoughts that you are doing just the 
contrary here ? Look at Roumania, hitherto so 
nourishing. There you will see the work your diplo- 
mats have been doing. She also was forced to take 
part in this war and in hardly more than 2 months 
she has been conquered by us and our allies. Bukarest 
and the whole Roumanian territory are in our hands. 
More than 250,000 Roumanian soldiers and 1,000 
guns have been captured. Practically the whole 
country is devastated in consequence of operations 
of war. Look at Greece. What are your governe- 
ments doing with her poor and unfortunate popu- 
lations ? Are the manipulations going on the re (sic) 
not disgracefull and certainly not creditable to nations 
pretending to be the guardians of the small nations ? 
Why are you still following your leaders ? Why not 
ask them to be brought back to your country where 
your wives and children are awaiting you impa- 
tiently ? If this is impossible, come over to us. 


Don't believe that we are barbarians. Our prisoners, 
but especially English and French, are very well 
treated by us, and the nourishment leaves nothing 
to be desired. Instead of staying in humid trenches 
day and night and thereby supporting an unjust 
and disgracehill action come over to us and render 
yourselves, in order to put and end to the injustice 
and infamy your statesmen are forcing you to do." 

Despite all this eloquence, including that supreme 
touch about nourishment that " leaves nothing 
to be desired," which surely stamps the author of 
the document as a German ex-hotel manager, the 
enemy in the Balkans never got a single prisoner 
from the Allies for whom they did not have to fight 
hard, and very few indeed of those, while, on the 
other hand, there are great camps at Salonica of both 
Bulgar and German captives in addition to those 
who have been shipped away. 

The Allied propaganda took a more artful form. 
The French had a lot of picture postcards taken 
showing Bulgar prisoners lining up for their midday 
ration, each with a half-loaf of bread under his arm 
and a steaming pannikin of soup in his hand. These 
they got Bulgar prisoners to sign, with the addition 
of a little message about the good treatment they had 
received, and they were then dropped over the enemy 
lines as a corrective to the stories which Bulgar 
officers used to tell their men about the certainty of 
execution which awaited them if they fell into the 
hands of the Allies. The plan met with much success. 
Deserters kept constantly coming in, and many of 
them brought these postcards with them, evidently 
considering them as a sort of safe-conduct or pros- 
pectus. One man said he had paid fifteen francs 
for his copy to another Bulgar who had found it. 

But the Bulgar is by no means a despicable fighter. 

[Official Photograph. 



He is as good as the 1917 Boche. Physically he is a 
sturdy fellow, as ugly as sin, with the Mongolian 
writ plainly on his unshaven face. In all essentials 
he is well equipped. Prisoners always have good 
boots. Their packs are full of practical things- 
such as a sort of German " Tommy's cooker " 
spirit-stove. One deserter had five pounds of sugar 
in his pack. 

In action the Bulgars are slow to renew a first 
effort that has been defeated. In a retreat it is 
likely that they would be quite undisciplined. The 
tactics which we have from the first employed against 
them — to attack with dash and counter-attack at 
once — have invariably justified themselves. Their 
artillery is good, but they do not seem to be able to 
stand shelling, being in that respect very different 
to their Turkish allies, who are stolid and* impassive 
upon the defensive under the worst bombardment. 

On the whole our men feel no special resentment 
against the Bulgar as an enemy. They will tell you, 
in fact, several stories of instances in which he has 
behaved chivalrously in battle, in the way of letting 
wounded men be brought in, even by means of 
ambulance wagons within short range of the Bulgar 
positions. There is reason to believe that such men 
of ours as fall into the enemy's hands are well treated, 
until, at any rate, they have been passed back behind 
divisional headquarters ; what happens to them in 
the interior of Bulgaria is not entirely known; 
probably the Bulgars differentiate in their treatment 
of the various nationalities among the Allies. A 
Bulgarian deserter gave me a grim account of the 
massacre of Serbian prisoners at Prilep in November, 
1915, of which he said he had been an eye-witness. 
Three or four hundred of them were marched out 
from the town, made to dig their own grave, then 
surrounded by a cordon of infantry and cut down by 


a squadron of cavalry who rode in amongst them, 
after which dead and wounded alike were pushed into 
the pit and covered up. 

Taken prisoners themselves, the Bulgars behave 
sullenly but with docility. Stolidity, doggedness, 
obstinacy, and the quality of being what they call 
in Scotland " dour," are the most marked traits of 
the Bulgar character. They were always the Boches 
of the Balkans — disobliging, self-confident to the 
degree of arrogance, worshippers of uniform, both 
of the military officer and the civilian official — the 
sort of people one did not get on with personally 
however one might admire their independence of 
character and the energy which had changed Sofia 
from a Turkish provincial town into a tolerably 
modern city in one generation. Their tempera- 
ment inclines them to take the war with a certain 
sober relish and earnestness. I was with their 
army — then an untried and underestimated force — 
on manoeuvres five years ago, and was struck by the 
seriousness with which the rank and file entered into 
the details of mimic warfare. I also saw them beat 
the Turks at Lule Burgas, and though with the 
other side, one could not help realising that they were 
an army of high quality and training for a Balkan 
State. They had already acquired the first elements 
of some facts that were not yet fully realised by far 
more important European armies even when the 
Great War came, for it was by artillery superiority 
and by great predominance of machine-guns that 
they defeated the Turk at Lule Burgas, however much 
the latter's natural disorder in a war of movement 
under his own native leadership contributed to his 

Among recollections of Macedonia, the one which 
will live longest in the memories of those who have 
spent a summer there is that of its flies. 


" Reveille is when I get up," is the remark attri- 
buted to some general who had strong views about 
early rising. He could not have been so positive 
if he had been a general in the Salonica Army, for 
there, in summer at least, reveille is when the 
flies get up. They take good care of that, and their 
punctuality in this respect, to say nothing of their 
dash, elan, and determination in following up an 
objective, is enough to make the Macedonian fly a 
stimulating example to the young soldier. 

The time between about four and five on a bright 
June morning, when it is already broad daylight 
but not yet time to turn out, ought really to be the 
pleasantest of all the hours of rest. The sun shines 
into the tent strongly enough to rouse you, and yet 
reveille is still distant. The disagreeable necessity 
of having to leap up from happy unconsciousness 
to face instantly the ordeals of shaving and dressing 
is completely avoided. You ought to be able to 
pass gently over a sort of twilight bridge from slumber 

to activity. . 

But the kindly dispositions of Nature in this respect 
are entirelv defeated in the Balkans by the misplaced 
activity of the flv. No sooner has the morning sun, 
flooding in through the triangle of the tent-door, 
brought you to a voluptuous state of conscious 
repose, than the first fly of the day, with startling 
suddenness, settles on your face. 

An instantaneous and only half-conscious twitch 
sends him off again as abruptly as if it were just a 
mistake. A second later, though, and he is back— 
a brief buzz as he lands, then that maddening, con- 
centrated tickle of his six feet. With desperate 
malice he perches on the corners of his victim's lips, 
his temples— anywhere that is peculiarly sensitive. 

His buzzes of delight now awake the other flies 
sleeping in the conical tent-top. They shake them- 



selves, preen their wings and legs complacently at 
the prospect of another day of persecution, and come 
trooping down to join him. The weary soldier, with 
a sleepy oath, pulling the blanket over his head, 
fights in vain for that last half-hour of drowsy 
slumber. The flies have discovered that drawing 
up the blanket has thrown his feet open and they 
start a diabolical tickle- dance upon his toes. He 
twists and wriggles, tugs the blanket this way and 
that, waves clumsy hands ineffectually through the 
empty air. The damnable titillation skips from one 
part of his body to another, and his temper is already 
one of black fury before he is properly awake. 
Reveille comes as a relief under such circumstances, 
and in an atmosphere studded with flies, growing 
more and more active and excited as the warm sun 
cooks the tented air up to its morning temperature 
of 105 degrees, he starts to dress. 

But it is only the comparatively slow-witted flies 
that choose tents for their area of operations ; the 
wideawake ones, as you find when you go across to 
breakfast, are all in the mess, and the result is that 
your first impression of the breakfast-table is that it 
is not set for a meal at all but for a conjuror's enter- 
tainment. No food is visible. Instead, there are a 
number of objects completely hidden under thick 
shrouds of gauze, and several large tins turned upside 
down like the hollow black boxes from beneath which 
glasses of water are made to vanish by the tap of a 
wand at children's parties. 

" Butter, sir ? " says the mess-waiter, approaching 
the mysteriously furnished board. One has a fas- 
cinated feeling that he may suddenly produce it 
from one of the pockets of your tunic, or offer instead 
a white rabbit or bowl of goldfish drawn out of the 
folds of green gauze. As he pulls away the veil, 
however, you see a dish of half-melted butter, into 


which twenty flies spring with suicidal eagerness. 
You snatch a dripping spoonful, the waiter vigorously 
chases the surviving flies out again, and the butter 
vanishes once more beneath its shroud. 

The most ticklish part of the meal, though, is when 
it comes to helping yourself to marmalade. This 
calls for the closest co-operation between breakfaster 
and mess-waiter, since the most active flies reserve 
themselves entirely for attacks upon the marmalade. 
As the waiter twitches off the tin conjuring-box 
you find underneath a smaller tin of marmalade, whose 
gaping mouth is instantly almost blocked by greedily 
jostling flies. Pushing these aside with your spoon you 
take what you want, usually burying one or two of 
the bolder insects at each spoonful, and you then 
have to carry on a sort of rearguard action with the 
remainder until the pot is safely within its defences 
once more. 

Meanwhile other flies are attacking the marmalade 
on your plate, and as you raise each jam-spread piece 
of bread to your mouth, you are obliged to protect 
it on its way by waving your right hand to and fro 
over it in the air. The sight of a whole mess eating 
bread and marmalade on a hot morning like this is 
remarkable. They look like a party of would-be 
magicians making futile passes over their food in 
the hope of changing it into something more appe- 

It is not to be supposed, however, that the flies 
have it all their own way. M6st vigorous reprisals 
are practised upon them, and it may be said that its 
own high standards of energy, ingenuity, and per- 
tinacity are thoroughly maintained by the British 
Army in warfare with these ever-present enemies. 

The multitude of the means by which the defeat 
of the fly may be compassed is astonishing. They 
are of two chief classes — preventive and punitive. 


Fly-whisks, fly-proof huts, gauze curtains, mosquito 
netting, and the burning in saucers of mysterious 
substances supposed to keep flies away, are some of 
the preventive measures used. But it is the engines 
of retaliation that are naturally more popular with 
the soldier. 

The most elementary of these is the fly-strafer, 
or fly-kesh. This consists simply of six inches by 
three of wire gauze let into a twelve-inch wooden 
handle, and the demand for these primitive instru- 
ments can be realised from the fact that though the 
cost of their manufacture might conceivably be a 
penny, the largest store in Salonica sells hundreds of 
them at a shilling each. 

Fly- destroyers of a more scientific kind are also 
sent out from London by parcel-post, chiefly of the 
nature of fly-guns (a dilettante weapon) and swatters 
of complicated kinds. But the use to which they are 
put is so enormous that such elaborate instruments 
soon break under the strain, and spare parts cannot 
be obtained. 

As regards fly-papers whole pages could be written 
of the various kinds that are in use and their com- 
parative merits. The mere difference of opinion 
as to whether a fly settles more readily on a flat 
surface or on an edge is enough to divide the Salonica 
Army into two distinct schools. One prefers the 
broad slabs of treacly paper that seem to be the 
favourite arm of the local population, while the others 
have a higher opinion of the killing qualities of a 
long, sticky, spiral string. The best thing is to back 
your chance both ways. 

Officers of scientific training claim that the fumes 
of certain liquids are what the fly most dreads. 
They wait in such patience as they may till evening, 
when the tired fly gathers by hundreds in the narrow 
funnel of canvas at the top of the tent pole, and then 


fumigate him with the vapours of ill-smelling chemicals 
burnt in the lids of tobacco tins. The expedient is 
one of rather dubious advantage, for during the rest 
of the evening a constant drizzle of stupefied flies 
prevails, and it takes a long time to brush the bodies 
out of one's hair afterwards. 

But undoubtedly the methods of fly extinction 
that give the most satisfaction to the persecuted 
soldier are those which are a little vindictive in their 
operation. The buzz of ineffectively struggling wings 
that comes from a well-covered fly-paper has a 
savagely soothing effect upon one's temper, and to 
see a tentful of hot, tired, irritated Tommies clearing 
for action as a fly-strafing party on a sultry afternoon 
is a lesson in studied ferocity. You must realise 
that at Salonica, with its June temperatures of oyer 
90 in the shade, daylight saving is not a legislative 
luxury but a primary necessity. The men start work 
at 5 a.m., and in standing camp during the hottest 
part of the day, as far as the work of the unit allows, 
they rest. "To rest" is hard enough anyhow, 
sweltering in a tent as hot as the jowl of Moloch, but 
when you have got to share that tent not only with 
seven other men, but with as many hundred flies, the 
very pretence is a torture. So a fatigue of two of 
the surest fly-slayers goes first into the midst of the 
buzzing, tickling, maddening crowd. " Reach me 
that 'ere towel, Bill," hisses the leader through tight 
lips. " Got yours ? Now then, you blighters ! 
And frantic flies, stampeding for safety to the top of 
the tent, are felled and flattened by dozens at a blow. 
By the saim token a certain kind of wire trap 
seems popular because it catches the little fiends 
alive and keeps tnem buzzing and bumping up against 
each other aU day, so that they get before they die 
a taste of the irritation they cause us. I suppose it 
is the utter uselessness of the fly that makes normally 


humane people feel so barbarous towards him. If 
their attacks had some clear object, such as biting 
or stinging, one might even hate them less, but the 
futility of an insect that goes crawling all over you 
for apparently no reason but exercise is not to be 

Needless to say, the most painstaking trouble is 
taken in the Army to stop flies breeding, just as 
Mrs. Partington took trouble to sweep the Atlantic 
from her doorstep. The doctors did everything 
conceivable in the spring to keep them down, and 
even invented a mysterious and special preparation 
known as " Solution C," to sprinkle over everything 
that was capable of serving as a fly maternity home. 
Manure is burnt or buried ; horse-lines are swept 
and garnished several times a day. But where hun- 
dreds of thousands of men and hundreds of thousands 
of animals are gathered together, especially in that 
climate, and in the neighbourhood of towns and 
villages where public health regulations barely exist, 
you might as well hope to stop the summer sun from 
rising as to make more than a relative difference to 
the plague of summer flies. The fact that the Army 
is not persecuted a thousandfold worse shows how 
well the doctors' precept and the soldiers' practice 
have worked together. 

It is at the hospitals, of course, that the fly gives 
the worst trouble, and he is fought there like the 
pest he is. To let the air in and keep the flies out 
is the great problem of every hospital. Not only 
do flies help more than any other cause to fill the 
dysentery wards, but they torment enfeebled fever 
patients to the borders of insanity. In an active 
campaign it would be far worse, of course. The 
most ghastly recollection I brought away from the 
peninsula was the chance remark of a doctor that 
during the worst of the summer weather there, as 


you went to touch a helpless wounded man, a 
black cloud of flies would start up from inside his 
gasping mouth. 

But in a standing general hospital all sorts of 
ingenious devices exist to slaughter the fly, including, 
at one casualty clearing station near Salonica, what 
is claimed to be the largest fly-trap in the world — a 
thing as big as a hencoop, of wire gauze, within 
which millions of baffled flies buzz desperately until 
evening brings them sudden death. The best bait 
for these has been found to be a cocktail, Salonica 
cocktails being the sweetest and stickiest liquid 
known. But they have the disadvantage of costing 
two francs each. 

Curiously enough, absolutely the worst place for 
flies that I have found in Salonica was just where one 
would have expected to be free of them entirely — 
on board a battleship over a mile from shore. It 
seems that when the wind sets, as it generally does, 
off the Vardar marshes, it blows great crowds of 
flies out to sea, and they avail themselves in dense 
swarms of the life-saving reputation of the British 

But if humans suffer, what of the unfortunate 
horses, tied up on their lines, with no fly-traps, no 
fly-papers, no strafers, nothing but their tails, merci- 
fully allowed to grow long, as a weapon against such 
unwearying malevolence ? And not only flies, but 
superflies. Beastly yellow-bellied things that, if you 
hit them with your fly-whisk, just scuttle contemp- 
tuously to another spot, and can only be induced to 
leave by being pulled off with the fingers. However 
quiet your horse may stand as a rule, it is well to 
keep out of range of his heels in summer, for he is 
often stung into a sudden lash-out at such a trying 
world in general, as not a few unlucky grooms can 


Fortunately, even flies must sleep, and at night 
they cease from troubling. But then, just when the 
flies go to sleep, the mosquito wakes up. 

But not all the fauna of Macedonia are the soldier's 
foes. Some of them he makes his intimate com- 
panions. Tortoises, for instance, which are as 
common in the Balkans as field-mice in England, 
not only serve him as pets, but as accessories to sport. 
Some men keep a racing stable of them, and will 
back their best tortoise against the fastest flyer of 
the next battalion over a ten-vard course. The 
young of these animals seem extraordinarily hardy. 
They make long journeys through the post, confined 
in cardboard boxes addressed to families in England, 
with no water and no nourishment other than a 
handful of green leaves stuffed in with them, and yet 
arrive in quite a lively condition. 

There was a general who tamed an eagle, but most 
officers content themselves with adopting a puppy of 
the local breed of immense sheep-dog, which is 
supposed to be a lineal descendant of the war-dogs 
of Alexander the Great, is as big as a small calf and 
as fierce as a wolf. He becomes tame and affec- 
tionate with those he knows, but his welcome for 
strangers is simply to charge straight at them with 
great white fangs showing and a vicious snarl that 
leaves no doubt as to his intentions. If you do not 
know the owner of the brute the only thing to do 
when this happens is to shoot him if you have a 
pistol — quite a number of men have been pulled 
down and worried by them — or to throw stones at 
him if you have not. Once, going outside my tent 
in my pyjamas in the early morning at a Corps 
Headquarters, I was attacked by two of them which 
seemed to belong to the place. There were no stones, 
but I went through the motions of picking them up, 
which kept the two dogs at bay for a moment with 


the thick manes on the back of their necks bristling 
and their lips laid back. One was working round 
behind me, though, and I fully expected to feel a set 
of savage teeth meeting in the back of my legmen 
a sleepv voice from a tent near by, awakened by the 
clamour, called out in gentle reproof - Endymion, 
Endymion, come here, you naughty dog I " Endymion. 
however, was out for blood, and Wd have : had it a 
moment later if his indulgent owner had not got out 
of bed and appeared with a hunting-crop a*/ the 
sight of which both the hulking animals crept growl- 

^ThlFrench do not go in so much for taming the 
wild creatures of Macedonia as for eating them 
Wherever a French battalion is encamped, there will 
V ou find half a dozen soldiers wading about in the 
streams driving the frogs into a net they have set 
further down. Some of them, ma fine spirit of 
enterprise, tried fillets of the snakes they caught 
lying out in the sun, and I was assured by a French 
officer that much was to be said for a dish of tortoises 
brains, which a former chef in his company .Prepared 
exquisitely, the ingredients for it being obtained M 
catching a number of tortoises and tickling their 
tails until the irritation compelled them to stick out 
their heads at the other end, which were then instantly 

^Thele is one sector of the Balkan front thai I have 
not yet mentioned, but of which I always think with 
pleasure, partly perhaps because I only visited it 
under the beautiful conditions of early summer 
when the Struma valley for a few brief weeks is one 
of the loveliest places in Europe. It is the eastern 
end of the Struma line, at the top of the Gulf of 
Orfano, the most difficult part of our front to reach 
from Salonica. When I went there in ■ ^JF™£ f 
the wild flowers one had ever heard of seemed to be 


in brilliant bloom. Above all, poppies — millions of 
crimson wild poppies, great fields of heavy white 
opium-poppies. Unless you have seen the Dutch 
tulip fields in spring you can hardly realise the masses 
of solid colour made by these fragile flowers of the 
Struma. You ride up to the horse's belly in flowers, 
and heavy, seductive scents rise up from the petals 
you trample down. But a week or two later the hot 
sun has shrivelled everything, and only a waste of 
burnt yellow vegetation remains. 

As for crops, there are such crops of wild-sown 
oats as would satisfy many an English farmer for a 
season's labour. Fruit of all kinds — peaches, water- 
melons, tomatoes. The best tobacco in the world, 
of course. " Why, they even grow cotton-wool 
here," I heard an English soldier from Wigan say, 
astonished to find on a plant what he had always 
before seen in bales. 

Very pleasant and restful the Struma looks in the 
spring, and so it would be if it were not for the war 
and the fact that the valley is one of the most deadly 
malarial belts on earth, capable of contesting with 
West Africa the title of " White Man's Grave." 

Down at the eastern end of the Struma line we are 
fighting on the very site of the ancient city of Amphi- 
polis, which Cleon attacked in the Peloponnesian war. 
" Cleon, the demagogue, don't you know," explains 
a subaltern who was on the Modern side at school 
three years ago, speaking with the authoritative air 
of a Regius Professor of History, " and of course, 
Brassidas, the Spartan fellow, was killed here, too — 
just about down there by those mule-lines we think 
it would be ; and then Thucydides, you know, got 
Stellenbosched for not getting his fleet up in time 
from Thasos over there, so he naturally got dis- 
gruntled, and wrote his history to explain what 
really happened." 


And as you go round their trenches and have it 
pointed out to you that " their palisade probably 
followed just about the line of our wire," you reflect 
how English schoolboys have suffered for generations 
in their souls and persons to acquire painful know- 
ledge of a series of skirmishes that nowadays we 
should hardly put in the communique. 

But grave -trouble is preparing for ttie archaeolo- 
gists of the future on the site of Amphipolis. Where 
antiquaries debate and hesitate, the soldier steps 
boldly in. " This is Brassidas's tomb, then ? " I 
said to a staff-officer, pointing to a spot so marked 
on the brigade map. " Well, / called it that," was 
the modest reply. " There was a rather fine carved 
lion there, and I happened to want a name for that 
place, so I decided to give old Brassidas the benefit 
of it as a monument." 



Among the many extraneous and political rather 
than military problems with which the Allies have 
had to grapple in the Balkans is that eternal and 
thorny question of Albania. 

It was some time before Albania was drawn into 
the Balkan battle-area, but first the Austrians 
advanced from the north down to the line of the 
Skumbi river, then the Italians, who had landed at 
Valona, extended their area by successive steps up- 
country with a view to stopping contraband between 
Greece and the Central Empires, while the French 
were led by similar reasons to push on into Albania 
from the other side. The result of these converging 
movements was that on February 17th the French 
and Italians met near Erzeg, about halfway across 
Albania, and the Allied front across the Balkans was 
joined up into a continuous line that now stretches 
from where the English sentry stands on the shore 
of the iEgean at Stavros to the Italian sentry on the 
shore of the Adriatic at Santi Quaranta. These 
movements of penetration naturally implied the 
conciliation as far as possible of the native Albanian 
population. But natives of Albania are most 
difficult people to conciliate, because so few of them 
think alike. Though of the same race and language, 
some of the population is Mussulman and some 
Christian. The Albanians are, moreover, divided by 



most bloodthirsty family feuds. They go armed, 
and have been accustomed for centuries to carry 
on murderous vendettas among themselves. Their 
country is a roadless, railless, riverless desert of very 
steep and barren mountains for the most part, 
though in south-western Albania there are extremely 
fertile valleys. Hospitable to the few individual 
strangers who travelled in their land (who were 
before the war chiefly Austrian agents and young 
Englishmen of adventurous tastes), they have always 
been formidable neighbours. The Greeks used to 
have a significant proverb, used to encourage people 
in distress : t4 "Don't despair. God is not an Al- 
banian." The Turks claimed to be the overlords of 
Albania from the middle of the fifteenth centurv till 
1912, but their rule amounted to nothing more than 
spasmodic attempts at the exaction of tribute, which 
usually led to the massacre of the soldiers sent to 
collect it. Turkish sovereignty consequently mani- 
fested itself by little more than the conferring upon 
some Albanian feudal chief of the title of Pasha. 

After the Balkan wars followed the misguided 
attempt of the Powers to settle the condition of these 
wild clansmen in the heart of Europe by giving them 
a German king — the Prince of Wied. He exercised 
a ridiculous semblance of sovereignty, while the 
Greeks entrenched upon his realm in the south and 
the Austrians in the north. Essad Pasha, one of the 
great Albanian Beys of the north, who had begun 
as the Prince's Minister of War, was driven away by 
the jealousy of the Austrians, who dominated the 
so-called " Mpret of Albania." They even bom- 
barded his house with a field-gun at 600 yards' range 
the last night he was in Durazzo, in the hope of 
putting an end to his career. So Essad went away, 
then returned and drove out the Prince, and became 
President of Albania in his stead, until he too was 


compelled to leave his country by the Austrian 

The one sentiment which the turbulent inhabi- 
tants of Albania seem to have in common is a fierce 
determination that Albania shall remain independent. 
They hate the Greeks, whose bands of irregulars have 
attempted to secure southern Albania for their 
country by the simple process of massacring the non- 
orthodox Albanians who live there. Leskovici, a 
beautifully situated and once prosperous town on the 
solitary road across Albania, is now no more than a 
heap of burnt-out ruins, every Mohammedan house 
there having been destroyed by Greek bands in 1913. 
At the beginning of the war the Albanians were 
inclined to desire the victory of the Central Powers, 
because they believed that this would secure the 
autonomy of Albania, which had been championed by 
Austria at the Conference of London in 1913. They 
feared that the triumph of the Entente would mean 
the division of Albania between the Greeks and the 
Serbs. The need of foreign protection they recognise, 
but they cannot make up their minds whose pro- 
tection they would like. 

Albanian misgivings as to the intentions of the 
Entente with regard to their country have been, 
however, considerably modified by the action both 
of France and Italy in proclaiming the independence 
of Albania in the sectors of the country which they 
occupy. To add to the confusion which seems the 
inexorable fate of this distressful country, however, 
the Austrians have also proclaimed the independence 
of Albania in their zone of occupation in the north. 

The French carried out this measure with great 
thoroughness of detail, making Korytza, an impor- 
tant town in a fertile valley on the trans-Albanian 
road, the capital of the new republic. They hoisted 
as national standard the double-headed black eagle 


of Scanderbeg, a mediaeval Albanian chief who has 
been glorified into a national hero. They issued 
postage stamps, created a paper currency, founded 
an " Albanian gendarmerie " 800 or 900 strong, and 
entrusted the government of the Korytza region 
under French tutelage to a "chamber of deputies" 
of fourteen members — seven Mussulmans and seven 
Christians. I had the honour when visiting Korytza of 
being received in full session of this body, and having 
conferred upon me the honorary citizenship of the 
' republic of Albania," and my surprise was not 
small when Colonel Descoins, the French officer who 
presided over the proceedings, pointed out the best- 
dressed deputy present, a robust and middle-aged 
gentleman, looking like a prosperous local banker, as 
Themistocles Germeni, a noted leader of comitadji 
bands, who had until a few months before been in 
the pay of the Austrians as a captain of irregulars, 
but had been won over by the proclamation of the 
independence of Albania to such an extent that he 
had become the prefect of police of the new republic. 
During the short life which this district has had 
under French military suzerainty the indication has 
been evident of the possibility of prosperity for 
Albania under firm government. Banditism and 
assassination have ceased in the region patrolled by 
French troops, and the budget of the little " republic," 
£1,800 a month, covers the public expenditure. In 
the western part of the Italian sphere, which had 
only been occupied a month before I got there, the 
condition in which our Allies found the population 
was one of terrorism and starvation. The only 
authority was exercised by the bands. The people 
were living in the most abject poverty. You could 
buy a child for a loaf of bread, and as an officer said 
to me : "A company of bakers will do more to keep 
this country in order than a company of riflemen." 


The Albanians are by no means unintelligent, 
savage and primitive though they look in their 
national dress of white and black frieze with a little 
skull-cap on their close-cropped heads ; and now 
that the road right across Albania to Santi Quaranta 
has been put in order, you can motor the whole way, 
though up gradients and round such hairpin bends 
as make it, I should say, the most dangerous road in 
Europe, through a series of valleys which, as you 
approach the Adriatic, become more and more 
fertile and beautiful, their slopes being thickly 
wooded and the ground looking capable, of responding 
richly to cultivation. 

The increasing use of this road by Italian motor 
transport from Santi Quaranta leads to constant 
attempts by the Austrian s to get down to it and 
interrupt the service. These are usually made 
through the mountains in the neighbourhood of 
Korytza where the road lies nearest to the territory 
that they occupy. Both sides employ Albanian 
irregulars for the most part, who, no matter on which 
side they fight, are all of them enrolled, curiously 
enough, in the name of the " independence of Al- 
bania," and paid three francs a day with rations of 
three pounds of flour and thirty centimes a day for meat. 
These comitadjis, whose military quality is not of the 
best, and whose allegiance is often dubious, are 
stiffened on either side by detachments of Austrian 
or French regulars. 

I happened to be at Korytza when one of these 
Austrian attacks occurred. Two days previously I 
had been out with Colonel Descoins to visit the 
ruined town of Moschopol in the mountains north of 
Korytza, once one of the most flourishing places in 
Albania, but burnt, sacked, and left without a single 
living inhabitant by the Mohammedan band in 1914. 
While we were there a peasant came in who had 



made the journey across the mountains, and told the 
interpreter of a concentration of some 1,200 enemy 
comitadjis, accompanied by Austrian regulars with 
machine-guns, at a village four or five hours' march 
away. Two days later this force was reported on the 
move, with the avowed intention of retaking Korytza. 
So the Albanian irregulars in the pay of the French 
were mobilised and sent up into the mountains to 
meet them. The process of putting on a war footing 
the militia of the republic of Korytza was very simple, 
and must have resembled the way in which the old 
independent towns in the Middle Ages assembled 
their citizens to resist an aggressive neighbour. The 
comitadjis, who the day before had been shop- 
keepers or blacksmiths or small cultivators, were 
summoned by the town crier, served out with cap- 
tured Austrian rifles, 200 rounds of ammunition and 
a loaf of bread, and then drifted off at their leisure 
in little parties under their own leaders up into the 
hills. It was impossible to concentrate them into a 
collected force, for each little band would only obey 
the orders of its particular captain, and most of them 
had long-standing quarrels of such acuteness with the 
other groups that if they were brought into too close 
intercourse there was a chance that they might start 
fighting among themselves. 

Quite a number of these inhabitants of Korytza 
had been to America for two or three years, and 
returned after making a little money, and it was 
astonishing to be addressed in a broad Yankee twang 
by armed individuals who looked like nothing so 
much as brigands of the mountains. I was standing 
at a street corner talking to an American ambulance 
man when a straggler of the forces which we relied 
upon for our defence went past ; he was a peculiarly 
fierce-looking native, in short jacket, tapering panta- 
loons, and shoes with upcurling toes, and had a big- 


bore rifle slung across his shoulders, and a large old- 
fashioned silver-plated ivory-handled revolver stuck 
into his belt. He looked as though he had lived in 
a mountain cave all his life, torturing prisoners for 
ransom, but when he saw us his sinister features 
expanded into a cheery grin. " Wa-al, boys, I'm for 
the war, you see. S'long," he said, and left us agape. 

I followed this heterogeneous host up into the 
mountains ; you crossed the plain for four miles to 
their edge, and then passed up a narrow and rocky 
gorge to the village of Djonomas, a handful of rough- 
built cottages stuck one above another on the steep 
mountain-side like a series of pigeon-cotes. 

Just beyond this was the position on which the 
defenders of Korytza were awaiting the enemy. The 
reserve line was held by elderly French soldiers of 
the Territorial, under the command of a gallant and 
picturesque old captain who had fought in the war 
of 1870. About 800 yards ahead on the next ridge 
were the Albanian irregulars, each little band under 
its own chieftain, crouching behind the rocks. No- 
thing much happened that night, but next morning 
we were attacked. We could see the enemy irregulars 
doubling over the next sky-line beyond our front, and 
hiding among the rocks. Our own Albanians im- 
mediately started rapid fire at a range of over one 
thousand yards at any point where they saw or 
thought they saw something moving. I went up to 
their line with a French officer, who urged their 
leaders at all cost to economise ammunition, as 
further supplies might be long in coming up. But as 
the Frenchman knew no Albanian and the Albanians 
extremely little French, our irregular allies perse- 
vered in this their habitual method of fighting. For 
the Albanian dislikes encounters at close quarters, 
while the noise of rapid rifle-fire, even though in- 
effectual, has an uplifting effect upon his spirits. An 


hour or two later in consequence, while the lie of the 
position was being explained to a French staff- 
officer who had just come up from Korytza, someone 
exclaimed suddenly, pointing to a ridge which was 
about 500 yards on the left of our reserve line, and 
enfiladed it, " Are those people ours or theirs ? " 

" Oh, ours," said another, confidently. " Our 
Albanians have been there all the morning," and 
then, as we all turned our glasses in that direction — 
" they seem to be facing in this direction, though. 
Bon Dieu ! I see what it is. Our sacres Albanians are 
coming away. Those are the enemy's people on top 

This diagnosis of the situation was immediately 
confirmed by a bullet which with unusual accuracy 
rapped up a little cloud of dust right in the middle of 
our group. What had happened was perfectly clear. 
The Albanian irregulars on our side had used up all 
their ammunition, were bolting, and had almost let 
us be surrounded. 

A few moments later our unstable allies streamed 
past us down the hill and into the village. The 
appeals and curses of the French officers had small 
effect, being very little understood. This was the 
traditional Albanian method of fighting. The side 
that used up its ammunition first always came away, 
and, as there was no artillery to check the advance 
of the enemy, the only thing to do now was to fall 
back on the village of Voskop, at the other end of the 
gorge, where a reserve of ammunition was to be found 
and our irregulars could be persuaded to go on fi ,'ht- 
ing. But now an Albanian leader arrived, very 
breathless, with the disconcerting news that the 
enemy had got round both flanks, and were waiting 
on the top of either side of the gorge to shoot us down 
as we retired along it. This proved to be quite 
untrue, but the information greatly stimulated the 


eagerness of the Albanians to get away. There were 
a few horses in the village, and some of the Albanians 
seized upon them with a view to making a quicker 
time down the gorge. The villagers clung on to the 
heads of the horses and a free fight started. 

As it all took place at an angle of the street which 
was about the size of a large drawing-room, the 
combat was very concentrated. Clubbed rifles fell 
with heavy thuds on shaven pates, but the Albanian 
head is solid and its owner continued to fight just as 
violently with blood streaming over his face. A 
French officer, vigorously cursing his turbulent auxi- 
liaries, was in the middle of the melee trying to disarm 
the leaders, who entered with much more gusto into a 
bickering of this kind than into the larger encounter 
which they had just deserted. Some of the Albanians 
began to shoot, and it would really have been dan- 
gerous for all of us if they had not, in their excite- 
ment, fired without levelling their rifles, so that the 
bullets flew up in the air over everybody's head. 

Eventually the incident was settled in some way 
and the retirement continued down the defile. Before 
we reached the end of it we met some French Sene- 
aalese advancing with grins of delight to take part 
m the conflict, which was particularly to their taste 
because there was no artillery concerned in it, so that 
there was a good chance of getting to close quarters, 
where, as they said with much relish, brandishing 
their heavy knives, which are like a Ghurka's kukri, 
" Coupe-coupe vatravailler." 

There were two mountain-guns at Voskop which 
had come up from Korytza, and with these reinforce- 
ments the French drove the enemy right back, not 
only out of the village he had temporarily captured, 
but away across the hills beyond. 

The situation of the Allies with regard to Albania 
is complicated a little further by the fact that while 


the independence of the country is being proclaimed, 
Essad Pasha, whom the Entente recognised as 
President of Albania, is living at Salonica, with his 
flag, a black star on a red -ground, flying over his 
house as the residence of the President of Albania. 
Essad is a big, stalwart man of fifty-two, with a red 
face, black moustache, alert eyes and an expression 
of vigour and strength. Pie comes of an old Albanian 
family called the Toptani. (Top means cannon ; his 
family once had a gun at a time when artillery was 
rare.) He was the general who defended Scutari for 
the Turks in the first Balkan War. When he had 
replaced the Prince of Wied as ruler of Albania he 
declared war on the Austrians in September, 1914, 
and the 500 men of his bodyguard who accompanied 
him to Salonica are fighting on the Balkan front, 
brigaded with the French, but paid by him. I have 
had several conversations with Essad Pasha about 
the future of Albania. His view is that the Powers 
after the war should re-establish a Commission of 
International Control, with functions not of inter- 
ference but of inspection, such as was working there 
before. A native gendarmerie of ten to fifteen 
thousand men would be provided by national com- 
pulsory military service ; it would be commanded by 
foreign officers, chosen from nationalities that have 
no interest in Albania, and able to speak either 
Albanian or Turkish. The old Commission of Inter- 
national Control had already drawn up a form of 
constitution for Albania which had been referred back 
to the governments represented upon it for con- 
sideration when the great upheaval came. It pro- 
vides for a chamber of deputies, elected without 
regard to the religious differences that divide Albania 
into two strongly marked communities. The pro- 
posed constitution would depend upon a common 
race, language, tradition and spirit of independence 


to overcome that difference and unite the Albanians 
into one people. 

The idea of a federation of Christian and Mussulman 
cantons on the Swiss system, which has been proposed 
for Albania, is not regarded with favour by Essad, 
because he considers that it would emphasise the 
existing divergences of religion and lead to hostility 
between the cantons. A loan, according to him, would 
not be necessary if the regime of the Capitulations, 
which is an inheritance of the old Turkish days, 
were abolished, so that the 11 per cent, ad valorem 
customs duties could be raised. Other sources of 
revenue for Albania are : — 

Port and lighthouse dues ; 

Taxes on forests, mines and fisheries ; 

Tobacco Regie. 

Following the example set at the time of the 
liberation of Bulgaria from Turkey, an international 
loan might be necessary for the buying out of Albania's 
share of the Ottoman Public Debt. 

But whatever be the future of Albania — and it will be 
a small but very difficult question among those which 
the Allies will have to settle after the war — the 
Albanians can feel assured that, at any rate, we shall 
not make the mistake of giving them a German prince 



A.S.C. . . 91,155,244 

Agamemnon, H.M.S. . 70 
Air raids, German . 69, 94, 189 
Albania, Republic of . 288 
Argyll and Sutherlands . 164 
Bairakli Djuma . .170 
Bala . . . .167 

Blizzard, November, 1915 46 
Bulgar character . . 270 

Cavalry charge, Bulgarian 158 
Cerna, French fighting on, 
in 1915 ... 28 
Serb fighting on, in 1916 160 
Comitadjis . . . 290 

Connaught Rangers . 42, 47 
Consuls, Enemy . • 93 
Corfu ... . . 117 
Dardanelles . . 13, 17 

Dedeli . . . 42,51 

Demir Kapu defile . 20, 31 

Diplomacy of Allies . 13, 209 
Dogs, Macedonian . . 280 

Dousmanis, General . 60,107 
Dublins . . . 42, 47 

East Lancashires . .153 

Egypt .... 6 
Essad Pasha . . . 286 

Fire, Great Salonica . 80 

Flies . . . 253,273 

Floca's .... 78 
Gardening . . . 264 

Gibraltar . . 63,255 



. 169 

Greek troops at Front 

. 238 

Hampshires . 


Harley, Mrs. . 

. 179 

Inniskillings . 

. 42 

Irish Fusiliers , 

. 42 

Irish Rifles 

. 42 

Jumeaux ravine 

. 200 


144, 156 

Karabiirnu, Forts of 

. 94 


. 28 

Korytza . 

. 287 

Kossovo, Battle of . 




Labour, Greek 


Lancashire Fusiliers . 

. 153 

Landing in Salonica 


Larissa . 

. 221 



Liverpool Regiment . 

153, 171 

Macukovo salient . 

. 152 

Mahon, General Sir Bry 

an 17, 49 

Martial Law, Proclamation 


. 105 

Memisli . 


Milne, General G. F. 

149, 189 


. 251 

Mount Athos . 

. 188 


42, 47 

Noel, Louis 

. 191 

Obstruction, Greek . 


Oxford and Bucks L.I. 

148, 152 





Pantomimes . 


Seres road . 63, 243, 249 



" Slava," Serbian . . 120 

Pella .... 


Spies and enemy agents 86, 233 

Petit Couronne . 152 

, 197 

Sport .... 265 

Petiti di Roreto, General . 


Strategical aims . 1, 193 

Poroi .... 


Struma valley . 141,253 

Proclamations, Enemy . 


Tenth Division . 17, 41 

R.F.C. . . . ' . 


Thefts from Army 91 



Transport . . 2,241 

Rents in Saloniea . 


Italian . . .135 

"Revolution," The Salo- 

Troubridge, Admiral E. T. 123 

niea .... 


Venizelos . 16,75,211,214 



Volo . . . .229 

Rupel fort 


Vrbeni . . 145, 174 

Sarrail . 3, 17, 112, 189 


Water .... 251 

School, Inter-Ally . 


Wiltshires ... 68 

Scottish Women's Hospi- 

Yenikeuy . . .164 



Yeomanry . 66, 140 , 205 

Serbia .... 


Zeppelin brought down . 70 

Serbian Relief Fund . 


Zir . . . .164 

W. H, 

Printed in England by 
Smith & Son, The Arden Press, Stamford Street, London, 



• » 



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Price, George Ward 


The story of the Salonica