Battle of Macedonia and Occupation of Monastir
Bulgarian-German-Austrian Forces Defeated — Allies Seize Greek Navy
Salonika Army, 700,000
General Sarrail, Commander
French Land and Naval Forces
Admiral du Fournier
Serbian Force, 100,000
General G. F. Milne
German-Bulgarian-Greek Forces, 800,000
Bulgarian Army — General Boyacljieff
Austro-German Army — General von Staabe
Greek Army—General Kovakes
The situation in the Balkans during the early months of 1916, was of such gravity as to fill the Allies with deep concern. Though nominally neutral, Greece nevertheless had been secretly aiding the Germans. King Constantine, the brother-in-law of the Kaiser, had winked at all evasions of Greek sovereignty attempted by the Bulgarians and the Austrians. When his Prime Minister, Venizelos, protested against these treacherous acts, the King had caused his removal. A new cabinet, headed by M. Daimos, had been chosen to fill the interior until the general elections were held in August.
Following the conquest of Serbia in 1915, the Bulgarians had driven the Salonika Army, commanded by General Sarrail, back across the Greek border to its base. Greece being then at peace with Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Army had not crossed the frontier in pursuit of Sarrail. At Salonika, General Sarrail had established himself in a strong position with a wide circle of intrenchments. But on the sea side, he was menaced by the forts at the entrance to the harbor. On January 28, 1916, Sarrail had seized these forts and driven the consular agents of the enemy powers out of Greece.
German Bomb Raid Angers Greeks
German activities began at Salonika on March 27, 1916, when a squadron of Greek airplanes dropped bombs upon the British and French warships in the harbor. Four of these aeroplanes subsequently were disabled by the fire of the Allied guns. Many of the bombs fell in the city of Salonika, killing 80 civilians. This raid naturally aroused deep resentment against Germany among the populace. The Chamber of Deputies considered the question of declaring martial law, but Premier Skouloudis discouraged all hostile criticism of Germany on the ground that "the higher interests of Greece impose silence." Nevertheless, the raid was characterized as an act of "simple assassination" and "German frightfulness." Attempts to hold mass meetings were prohibited, but at the funeral of the victims of the raid the populace cried, "Down with the barbarians!" and "Down with Germany!"
Bulgarians Invade Greece and Seize Fort Rupel
Wild excitement was caused among the Greeks on May 26, 1916, when it became known that their hated enemies, the Bulgarians, had invaded Greek territory and seized Fort Rupel, six miles across the border, compelling the garrison to evacuate. On the following day the Bulgarians occupied Fort Dragotin, and Fort Kanivo. The Bulgarians pretended that this was only a temporary occupation of the forts, necessary to their protection from an impending advance of the Allies out of Salonika. It developed later, however, that the surrender of the forts was due to the direct command of King Constantine, who had received a bribe from Germany in the form of a "loan" of $15,000,000. Emboldened by their success, the Bulgarians pushed further south, occupying all of the Kavala—Drama district, all of the Greek territory east of the German line and finally seized the Adrianople—Salonika Railway which enabled them to transport their troops and supplies with greater facility.
Allies Compel Greek Army to Demobilize
Deciding to teach the Greek King a lesson, the Allies on June 8th served notice on Constantine that a commercial blockade of Greek ports would be established. This action provoked hostile demonstrations in front of the Allied legation buildings. On June 23, 1916, the Allies made these several demands: The complete demobilization of the Greek Army; the appointment of a new ministry devoid of any political prejudice; the immediate dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies, to be followed by fresh elections; and the dismissal of certain police officials who had connived in the assaults upon the legations. King Constantine, returning hastily to Athens, ordered the troops under arms and summoned the Chamber of Deputies. The resignation of Premier Skouloudis was accepted and Alexander Zaimis was named as his successor with power to choose a new cabinet. The chief of police was immediately removed and it was promised that all the demands of the Allies should be carried out. Thereupon the blockade was raised and the Allies agreed to advance Greece a loan to tide her over her financial difficulties.
Salonika Army Now Numbers 750,000
General Sarrail's army at Salonika had been rapidly expanding until in August, 1916, it numbered 750,000 men. These forces included 350,000 French and English, 100,000 Serbians who had been transferred from the Island of Cyprus; 80,000 Russians, a large body of Italians and representatives of all other Allied nations excepting the Japanese. The Bulgarian Army at this time was 300,000 strong.
Bulgarians Capture Kavala in Macedonia
Anticipating an advance by General Sarrail's army, the Bulgarian forces on August 17, 1916 moved south from Monastir; crossed the frontier of Eastern Macedonia, where the treacherous Greek guards gave them right of way; forced the Serbian defenders of Macedonia back as far as Ostrova Lake, and surrounded Fort Kavala, which was defended by the Fourth Greek Army Corps. More Greek treachery was here disclosed, for the larger part of the garrison surrendered to the Bulgarians without firing a shot. A considerable number of the loyal Greek soldiers, however, escaped to Theos. This movement of the Bulgarians disconcerted the plans of General Sarrail, whose advance was now threatened from three directions, rendering impossible the use of his army in mass.
Greeks Rise in Revolutions
The treachery of King Constantine, in permitting the Bulgarians to invade Greek territory without opposition, still further inflamed the public indignation. Revolutions broke out in Macedonia and Crete among the loyal Greeks. In Macedonia, a provisional government was organized with Colonel Zimorakakis at its head, receiving the support of the Greek garrisons at Vodena, Port Karaburun and Salonika. In Crete also a provisional government was formed and a committee was sent to Salonika to tender the allegiance of the Cretans to General Sarrail. The Revolutionists organized an army with M. Venizelos, the former Premier, as their leader.
This revolution so frightened the King that he hastened to make overtures to the Allies. Premier Zaimis urged the Allies to state the reward Greece might expect should she enter the War on their side, but he was informed that Greece must waive the question of compensation for the present. On October 9, 1916, President Venizelos arrived at Salonika and assumed direction of the new Revolutionary Government, which had meanwhile been officially recognized by the Allied Governments. The new Greek Government thereupon declared war upon the Germanic Allies and began to enlist troops for a campaign against the Bulgars. King Constantine, however, still ruled over Athens and indeed over all the mainland of Greece outside Salonika.
Allied Advance Against the Bulgarians
The Allied campaign in the Balkans against the united forces of Bulgarians, Austrians and Germans, was finally begun in September, after the Bulgarians had overrun Eastern Macedonia. General Sarrail had detached a group of armies from his forces at Salonika, consisting chiefly of Serbs, French, English and Russians, to advance northward against Monastir in Macedonia. Cooperating with this force, was an Italian Army in Albania, approaching Macedonia from the west. An energetic offensive was begun along the entire front on Sept. 11, 1916.
The Serbian Army, 100,000 strong, led by General Mishitch, stormed the heights near Lake Ostrova, driving the Bulgarian's left wing back to the rocky hills behind Binitza. It took a week of intense fighting to dislodge the Bulgars from this strong position, but in the end the Bulgarians were routed, the Serbians pursuing them nine miles and capturing many prisoners and guns. The Bulgars made their next stand on the banks of the Cerna, but were quickly pushed back along the ridges forming the eastern side of the Monastir Valley.
Meanwhile, the British forces, under General G. F. Milne, had crossed to the east bank of the Struma, pushing the Bulgars before them. The French, under Generals Guillemat and Cordonnieu, had hammered the enemy west of Lake Doiran as far as the Vardar, taking the first line of Bulgarian trenches. In the West, the Russian columns had shoved the Bulgars back upon the crags and precipices near Kastoria. The Italian Army, operating in Albania against the Austrians, had driven the foe out of Tepeleni and other villages on the border. A regiment of Greek volunteers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gravannis, assisted in the capture of the town of Fiorina. The net was closing in gradually on Monastir.
By the middle of October, the British were hammering at the Seres fortress, the Serbians had taken Velyselo and Baldentsi, and the Italians had entered Macedonia from the west and were soon to establish a connection with the Russian left wing operating in Kastoria.
Allies Seize the Greek Fleet
Meanwhile, King Constantine had been concentrating his pro-German Army in the interior near Larissa and the Allies resolved to clip his wings. On October 11, 1914, Admiral du Fournier was sent to Athens to demand the surrender of the entire Greek Fleet, excepting two battleships and one cruiser. These demands being complied with, he further ordered the dismantling of all the shore batteries and the transfer to Allied control of the railroad connecting Larissa with the seaport of Piraeus. So unpopular was this proceeding that street riots resulted in which the police participated. Admiral du Fournier thereupon landed a large force of French Marines with machine guns and took command of the Greek police force throughout the Kingdom. This summary action brought King Constantine to his senses, and he ceased, for a time, his pro-German activities.
Monastir Recaptured by the Allies
In Macedonia, so rapid had been the advance of the Russians in the West, that the Bulgarians were forced to abandon their entire line of frontier defences centered on Kenali, retreating across the Viro and Bistritza Rivers toward Monastir. Hot in pursuit, the Russians by November 16th were within four miles of the city. The Serbians, meanwhile, were swinging rapidly around to the northeast of Monastir, taking many prisoners. The Italians, too, had invested Monastir on the west side. The French were advancing toward the north, threatening the Bulgarian line of retreat.
Fearing the loss of their entire Army, the Bulgarians and Germans evacuated Monastir on the night of November 18, 1916, retreating northward, and the city was occupied the next day by the Serbians, on the anniversary of their expulsion from the city in 1915. The Bulgarians, during their retreat from Monastir, were harassed by the Serbians, losing many thousands in killed and wounded. Meanwhile, on the right of the Allied line, between Vardar and Doiran, the Bulgarians had shown strong resistance. With the capture of Monastir the Serbian campaign closed so far as military results were concerned and a deadlock ensued on the Macedonian front.
Greek Against Greek
The first clash between the Greek Revolutionists and Royalists occurred on November 2, 1916, when a body of Revolutionists marched overland to Katerina, some 25 miles northeast of Larissa, where a garrison of Royalist troops were stationed. In a brief encounter, the Revolutionists ousted the Royalists and occupied the city. King Constantino thereupon decreed that any Royalists who chose to do so might join the forces of the Revolutionists.
Fighting In Streets of Athens
The Germans, on taking over the forts in Macedonia, had confiscated 350 cannons, 60,000 rifles, and $20,000,000 worth of ammunition. The Allies thought it time to remove all further temptation out of the reach of Germany. Accordingly, on November 18, 1916, Admiral du Founder was instructed to notify King Constantine that the "Equilibrium of War" had been disturbed by Germany's seizure of so much war material and that Greece would be required to surrender all arms, munitions and artillery to the Allies before December 1, 1916.
The King having withheld his consent to any surrender of arms, a transport containing French troops appeared off Athens and preparations were made to land them. The Royalist Government in the city at once expelled the French officers in charge of the telegraphs and post office, taking possession of them. Admiral du Fournier made formal demand for the delivery of the first installment of war material; the reply was a definite refusal. Whereupon, Allied troops and marines were landed from the ships into the harbor. As the troops marched into Athens they were fired upon by a mob of Greeks, 47 Allies being killed. Returning the fire, the Allies killed 29 Greeks. On the following day the landing party returned to the ships, while the Greek soldiers began intrenching on the heights overlooking Athens. During the melee, the Allied warships fired 38 shells into the city, some of which seemed aimed at the Royal Palace.
Meanwhile, the Revolutionary troops had declared war on Germany and Bulgaria. All the citizens of the Allied nations had left Athens and taken refuge in Piraeus. The Greek ministers at London and Paris had resigned, saying they could no longer identify themselves with the Royalist Government of Greece. The diplomatic representatives of the United States, Holland, and Spain protested against the treatment accorded the Revolutionaries, General Korakas and Major Benakas of Athens having been arrested on charges of inciting guerilla warfare.
Following conferences between the King, the Greek Government and the Allies, it was announced on December 16, 1916, that Greece had accepted unreservedly the conditions of the Allies with reference to the surrender of arms.
The Story of the Salonica Ary