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British Operations at Saloniki
Official Report of General Milne
[See Map on Page 156)
INCE the conference at Rome the
situation in Macedonia has been radically changed. The weakness
of General Sarrail's position lay in the fact that neither England nor France felt free to send from the critical western front the large reinforcements of men which the situation north of Saloniki called for. Italy had the men, but was unwilling to send them and to incur the heavy additional expense of maintaining them in Macedonia. The conference at Rome, in which Premier Lloyd George was the dominant figure, overcame that reluctance, probably promising Italy parts of the Turkish Empire that had been earlier assigned tentatively to Greece and guaranteeing the cost of che new expedition. The result has been immediate and of the highest importance. Rome dispatches indicate that Italy has sent, or is sending, a force of not less than 300,000 men; that these troops, to avoid the danger of submarines, are being dispatched, not to Saloniki, but to Avlona, which is within forty miles of the Italian coast; and, finally, these Italian forces have not only built an excellent highway through the Albanian mountains but have already joined forces with General Sarrail's right wing at Monastir. All these facts indicate early activity in the Macedonian sector.
This glimpse of present conditions will serve to introduce the following report of General G. F. Milne, commanding the British Saloniki Army in Macedonia, on last Summer's operations in that sector. His report, submitted to the British War Office early in December, 1916, covered the army's operations from May 9 to Oct. 8. The official text of the report is here reproduced, with a few minor omissions:
I have the honor to submit the following report on the operations carried out by the British Saloniki army since I asumed command on May 9, in accordance with instructions received from the General Officer Com
manding in Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
On that date the greater part of the army was concentrated within the fortified lines of Saloniki, extending from Stavros on the east to near the Galiko River on the west; a mixed force, consisting of a mounted brigade and a division, had been pushed forward to the north of Kukush in order to support the French Army which had advanced and was watching the right bank of the Struma River and the northern frontier of Greece. Further moves in this direction were contemplated, but, in order to keep the army concentrated, I entered into an agreement with General Sarrail by which the British forces should become responsible for that portion of the allied front which covered Saloniki from the east and northeast. By this arrangement a definite and independent area was allotted to the army under my command. On June 8 the troops commenced to occupy advanced positions along the right bank of the River Struma and its tributary, the River Butkova, from Lake Tachinos to Lozista village. By the end of July, on the demobilization of the Greek Army, this occupation had extended to the sea
Chai Aghizi. Along the whole front the construction of a line of resistance was begun; work on trenches, entanglements, bridgeheads, and supporting points was commenced; for administrative purposes the reconstruction of the Saloniki-Seres road was undertaken and the cutting of wagon tracks through the mountainous country was pushed forward.
On July 20, in accordance with the policy laid down in my instructions, and in order to release French troops for employment elsewhere, I began to take over the line south and west of Lake Doiran, and commenced preparations for a joint offensive on this front. This move was completed by Aug. 2, and on the 10th of that month an offensive was commenced against the Bulgarian defenses south of the line Doiran-Hill 535. The French captured Hills 227 and La Tortue, while the British occupied in succession those features of the main 535 ridge now known as Kidney Hill and Horseshoe Hill, and, pushing forward, established a series of advanced posts on the line Doldzeli-Reselli. The capture of Horseshoe Hill was successfully carried out on the night of Aug. 17-18 by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry at the point of the bayonet in the face of stubborn opposition. The enemy's counterattacks were repulsed with heavy loss.
As a result of these operations it became possible to shorten considerably the allied
line between Doiran Lake and the River Vardar, and on Aug. 29, in agreement with General Sarrail, I extended my front as far as the left bank of that river so as to set free more troops for his offensive operations. This relief was completed by Aug. 31, the position then held extending from Hill 420 to the Vardar River just north of Smol. In the Struma Valley a French mounted detachment was at the same time pushed forward to Seres.
Bulgarian Invasion of Macedonia On Aug. 17 the Bulgarians, who, at the end of May, had entered Greek territory by the Struma Valley and moved down as far as Demir Hissar, continued their advance into Greek Macedonia. Columns of all arms advanced from seven different points, between Sarisaban, on the Mesta, and Demir Hissar. The four eastern columns converged on the country about Drama and Kavala, while the remainder moved southward on to the line of the Struma from Demir Hissar toward Orfano. On Aug. 19 a mounted brigade with one battery carried out a strong reconnoissance, and found the enemy in some force on the line Prosenik-Barakli Djuma; on the following day, after being reinforced by a battalion, this brigade again advanced in conjunction with the French detachment. These attacking troops, after encountering the enemy in force on the line Kalendra-ProsenikHaznatar, withdrew after dark to the right bank of the Struma. The French detachment was subsequently placed under the orders of the General Officer Commanding British troops on this front, and received instructions to co-operate in the defense of the river line.
On Aug. 21 the railway bridge near Angista Station was demolished by a detachment from the Neohori garrison, and three days later two road bridges over the Angista River were destroyed. Both these operations were well carried out by yeomanry, engineers, and cyclists in the face of hostile opposition.
The Bulgarians continued their advance into Eastern Macedonia unopposed by the Greek garrison, and it was estimated that by the end of August the enemy's forces, extending from Demir Hissar southward in the Seres sector of the Struma front, comprised the complete Seventh Bulgarian Division, with two or three regiments of the Eleventh Macedonian Division, which had moved eastward from their positions on the Beles Mountain to act as a reserve to the Seventh Division, and at the same time to occupy the defenses from Vetrina-Pujovo northward. Opposite the Lower Struma was a brigade of the Second Division, with a brigade of the Tenth Division, in occupation of the coast and the zone of country between Orfano and the Drama-Kavala road. This brigade of the Tenth Division was supported by another brigade in the Drama-Kavala area. As a result of this advance and of a similar move in the west General Sarrail decided to intrust
to the British Army the task of maintaining the greater portion of the right and centre of the allied line.
Struma Crossed in Six Places On Sept. 10 detachments crossed the river above Lake Tachinos at five places between Bajraktar Mah and Dragos, while a sixth detachment crossed lower down at Neohori. The villages of Oraoman and Kato Gudeli were occupied, and the Northumberland Fusiliers gallantly captured Nevolien, taking thirty prisoners and driving the enemy out of the village. The latter lost heavily during their retirement and in their subsequent counterattack. They also suffered severely from our artillery fire in attempting to follow our prearranged movements to regain the right bank of the river,
On the 15th similar operations were undertaken, six small columns crossing the river between Lake Tachinos and. Orljak bridge. The villages of Kato Gudeli, Dzami Mah, Agomah, and Komarjan were burned and twenty-seven prisoners were taken. The enemy's counterattacks completely broke down under the accurate fire of our guns on the right bank of the river. On the 23d a similar scheme was put into action, but a sudden rise of three feet in the Struma interfered with the bridging operations. Nevertheless, the enemy's trenches at Yenimah were captured, fourteen prisoners taken, and three other villages raided. Considerable help was given on each occasion by the French detachment under Colonel Bescoins, and much information was obtained which proved to be of considerable value during subsequent operations.
On the Doiran-River Vardar front there remained as before the whole of the Bulgarian Ninth Division, less one regiment; a brigade of the Second Division, and at least twothirds of the German 101st Division, which had intrenched the salient north of Machukovo on the usual German system. To assist the general offensive by the Allies I ordered this salient to be attacked at the same time as the allied operations in the Florina area commenced. With this object in view the whole of the enemy's intrenched position was subjected to a heavy bombardment from Sept. 11 to 13, the southwest corner of the salient known as the Piton des Mitrailleuses being specially selected for destruction. The enemy's position was occupied during the night 13th-14th, after a skillfully planned and gallant assault, in which the King's Liverpool Regiment and Lancashire Fusiliers specially distinguished themselves. Over 200 Germans were killed in the work, chiefly by bombing, and seventy-one prisoners were brought in. During the 14th the enemy concentrated from three directions a very heavy artillery fire, and delivered several counterattacks, which were for the most part broken up under the fire of our guns. Some of the enemy, however, succeeded in forcing an entrance into the work, and severe fighting followed. As hostile reinforcements were increasing in
numbers, and as the rocky nature of the ground rendered rapid consolidation difficult, the troops were withdrawn in the evening to their original line, the object of the attack having been accomplished. This withdrawal was conducted with little loss, thanks to the very effective fire of the artillery. During the bombardment and subsequent counterattack the enemy's losses must have been considerable. On the same front on the night of the 20th-21st, after bombarding the hostile positions on the Crête des Tentes, a strong detachment raided and bombed the trenches and dugouts, retiring quickly with little loss. A similar raid was carried out northeast of Doldzeli,
In addition to these operations and raids, constant combats took place between patrols, many prisoners being captured, and several bombing raids were carried out by the Royal Flying Corps.
Holding the Bulgarians In order further to assist the progress of our allies toward Monastir by maintaining such a continuous offensive as would insure no transference of Bulgarian troops from the Struma front to the west, I now issued instructions for operations on a more extensive scale than those already reported. In accordance with these the General Officer Commanding on that front commenced operations by seizing and holding certain villages on the left bank of the river with a view to enlarging the bridgehead opposite Orljak, whence he would be in a position to threaten a further movement either Seres
on Demir Hissar. The high ground on the right bank of the river enabled full use to be made of our superiority in artillery, which contributed greatly to the success of these operations. The river itself formed a potential danger, owing to the rapidity with which its waters rise after heavy rain in the mountains, but by the night of Sept. 29 sufficient bridges had been constructed by the Royal Engineers for the passage of all arms. During the night of Sept. 29-30 the attacking infantry crossed below Orljak bridge and formed up on the left bank.
At dawn on the following morning the Gloucesters and the Cameron Highlanders advanced under cover of an artillery bombardment, and by 8 A. M. had seized the village of Karadjakoi Bala. Shortly after the occupation of the village the enemy opened a heavy and accurate artillery fire, but the remaining two battalions of the brigade, the Royal Scots and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, though suffering severely from enfilade fire, pushed on against Karadjakoi Zir. By 5:30 P. M. that village also was occupied, in spite of the stubborn resistance of the enemy. Attempts to bring forward hostile reinforcements were frustrated during the day by our artillery, but during the night the Bulgarians launched several strong counterattacks, which were repulsed with heavy loss.
During the following night determined counterattacks of the enemy were again repulsed, and by the evening of Oct. 2 the position had been fully consolidated. Preparations were at once made to extend the position by the capture of Yenikoi, an important village on the main Seres road. This operation was successfully carried out by an infantry brigade, composed of the Royal Munster and Royal Dublin Fusiliers, on the morning of Oct. 3, after bombardment by our artillery. By 7 A. M. the village was in our hands. During the day the enemy launched three heavy counterattacks. The first two were stopped by artillery fire, which caused severe loss. At 4 P. M. the village, the ground in the rear, and the bridges were subjected to an unexpectedly heavy bombardment from several heavy batteries which had hitherto not disclosed their positions. Following on the bombardment was the heaviest counterattack of the day, six or seven battalions advancing from the direction of Homondos, Kalendra, and Topalova with view to enveloping our positions. This attack was carried forward with great determination, and some detachments succeeded in entering the northern portion of Yenikoi, where hard fighting continued all night, until fresh reinforcements succeeded in clearing out such enemy survived. During the following day the consolidation of our new line was continued under artillery fire. On the 5th, after a bombardment, the village of Nevolien was occupied, the Bulgarian garrison retiring on the approach of our infantry. By the following evening the front extended from Komarjan on the right via Yenikoi to Elisan on the left. On the 7th a strong reconnoissance by mounted troops located the enemy
the Demir Hissar-Seres railway, with advanced posts approximately on the line of the Belica stream and a strong garrison in Barakli Djuma. On Oct. 8 our troops had reached the line Agomah-Homondos-ElisanOrmanli, with the mounted troops on the line Kispeki-Kalendra. The enemy's casualties during these few days were heavy, over 1,500 corpses being counted in the immediate front of the captured localities. Three hundred and seventy-five prisoners and three machine guns were taken.
I consider that the success of these operations was due to the skill and decision with which they were conducted by Lieut, Gen. C. J. Briggs, C. B., and to the excellent cooperation of all arms, which was greatly assisted by the exceptional facilities for observation of artillery fire. The Royal Flying Corps, in spite of the difficulties which they had to overcome and the great strain on their resources, rendered valuable assistance. Armored motor cars were used with effect.
On the enforcement of martial law the management of the three lines of railway radiating from Saloniki had to be undertaken by the Allies; one line, the Junction-Saloniki
Constantinople, is now entirely administered by the British Army; this, together with the additional railway traffic involved by the arrival of the Serbian Army, as well as the Russian and Italian troops, has thrown a considerable strain on the railway directorate, which, however, has successfully risen to the occasion and has worked harmoniously and smoothly with the French military and Greek civil officials.
Medical Services and Malaria I desire specially to acknowledge the excellent work rendered by Surgeon Gen. H. R. Whitehead, C. B., and all ranks of the medical services under his command during a period in which sickness was prevalent. All branches of the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Canadian Army Medical Corps deserve the greatest commendation and have fully maintained their high traditions of efficiency.
The medical services have been called upon to face problems of great difficulty. It can be easily realized that in a climate varying from severe cold to intense damp heat, and in a mountainous country deficient in water, poorly supplied with roads, without local resources, and where dysentery and malaria are rife, the duties and responsibilities of these services must necessarily be heavy. Experiments as to the most efficacious types of mountain ambulance transport had been conducted in the Winter and Spring, and as a
result travois, mule litters, and cacolets now form integral portions of each field ambulance.
During the same period exhaustive measures were taken for an anti-malarial campaign. Officers with special knowledge were appointed to supervise anti-malarial work; swampy areas were drained and the defensive lines then held carefully surveyed with a view to only the most healthy portions being held. Although malaria has still been the prevailing disease, yet I feel certain that these careful precautionary measures have been greatly instrumental in lessening its intensity. The move to the valley of the Struma in June tested all the preparations made and severely tried the medical resources. The area occupied was found to be highly malarious, the heat intense and damp, and the single road from the base long, hilly, and of uneven surface. The organization of this line of evacuation and the arrangement of halting places and refilling points was, however, successfully undertaken.
On the declaration of martial law at Saloniki on June 3, certain administrative functions had necessarily to be taken over from the Greeks by the Allies; among these was the control of the customs, which is now administered by a Greek director working under the supervision of a commission composed of British and French officers directed by French Headquarters. The administration of this important office has been conducted with discretion and common sense.
“The Mad Dog of Europe” T. P. O'Connor, writing in The London Chronicle a few days after the breaking of America's diplomatic relations with Germany, offered this striking parable :
A mad dog rushes into the streets early in the morning when few people are about. Most of the citizens are still in bed. For horrible moments it has full and unchecked run; it bites here, there, everywhere. It catches the early postman and chambermaid and jumps at the baby in arms until the whole town is at last aroused and, pellmell, everybody rushes after the mad dog until at last its brains are dashed out by truncheon or rifle and the unclean and wicked thing lies on the ground with the poisonous foam still oozing from its dead and impotent lips.
This is a parable. It sums up and symbolizes to my imagination the story of Germany in this war. For years, as Lloyd George puts it in one of his great passages, she plotted to murder Europe in her sleep. Meantime she prepared herself for the devil's work by poisoning her mind and the mind of all her peoples with the devil's gospel that might alone constituted right; that war was not merely the means but the end; that the human conscience, free will, and the existence of nations should lie at the mercy of the biggest battalions and the best machine guns, and when the appropriate time was supposed to have come she burst on sleeping and unarmed Europe, foaming at the mouth with the fury of madness.
At first the mad dog was able to bite and to infect everybody and everywhere until at last the whole world woke up to the universal peril, and today the whole world, or almost the whole world, is in full pursuit of the noxious beast and its end is near at hand. America has come in to give the coup de gracefor it is quite certain America's intervention is the coup de grace.
Blame for the Dardanelles Failure
The Report of the Special Com-
issued in London, March 8, 1917, a comprehensive report by the special commission
appointed by Parliament to investigate the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign. The report is an ad interim one, dealing exclusively with the origin and inception of the attack on the Dardanelles. It is signed by the late Lord Cromer, who was Chairman of the commission; Andrew Fisher, representing Australia; Thomas McKenzie, representing New Zealand; Sir Frederick Cawley, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; James A. Clyde, Lord Advocate; Stephen L. Gwynn, Nationalist Member of the House of Commons; Rear Admiral Sir William H. May, Field Marshal Baron Nicholson, and Justice Pickford.
There were two minority reports-a dissent by Andrew Fisher, Australian High Commissioner, on one of the findings, and by Thomas McKenzie, New Zealand High Commissioner, the same; and a separate report by Walter Roch, Liberal Member of the House of Commons from Pembrokeshire.
The signing of the report was the last act performed by Lord Cromer; his death followed a few days later. There has been some discussion as to why a document revealing the inner history of an ill-fated campaign should be published by the Government in time of war, and it is charged that it was done for political effect to discredit the Asquith Administration; in fact, in the discussion in the House of Parliament a few days after it was made public, the findings of the commission were quoted as a direct reflection on the Asquith Cabinet. Some influential English newspapers have gone so far as to demand proceedings against Asquith and other members of the Cabinet responsible for the campaign.
The report is remarkable for its candor. It blames in frank terms the
late Earl Kitchener, Secretary of War; Winston Spencer Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty; Lord Fisher, then First Sea Lord; Prime Minis. ter Asquith, and other members of the War Council.
Kitchener a Dominant Force The report begins with a general synopsis of the organization of the War Cabinet calling attention to the fact that the management in November, 1914, devolved upon
a War Council of the Cabinet, consisting of Premier Asquith, Earl Kitchener, and Mr. Churchill, with Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Lloyd George, and the Marquis of Crewe, then heads of the Foreign, Treasury, and India Offices, participating, but with comparatively inactive advisory functions. Sea Lords Fisher and Wilson
with Mr. Churchill, and Chief of Staff General Murray with Earl Kitchener, theoretically as technical advisers, but in practice, according to the report, usually playing silent parts. The commission was “struck with the atmosphere of vagueness and want of precision which seems to have characterized the proceedings of the War Council.”
Mr. Churchill testified that Mr. Asquith and Earl Kitchener “settled matters," although he had the same authority. The commission thought his view was overmodest. The Cabinet as a body placed all responsibility on the council, sometimes requesting that it was not to be told of occurrences on the ground that the fewer who knew of them the better.
Earl Kitchener's dominating influence pervades the testimony. The commission says he would not impart full information of his plans, even to the War Council. His action in holding troops back for three weeks without consulting the Admiralty greatly compromised the probability of success. Mr. Churchill de