Luigi Villari.

The Macedonian campaign online

. (page 1 of 24)
Online LibraryLuigi VillariThe Macedonian campaign → online text (page 1 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ll.'iil

ill!!!!!

nam



lUIlWII.

titiUMUi.wwt



lIMHUIUHIi

imuiiuimii
tiiiUiuiUiuii

l!!l!!!]J!H;!UU)JI!i
JillilJJiiliiUHiJliiJJJJHJilH

miiiiiiiiiiiiKiiiiiJiiiiniiii



ilflllJIIIUlll!.
JfiUIIJJIJIfin

jiiiiiii:



IIJIIIJ'JJIJIJIII

jimimmuin



iliIIIlJli;}ll!Hli(!iiIilliIl!i

iiiriijOjijiiuijuuuiMMiii
Ilium

Jillill!IUii:lTU!II.'!

ijiJiimiiiii!






mill
raijn

mill!

11111:1
mini



iimriiiifiiiiJiiimiiirimiiiiiiujiJUHiiiiiiim
in. ii > hi i iiini i ii i<

lll)tlUUlj|l(!lillUl"lJli"UJUtUlUlJl)UlU.IIII

nn'iitimiMiuHiiiiiiiiiiin; ■:-,-. '

IIIIIII!
llllilll.!

It'lllll

IfltUJIIIIIlif

CI!II!!!! "!!!!! :::::!::!'!:iii!:.'ili)iJfii!Jil



THE MACEDONIAN
CAMPAIGN



THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
GIROLAMO SAVONAROLA

By Professor Pasquale Villari
Translated by Linda Villaki
Illustrated. Cloth, 8s. 6d. net



THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
NIGGOLO MACHIAVELLI

By Professor Pasquale Villari
Translated by Linda Villari
Illustrated. Cloth, 8s. 6d. net

T. FISHER UNWIN LTD LONDON




GENERAL SIR G. F. MILNE.



FrontUpiece.



THE MACEDONIAN

CAMPAIGN By LUIGI

VILLARI With Illustrations and Maps



\ «



T. FISHER UNWIN LTD

LONDON: ADELPHI TERRACE



First published in English 1922



(All rights reserved)



PREFATORY NOTE

The operations of the Allied forces, and in particular
those of the Italian contingent in Macedonia, are less
well known than those of almost any other of the many
campaigns into which the World War is subdivided.
There have already been several published accounts of
it in English and French, but these works have dealt
almost exclusively with the action of the British or
French contingent, and are mostly of a polemical or
journalistic character ; very little has been written
about the other Allied forces, or about the campaign
as a whole. Owing to the position which I held
for two years as Italian liaison officer with the various
Allied Commands in the East, I have been able to collect
a good deal of unpublished material on the subject, and I
felt that it might be useful to give a consecutive account
of these events, correcting many inaccuracies which
have been spread about. The book was written origin-
ally in Italian, and dealt in particular detail with the
operations of the Italian expeditionary force. In the
present English edition I have omitted certain details
concerning the Italian force, which were of less interest
for a non-Italian public, while I have added some further
material of a general character, which I only obtained
since the Italian edition was written.

The published authoritative and reliable sources for
the history of the Macedonian campaign are very few.
A bibliography is appended. Besides my own notes



6 PREFATORY NOTE

and recollections of the events, set down day by day,
and the records of various conversations which I had
with the chief actors in the Balkan war drama, I must
acknowledge the valuable assistance afforded to me by
various Italian and foreign officers and officials. My
especial thanks are due to the following :

General Petitti di Roreto, for information on the
events of the early period of the campaign ;

General Ernesto Mombelli, who supplied me with a
great deal of useful information and advice on the latter
period ;

Colonel Vitale, under whom I worked for some time,
and who first instructed me in the duties of a liaison
officer ;

Colonel Fenoglietto, who kindly provided a part of
the photographs reproduced in the book ;

Commendatore Fracassetti, director of the Museo del
Risorgimento in Rome, who kindly placed a large number
of photographs at my disposal, authorizing me to make
use of them ;

Captain Harold Goad, British liaison officer with the
Italian force from soon after its landing at Salonica until
it was broken up in the summer of 1919, who supplied
me with many details concerning the topography of
the Italian area of the Macedonian front, which he
knew stone by stone, and his notes and recollections of
many political and military episodes. Few men have
done such admirable and disinterested work in favour
of good relations between Britain and Italy, both during
and after the war, as this officer, who was most
deservedly decorated with the Italian silver medal for
valour in the field.

L. V.



CONTENTS



PAGE

PREFATORY NOTE 5

CHAPTER

I. INTRODUCTION REASONS FOR THE MACEDONIAN CAM-
PAIGN AND FOR THE PARTICIPATION OF ITALY.
POLITICAL INTRIGUES AND FIRST MILITARY OPERA-
TIONS 11

II. OPERATIONS IN THE SUMMER AND AUTUMN OF 1916 . 36

III. THE COMMAND OF THE ALLIED ARMIES IN THE ORIENT.

THE FRENCH TROOPS 56

IV. THE BRITISH SALONICA FORCE 68

V. THE SERBIANS 85

VI. THE ITALIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE .... 96

VII. OPERATIONS IN THE WINTER AND SPRING OF 1917 . 118

VIII. GREEK AFFAIRS 137

IX. SALONICA AND THE WAY THITHER 157

X. IRRITATION AGAINST GENERAL SARRAIL . . . .171

XI. FROM THE SALONICA FIRE TO THE RECALL OF SARRAIL 179

XII. GENERAL GUILLAUMAT 191

XIII. MARKING TIME. ARRIVAL OF GENERAL FRANCHET

D'ESPFOREY 199

XIV. ON THE EVE OF THE OFFENSIVE 211

7



8 CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

XV. THE BATTLE OF THE BALKANS 225

XVI. FINAL OPERATIONS 255



APPENDIX A. LETTER FROM VOIVOD MICHICH TO GENERAL
PETITTI DI RORETO CONCERNING THE FIGHTING ON
HILL 1050 IN FEBRUARY 1917 271

APPENDIX B. LOSSES OF THE BELLIGERENTS DURING THE

MACEDONIAN CAMPAIGN 272

APPENDIX C. GENERAL FRANCHET d'eSPEREY'S TELEGRAM TO
THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT CONCERNING THE ARMISTICE
NEGOTIATIONS WITH BULGARIA 273

APPENDIX D. ARMISTICE BETWEEN THE ALLIES AND BULGARIA,

SIGNED AT SALONICA ON SEPTEMBER 29, 1918 . . 274

BIBLIOGRAPHY 277

INDEX 279



ILLUSTRATIONS



general sir. g. f. milne Frontispiece

TO FACE PAGE
GENERAL ERNESTO MOMBELLI, COMMANDER OF THE ITALIAN

EXPEDITIONARY FORCE IN MACEDONIA .... 10

ARCH OF GALERUS, SALONICA 20

GENERAL LEBLOIS BIDDING FAREWELL TO GENERAL PETITTI AT

TEPAVCI 38

LANDING OF ITALIAN TROOPS AT SALONICA 38

CHURCH OF ST. GEORGE, SALONICA 58

TRANSPORT IN WINTER 62

THE ALLIED LIAISON OFFICERS AT G.H.Q., SALONICA. . . 62

THE AUTHOR 76

GENERAL MOMBELLI INAUGURATING A SCHOOL FOR SERB

CHILDREN BUILT BY ITALIAN SOLDIERS AT BROD . . 88

ITALIAN BRIDGE OVER THE CERNA AT BROD .... 88

THE BAND OF THE 35TII DIVISION PLAYING IN THE PLACE DE LA

LIBERTE AT SALONICA 102

GENERAL GUILLAUMAT VISITS GENERAL MOMBELLI AT TEPAVCI . 102

CAMP NEAR THE PARALOVO MONASTERY 122

II. Q. OF AN INFANTRY REGIMENT ON HILL 1050 . . . 122

HELIOGRAPH IN A CAVERN ON HILL 1050 126

ROCK-PERFORATING MACHINE ON HILL 1050 .... 126

CAMP UNDER THE PITON BRULE 134

ITALIAN NATIONAL FESTIVAL (THE RTATUTO) AT SAKULEVO.

HIGH MASS 134

HILL 1075 : ARTILLERY CAMP 140

ARTILLERY O.P. . 140

THE GREEK NATIONAL FESTIVAL ON APRIL 7, 1917 : M. VENI-

ZELOS LEAVING THE CHURCH OF S. SOPHIA, SALONICA . 158

9



10



ILLUSTRATIONS



TO FACE PAGE
KING ALEXANDER OF GREECE VISITS A FRENCH CAMP . .158

A FLOODED ROAD 172

LEAVE PARTY FROM MACEDONIA ON TIIE SANTI QUARANTA ROAD 172

{Photograph by Lieut. Landini.)

BULGARIAN PRISONERS 180

IN THE " CASTELLETTO " TRENCHES 180

THE SALONICA FIRE, NIGHT FROM AUGUST 18 TO 19, 1917 . 192

CAMP OF THE lllTH FLIGHT : ITALIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 192

CRASHED ITALIAN AEROPLANE 246

COMMUNICATION TRENCHES IN THE MEGLENTZI VALLEY . . 246

CRASHED GERMAN AEROPLANE 250

GENERAL FRANCHET D'ESPEREY DECORATING GENERALS MILNE

AND MOMBELLI 250

AFTER THE VICTORY : ENEMY PRISONERS 256

GERMAN PRISONERS CAPTURED BY THE ITALIANS ON HILL 1050 262

HILL 1050 I HOURS OF REST 262

MONUMENT TO THE FALLEN OF THE 161 ST ITALIAN REGIMENT

ON VRATA HILL 264



MAPS



AREA OF THE ITALIAN FORCE ....

AREA OF THE BRITISH XII CORPS .

AREA OF THE FRANCO-SERB GROUP

ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE, SEPTEMBER 15, 1918

THE PRILEP-KRUSHEVO AREA i

GR-SICO-BULGARIAN FRONTIER •



104
129

213
227
236
242




GENERAL ERNESTO MOMBELLI, COMMANDER OF THE ITALIAN EXPEDITIONARY

FORCE IN MACEDONIA.



To face p. 10.



The Macedonian Campaign



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

REASONS FOR THE MACEDONIAN CAMPAIGN AND FOR THE
PARTICIPATION OF ITALY. POLITICAL INTRIGUES AND
FIRST MILITARY OPERATIONS.

The great victory of our army on the Italian front with
which the war came to an end made the Italian public
almost forget the deeds achieved by Italian troops on other
fronts, and particularly in Macedonia. This has happened
not only in Italy ; even France and Britain, who had far
larger contingents in Macedonia than ours, do not seem to
have appreciated at their full value the operations in that
area. There was a whole school of strategists, professional
and amateur, competent and incompetent, known as the
' Westerners," who desired that everv effort should be
concentrated exclusively on the French and Italian fronts,
and that the operations on the various Eastern fronts
should be neglected or even abandoned altogether. Until
the Balkan offensive of September 1918, that front, in the
opinion of the great majority of the public and even in
that of many political and military circles, was of small
importance ; according to the pure " Westerners," the
Salonica expedition was an error in its very origin, and a
useless dispersion of troops who might have been more
usefully employed elsewhere. There were even those who
maintained the necessity of withdrawing the troops already
sent to the East, and others who, although they did not
go quite so far, were opposed to any increase of the forces
in Macedonia, and even objected to their being provided

with the necessary reinforcements and materials.

n



12 INTRODUCTION

In support of this view it must be admitted that the
Salonica expedition absorbed a vast quantity of tonnage,
at a moment when tonnage in all the Entente countries
was dangerously scarce, and when the voyage between
England, France, Italy and Macedonia was extremely
risky on account of submarines. It is also true that for
about three years that expedition produced no tangible
results ; so much so that the Germans called it with
ironical satisfaction their largest concentration camp,
" an enemy army, prisoner of itself."

Yet it was with the victorious offensive of September,
1918, that the Entente struck the first knock-down blow
at the Central Powers and produced the first real breach
in the enemy barrier which helped the armies in France and
Italy to achieve final victory. Even Marshal von
Ludendorff, in his memoirs, recognized the enormous
importance of the Allied victory in the Balkans. Until
September 15th, 1918, in fact, the enemy's line of chief
resistance from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier, from
the Stelvio to the mouth of the Piave, from the Voyussa
to the Struma, was intact. When the Balkan front
collapsed, the whole of the rest of the enemy front in the
West as in the East was threatened by a vast encircling
movement, the moral effect of which was not less serious
than its material consequences.

But it was not only at the moment of the victorious
offensive that the Eastern expedition justified itself. Even
in the preceding period of long and enervating suspense,
the presence of the Allied armies in Macedonia had an im-
portance which was far from indifferent with regard to the
general economy of the war. Owing to causes which we
shall subsequently examine, the Army of the Orient 1 had
not been able to carry out the task originally assigned to
it of bringing aid to invaded Serbia and saving her from
her extreme ruin, and it was therefore believed that that
army had no longer any raison d'etre. The truth, however,
is very different, because for months and years it mounted
guard in the Balkans, preventing the Central Empires

1 The official designation of the Macedonian force was " Allied Armies
in the Orient," but it was often abbreviated to "Army of the Orient."



REASONS FOR THE MACEDONIAN CAMPAIGN 13

from reaching Salonica and invading Old Greece, 1 where
they might have established innumerable new submarine
bases and thus dominated the whole of the Eastern
Mediterranean. This would have rendered any traffic
with Egypt and consequently with India and Australia
practically impossible, that is to say, with some of the most
important sources of supply for the whole of the Entente
and particularly for Italy. If the Army of the Orient
was enmeshed amidst the marshes and arid rocks of
Macedonia, on the other hand that Army nailed down the
whole of the Bulgarian Army, consisting of close on three-
quarters of a million men, 2 amply provided with artillery
both Bulgarian and German, throughout the whole of
the war, and for a time certain German and Turkish
divisions as well, forces which might themselves have
been employed elsewhere. Incidentally, the operations in
Albania against the Austrians could not have been
maintained without the support of the Army of the Orient
on its right.

In Italy, perhaps more than elsewhere, the advantages
of the Macedonian expedition were doubted, and in many
political and military circles, as well as among the mass of
the public, the current of opinion was opposed to any
Italian participation in the operations of that sector.
Even when Italian participation had been decided upon,
and the Italian expeditionary force was actually in
Macedonia, it was not always possible for it to obtain all
that it needed, and the command had to struggle hard to
obtain the indispensable minimum of reinforcements and
materials. Even among the officers of that force, many
considered Italian intervention in the East useless and
even harmful. Various reasons contributed to this opinion.
In the first place, the fact that Italy's war aims were
at the gates of Italy and not in the Balkans influenced
public feeling in general. Secondly, the fact that our
expeditionary force was in a subordinate position seemed

1 I use the expression " Old Greece " to indicate the territory of the
Greek Kingdom as it was before the acquisition of Southern Macedonia
in consequence of the Balkan War of 1912-13.

2 It is not true, as is generally believed, that Bulgarian units were
employed on other fronts except in Roumania.



14 INTRODUCTION

to many to be derogatory to Italian dignity ; a feeling
which may be compared with the one that the war with
Austria was in a certain sense apart from the general
World War. This attitude, which lasted to the end, has
been very injurious to our interests in the Balkans and
elsewhere, and those among us who really felt the inter-
Allied character of the war have had to struggle without
ceasing both to convince our dissident compatriots of
their error, and to prove to the Allies that those who
maintained the purely Italian character of the war only
represented a part of Italian public opinion, and that part
not the best informed.

Yet Italy's participation in the Eastern expedition was
inevitable. Independently of boundary questions of a
general character, it was not possible that Italy should
remain absent from that area, which subsequent events
have proved to be extremely important. Even before the
war we had great political and economic interests in the
Balkans, interests in part destroyed and in part menaced
by the Austrians and Germans in the course of the
campaign ; it was absolutely necessary that we ourselves
should participate in reconstructing them, instead of leaving
this work entirely to others. Further, in the new settle-
ment which the war would create in the Near East, fresh
interests and new currents of trade were bound to be
created. For this reason too it was necessary that Italy
by her presence should participate directly in shaping this
new settlement. We complain now that our interests
in the East are not sufficiently recognized and respected,
but how could we have claimed recognition and respect for
them if we had had no share at all in the Macedonian
campaign ? Above all, what would have been our prestige
among the Balkan peoples if the latter had seen the vic-
torious troops of France, Britain, Serbia and even Greece
marching past, and not those of Italy ? Our victory in
Italy would not have sufficed to affirm our position among
the Balkan peoples if they had not seen us J;ake part in
the victor}^ won in their own homelands. It would indeed
have been better if our participation had been far greal er
and our expeditionary force on a far larger scale.



ITALY'S PARTICIPATION 15

The vicissitudes of the Army of the Orient are much
less known than those of all the other armies in the World
War, and in particular those of the Italian expeditionary
force are largely ignored by the public, even in Italy.
Many believe that it was merely a modest contingent,
because it was called the " 35th Infantry Division,"
whereas in reality its strength was superior to that of an
army corps ; and considering the conditions of the area
where it was fighting, its importance was equal to that of
an army. It is with the object of making known to the
public a little more of the actions of that hue unit and the
debt of gratitude which the country owes to its officers
and men for their long and arduous struggle, conducted
in one of the most pestilent climates in Europe amid great
hardship, and the increase of Italy's prestige obtained by
their merit, that I have undertaken to write these pages.

When the W T orld War broke out, Austria immediately
commenced an offensive against Serbia, and the Entente
Powers could not at first send assistance to the latter on
account of her geographical situation, as she was sur-
rounded on all sides by enemy or neutral States, except
to the south-west, but communications through Montenegro
were extremely difficult, and by that route only a few
volunteers penetrated into Serbia. Supplies and armies
could arrive by way of Salonica, but always in the face
of serious difficulties, both on account of the obstruction
offered by Greece, whose neutrality was not benevolent,
and of the attempts made by Bulgarian bands, with or
without the approval of the Sofia Government, which was
also neutral but still less benevolent, to cut the Vardar
railway. The Serbians, however, had proved themselves
in the first months of the war capable of defending their
country, and they inflicted serious defeats on the Austrians,
first at Tzer, in the loop formed by the Save and the Danube,
in September, 1914, and later on in the winter at Valievo,
where the hostile army, after having occupied Belgrade
and penetrated into the heart of Serbia, was beaten and
put to flight, leaving thousands of prisoners and vast booty
in the hands of the Serbians.



16 INTRODUCTION

Nevertheless the Serbians were in urgent need of
assistance. Their food situation was still very grave,
their supply of arms and munitions quite inadequate, and
a terrible epidemic of spotted typhus was raging throughout
the country. But in addition to material obstacles, the
very psychology of the people rendered it difficult to assist
them. In the spring of 1915, when the intervention of
Italy was certain, the Serbs had a chance of inflicting a
new and perhaps decisive defeat on the Austrians by
co-operating with us. France, Great Britain, and Russia
then brought strong pressure to bear on the Serbian
Government to induce it to launch an offensive in the
direction of Agram at the moment when the Italians were
about to attack on the Isonzo. The Government agreed,
and submitted a plan of operations to the Allies, which
was approved, but just when it should have been put into
execution, the Serbian Army did not move ; as a result
of fresh pressure on the part of the Allies the Government
again promised to attack, but again did nothing. Finally,
when this pressure was renewed for the third time, rein-
forced, it is said, by a personal letter from the Tsar, Belgrade
replied at the last moment that it had decided not to
attack in the direction of Croatia, because it wished to carry
out another plan against Bulgaria, who was still neutral !
The reasons for this sudden change in the decisions of the
Serbian Government must be sought in the influence of
the secret societies which permeate the whole political life
of the country, and especially the army. The most
important of these societies was the notorious " Black
Hand," to which many of the regicide officers belonged.
Although the Government itself was apparently favourable
to the action proposed by the Entente, which offered
great possibilities of success, inasmuch as the Austrians
had only a small body of troops in Croatia, it was
not strong enough to resist the influence of the secret
societies, who placed their veto on any action in co-opera-
tion with Italy. 1 The full details of this affair are not

1 From private sources of information. See also in this connexion,
Une Episode de Drame Serbe, by Senator M. Sarraut and Lieut. -Colonel
Revol (Paris, IJachette 1919), passim,



THE SERBS 17

quite clear, but one thing is certain, and that is that owing
to Serbia's inaction Austria was able to withdraw five out
of the six divisions which were left on the Save and send
them to the Italian front. At that period of the war the
Serbian front was considered in the Austrian Army almost
as a rest camp.

In the autumn of 1915 the Serbian debacle took place,
caused chiefly by the Bulgarian attack. The intervention
of Turkey on the side of the Central Empires had rendered
Bulgaria's position extremely difficult, but that was not
the chief reason of the latter's intervention. Bulgaria
had remained profoundly dissatisfied with the results of
the Peace of Bucarest (1913), which brought the Turko-
Balkan War to an end and deprived her of a great part of
the fruits of her victory against the Turks. The fault was
to a large extent her own, because she had attacked her
ex-Allies, Serbia and Greece, and had been completely
defeated by them; she then lost not only the whole of
Macedonia, to conquer which she had entered the war,
but also Eastern Thrace, with Adrianople and Kirk-
Kilisse, which were reoccupied by the Turks when the
Bulgarian Army had been beaten by the Serbs and Greeks,
and a part of Dobrugia which had belonged to her since
the creation of the Bulgarian State in 1878, and had been
annexed by Roumania, who had intervened in the war
at the last moment. This left a bitter feeling of spite in
the soul of the Bulgarians, and sowed the seeds of a future
war of revenge.

This violent irritation against the Serbs, Greeks and
Roumanians was not the only cause which threw the
Bulgarians into the arms of the Central Empires, and of
their former mortal enemies, the Turks. Their main
aspiration — almost their only one since the creation of the
Bulgarian State — has been Macedonia. The Dobrugia and
Thrace are of comparatively small interest to them,
whereas Macedonia, on the contrary, is the bourne of all
their desires. In Thrace and in the Dobrugia the popula-
tion is very mixed, and the Bulgarians, in spite of the
statistics drawn up by the Sofia Government, are a minority,
and the non-Bulgarian elements of the population — Turks,

2



18 INTRODUCTION

Greeks, Roumanians — are racially entirely different. In
Macedonia, on the other hand, at least in Central and
Northern Macedonia, the great majority is Slav, and the
Bulgarians consider it Bulgarian. In reality the population
is racially and linguistically something between Serbian
and Bulgarian, and the predominance of Serbian or Bul-
garian sentiments varies according to the proximity of the
frontier of one or other of these States, the activity of their
respective propagandists, and the greater or less prestige
and strength of the two Governments. I will not quote
statistics which, being drawn up by Balkan writers, have
a doubtful value and no scientific basis, but it is certain
that the Bulgarian peoples are convinced that if Macedonia
were annexed to Bulgaria, in a few years the population
would become wholly Bulgarian, so that the State would
find itself with a considerable increase of inhabitants —
not aliens who cannot be assimilated, such as Greeks,
Roumanians or Turks, whose territories can only be Bul-
garized by massacre or deportation en masse, but of a
race which is already very closely akin to the Bulgarian
race. Further, in Macedonia there are several cities
closely connected with the most ancient and sacred
historical traditions of the Bulgarian peoples, such as
Monastir and Ochrida. The latter was indeed for a time
the capital of the Bulgarian Empire and for many centuries
the see of the Bulgarian patriarchate. Bulgarian pro-
paganda had always been much more active and more



Online LibraryLuigi VillariThe Macedonian campaign → online text (page 1 of 24)