The Forgotten Front

The Macedonian Campaign, 1915-1918

Jon B. Lewis

The defeat of Bulgaria following a whirlwind offensive on the Macedonian Front in September 1918 played a significant part in bringing the War to a close within the year. The Forgotten Front tells the full story of the much-neglected Macedonian Campaign from its hesitant origins to its triumphant conclusion.
Date Published :
January 2023
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
62 b/w photos, 13 b/w maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915113733
Pages : 332
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : In stock


The Macedonian Campaign has been largely ignored by history. Such neglect is misplaced. The annals of the First World War hold few events to compare with the triumphant final offensive of the Allied Army of the East, and the whole story of the campaign is rich, diverse, and relevant.

Almost accidental in its origins the reality of a six-nation Allied army gradually took shape. The terrain fought over, from marshy river valleys to 2,000 meter mountain ranges, presented special military challenges. The ambivalent position of Greece, the Romanian misadventure, the intricacy of Balkan politics, the depredations of malaria, and inter-allied tensions both in Macedonia and at Allied government level all added further layers of complexity. But in the end the Allied Army of the East met its defensive objectives and vastly exceeded its offensive ones.

The campaign had its origins in October 1915 when a small Franco–British force disembarked at Salonica, with orders to advance into Serbia to aid the beleaguered Serbs. It was too late, but a large part of the Serbian Army escaped to the Adriatic. Reconstituted into six divisions it was subsequently shipped to Salonica to form part of an Allied force of 15 divisions under the command of General Maurice Sarrail. By the end of 1916 the Allied Army of the East, with contingents also from Italy and Russia, had expanded into 20 divisions.

Apart from tying down a substantial Germano–Bulgarian army, the Allied army’s objectives were to prevent the Central Powers from breaking into Greece, to bring Greece and its army into the Allied camp, and, above all, to prepare for actions and advances into Bulgaria and enemy-held Serbia from the south.

While the first two of these objectives were met, territorial gains in 1916 and 1917 were limited. The Serbians consolidated a strong position to the west of the Moglena mountain range, and with the French advanced into Serbia as far as Monastir. The British fought successful actions in the Struma valley but suffered costly reverses against the virtually impregnable Bulgarian defenses west of Lake Doiran on two occasions.

Then in 1918 a key leadership change was made with the appointment of General Franchet d’Espèrey. In September under his dynamic command French and Serbian forces finally punched their way through the Bulgarian lines in the center of the Moglena mountains, and, supported by a Franco–Italian force on their left and a British–Greek force on their right, advanced at a phenomenal pace towards the upper Vardar and Skopje, splitting the enemy forces into two. Within 15 days the Bulgarians capitulated. This was followed shortly and inevitably by an armistice with Turkey. While the First World War was won and lost on the Western Front, the defeat of Bulgaria in September 1918 and the relentless advance of the Allied Army towards the undefended Danube frontier played a critical role, recognized also by the German High Command, in bringing the war to a close before the end of the year.

About The Author

Jon Lewis read English at Cambridge and then taught for three years in foreign universities before joining the British motor industry. Most of his business career was spent in continental Europe, with assignments in Belgium, Germany, France, and finally Italy where he was awarded the OBE for services to British commercial interests. Since retiring he has completed research programs and writing projects on a wide range of subjects. His interest in the Macedonian Campaign began with the discovery of his grandfather’s war diary, and spread out from there. He and his wife Josée now live in France, and continue to travel widely.

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