SALONIKA CAMPAIGNS 1915-18. Under the head ing SERBIAN CAMPAIGNS the collapse and subjugation of Serbia in 1915 is related in this work. The present article describes the campaigns in Salonika which formed the sequel to this Allied disaster.
Although undertaken for political objects—to bring relief to a hard-pressed ally and to check the influence of Germany in the Balkans—the Salonika campaigns were ultimately crowned by the first decisive military success of the World War. For on the Macedonian front the continent-wide trench barriers of the Cen tral Powers were first breached beyond repair, and there too was knocked away the first national prop—Bulgaria—of the Germanic alliance. To disentangle cause from effect is difficult where moral, military and economic threads are so closely interwoven as in the years 1914-18, yet the fact at least stands out that the overthrow of Bulgaria began the series of national capitulations which ended with that of Germany on Nov. 11,1918.
If Salonika was for several years an unproductive field of mili tary effort, an infringement of the law of economy of force, which in some measure justified the German gibe that it was their largest concentration camp—"an enemy army, prisoner of itself" —the historian, when weighing his verdict, must throw the counterpoise of 1918 into the scales. And not this only, for it must be remembered that the Allied occupation of the Salonika front made possible the rebuilding of the Serbian army—from the ragged and disorganized survivors of the 1915 winter retreat through Albania to the well-equipped and irresistible force which broke through the Vardar front in Sept. 1918. On the credit side also must be set the fact that the Salonika expedition prevented the danger that Greece might become a submarine base for the Central Powers, one which would have lain in deadly proximity to the British artery of communication with the East via the Suez Canal. And again, that the Allied force contained the bulk of the Bulgarian army—although it is perhaps doubtful whether these would have placed their services at Germany's disposal for any front more remote from their homeland.
Although the Salonika expedition was the immediate outcome of the Serbian debacle of Sept.–Oct. 1915, the idea had an earlier origin. For Salonika was not only the one feasible channel of Allied communication with and supply to Serbia, but that front offered a possible strategic flank for attack once the trench line on the western front had been welded into a seemingly impenetrable barrier. As far back as 1914, British and French naval missions, with guns, had been sent to support the Serbians, and they had also been supplied with munitions by the Salonika route. The question, too, had been mooted of a larger employment of mili tary force in that theatre, but British commitments at Gallipoli led to this project being shelved—until the Bulgarian mobilization for war on the side of the Central Powers.
Throughout the summer of 1915 the two warring coalitions had been bidding for intervention on the part of the Bulgarians, and in this diplomatic bargaining the Entente suffered a moral and a material handicap—the first, their obvious failure at the Dardanelles; the second, Serbia's reluctance to concede any part of Bulgarian Macedonia, which she had seized as her share of the spoils of the second Balkan war of 1913. As this was the one prize on which the Bulgarians had set their heart, and as Austria had nothing to deter her from offering territory that belonged to her enemy—Serbia—the Entente offers failed to attract Bulgaria. Her intervention on the opposite side meant that free communi cation could be easily established between Germany and Turkey, and as a consequence that the Entente forces on the Gallipoli peninsula were imminently menaced.