Page 483 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS, I9I4-I9I8
troops on the left flank were similarly engaged, and some of their
regiments, unable to follow the lines of retreat laid down, were
compelled to mingle with the retreating Irish, and soon the only
road, a narrow causeway between the town of Doiran and the lake,
became seriously congested with disorganized troops and transport.
Severe cold in the mountains and lack of winter equipment (the IOth
Division had landed in their Gallipoli khaki) added to the trials and
diminished the endurance of the hard-pressed soldiers.
To cover this retirement, the 65th Brigade took up a rear-guard
position on IIth December with their right flank on the lake;
the 12th Lancashire Fusiliers being on the right of the line. The
enemy did not approach the position, but there was some long–
range shelling by their artillery, and a French battery found some
distant targets on the forward slopes of the recently evacuated
positions.
The brigade was to be relieved by French troops that night, but
at 8.30 p.m. the brigadier was told that "Everybody was retiring,"
and, finding by the masses of French troops on the road that this
report was correct, obtained authority to withdraw to Greek
territory south of Lake Doiran during the night.
Most of the brigade withdrew without interference, although the
Lancashire Fusiliers who were in rear were mixed up with the
French and refugees and were reduced to moving in single file along
the causeway beside the lake; where a single machine gun could
have worked havoc on men and animals crushed in a bottle-neck a
mile long and a few feet wide.
By daylight on 12th December the whole British force which
had entered Serbia was back in Greece, and the Bulgarian advanced
guards were halted on the frontier.
THE ENTRENCHED
CAMP
Although the enemy had halted, there was no guarantee that he
might not resume his advance, and the Allies began hastily to
fortify a position which became known as the entrenched camp of
Salonika, or, from the immense quantity of barbed wire that was
erected, "the Birdcage." This position stretched from the gulf of
Orfano (or Rendina), forty miles east of Salonika, to the Vardar,
and was of great natural strength. Four British divisions were now
in line, with the 22nd Division on the left; and for some weeks the
12th Battalion worked on the important key-point of "the Matter–
horn," close to Daudli, linking up with the French on the left of the
British line.
Work proceeded under arduous conditions, the rocky ground
blunting the picks, and a bitter blast known as the Vardar wind
sweeping for days at a time from the snow-clad Balkans and cutting
through even the sheepskin jerkins which, with other winter
necessities, were now arriving for the hitherto ill-provided troops.
By the early days of January the Allied defences had made such