Page 484 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

Basic HTML Version

MACEDONIA
447
good- progress that the danger of a Bulgarian attack had greatly
diminished, and the British could draw breath and take stock
of the country where the fortune of war had strangely sent them.
No happy glance was theirs.
In front lay
grim
Macedonia; barren, mountainous, and
devastated by years of Balkan wars: no amenities here for the
soldier, such as existed even
in
France; no estaminets, no leave
trains to Blighty. "Quel pays!" feelingly remarked a French
colonel, "pas de pain, pas de vin, pas de femmes! QueUe misere 1"
Behind was Salonika, meagre link with civilization, and, at that ,
unapproached by the man of the line, and but rarely seen by the
regimental officer, sent to buy such small luxuries as he could find
for his company mess. Relaxation of a sort could certainly be found
there, and was eagerly snatched by "'ar-bitten youth; a tawdry
music-hall seemed gay after stony hillsides, but the tawdryness was
more notable than the gaiety; and in the words of the Official
Historian, the very women of pleasure were the last reserves of the
Army of Aphrodite.
True, the Salonika Force was spared in great measure the battle
casualties of France, but two years of hardship, disease and little
leave or relaxation bit deeply enough into its memories.
To
THE FRONTIER
By the end of February,
1916,
it was clear that the enemy no
longer contemplated an attack on Salonika, and it was only in the
air that he had crossed the frontier.
A considerable portion of the German troops in Serbia had been
withdrawn, and, moreover, the strength of the "Birdcage" defences
furnished a strong argument against aggression. Falkenhayn, in
supreme command in the Balkans, had no nebulous war aims, such
as sometimes embarrassed Allied strategy, and contented himself
with occupying strong positions on the frontier or just across it.
This was the time of severe German pressure on Verdun, and the
Allied command decided that the future role of the Salonika Force
should be to undertake a general offensive in the summer. Mean–
while their immediate duty was to reorganize for mountain warfare,
and to threaten the enemy with an early attack, to prevent him
from detaching troops to other fronts.
To conform with this general plan, the British troops moved up
in May,
1916,
to occupy what has been described as the outer
perimeter of the Salonika fortress.
The line as established, and as it was to exist until the final
advance, ran from the
gulf
of Orfano, up the valley of the Struma,
along the Krusha Balkan ridge to Lake Doiran, and thence to the
River Vardar, where touch was gained with the French "Armee
d'Orient."
The sector of the greatest importance, and the scene of the
bittexest fighting, was that between Lake Doiran and the Vardar,