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THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS,
1914-191
of the Bulgarians being in fact on the crest of the high and
precipitous Belashitza Planina. Yet, if the enemy's main line was
five miles away from the British outposts, the villages in the valley
were held by the Bulgarians in some strength.
So until the end of January, 1917, the 12th Battalion found
themselves afforded a respite in surroundings less
grim
than the
bare rocks and battered trenches of the Doiran front. Battalion
headquarters ,",:as established in the Greek frontier fort of Dova
Tepe, and the ,\-'ire and trenches-what there was of either in the
extended line-ran through thick cover on the wooded hills. The
Italians of those day, while light-hearted about such subjects as
wiring and sanitation, knew how to make themselves comfortable,
and the battalion probably spent its best Christmas of the war
in
their thatched an d sandbagged shelters behind the company
positions.
While no serious action was carried out on this front , patrolling
was active in the extensive and broken No Man's Land, and the
brigade undertook an interesting operation early in January. The
object of the raid was to surround the village of Akinjali and
prevent the escape of the garrison. All four battalions of the brigade
supplied parties, which were supported by five and a half batteries of
artillery, including one French 155-millimetre battery. All the
objectives were taken, but only four prisoners were captured, and
the withdrawal was effected with little loss.
Soon after this the brigade was relieved and the battalion was
back in its old surroundings on the Doiran front by the end of
January.
SPRING,
1917
It
was soon clear that neither side intended to rest quietly in
their trenches in the new year, and the enemy quickly showed that
he had brought fresh weapons into the field.
Hitherto the activity in the air had been restricted by both sides
to reconnaissance and occasional bombing by single machines; but
on 27th February the battalion War Diary reports that twenty enemy
machines flew over the camp in Glencoe Ravine. This was the
disastrous raid that went down the Vardar to Salonika and bombed
Summer Hill Camp, the big reinforcement centre north of Salonika,
causing nearly three hundred casualties. The Germans had estab–
lished in secrecy a fast and well-trained bombing squadron at
Hudova, and caused the British R.F.C. much trouble until they
disappeared to another front
in
May of 1917.
On 17th March the War Diary reports as follows: "Enemy
shelled Lothian Ravine at night very heavily with gas shells." This
was the first use of gas by the enemy and was part of a general
bombardment on the front of the 22nd Division. Several thousand
rounds were fired, but casualties were not high except in one
brigade, which lost 164, of whom 103 were from gas poisoning. The
battalion was fortunate. Although only equipped with the old