Struma operation

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Struma operation (to the south) Bulgaria during World War I.png
Struma operation (to the south)

The Struma operation was the occupation of a part of northeastern mainland Greece by the Bulgarian army, during the First World War between 17–23 August 1916. It was named after the Struma (Strymonas) river.

Contents

Background

In August 1916 Romania chose to join the war effort on the side of the Allies. The Allies planned a large offensive in the Macedonian Front for the middle of August in order to support Romania's entry in the war and pin down as many Bulgarian forces as possible. The Bulgarian high command suspected an impending offensive and the fighting around Doiran that erupted on 9 August only confirmed these suspicions. On their part the Bulgarians had urged for an offensive in Macedonia since the beginning of the year and now planned a strike with the First Army and Second Army on both Allied flanks.

Romania Sovereign state in Europe

Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the southeast, Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, and Moldova to the east. It has a predominantly temperate-continental climate. With a total area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 sq mi), Romania is the 12th largest country and also the 7th most populous member state of the European Union, having almost 20 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, and other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, and Brașov.

Macedonian Front part of the Balkans Theatre of WWI

The Macedonian Front, also known as the Salonica Front, was a military theatre of World War I formed as a result of an attempt by the Allied Powers to aid Serbia, in the fall of 1915, against the combined attack of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The expedition came too late and in insufficient force to prevent the fall of Serbia, and was complicated by the internal political crisis in Greece. Eventually, a stable front was established, running from the Albanian Adriatic coast to the Struma River, pitting a multinational Allied force against the Bulgarian Army, which was at various times bolstered with smaller units from the other Central Powers. The Macedonian Front remained quite stable, despite local actions, until the great Allied offensive in September 1918, which resulted in the capitulation of Bulgaria and the liberation of Serbia.

In the beginning of August 1916 three French and one British divisions with 45,000 men and 400 guns launched an offensive against the Bulgarian positions at Lake Dojran, defended by the Second Thracian Infantry Division. The attack began on 9 August with heavy artillery fire on the positions of the 27th Chepino Regiment and 9th Plovdiv Regiment. All four attacks that followed - on 10, 15, 16 and 18 August were repulsed by the Second division and the Allies were forced to retreat to their original positions with heavy casualties.

On the western flank, the Chegan Offensive resulted in the conquest of Florina, but the First Army failed to take Chegan (today Agios Athanasios).

Florina Place in Greece

Florina is a town and municipality in the mountainous northwestern Macedonia, Greece. Its motto is, 'Where Greece begins'.

Agios Athanasios, Pella Place in Greece

Agios Athanasios is a village in the Pella regional unit of Macedonia, Greece. The village is located north of Lake Vegoritida within the Vegoritida municipal unit which belongs to the municipality of Edessa. In August 1916 Bulgarian and Serbian forces fought near the village during the Chegan Offensive.

The plan on the eastern flank was to seize the Drama-Komotini railway and this objective was given to the Bulgarian Second Army and the 10th Aegean Division. For the operation general Todorov could rely on 58 battalions, 116 machine guns, 57 artillery batteries and 5 cavalry squadrons in his army and an additional 25 battalions, 24 machine guns, 31 batteries and 5 squadrons in the 10th Division.

The Bulgarian Second Army was a Bulgarian field army during the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II.

Georgi Todorov (general) Bulgarian general

Georgi Stoyanov Todorov was a Bulgarian general who fought in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885), Balkan Wars (1912–1913) and First World War (1914–1918).

Occupation and consequences

The Struma Offensive began on 18 August with the 7th Rila, 11th Macedonian Division and the 3/2 Infantry Brigade and 10th Division advancing on a 230 kilometer long front. For six days the Bulgarian forces achieved all their objectives in the face of weak Greek and French resistance: following the ouster of pro-Entente Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, the royal Greek government in Athens had demobilized it forces, and pursued a course of neutrality at all costs, even ordering the local Greek troops to not resist the Bulgarian invasion.

Eleftherios Venizelos Greek politician

Eleftherios Kyriakou Venizelos was an eminent Greek leader of the Greek national liberation movement and a charismatic statesman of the early 20th century, remembered for his contribution in the expansion of Greece and promotion of liberal-democratic policies. As leader of the Liberal Party, he was elected several times, in total eight, as Prime Minister of Greece, serving from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1933. Venizelos had such profound influence on the internal and external affairs of Greece that he is credited with being "the maker of modern Greece", and is still widely known as the "Ethnarch".

The depth of the advance reached 80-90 kilometers and an area of 4,000 square kilometers was occupied. Most importantly however the Macedonian Front was shortened with 100 - 120 kilometers. In addition, the demobilized Greek IV Army Corps, under Col. Ioannis Hatzopoulos, numbering 464 officers and 6373 soldiers, that was positioned in the area but wasn't allowed by the Greek government to resist, was disbanded and its troops and armament were interned by the Germans in Görlitz for the rest of the war. General Nikolaos Christodoulou did not obey to the government and together with his men joined the Movement of National Defence, that broke out in Thessaloniki.

IV Army Corps (Greece)

The IV Army Corps is an army corps of the Hellenic Army. Established before the First World War, it served in all conflicts Greece participated in until the German invasion of Greece in 1941. Re-established in 1976, it has been guarding the Greco-Turkish land border along the Evros River, and is the most powerful formation in the Hellenic Army.

Ioannis Hatzopoulos

Ioannis Hatzopoulos was a Greek army officer, who commanded the IV Army Corps in 1916 and was interned with his men in Görlitz, Germany.

Internment of the Greek IV Corps at Görlitz

Between 1916 and 1919, 464 officers and 6373 soldiers of the Greek Army's IV Army Corps were interned in the German city of Görlitz, officially as "guests" of the German Empire, for the duration of World War I. During August 1916, Bulgarian and German forces invaded the Greek territory of eastern Macedonia, ostensibly in order to confront the Allied troops who had established themselves in and around the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. The Greek government had given its local forces strict orders not to oppose neither the Allies nor the Central Powers, in an attempt to preserve the country's neutrality during the conflict. However, contrary to German assurances that they would respect Greek sovereignty and civil authorities, the Bulgarians quickly made clear that they aimed to annex the territories the captured, and tried to isolate and capture the Greek troops of IV Corps piecemeal. To avoid Bulgarian captivity, the acting commander of the corps, Colonel Ioannis Hatzopoulos, asked the German authorities to accept moving his men to Germany for the duration of the war. Between 15–27 September 1916, Hatzopoulos and his men were moved by train to Görlitz, where they were interned for the remainder of the war. The presence of the Greeks in the German town provoked mixed reactions. Initially welcomed, the Greeks were allowed to leave their barracks and move about town and drew a regular salary from the German government. Mixed Greek–German unions occurred, and many Greeks found employment in the town. However, as the war progressed, the German populace and authorities became more hostile. Most of the internees returned to Greece in 1919, where for decades they were stigmatized as traitors.

The cities of Kavala, Drama and Serres were taken.

Aftermath

The refusal by the Greek government to defend this territory, won after hard fighting in the Second Balkan War of 1913, led to a coup by pro-Venizelist officers and the formation of the so-called "Provisional Government of National Defence". Greece joined the war in 1917 and eventually recovered all of the occupied territories in 1918, at the war's end.

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References

    Coordinates: 40°47′09″N23°50′56″E / 40.7858°N 23.8489°E / 40.7858; 23.8489