Tragedy and glory
Reasons for the war
On 17th of May (30th of May new style) the year of 1913 the London peace treaty was signed. With it came the end of the victorious Balkan war during which the Ottoman Empire was annihilated by the armies of the Balkan league. According to the peace treaty the Sublime Porte must yield all of its Balkan territories west from the Midia-Enos line (with the exception of Albania). The problem was, that the London peace treaty didn`t specify which country will hold which of the conquered territories. That way discrepancy was born between Bulgaria which had decisive contribution to the defeat of the ottoman army, and its allies Serbia and Greece, each of who wanted to take the biggest part possible of the predominantly Bulgarian populated region of Macedonia. It must be clear that Bulgaria and Serbia had an agreement for the distribution of all liberated territories, but the kingdom of Serbia violated the agreements signed in 1912 and decided to act on the principle of the actual occupation and to seize all territories in which the Serbian army was in at the end of the Balkan war. The agreements with Greece were reported to be dangerous and problematic back in the first Balkan war, because the territorial question wasn`t touched and because of that the Greek army felt that it was in its right to seize as much lands in Aegean Macedonia as it possibly could.
As a matter of fact it must be said that Serbia and Greece started their preparation for a strike against Bulgaria during the first Balkan war. In February 1913 the Serbian state decided to reconsider its agreement with Bulgaria and to seize all lands occupied by Serbian forces until that time. In order to facilitate those ambitions they made an agreement with the Greeks in which they stated that Solun must be left in the hands of the Greek state after the war.
At the end of April, Serbian and Greek forces were gathered in the disputed territories and started to act aggressively against the Bulgarians that were there, on some places there were “incidents” where Serbian or Greek soldiers executed Bulgarian civilian population. The massacres became more frequent as the date for the London peace treaty approached, that shows us that the Serbians and the Greeks were intentionally trying to carry out genocide against the Bulgarian population, which they thought of as a threat for their aggressive and unfair plans for snatching Macedonia.
Around 2/15 of may information about a secret treaty between Serbia and Greece against Bulgaria to showed up, so the Bulgarian government and the high command needed to make a decision whether or not they want to relocate troops from Adrianopol to the west so there will be defense against possible aggression from the formal allies. On 6/19 of May was signed an official alliance between Serbia and Greece, which was accompanied by a war convention. That alliance was obviously against Bulgaria and its purpose was to guarantee the accomplishment of the unfair demands from the former Bulgarian allies.
Besides the problems between Bulgaria and its allies another conflict arised between the tsardom and its northern neighbor-Romania. Even before the start of the First Balkan war, Romania wanted compensation in the form of territories from Dobrudja if the Balkan league won so that the balance of the forces could be maintained. Romania didn`t care that there is no Romanian population in the southern part of Dobrudja and that it is a rightful Bulgarian territory. For the northern neighbor of Bulgaria wanted only one thing, to lay hand on a rich and fertile land. The Bulgarian state offered corrections at the border and even yielded the city of Silistra, but the tsardom was not prone to give up to Romania all of Dobrudjaduring the time in which the victorious Bulgarian army was defeating the ottoman troops. Romania wasn`t happy from the Bulgarian concessions and started to prepare for a military solving to the matter when the right circumstances appeared i.e. if Bulgaria goes to war with her former allies.
The great powers also played their roles in heating up the situation in the days around and after the signing of the London peace treaty, they left the former allies of Bulgaria to violate the signed agreements without repercussions. The greatest responsibility for that is lying on the shoulders of Russia, which according to the signed agreements had to take the part of an arbiter if any territorial disputes between the Tsardom of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Serbia occurred. The Russian emperor didn`t do anything of importance and failed to play his role as an arbiter, and even proposed that England and France must come as arbiters so all of them could decide the disputes, this clearly show a wish for inspection of the treaties between Bulgaria and Serbia. Soon the hypocritical position of the Entente led to more tensions and was one of the reasons that led to the start of the Second Balkan war.
On the other side Germany and Austria-Hungary were interested in an armed conflict on the Balkans, that way the positions of the Entente in the region would be shaken and one of the Balkan states could be drawn towards the Triple Alliance. Because of that the two countries didn`t intervene directly on the side of the rightful Bulgarian demands that called for non-violation of the treaties signed before the war.
The tensions on the Balkans continued to escalate and on 26th of may the Russian emperor Nikolay the second warned the Bulgarians and the Serbians that whoever starts an fratricidal war will be held accountable before Russia and before the Slavonic. Meanwhile a new government whose head was Stoyan Dane came in Bulgaria on 1st of june . The government continued the line of relentlessness against the unjust Serbian and greek demands and actively tried to make the Balkan allies to keep the treaties from 1912. In those turbulent days Serbia managed to win the support of Montenegro who was disgruntled from the attained during the Balkan war and decided to strengthen her positions in the Novopazar district (sanjak). At the same time it became evident that the Ottoman empire didn`t disband her troops quite the contrary, she started to focus effective troups close to the Bulgarian border. That caused fear in Sofia but the government limited itself only to taking steps towards the Great powers, they (the Great powers) had to guarantee that the ottomans would keep their side of the London peace treaty and won`t start any hostilities with the Tsardom. That position was incredibly naïve, especially after it became clear that the Great Powers didn`t want to settle the Balkan issues in favour of Bulgaria. Soon after all negotiations failed, Russia declined to fulfill its role as an arbiter and the Bulgarian politicians and generals decided that after all sacrifices and glorious victories during the Balkan war that had been made, the only way Serbia, Greece and Romania would tear territories from the flesh of Bulgaria was with weapon in hand. Diplomacy failed and stepped back to give place to the army.
Condition and deployment of the armies
Before anything is said it must be noted that the First Balkan war finished far more quickly for Serbia and Greece than it did for Bulgaria. For the Serbians the war ended with the battle of Bitola (4-5/17-18 of November 1912), and for the Greeks with the siege and fall of Yanina (6th of march 1913). Apart from that, the mobilization stress for them wasn`t as high as it was in Bulgaria and didn`t exhaust the economies of the two countries as much as it did the economy of the Tsardom. Last but not least during the war the Serbian and the Greek forces fought against far smaller ottoman troops in Macedonia that were surrounded, outnumbered, attacked by VMORO bands in the back and suffering mass desertion, so the exhaustion of their armies at the start of the Second Balkan war was inconsiderable.
Meanwhile the Bulgarian soldier carried the weight of the war on his back on the main front which was Thrace, there were stationed most of the Ottoman troops and most of the bloodiest battles in the war were fought there. The whole nation was standing on its toes for 9 months. The army was exhausted. Over 90% of the soldiers were regular peasants who left their homes, families and lands and by that time they wanted to go back. Anti-Ferdinand “Everything or nothing” feelings started to appear among the soldiers as well as the officers. Despite that the commanders reported that the morale of the troops was up to mark and there were no problems.
While the Bulgarians fought east the Serbian and Greek forces had enough time to settle in the region of Macedonia and to build strong defensive positions against eventual attack from Bulgarian side. On the eve of the war Bulgaria had 5 armies. All of them were transferred relatively fast from Thrace to the west borders and were deployed on a long front- over 500km from Dunabe river down to Aegean sea.
New recruits were made in some of the newly liberated territories in Macedonia, Rodopi mountains and Thrace, with those recruits the total number of the army reached half a million people. Around 360 000 soldiers were deployed on the first battle line. The deployment of the armies is the following:
1st army (led by general Kutinchev)-deployed from Vidin to Berkovitsa; 3rd army (general Dimitriev)-around Tsaribrod and Trun; newlyformed 5rh army (general Toshev)-around Kustendil and Radomir; 4th army (general Kovachev)-between Strumitsa and Shtip; and 2nd army (general Ivanov)- between Kavala and Doiran. The cavalary division that had been relatively impassive in the previous war now was isolated In the most northern part right next to the Dunabe so it can protect the flank of the 1st army, a small part was also isolated in Solun. In a situation like that there were no effective troups that could have been deployed against Romania or the Ottoman empire. That way the eastern and northern borders were left defenceless only with the illusionary hopes that neither Russia or Austro-Hungary would allow attacks on these directions.
The greek army (high commander- king Konstantine, who took the throne after his father was killed in Solun in march 1913) was composed by: 9 infantry divisions and 1 cavalary, total of 135 000 people. The whole greek army was focused against one Bulgarian, 2nd army deployed north of Solun that consisted of 3 infantry divisions, total of 36 000 man, 20 000 of them were fresh recruits.
Serbian army (general Radomir Putnik) managed to recruit 348 000 soldiers against the Bulgarians, part of those forces were originally deployed around the Albanian border. General Putnik divided the army in to 4 operative groups: In Macedonia the Serbian 1t and 3rd armies formed the most powerful Southern group. 1st army (general- prince Alexander) was positioned northwest from Skopie. 3rd army (general Yankovich)- around Veles. The Serbian 2nd army (general Stepanovich) formed the central group, there were the soldiers that previously fought side by side with the Bulgarians near Odrin, but now they stand against them in the region of Pirot. Te northern group consisted of the Timosh division (general Arachich). The western group was consisted of 20 battalions and was positioned around the Albanian mountains.
Montenegro (general- king Nikola) joined the war against Bulgaria with one infantry division that consisted of 12 802 people that fought side by side with the Serbians. One Montenegrin brigade joined the 3rd Serbian army and the other two brigades joined the 1st army. The Montenegrins didn`t have any disputes or confrontations with Bulgaria, but king Nikola decided to send forces to aid the Serbians and in exchange wanted large part of the Novopazar district (sanjak) to be divided between the two countries.
When the summer of 1913 drew near the Serbian intelligence found out that the Bulgarians were concentrating their primary forces against them. The situation such that the Serbians held disputed territories and were sure that the Bulgarians would attack first. They didn`t even try to surpass the enemy instead they wait for him to make the first move and with that to put on himself the image of a deceitful traitor, violator of treaties and aggressor.
The Bulgarian war plan against the former allies forsaw decisive advancement of all 5 armies on the front but it wasn`t clear what the next moves were going to be. The idea of Ferdinand was “to scare the allies and make them more yielding” with this demonstration of military might. The necessity for immediate offensive actions was caused by the fact that Sofia was only 60km away from the Serbian border that was full with Serbian forces and in an upcoming war it was in Bulgaria`s interest to fight beyond the border offensively rather than defensively in close proximity to the capital of the Tsardom.
The broken mountainous terrain of Macedonia, Eastern Serbia and Western Bulgaria was a serious obstacle for a fast advancement and combined actions of the troops. The Bulgarians couldn`t perform the brilliant military operations they did back in the plains of Thrace. The armies were forced to scatter and act in isolation from one another between the ridges and the basins. The roads were few and narrow and that made the movement of the troops even more difficult. 1st army had to advance towards Kniazevac and Pirot; 3rd army-also towards Pirot and had to merge with the forces of 1st army in the region; the newly formed 5th army had to play the role of axis between 1st and 4th army and to cover the flanks; 4th army had to advance in the region of Shtip; 2nd army had to attack in southern Macedonia in the region of Gevgeli and Solun.
It must be said that even though this plan had been approved by the Headquarters of the active army, later on the high command didn`t even try to fulfill it the way it was planned.
Beginning of the war
On 12/25 of june there were signals in Sofia about serious clashes between Bulgarians and Serbians near Shtip and down the river valley of the Zletovska river. The Bulgarian government immediately warned Russia that this could cause war and an end of the Serbian excesses against the Bulgarian population must be put. Two days later general Ivanov sent announcement for serious problems with the Greeks they apparently tried to provoke the Bulgarian army. Those actions could easily be explained, because both of these countries tried to present Bulgaria as an aggressor and so they tried to provoke the Bulgarians on the front.
On 15/28 of june General Mihail Savov issued an order on 17/30 the same month 2nd and 4th divisions must make an offensive in order to show the former allies the might of the Bulgarian army. The Serbians have put a date on the manifest that declared war on the Tsardom of Bulgaria. On 18 june/1 july the bulgarian government ordered a ceasefire but it was already too late because Serbia and Greece received the long waited occasion to wage war on Bulgaria.
The battles near Bregalnitsa
The most important positions for the liberation of Macedonia were taken by 4th army, formed the previous winter. She was deployed in an arch form and Shtip was at the top. That deployment made the flanks vulnerable and created good conditions for enemy counter-attacks, with which the center could get encircled and crushed.
The first fights broke out on 29-30 of june when the Bulgarian 4th army encountered the Serbian 3rd and 1st armies plus the Montenegrin division in the region of river Zletovska.
At first the left wing of the Bulgarian army advanced and with heavy fighting managed to reach Vardar near the village of Udovo. The center of 4th army however couldn`t manage to advance and the advancement plan in this section failed. The confusion and indecisiveness of Sofia squandered the initial success on the wings.
The general situation on the fronts invited chaos in the Bulgarian headquarters and disrupted the plans. For example the prime-minister Stoyan Danev issued an order to general Mihail Savov in which the latter must stop the military operations, that happened on 1st of july. In the same day the general received a second order from tsar Ferdinand with contrariwise order-the attack must continue. A moment of total confusion fell in which nobody knew what to do. (dates are new style1)
On 3th of july, tsar Ferdinand discharged general Savov accusing him for the failure of the offensive. In the same day the general turned out to be discharged for a second time by the Government which accused him of ordering the offensive. It is very likely that the discharging of general Savov was aroused by the failure of his troops that had to achieve swift victory despite the complicated situation on the front.
On his place as an assistant-commander (in reality commander-in-chief) was appointed the commander of 3rd army general Radko Dimitriev who was notorious Russophile. That move was a desperate signal towards Peterburg with the hope that Rusi would involve itself in the war on Bulgarian side. The commanding heights of 3rd army were entrusted on the Ferdinand`s favourite, general Racho Petrov.
All interruptions in the military actions, quarrels in the Headquarters of the army and the changes in the high command had not only confusing but paralyzing effect on the Bulgarian troops. Particularly nasty surprise for the soldiers of 7th infantry division and 4th army was the order that their successful advancement must stop and they must return to their initial positions. That maneuver didn`t just squander the chances for victory but created danger for the soldiers themselves because of the close proximity of the Serbian front lines. Because of the many problems in the high government echelons and the military command, the Bulgarian losses in the first couple of days were heavy and the successes- highly inadequate.
The next three days of calm gave time for the Serbians and the Greeks to renew after the initial Bulgarian strikes. Meanwhile they didn`t cease the fire on the Bulgarian positions despite several attempts from Bulgarian officers who tried to explain that the attack was launched because of a mistake. Serbians and Greeks even violated several rules of war by killing Bulgarian truce-envoys and with that showing their predatory nature. Confusion started to appear among the Bulgarian lines because of which the Bulgarian army couldn`t manage to renew the initial formations. A misguided company from 7th divison was surrounded and captured by the Serbians without fighting.
Despite the chaos the initial Bulgarian attacks seriously tired the Serbian 3rd army and because of that the commanding general Yankovich asked the commander-in-chief Radomir Putnik to allow a retreat but his requests were rejected. Putnik ordered that 3rd army must hold its ground and it must counter-attack. When the Bulgarian attacks cease on 1st of july, the Serbians go into counter advancement along the whole line fom Shtip down to Kochani, and they successfully push back the right wing of the Bulgarian army from river Zletovska to river Bregalnitsa. Around 4th of july there was already created comfortable environment for breaking of the Bulgarian positions near Gorna Djumaq (Blagoevgrad). If that happened it could mean victory over 4th army and the isolation of the 2nd army that fought with the Greeks in the south. If the events unfolded in such a way that would mean end of the war and a heavy Bulgarian defeat.
Another major factor for the Serbian success is the sluggishness of 5th army or as one might say the complete vacancy in the northern part of the front. While the 4th army received the order for offensive, 5th army did not receive any order at all. General Toshev begged the high command in Sofia for a permission to move the troops towards Macedonia in order to help the 4th army. But in Sofia there was total confusion after the initial clashes on the front and a complete lacking in a mutual position concerning the major problems, and because of that his request was denied. On the following day general Toshev unexpectedly received permission to attack. When the attack was launched another order unexpectedly came in- the offensive must be cancelled. Because of such carelessness by the headquarters, 5th army couldn`t participate decisively in battles and couldn`t relieve the burden of 4th army. On 8th of july 4th army retreated from river Bregalnitsa and the fights ceased. The losses for 4th army were heavy, about 20 000 men, the Serbians also took heavy losses: over 16 000 men, 3000 of which were killed. Meanwhile on the southern border the Bulgarian troops suffered heavy losses from the numerous greek forces.
The retreat of 2nd army
From the very beginning the position of 2nd army (composed by 3 infantry division with fresh recruits) was extremely heavy because it had to face almost all of the greek army (9 infantry divisions and 1 cavalary division) and they had huge numerical superiority in correlation 3:1. The 2nd Bulgarian army was stretched from Vardar down to Struma. In that section there were individual clashes and shootouts between Bulgarian and greek soldiers even before the First Balkan war had ended,, that means even when the greek and Bulgarian were allies there were provocations from the greek side.
On 26th of june 2nd army received the order to destroy the greek forces deployed in front of her and to march towards Solun, the high command didn`t realize that this was a feat beyond the capabilities of 2nd army, even if general Ivanov had more numbers and experienced soldiers. General Savov commited a great error by misjudging the enemy forces in that part of the front. The greek forces immediately launched a counter-attack deploying their forces in the center and on two wings. Their plan was to apply more pressure at the center and and the left wing in order to cut off the Bulgarian retreat towards Strumitsa. And in the end the left greek flank had to join up with the Serbian right flank, which would cut off the access of the Bulgarians to Macedonia.
The fights started on 3th of june. Greek battle ships were firing at the Bulgarian positions near the bay of Orfanos. The right wing of the Bulgarian army was pushed back under the massive fire of the greek army. Stretched out along 200km and under the heavy fire of the enemy, 2nd army started to retreat in an organized manner southeast of Solun, and also in the north towards the left flank of the Bulgarian 4th army near Strumitsa, that defended itself from the counterattacks of the Serbian forces and had no possibility to help 2nd army in any way. Despite that the Bulgarians had build in advance solid defensive positions north of Solun, that consisted of trenches with concealed guns including captured Turkish ones they were abandoned when the advancement begun.
General Ivanov noted that 4th of july was though for his army, not so much because of the material losses rather than the psychological strikes. Upon seeing the number of the advancing enemy and seeing that no help was on the way the soldiers realized that the danger of defeat is real. In that situation the fighting spirit wasn’t on the necessary level and the only variant on this stage of the war was the strategic retreat. The headquarters decided that a more advantageous position must be found where the greek army could be crushed, after it was already weakened by the stretching of the communication and supply lines. The retreat north of Kukush was bloody, the Bulgarians lost around 4000 men and the wounded were around 2000. Despite the hard situation the Bulgarian soldier demonstrated his enormous bravery and heroically defended his retreating brothers by giving his life. The greek army faced a desperate but incredibly brave foe that struck fear and respect in the greek soldiers and commanders despite their numerical superiority.
In that critical moment when things were about to go out of control, the high command in Sofia decided to send small reinforcements that must aid 2nd army. Those forces however arrived far too late and just joined the massive retreat to the north. That maneuver started to bare the left wing of 4th army and forced it to retreat in order to avoid a Serbian encircling movement and a cut into the opening between the two armies. The retreat tilted the scales even more in favor of the Bulgarian enemy.
The heavy losses and the retreat of 2nd army was the worst failure for Bulgaria in the Second Balkan war and the greatest success for Greece in the two Balkan wars. In the battles that were fought, the Greeks took had captured 6000 bulgarian soldiers and 130 guns. Despite their desperate positions the Bulgarians didn`t give up without a fight and the greek victory was costly-8700 greek soldiers fell on the battlefield north of Solun. No matter the hard situation, 2nd army retreated in an organized manner and kept its battle formations and fighting efficiency.
With the retreat from Sqr and Drama the end of the Bulgarian hopes for liberating Aegean Macedonia became evident. The dreams of the Bulgarian politicians about taking Solun was one of the reasons for the worsening of the relations in the Bulgarian-greek alliance even before the First Balkan war started, they also led to the loss of the ethnic Bulgarian territories around Solun.
The Bulgarian “Night of St. Bartholomew” in Solun
What provoked 2nd army to attack immediately was the annihilation of the Bulgarian contingent in Solun by the greek forces and the consequent establishment of greek control over the city. On 30th of june in Solun was deployed the greek 2nd division together with around 2000 cretan gendarmerie. The Bulgarian forces consisted of only one battalion (3rd from 14th Macedonian regiment), and it faced total isolation against an enemy that had an absolute numerical advantage.
Despite general Savov`s insistence that they had to retreat from there because of the unfavorable situation, the Government in Sofia persisted that the Bulgarian warriors must stay in the city as a defence of the Bulgarian claims on Solun. No one cared that if the Bulgarian troops were attacked they would have had no choice but to fight to the end and die heroically. The contingent in Solun couldn`t hope on help from the 2nd army that was northeast from the city.
The Bulgarian battalion was attacked immediately after the armed conflict between Bulgaria and Greece escalated. Within the framework two days-30th of june and 1st of july 1913 there was fierce and bloody clash on the city streets. The Bulgarian forces quickly got through with their ammo and when no other option had left they continued the fighting with their bayonets in order to push back their numerous enemy. At the same time the Greeks didn`t hesitate to use artillery against the Bulgarians and disregarded the civilians that were killed in the bombardment. Ultimately, 237 bulgarian fighters died in that short battle and over 200 were wounded. The rest were captured by the greek forces. During and after the fight, greek soldiers killed a significant part of the Bulgarian citizens of the city. All those heroes and martyrs perished with the full knowledge that their cause was just and despite being left alone against the greek army they fulfilled their duty towards their Mother-Bulgaria and towards their ancestors.
The greek losses during the massacre were insignificant- 18 killed and around 30 wounded. That is because the treacherous tactic they used, to hit without warning the scattered Bulgarian warriors. With the retreat of 2nd army and the bloodbath in Solun, Greece managed to seize without much trouble all of the disputable territories. That created good conditions for the invasion of the northern territories including those that were in the old ends of the Bulgarian Tsardom.
The Bulgarians in defence
In the meantime the 4th army`s situation in Macedonia continued to be hard and under the advancing Serbian armies it was forced to abandon the left wing and the initial success there and to start a retreat along the whole front. So on 7th of july the situation according to general Dimitriev “was close to a catastrophy”, because of that he commanded that the two armies must retreat back to the old borders of Bulgaria in order to cover each other`s flanks. The right flank of 2nd army was pushed back after the clashes around Doiran on 7th of july and it was forced to fall back. The same was done by the rest of the units, they retreated along the valley of Struma towards Gorna Djumaq (Blagoevgrad). In the same time the Greeks entered in Strumitsa, and after a couple of days (11th of july) they joined forces with the Serbian troops in Macedonia. Their advancement up north along the valley of Struma continued until 24th of july when they reached the Kresna gorge and there the momentum stops. It turned out that this was the maximum distance at which the supply and communication lines could be stretched out, and also the troops were tangibly exhausted by the constant fights and the forced march.
In another part of the Southern battle stage, the Greeks did quite well and were advancing swiftly. On 11th of july the greek fleet captured the port of Kavala and subsequently the whole city. On 19th of july greek troops entered Nevrokop and 2nd army returned at old Bulgarian border. On 25th of july the greek fleet conquered Dedegach and with that the Bulgarians were finally cut off from Aegean sea.
At the center the Bulgarian 5th army finally received adequate orders and conducted successful offensive actions against the Serbian troops in the region of Kustendil, but 5th army couldn`t manage to keep the success because of the defeat and subsequent retreat of 2nd army and because of the tremendous difficulties that 4th army faced. Despite their successful advance, 5th army was forced to retreat back to the old border on 6th of july and to guard the area of Kustendil and the southwestern passes to Sofia. 5th army took defensive positions and stood in its place until the end of the war. The Serbian 1st army tried to breach the the Bulgarian defences but all attempts were unsuccessful and the situation in that part of the front remained static.
The idle Bulgarian troops could have been relocated in order to help the troubled armies in the south.
Up north 3rd army started an offensive and on 7th of july advanced separated in two main groups towards Pirot and towards Nish, the goal was to cut off the railway connection with Skopie. The offensive of 3rd army started to threaten Pirot and at the same time there was a real danger in a serious tearing of the Serbian connections and communications in the region. As an answer to that general Putnik started to transfer troops from the southern part in great haste in order to protect the passes to Pirot. Those reinforcements managed to subdue the Bulgarian threat that was impending on Pirot, but because of that manoeveur the ranks of the serian 1st and 3rd armies were thinned down which weakened the pressure on the Bulgarian positions. The Bulgarian 3rd army conducted several attacks on Pirot until 23th of july and after that they returned back and took defensive positions with the same motive as 5th army-to guard the passes towards Sofia, because it is only 60km away from the border. The positions of the Bulgarian army there had sufficient power to block every Serbian strike aimed towards that direction, this way though the 3rd army didn`t contribute to the initial offensive plans of the Bulgarian Headquarters in this war.
In the most northern part of the front the Bulgarian 1st army started its offensive on 4th of july. In a short time the army took the Serbian city of Kniazevats and prepared to march south towards Pirot. Despite that the losses from the battle of Kniazevats are minimal (280 killed and 800 wounded) and the outlooks for that manoeuvre were good, on the next day the Headquarters in Sofia ordered that 1st army must return in the old capital. There was an idea among the high ranking officers that 1st army could join the battles on the Macedonian front. That decision turned the successful Bulgarian offensive into a failure and led to casualties in the process of retreating, because when they were evacuating out of Kniazevats the Serbian troops didn`t stop attacking them. On 17th of july after returning to the limits of Bulgaria, 1st army started its deployment in the south with that the northwestern part of the country bared itself for the Serbian and Romanian armies.
In the middle of july there was fatigue in both camps. The desire for war and the inertion vanished. In some parts of the front there were unofficial attempts from soldier`s side to establish a ceasefire between them, all of the attempts were punished by officers. Even the generals had such moods. In a telegram from july 1913 the commander in chief of the 2nd Serbian army general Stepanovich wrote:”I read your report for the losses on the night of 10before 11th and this month I write to you with a bleeding heart because all those casualties are unnecessary. I advise you to preserve the armed forces and they must involve themselves only in imperative situations that will benefit the campaign.”
During the second week of the war the Bulgarian positions were fortified and stabilized. Despite that the Bulgarian armies yielded significant territories in Macedonia they continued to fight, and their supply and communication lines were stable. Despite Bulgarian offensive in the northern part of the front had come to a halt and the Serbians were counter attacking they soon stopped and the situation on the front stayed relatively the same. The initiative gradually went into Bulgarian hands and for a moment it looked like all of the initial mistakes of the politicians and the high command wouldn`t turn out fatal and the Bulgarian army will defeat its former allies that wanted to seize as much territories as they could. It is not accident that the Bulgarians were singing “Allies-scoundrels”.
The Romanian intervention
In that moment an event happened that predetermined the outcome of the war. On 10th of july Romanian troops invaded Bulgaria. The Romanian army was half a million that had 126 plish, 15 howitzer and 3 mountainous batteries (most were made by Kroup), in that critical moment Bulgaria couldn`t oppose the vast army.
The Romanian 5th corpus under the command of general Ioan Kulcher (80 000 men) crossed the land border and occupied southern Dobrudja along the line Tutrakan-Balchik- a territory that the Romanians want as a “compensation” in exchange for the territories taken by the Bulgarians during the First Balkan War. The cavalary units of the corpus reached Varna but soon after that they returned back when they found that there was no resistance at all.
Four days later, 250 000 romanian troops under the command of Prince Ferdinand crossed the Danube river near Oriahovo and Nikopol.
The decision of the Bulgarian Headquarters was simply to do nothing against the Romanian troops, leaving the Bulgarian armies on their positions. Without facing any resistance on their way the Romanian troops slit into two positions, one headed to Vraca and Ferdinand (modern day Montana), and the other went into the Iskar gorge towards Sofia. Parts from the cavalry of those two groups spread into different directions across West Bulgaria.
That Romanian invasion across the Danube was decisive moment for the outcome of the war. Before the Romanian intervention the Bulgarians managed to stabilize their positions against the Serbians and the Greeks and prepared their counter-offensive. But with the deployment of all armies in the west and southwest, the Bulgarians couldn`t stop the Romanian advance in the heart of the country that threatened the capital. On 23th of july the front units of the Romanian cavalry divison reached the village of Vrazhdebna located only 10km away from Sofia. That way they not only could take the capital but they could take in the rear of 3rd army which at that point was fighting the Serbians. On 25th of july the Romanian troops met with the Serbians near Belogradchik and with that the town of Vidin remained isolated. In parallel with the infantry advance the Romanians used the reconnaissance aviation. Their pilots made photographs from the air and threw newssheets over Sofia. Although the enemy planes did not bombard the city and did not do any physical damage, their sole presence was a psychological strike on the society and a serious threat. Despite everything the fighting spirit of the Bulgarians wasn`t crushed and among some of the male civilian population the need for punishment of the Romanian aggressor was born. An interesting fact is that the losses of the Romanian army in that campaign were quite serious. Because of bad organization and horrendous conditions a cholera epidemic erupted in the Romanian camps, and when the troops reached the Balkan their food supplies and medications almost stopped. Because of this 6000 romanians died. Later on the soldiers that returned to Romania spread the cholera among the civilian population.
The turks return to Odrin
Even though the Ottoman empire was defeated in the First Balkan war and severely weakend from the Young Turks, the empire was in a condition to mobilize vast forces and throw them into a war for gaining back part of the lost territories. The motivation among the Young Turks and Enver bey increased when they saw the collapse of the Balkan league and the hard position that Bulgaria was in. On 12th of july a total of 250 000 turkish soldiers marched towards Galipoli and Chatalga, positions from which the now absent Bulgarian army took from the ottoman empire the previous war. The troops crossed the line Midia-Enos separated into 4 armies (1st Ottoman army deployed east, marched from Chatalga, 4th army from Galipoli and 2nd and 3rd acted between them). The commander in chief of the ottoman troops was Ahmed Izzet pasha.
The Bulgarian troops had left Eastern Thrace the previous spring and were deployed far west on the Serbian and greek front. Only in Odrin was a small garrison of 4000 people under the command of major Vulko Velchev. That Bulgarian unit did not receive orders to stay and protect the city until the last man and managed to retreat unharmed. Meanwhile the ottoman troops arrived and occupied the abandoned city. Odrin was taken without a single shot. The contrast of events that occurred around the fortress a few months before is stunning.
Units from the ottoman armies continued north from Odrin crossing the old Bulgarian-turkish border. An ottoman offensive towards Yambol created panic among the local Bulgarian population, part of them run towards the mountains in the north. Only 9 months before the Bulgarian army was before Istanbul`s gates and now the turks were invading Bulgaria. Their primary strategic goal was- to get back the territory up to the old border that was the necessary hinterland for their capital, plus the Odrin keep was a reliable defence of these territories and it was already conquered.
Under the pressure of the Great powers and because of the uncertain situation in the country after the revolution of The Young Turks, they retreated from the old Bulgarian borders and the actions on this front ended.
That doesn`t mean end of operations for the ottoman forces that started a genocide against the Bulgarian civilian population of Odrin Thrace. According to academician Lubomir Miletich what happened in Odrin Thrace during the Second Balkan war “surpassed even the most horrendous slaughters that the Bulgarian went through even during the famous Batak massacre”.
A terrifying and purposeful policy of exterminating the Bulgarians in the region. According to the independent international Karnegy commission the slaughtered Bulgarians were around 50-60 000 people, i.e. round 20% of the Bulgarian population that was in the region. Because of the inhuman cruelty of the ottomans 250 000 bulgarians left their homes and settled in the borders of the Bulgarian stardom. The picture of the ottoman genocide inflicted upon the Bulgarians is horrendous and it is beyond the mind of the civilized man to visualize all abominations and crimes.
The battle of Krivolak
One of the bloodiest battles at the beginning of the war was near Krivolak on 19-20 of june. Against the elite timosh division standed a single Bulgarian brigade. An order was issued-“the enemy must be pressed in the front trenches without the possibility of retreating!”. The Chepinski and Stryamski Bulgarian battalions charged into the left Serbian wing and managed to crush it despite the fierce resistance of the enemy. Five kilometers from there was the primary Serbian position. The Bulgarians entrenched themselves and the Serbs opened fire on everything that moved. Advancing became impossible – 20 meters took up to 1 hour of moving. The high mountain was well fortified, and the artillery was placed on the highest position possible and was guarded by staggered defencе network of trenches between the steeps. In complete silence on the nights of 27th and 28th of June Bulgarian battalions started waging night attacks on the Serbian forces. The order for attack was fulfilled in a couple of stages, with ferocious yet silent assaults. The Serbians opened up a hurricane fire the minute they saw Bulgarians, but for a day and a half with doggedly charges up the slopes the Serbian right wing was destroyed. The surviving Serbians gathered up on the highest peak and then charged in the Bulgarian forces but were immediately slaughtered because of the Bulgarian counter-attack. The last Bulgarian attack put an end to the Timok division. Fortified in the steep mountain the division was crushed by just one Bulgarian brigade whose commanders didn`t stop leading for more than 48 hours.
The bloodshed near Kalimantsi
In the background of the general impasse, the successful defensive actions against the Serbian offensive encouraged the Bulgarian headquarters, and the fact that the Serbian forces were pushed back almost to the old borders motivated the soldiers to defend even more tenaciously.
In a torrential rain on 4th of July the 3rd Serbian army with the help of the Montenegro division attacked the Bulgarian positions near the village of Kalimantsi in northeastern Macedonia. Moving close to the Bulgarian positions for up to 10 meters the Serbians tried pushing them back by throwing hand grenades but the Bulgarian ranks remained immovable. At some places of the front the Bulgarians left on purpose the Serbians and the Montenegrins to come up really close by maintaining the lowest fire possible. That motivated the enemy to focus precisely there. Reaching the trenches the Serbians were welcomed by a forest of Bulgarian bayonets and after furious and bloody fight the enemy runs. The Bulgarian charges froze the blood of Serbian soldiers for a second time after 1885. In their stampede they often died in ludicrous ways and disrupted their lines.
At other positions of the front the Bulgarian artillery turned out to be incredibly effective in stopping the Serbian attacks. In the bayonet fights near Kalimantsi and under the fierce artillery fire both of the sides gave close to 3000 dead and around 5000 wounded. The clashes in this place continued up until the end of the war when the truce negotiations started. At the end the Bulgarians won an important defensive battle, by keeping their positions around Kalimantsi steady. Our warriors didn`t give the Serbs the opportunity to invade the old ends of Bulgaria and to join with the Greek forces in the valley of Struma. The victorious defensive fights of 2-nd and 4-th army combined with the offensive of 1-st and 3-rd army strengthened the entire west front and successfully covered the avenues of approach towards Sofia and towards all old Bulgarian ends.
On 28-th of july 1913, Bulgaria signed up the treaty of Bucurest, according to which she was to give territories to Romania up north from the line Tutrakan-Ekrene and she was to destroy the strongholds in Rouse and Shumen. The border between Bulgaria and Serbia was from the summit of Pataritsa along the old ottoman-bulgarian border and the watershed between Vardar and Struma up to the mountain of Belasitsa where was established the new Bulgarian-greek border. The Bulgarian-Greek border starts from Belasitsa along the ridge of the mountain and it makes its way through Chengel-dag up to the outfall of the river Mesta. The Bulgarian army was obliged to demobilize itself in the day after the signing of the treaty. That way Bulgaria was denied the opportunity of defending against the ottoman troops.
The negotiations with the ottoman empire started not until the signing of the treaty of Bukurest and ended on 16 of December 1913, when a peace treaty between the two sides was signed in Tsarigrad.It was decided that the border will be along the river Arda, and up to the outfall of Maritsa. Ultimately Bulgaria kept her territories between the rivers Mesta and Maritsa (Aegian Thrace) with the cities Gumurdjina, Ksanti, Dedegach. Bulgaria received some territorial acquisition compared with the situation before. The biggest regions that become part of the tsardom were Pirin Macedonia and Aegian Thrace. The new territories consisted of 23 187 square kilometers and were inhabited by around 400 000 Bulgarians. A simple arithmetic sum shows that the freedom of every 6 newly freed brothers and sisters costs the life of 1 Bulgarian soldier, that shows how selfless the Bulgarian army was and every soldier in it. That sacrifice must not be forgotten! Ever!
After the Bukurest and Tsarigrad peace treaties, comes the end of a short but very bloody and unfortunate war for us Bulgarians. Despite the best efforts of the Bulgarian leaders, they are sucked into the conflict. That way are wasted not only the memorable Bulgarian victories during the first Balkan war but the successes of the Bulgarian Renaissance.
The rights that the Bulgarians in Thrace and Macedonia had even in the Ottoman Empire were taken away in a matter of days. The right of calling themselves Bulgarians was taken away. After 1913 Bulgarians in Macedonia became either “south Serbians”or Slavic speaking Greeks-the place where the Serbian and Greek forces ventured into. Even though they were humiliated and robbed by the two peace treaties the Bulgarians did not brake. No matter the size of the negatives that Bulgaria and the Bulgarian society went through because of the Second Balkan war, we have no right to forget the heroic deeds of the Bulgarian soldiers and officers on the front, they fought for Mother Bulgaria even though they were surrounded from all sides! It is surprising the power of the spirit that was displayed by the Bulgarian commanders, field officers and soldiers that withstanded against the armies of all Balkan countries and not only did not loose the battle for our country but even managed to intimidate the enemies to such an extent that they allow Bulgarian expansion in Pirin Macedonia and Aegian Thrace. Ultimately against all odds Bulgaria kept her ground and the admiration towards the Bulgarian warriors that did this indescribable deed will last forever!
The truth is that betrayed by its allies, abandoned by everyone, mislead by its leaders, the Bulgarian nation united in it`s army, all alone protected it`s land in one of the darkest moments in history.
Let us honor the hundreds of thousands martyrs driven out of their native Bulgarian lands and settled into free Bulgaria!
A bow to the ground before you, immortal heroes who showed on the battlefields that the Bulgarian knows how to die but never how to surrender, even when he is alone against everyone!
Тranslation: Velimir Makaveev (Велимир Макавеев)