September 16, 1918 – Bulgarian Regiments Mutiny
Pictured – Bulgarian troops, wearing German-style steel helmets. By September 1918 help from Bulgaria’s senior allies had all but dried up, and the Balkan tsardom could not resist the Allies alone.
The front in Salonika had been static since 1915. Bulgarian troops supported by their allies had proved a tough nut to crack. But the tsardom could only take so much. Almost half of its men were in the front-lines, and its women working around the clock back home to deal with widespread food shortages. Barely enough supplies reach the trenches to keep the army fed. Most Bulgarian soldiers had been fighting for three years, and many had fought in the two Balkan Wars before that. They were tired and wanted to go home.
The French-led offensive that began on September 15 brought about the end-game. The Allies had dragged heavy artillery into the mountains above the Vardar River valley, where the Bulgarians had their defenses. Under the cover of these cannons French, Greek, and Italian troops, plus a new division of “Yugoslav” troops from all the southern Slavic states rolled into the Bulgarian lines like a mighty wave of steel, taking the first trenches with the bayonet. Anglo-Hellenic forces launched offensives on the flanks of the Bulgarian lines to prevent reinforcements from being rushed to the front.
By September 16 there were no reserves left. The Allies had penetrated 6-miles deep along a 19-mile front. The Bulgarian commander General Zhekov appealed to the Austrians for aid, the Hapsburg Chief of Staff Ars von Straussenburg told him there was none to be had. Only one German brigade could be sent from the Crimea, which would take weeks to arrive. From their HQ at Skopje the Germans recommended that staff officers go to the front and try and stop the rout with their pistols.
Two regiments of Bulgarian infantry mutinied on September 16 and refused to take any further part in the fighting. The commander of the Bulgarian Second Army, which was in the middle of the fighting, wrote to the Tsar about the possibility of an armistice. Tsar Ferdinand wrote back: “Go out and get killed in your present lines. “