The breakthrough at Dobro Pole – First World War
The plan for the breakthrough of the Macedonian front started getting ready during the month of June when the French general Franchet D’Esperey was appointed as the commander of the Eastern army (the alliance armies to the Macedonian front).
After the conducted surrounding of the whole front and the recommendations of the Chief of Staff of the Serbian high command, the Field Marshal Zhivoin Mishikj, the idea for offensive of the whole Macedonian front was born.
The decision was brought having in mind the data from the intelligence which claimed that the moral of the Bulgarian army was very low due to the long-lasting war (starting from the Balkan wars in 1912), as well as the relation of the Germans towards the Bulgarian state, treating them as subordinate – the Bulgarians took a great quantity of food from the country without any sense of consciousness for the population and the army.
The decision was to perform offensive on the Meglen mountain massive on the part of Dobro Pole, on the path between the rivers Leshnica (on the west) and Sushica (on the east).
Dobro pole was chosen for several reasons: first no one expected attack on the hard and unreachable terrain where there were few artillery weapons of the Central forces. The main position, the interposition and the extra position of the Bulgarian army were badly positioned, the extra forces were deeply behind, and the accessible paths for supplies of military forces and munition were inaccessible. The breakout in this part would separate the Bulgarian forces on two parts and by doing so the first army would be forced to retreat from the Vardar-Dojran lake – the valley of the River Struma.
The main strike was supposed to be conducted by the Serbian army (6 infantries and one cavalry division) with the support of the two French infantry divisions.
The aim was to conduct the breakout and get to the region of Negotino – Krivolak – Gradsko and to divide the 11th German army and the 1st Bulgarian army.
The railway station Gradsko was a crossroad and there were the main depos for food and munition of the 11th German and 1st Bulgarian army.
Three days after the breakout, an offensive should have started on the part between the Vardar River and Dojran Lake, while the offensive in the Bitola part should have started 9 days after the breakout on Dobro Pole.
According to the plan, the ally army was placed in two rows so that, when it breaks the front, the first row of the army withdrew the place of the second row, which shall immediately continue the breakout of the fresh, rested forces having in mind the task not to let the defense of the Bulgarian positions consolidate. The space between the first trenches of the allied armies and the Bulgarian army was from 40 to 350 metres.
The operational staff of the Serbian army which was under the command of the Field Marshal Mishikj, was stationed on top of “Floka”, which is situated between Kajmakchalan and Dobro Pole, a place suitable for him to oversee the front. The main offensive was to be held in the part of the second army. Having in mind that Dobro Pole is on an altitude of over 1800 metres, the decision was to start the offensive when there were going to be acceptable weather conditions. On the 14th September, 1918, in the early morning hours, there was a thick fog on the place where the offensive had been planned. There was a thick fog especially in the part of Dobro Pole and the surrounding peaks. In a short time, the fog vanished towards north and the place was thoroughly clean.
At 6.15, the field marshal Mishikj sent a coded message to the commanders of the Units “Send 14 officers and 8 soldiers”, meaning that the offensive will start on 14th September at 8 o’clock.
At 8.00, 533 artillery weaponry of the allies started fire towards the main position of the Bulgarian army, destroying the barriers of the barbed wire, the observation post, and especially the trenches. Then the fire was transferred to the machine gun nest and the shelter between the first and the second row of the Bulgarian trenches. While a greater number of the artillery weapons kept on acting in the depth of the Bulgarian positions, a small part continued to grenade on the first row of the trenches in order to prevent them from rising again. The heavy artillery performed on the Bulgarian artillery with the aim to neutralize it.
Around noon, the ally forces headed towards the shelters in the first trenches and got ready for attack on the part where the second Serbian army was, and then the grenade ceased so as to clear up the space of the smoke and dust and the results from the grenades could be seen. From the executed plane observation, it was confirmed that the results from the grenades were not thoroughly satisfying due to which, the grenades continued being thrown up until later in the night. On 15th September even at 4am the grenades continued and at 5.30 the infantry attack started.
Thanks to the heavy use of grenades, which destroyed great number of the foundations of the Bulgarian positions and the numerous overpower of the allied armies, the first positions of the Bulgarian defense gradually started to fall. The Bulgarian army by counter attacks tried to regain the lost positions, but when the Timocka and Yugoslav divisions inserted fresh forces the front was broken through, firstly around the Dobropolska River, and then on Dobro Pole. Around 8.30 pm, on 15th September, the 148th colonial regiment of the 122nd division, the peak “Sokol” was taken over as well, and the whole main position on the Bulgarian trenches was in the hands of the second Serbian army.
The breakout on the Bulgarian defense was performed in the width of around 14 km, and the depth of 3-4 kilometres, forcing the Bulgarians to retreat towards north.
On 16th September, the reserve positions of the Bulgarian defense were also taken over and till the end of the day the front was broken through in the width of 25 and depth of 10-12 kilometres.
By the retreat of the Bulgarian army, the allies did not stop, yet the Serbian army with the same intensity continued ahead. Franchet D’Esperey asked from the field marshal Mishikj to lower the speed of advancement of the Serbian army so that the logistics and the artillery of the French army can follow them, and Mishikj responded that there is no stopping until they reached Belgrade.
On 18th and 19th September, the British army with the help of two Greek divisions started the offensive of the 9th Pleven division near Dojran. Despite the unsuccessful offensive on that part, the Britain’s goal was reached, they did not allow regrouping and support to prevent the breakout on Dobro Pole.
On the 29th September, at 11pm, the Bulgarian delegation signed capitulation in Thessaloniki, which entered into force in the afternoon on 30th September 1918.
The breakout in Dobro Pole is considered to be the beginning of the end of the First World War.
Monument on Dobro Pole
In September 1938, on the initiative of Louis Cordier, a monument was erected in Dobro Pole to mark the breakout of the Macedonian front. The monument was designed by Marcel Ganguilhem (1895-1949) –a French artist and sculptor who participated in the breakout where he lost his right arm. Marcel in France was famous under the artistic name “Cel-le-Gaucher” (left-handed). It is not known when exactly the monument disappeared.