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Short History WW1 Short History WW1

Short History WW1

 

The capture of Bitola

Part of the Allied operations against Bulgarian defensive positions in Macedonia from mid-September to mid-November 1916 was devoted to the capture of Bitola. The advancement of the allies was slow and painful. However, after the capture of Kaimkchalan, Florina and the crossing of the river Cerna, the French and Serbian troops were finally able to approach Bitola. On the afternoon of 18 September, news of the fall of Bulgarian positions on cota 1212, which dominated the Souvodol region, reached the Bulgarian command. It was clear that control over Bitola could not be maintained and a withdrawal order was given.

At that time, the allies to the south began to hear explosions and see fires in the direction of Bitola. While the Bulgarian army was destroying the warehouses and preparing to withdraw, the Allied leadership ordered the enemy to be pursued. The last Bulgarian and German soldiers left the city the night of 18 November to 19 November. After several hours of chaos, the next morning, around 8 a. m., the French equestrian troupe entered Bitola. It received a warm welcome from the applause of the crowd of citizens, reluctant to listen to the Bulgarian authorities, who believed in vain at the end of their suffering; inflation, famine, epidemics and bombardments continued.

The famous French historian Jérôme Carcopino was among the first to enter Bitola that day. He transmitted very interesting chronicles about his memories of this event and the city itself. Among other things, he shares a sketch of the urban landscape of an abandoned city in haste. The exhausted Allied soldiers had the opportunity to rejoice at the first great success and the return to an urban environment. However, this atmosphere lasted only one day. Bulgarian troops were still occupying positions nearby, although they had left the city, including Pelister, from where they could monitor and carry out artillery fire. Their most contested positions were only 3-4 kilometers from the city, and their aviation was also operational. In November and December, Serb and French troops carried out several small operations in the vicinity of Bitola, particularly in Pelister, from where they could monitor and conduct artillery fire. They tried by infantry offensives on the surrounding hills, but without the support of heavy artillery, they could not achieve any result. Bitola still had to face the horror of war.


However, the capture of Bitola at that time had a positive side for the Allies: Bitola being Macedonia's second largest city, it was linked to Thessaloniki and the Allied General Command. At the same time, Bitola's history was important to the Western world to draw attention to the role of the Macedonian Front. On the other hand, the loss of Bitola and the southern part of Pelagonia had a negative impact on the Bulgarian army, at least for a while. Until the end of the war, the city was bombed daily. Much of the buildings, houses and public buildings have been destroyed or completely ruined.

Approximately 4,200 civilians lost their lives. After the war, Bitola, similar to Verdun, was named the "town of suffering" and decorated with the War Cross of the French Republic.

 

 

 

The photos

The written and visual content on this platform (current and historical) is provided to the public for general informational, scientific and educational purposes. All published content is the property of its respective authors.

The Manaki photos

The Manaki photos - The photos are in the property of the National archive of the Republic of Macedonia, department in Bitola. The photos are edited by the Macedonian Centre for photography.

The original photos are in the property of the European association for local democracy – ALDA.  Photographer: Zoran Shekerov

 

 

Since its independence in 1991, the name of the country as inscribed in the Macedonian Constitution is "Republic of Macedonia". Nevertheless, and for the purposes of recognition by international organisations and their Member States, the country has agreed to use the designation "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". It is under this name that the French Republic has recognised this State. On this website, for convenience of language, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" is referred to as the "Republic of Macedonia" or "Macedonia". This does not represent the position of France or Normandy.

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