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11 Royal Welsh Fusiliers


GraemeClarke

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Hi

Would anyone have any details of the attack the 11th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers took part in on

Wednesday 18 September 1918

Many thanks in anticipation

Regards,

Graeme

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Battle of Doiran part of 22nd Division. Then 30th of September North west of Lake Dorian 67th Bdge, 22nd Division.

Thats all I got.

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Morning Both

many thanks for that.

Thanks for the link, Lars however the site will not seem to open and I keep getting 'problem loading page' for both the link and the site.

Will try again later,

Cheers

Graeme

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I copied this from the non-copyrighted text version on the link. Some minor faulty strokes, but hopefully readable:

" The success on which an assault on the Doiran sector was conditional
had been attained. Early on the 15th September I received orders from
General Franchet d'Esperey that the troops under my command were to
attack on the morning of the i8th."

Meanwhile the enemy's positions from Doiran Lake to P Ridge were
being heavily shelled, and his wire cut.

In his description of the position, General Milne says : " To an observer
from the centre of the line from which the Allied attack was to take place,
the medley of broken hills forming his position [bulgar] baffles detailed
description except at great length. There are steep hillsides and rounded
hills. There is little soil. The hard rocky ground makes consolidation of a
newly won position difficult, and gives overwhelming advantage to the
defender, well dug into trenches that have been the careful work of three
years. Deep-cut ravines divert progress and afford unlimited opportunity
for enfilade fire. But in all the complexity of natural features the P Ridge
and Grande Couronne stand out in conspicuous domination. The former,
from a height of over 2,000 feet, slopes southward towards our lines, over-
looking our trenches and the whole country south to Salonika. To its right
the country dips and rises to a less sharp but no less intricate maze of hills,
that mount, tier upon tier, from Petite Couronne with its steep and rugged
sides, above Doiran Lake to Grande Couronne, itself little lower than the
summit of P Ridge. The enemy had taken full advantage of his ground.
He was strongly entrenched in three lines, with communicating trenches
deeply cut into the rock, and roomy, well-timbered dugouts, with concrete
machine-gun emplacements, and on the crest between P Ridge and Grande
Couronne with concrete gun-pits. It was the key position of the Vardar-
Doiran defences, and he held it with his best troops."

The Bulgar troops on the Doiran front were the 17th, 33rd, 34th, and
58th Regiments.

Operations were commenced on the morning of the iSth September.
They were divided into a Right and Left Attack.

The Right Attack bythe Seres Division (less the 3rd Infantry Regiment),
supported by the British 83rd Infantry Brigade, and with the 2eme bis Regi-
ment de Zouaves and 1 2th Corps Cavalry Regiment in reserve, was to advance
over the Petite Couronne to the line Doiran Hill-Teton Hill and Hill 346,



1918 THE WAR WITH BULGARIA: SALONIKA 221

and to operate against the Orb, and finally seize the Grande Couronne in
conjunction with the Left Attack.

The Left Attack, under the command of Major-General Duncan, was
made by the 22nd Division (less the 6sth Brigade in Army Reserve), the
77th Infantry Brigade, the 3rd Greek Regiment of the Seres Division, and
the 65th and 67th Machine-gun Companies. The final objective was the
line Grande Couronne-Kohinoor-P 2-Dolina.

These positions were protected by three lines of trenches known as the
X, W, and T lines and, on the crest of the ridge west of Grande Couronne,
a fourth line known as the Grand Shoulder-Kohinoor-P 2 line. The W
and T lines were strongly entrenched, provided with bomb-proof shelters,
and protected generally by three belts of wire : the lines were situated in
terraces, one above the other.

What was called the P Ridge, on the left of our attack, was defended
by strong works labelled P 4I, P 4, P 3, Dolina, and P 2.

The wire was cut on the i6th and 17th by howitzers assisted by 2-inch
and 6-inch trench mortars, and, we are told, " was generally well cut and
the attack was never held up by wire, but, owing to the fact that only two
gaps could be cut on the front of each battalion, the wire added greatly
to the difficulty of the infantry, which had to advance over a narrow front."

During the night 1 7th/ 1 8th harassing fire by i8-pdrs. and machine
guns was kept up all night. From six and a half hours before the time of
the assault the enemy's camps in the trench system and his battery positions
were subjected to a gas bombardment. It must be noted that gas was used
for the first time on the Macedonian front, but " its effect on both the enemy's
infantry and artillery was far less than had been anticipated."

For two hours before the assault smoke shells and harassing fire were
directed on the enemy's front system to hide the troops assembling, and to
drown the noise of their movement ; but the night was fine, flooded with a
full moon, and it was impossible to conceal the assembly.

The assaulting troops assembled in Shropshire and Jackson Ravines,
about 450 yards from the enemy first line. The barrage was timed to start
at 5.8 a.m. and the assault of the first line at 5.1 1 a.m.

Following the attack from the right, the Greek Seres Division captured
Doiran Hill and Teton Hill at 6.10 a.m., and an hour and a half later were
on Hill 340.

The 67th Brigade attacked with the three battalions in line — nth
Royal Welch Fusiliers, i ith Welch Regiment, and 7th South Wales Border-
ers — with the O 6 work and trenches on the east slopes of Sugar Loaf as a



222 RECORDS OF THE ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS Sept.

first objective ; the Hilt, Knot, and Tassel as a second ; the Rockies and
the west face of the Grande Couronne as the third.

B Company, commanded by Captain Stockdale, and D Company,
commanded by Captain Bone, advanced against O 6, B advancing by Claw
Ravine, and D by Snake Ravine.

B Company entered the trenches with little opposition at 5,18 a.m.,
but as they advanced against Dagger Ravine they were met b}^ a strong
counter-attack. Sharp and costly fighting followed, in which all the company
officers became casualties ; but the company held and the enem}^ were
driven back, about 30 prisoners and a trench mortar remaining in the
companys hands. About 6.45 a.m. touch was obtained with Greek troops
from the direction of Petite Couronne.

D Company had moved on the work up a more precipitous slope and
met with considerable opposition which caused many casualties. All
officers became casualties, but Private D. Roberts rallied the men and led
them on towards the Hilt, which was being attacked by the remainder of
the battalion.

A Company, under Captain Curtis and C Company, under Captain
Jones, attacked the trench to the east of Sugar Loaf, and during their first
advance came under heavy machine-gun fire from the Knot. The trench
was rushed and the garrison destroyed. The two companies then swung
right-handed across the Jumeaux, over the lower slopes of the Blade,
and up to the wire protecting the Hilt ; here there was a pause to allow the
barrage to lift, and also to reorganise, for the companies had run into our
own gas and had been obliged to put on their masks.

At about 5.38 a.m. the advance was continued through the gap in the
wire, but now the companies were being swept by machine-gun and trench-
mortar fire from the upper Hilt, and suffered many casualties. The trenches
were strongly held, and when all opposition was overcome, after heavy
fighting, companies were reduced to half. All officers and all but two
non-commissioned officers had become casualties, and the survivors were
greatly exhausted through having to wear gas-masks. Counter-attacks
came from the Knot Ravine, and finally the men gave way and fell back on
the Doiran-Krastali road.

Back at Battalion Headquarters, Lieutenant-Colonel Yatman heard
nothing definite. The first wounded men, returning from B Company
about 6.30 a.m., had stated that the line had been occupied with little
opposition, but that strong counter-attacks had started soon afterwards.
No information of any kind was received on the situation at the Hilt,
and the dust and smoke from trench-mortar and artillery fire were so thick



1918



THE WAR WITH BULGARIA: SALONIKA



223



nothing could be seen. The Commanding Officer decided to advance his
Headquarters to the Doiran-Krastali track, only to meet, on arrival,
a counter-attack delivered from the direction of O 6. The remnant of
B Company, under Sergeant O. Roberts, was mixed up in this fight, and
the enemy was finally beaten off.

Lieutenant-Colonel Yatman soon realised the extent of his casualties,
and that he had an insufficient number of unwounded men to continue the
advance, so he decided to hold the line from O 6 to the Doiran-Krastali
road, keeping in touch with the Greeks at Sabre Trench, and with the i ith
Welch Regiment at Fang.

The I Ith Welch Regiment had also been obliged to resort to gas-masks
on account of our gas, and suffered some casualties in their advance to the
east of "Sugar Loaf, but they reached the Knot and Tassel, and a party got
in touch with our battalion on the Hilt. At about 7.30 a.m. the Bulgars
counter-attacked, and the Commanding Officer of the Welch, seeing that the
Greeks were falling back, ordered a retirement to Shropshire Ravine,



224 RECORDS OF THE ROYAL WELCH FUSILIERS Sept.

whence they had started. Later the Welch tried to reoccupy the Sugar
Loaf, but were driven off by fire.

The 7th South Wales Borderers passed over the Sugar Loaf and Tongue
trenches on to the lower slopes of the Feather, where they were joined by
a considerable number of Greek troops, and continued their advance to
the Rockies. But in the approach up the Feather machine-gun fire was
opened on them from both flanks, and although a few reached the Rockies,
casualties were too heavy for the men and the battalion fell back on the
Tongue. Later they went back to the top of Shropshire Ravine.

The 3rd Greek Regiment reached the Warren, but machine-gun fire
from the Grande Couronne and P Ridge caused heavy casualties, and a
counter-attack from the Grand Ravine drove them out of the Bulgar main
line. They gradually fell back to their position of assembly.

On P Ridge the 66th Brigade lost 65 per cent, of their strength. After
gallant attempts against the fearful P defences, they fell back on their
original position.

" At about 9 a.m.," says General Duncan, " I came to the conclusion
that the attack had failed, and I informed the Corps Commander that I
considered it would be useless waste of life to try to press the attack
further."

But the Corps Commander ordered the attack to be resumed the next
day, released the 65th Brigade from Reserve, and placed it with the 2eme
bis Zouaves at the disposal of General Duncan.

The plan was for the 77th Brigade to attack the Grande Couronne and
Plume works via the Knot-Tassel-Tongue works, keeping the Vladaja
Ravine on their left ; the 2eme bis Zouaves w-ere to capture the Corne and
Warren, with the Vladaja Ravine on their right ; the 65th Brigade were to
assault P 4l and P 4.

It was a disastrous day. The Zouaves, on their way to their position
of assembly, came under light harassing fire along the road they were
using ; this stopped them, and they never resumed their advance.

" As soon as I heard that there was some doubt whether the 2eme bis
Zouaves had advanced, I telephoned to G.O.C. 77th Infantry Brigade that
unless the French came up on their left they were not to advance beyond
the line Knot-Tassel-Hilt, and informed Corps and Seres Division of
my order.

" I also sent a message at 0500 hours from P 5 to the O.C. King's Own
Royal Lancashire Regiment, who was 500 yards aw^ay and who was going
to attack P4J and P 4, that in consequence of the delay of the French the
assault on P4J was not to take place at 0535 hours as originally arranged, but

roads were few and extremely bad. The difTicultics in moving a great army over these hills will be appreciated.






1918 THE WAR WITH BULGARIA: SALONIKA 225

at 0555 hours, and that the barrage would remain on until that hour,
and that if b}^ that time he found that the French were not advancing, he
was not to attack P 4^ at all. Unfortunately this message did not reach the
9th King's Own until about 0600 hours. The battalion, after waiting some
minutes, advanced into our i8-pdr. barrage and had some casualties."
(General Duncan.)

The attack again failed. The total casualties in these operations were
given as 155 officers and 3,710 other ranks in the British 22nd Division,
including the 77th Brigade, and about 1,350 in the Greek Regiment.

Late in the night of the 19th September our battalion was relieved by
a company of the Border Regiment and went back to Exeter Ravine.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Graham

There's also a nice piece on the attack of the Welsh Brigade on the 'Long Long Trail' website - where you can see excerpts of a report called 'I saw the futile attack at doiran'

Peter

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