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Latest update : 2018-11-09

Reporters: How the Salonica Front led to victory in WWI

A century ago, towards the end of World War I, Allied soldiers were engaged in fighting on the Salonica Front, near the Greek city now known as Thessaloniki. Those key battles, fought in the most horrific conditions, hastened the end of the war by several months. Despite the decisive victory, the story of the Salonica Front is largely forgotten today. FRANCE 24's Laurent Rouy retraced the steps of the soldiers who fought there, between the south of present-day Macedonia and northern Greece.

On September 15, 1918, the Allies launched a key offensive on the Salonica Front in the mountainous area of ​​Dobro Pole (present-day Macedonia). It was the first Allied military breakthrough since the beginning of World War I. The offensive caused a complete rout of the Bulgarian army, leading to the defeat of the Central Powers and the signing of the armistice.

But at the time, this theatre of operations was unpopular in Allied capitals, as it was deemed too far away and not symbolic enough. The soldiers had to land by sea in Salonica (now Thessaloniki), where they were stationed.

On the front, the French and their Serbian allies, but also the British, Italians, Russians and Greeks, fought in dreadful conditions. They had to face extreme cold and heat, disease and difficult terrain, all of it far from home. Historians estimate that more than 350,000 French soldiers - many of them from Africa - fought on the Salonica Front, far from the better-known trenches in the north and east of France. Some 70,000 of them never returned.

Our reporter retraced the steps of these soldiers - at the scene of the fighting in the mountains of Greece and Macedonia, but also in Serbia and France.

By Laurent ROUY

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