Bulgaria’s a lovely country in many ways but, for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to have attracted much attention from British invaders. Not that I imagine it’s disappointed about that fact.
There is a rather confusing reference in a text to the presence of 1,000 English knights at the Battle of Nicopolis in Bulgaria in 1396. Nothing much confusing about the battle itself. The Turks had been making their presence felt in Bulgaria and a crusade was announced. But when the crusaders finally arrived to besiege Turkish-occupied Nicopolis, a Turkish army arrived to fight them and the crusaders suffered a crushing defeat. The confusion lies in the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much evidence in England of 1,000 English knights, plus all their assorted baggage and hangers-on heading east for sunny Bulgaria at the time. And frankly you’d think someone would have noticed, particularly if a large chunk of them had never returned from the battlefield.
We were definitely in Bulgaria during the Crimean War (1853–56) because on the way to the Crimea our forces popped into the country for about three months to help the Turks, who by this stage were our allies and controlled Bulgaria against the Russians, who had a Bulgarian Legion on their own side during the war. All very confusing but presumably our leaders at the time understood it. Varna became a major naval base, and even today you can see a memorial to all the Britons who died there of cholera during the Crimean War. So, not the happiest of times for our folks.
By the First World War, the Russians, who had been our enemies, were now our allies and the Turks, who had been our allies, were our enemies. Got that? The Bulgarians, at least, were still on the other side. Most emphatically. We fought a bitter campaign against them in northern Greece, of which more in the Greece section, but by 25 September 1918 the British 26th Division was poised to cross the Serbian-Bulgarian boundary. This they did and Bulgaria surrendered two days later. The 27th Division meanwhile advanced into Bulgaria as far as Krupnik and beyond.
After it was all over, we had troops stationed here for the occupation of Bulgaria for a bit.