In 1918, British and Greek forces were faced by the Bulgarians in bitter fighting at the Battle of Doiran, now on the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This was one of the toughest battles fought by Britain in the First World War, yet today very few people have heard of it.
The Bulgarians were well dug in at Doiran and we had made several attempts in previous years to capture the defences here. In September 1918 we tried again. Both British and Greek units advanced with great bravery and some of the Bulgarian trenches were taken, but after bitter counter-attacks and heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, both British and Greek forces were pushed back. Combined British and Greek losses were over 7,000 men.
Fearful of being outflanked by Allied forces advancing on their flank, the Bulgarians were eventually forced to retreat and in the ensuing week we pursued them back to the Strumica Valley. By the time hostilities with Bulgaria ceased on 30 September, the 27th Division was in the region of Kosturino, Rabrovo and Cestovo.
In August 2001, British troops returned to Macedonia on a more peaceful mission, this time as part of a NATO team to help disarm Albanian rebels and calm a tense situation.