Friends and Enemies

Friends and Enemies


In this tale we follow the 7th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment through recruitment and training, their time in Macedonia and subsequent career protecting the Bulgars from the Romanians and trying to stem the tide of Bolshevism in the Caucasus.  In the stages after the war was over many young officers were thrown into the cauldron of Balkan politics and acquitted themselves well.

The war in the Macedonian Theatre had several parallels with the fighting on the Western Front: the British were allied with the French, they were facing a foe which occupied the high ground and there was little movement on either side until the final collapse.  But there were significant differences: they were far from home and virtually ignored by the British press, they suffered more from disease than from the enemy, they were short of supplies and any modicum of home comfort behind the lines.

What was perhaps most significant was that there was virtually no mutual animosity between the opposing sides.  Insofar as the Bulgars were concerned Britain was not one of their traditional foes and they displayed many acts of humanitarian concern which would have been unthinkable on the Western Front, like allowing British stretcher bearers to enter their trenches to recover bodies and the wounded.  For the British the main battles seemed to be against the machinations of the French and the hostility of the British Generals in France.  The artist Stanley Spencer perhaps summed up the British attitude towards the Bulgars when he reported "they seemed to be aliens from another planet."

Again in sharp contrast to the Western Front there there were no fixed trench lines, only outposts.  The vegetation remained intact for the most part and the patrols sent out were as liable to meet an opposing outpost from the rear as from the front.  There were many examples of patrols leaving messages for each other, either inviting desertion or sympathising with conditions that both sides had to endure.


In this account the author draws heavily on operational orders and reports and on the accounts written by the men in letters home or reported to the press.