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Armistice of Salonica

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The official terms of the Armistice with Bulgaria.
The official terms of the Armistice with Bulgaria.

The Armistice of Salonica (also known as the Armistice of Thessalonica) was signed on 29 September 1918 between Bulgaria and the Allied Powers in Thessaloniki. The convention followed after a request by the Bulgarian government on 24 September asking for a ceasefire. The armistice effectively ended Bulgaria's participation in World War I on the side of the Central Powers and came into effect on the Bulgarian front at noon on 30 September. The armistice regulated the demobilization and disarmament of the Bulgarian armed forces.

The signatories were, for the Allies, the French General Louis Franchet d'Espérey, commander of the Allied Army of the Orient, and a commission appointed by the Bulgarian government, composed of General Ivan Lukov (member of the Bulgarian Army HQ), Andrey Lyapchev (cabinet member) and Simeon Radev (diplomat).

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  • ✪ Germany's Reckoning - Bulgarian Armistice I THE GREAT WAR Week 219
  • ✪ The Armistice of Mudros
  • ✪ The making of a World War
  • ✪ The end of the First World War Part 1 of 2
  • ✪ serbs in WWI


The Allies had lost a major player in this war, Russia, and the Serbian lands had been overrun, but the four Central Powers had held fast. Until this week, for this week Bulgaria leaves the war. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Allied routs on the Palestine and Macedonian fronts continued, while on the Western Front two new offensives, a British one and an Franco-American one also began. And this week, two MORE Allied Western Front offensives began. In the north on the 28th began what some call the 5th Battle of Ypres. This begins on a 40km front from Dixmude to Ploegsteert and features Army Group North, commanded by Belgian King Albert with French General Jean Degoutte as his COS, and with Herbert Plumer’s British 2nd Army under this command. The plan was to head east from Ypres, cross the salient, and take the Passchendaele Ridge. It was 10 British divisions, 6 French, and 9 Belgian. Plumer actually wanted to bypass the salient and head toward Messines, but British Commander Sir Douglas Haig didn’t want to press the issue since he really wanted to get the Belgians into action. Anyhow, Plumer didn’t do a preliminary barrage to try and maintain surprise, though he was only somewhat successful. The troops attacked over the same old terrain as last year, in the rain, and with no tanks, but the German defense was not what it had been last year. On the 28th the Allies advanced as far as 13 km in places, overran the salient, and took most of the ridge. The Belgians took Passchendaele itself. By the end of the 29th, Messines and Gheluvelt were also occupied and they had reached the Roulers-Menin Road. By then, though, with the rain and the mud again turning the land into a swamp, it was nearly impossible to bring up supplies, and the offensive was halted for the time being on the 2nd, That was the third of four offensives that had all begun within a few days of each other. Three of those four lost momentum, but not the fourth- the attack on St. Quentin Canal by the British 4th Army. This was against a formidable German defense- the center of the Hindenburg Line. The canal was 11m wide, with water and mud 2-3m deep, but it was also filled with barbed wire and the perpendicular banks had brick walls 3m high, so tanks couldn’t cross it. Concrete machine guns posts on the east bank protected it, as well as continuous trenches. And it was the center of the great defense in depth system. However, the Canadians had captured defense plans back on August 8th, which showed artillery, supply dumps, dugouts, everything. And though the defense system was strong, it was relatively old, and a lot of it was outdated or deteriorating. But even with an enormous three day artillery barrage beforehand, the attack on the 29th did not initially go that well, and the attackers did not even have a great numerical superiority. It was two Australian and two American divisions, and a lot of tanks, which attacked across two tunnels in the canal. On the left they didn’t make it to the Hindenburg Line, the center made a bit more progress, HOWEVER, British General Henry Rawlinson had insisted- over General John Monash’s objections (Stevenson) on a crossing of the actual canal itself by the North Midland 46th Division on the right flank. Their barrage took care of the barbed wire and broke the canal banks and by 830 AM they had crossed the canal and taken an intact bridge. They took they main enemy positions and continued until the 32nd Division could leapfrog them late in the day. This was a major major feat- John Terrains calls it “one of the outstanding feats of arms of the war”. The Hindenburg Line had been broken in a stretch well over a dozen kilometers. The British would widen the gap as the week went on, and only the Beaurevoir Line, the third and final line of the whole system, remained in enemy hands. David Stevenson writes that British intelligence reported October 1st that the German divisions recently engaged were 12 in Flanders, 23 in Champagne and the Argonne, and 32 opposite Cambrai. It was in that center where the largest attacks were coming. On the 30th, the Germans torched Cambrai. French- General Charles Mangin advanced on the Vesle and Aisne. The next day, the Germans fell back from Reims-Aisne plateau. They day after that, they withdrew north and south of La Bassee Canal and the British took Armentieres. Mangin had reached the Ailette. And at the end of the week, far to the north, the German big guns were being removed from Flanders coast. But the German army was not nearly defeated, and by the 29th the Americans had been stopped in the Argonne, partly by the Germans- who had brought in 6 divisions of reinforcements in a couple of days- and partly by total chaos in their own supply and communications lines. They had reached the Kriemhilde Stellung- the strongest German defensive line there, but had not yet taken it, and congestion was so bad that when French PM Georges Clemenceau went to recently captured Montfaucon, his path was blocked by American trucks whose drivers told him they’d been stuck in traffic for two solid days. At the end of the week, after reorganizing their supply lines, the Americans attacked Kriemhilde Stellung the 4th. They had a big numerical advantage, but this is a hard place to attack and they did not reach their targets. The Germans very well knew how strategically important this area was. A World Undone says that OHL- German High Command- considered it the “corner pillar” of the Western Front, and since it had been reinforced, it would be a tough nut to crack, thought they were trying in the face of devastating machine gun fire. And a small advance American force in the Argonne was cut off and surrounded... but more on them next week. Anyhow, one nut the Allies had completely broken open was the Macedonian Front. After being routed the past two weeks, a second Bulgarian request for an armistice is accepted by Desperate Frankie- General Franchet D’esperey- commander of the Allied Army of the Orient. It is signed the 29th, and Bulgaria’s war is over. They surrender at noon on the 30th and accept Allied terms: - immediate suspension of hostilities - immediate demobilization - handing over of stores and equipment - immediate evacuation of Serbian and Greek territory - all Bulgarian transport placed at Allied disposal - the departure of all Austro-Germans from Bulgaria within four weeks - So the German route to the east was now cut, and the German Middle East dream was now dead. The Radomir Rebellion that began last week in Bulgaria is defeated after three days of fighting just south of Sofia. Outside the borders, the Macedonian capital Skopje fell to the French. The Germans there were in retreat, since there was now no hope of holding the Balkans, and the southern approach to Austria lay open. The rail hub of Uskub fell the morning of the 29th. The Austro-Hungarians on the front take defensive measures, but the Italians push forward in Albania and the French and the Serbs drive them back in the Vranya region. By the week’s end, Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria has abdicated and been succeeded by his son Boris. Interestingly enough, Alexander Stamboliisky, who led the Radomir Rebellion, will be Boris’ PM next year. But the Macedonian Front was not the only Central Powers front that had been collapsing. In Palestine, on the 28th, the British cross the Upper Jordan River and meet up with forces of the Arab Revolt near Daraa. On the 30th, British General Edmund Allenby’s cavalry, after riding over 600 kilometers in 12 days, had arrived at Damascus. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade, from Western Australia, entered the city and the Turks finally stopped firing their weapons. Hundreds of years of Ottoman rule there was at an end. A few hours later, Lawrence of Arabia arrived in a Rolls-Royce, escorted by Indian cavalry. The Arab Revolt had succeeded. But what did German High Command think of these developments? Well, on the evening of September 28th, German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff had told Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg that they had to seek an armistice. The next day, with Bulgaria out of the war, they went to the Kaiser and said that the war could not continue. One big problem, though, is that American President Woodrow Wilson will not negotiate with the Kaiser or the German military. (Gilbert) “Grasping not only the nettle of military defeat, but also that of political democratization, the Kaiser signed a proclamation establishing a Parliamentary regime. In the space of a single day, Germany’s militarism and autocracy were all but over.” Well, Martin Gilbert says, that but G.J. Meyer fleshes it out a bit more in a World Undone. See, German Foreign Minister Paul von Hintze had suggested a “revolution from above”, a change of the German political system to show to show that Germany would have democratic leadership and it would be done BY, not in spite of, the Kaiser, right? What it involved was giving representatives from the Reichstag cabinet posts. This might not sound so radical but to the German conservatives it was an enormous violation of tradition. Chancellor Georg von Hertling even resigned rather than accept this, but Kaiser Wilhelm signed it. (Meyer) “His signature was the strongest imaginable evidence of how desperate the German leaders now understood their situation to be. It was also, sadly, a way of maneuvering the liberals and socialists in the Reichstag into taking a share of the blame for disaster that was unfolding.” Also, Ludendorff was pretty worried that his army was infected by socialist ideas, and there was indeed great political agitation at home in Germany, especially by the Spartacists who demanded an end of the monarchy and a socialist republic. But the first German Revolution did in fact take place on October 2nd, though not in the streets and not as a socialist revolution. It was in the council chamber, and Prince Max von Baden, second cousin to the Kaiser, became the new chancellor. He had two conditions for this- in future only the Reichstag could declare war or peace, and that any control the Kaiser still had over the army or navy must be ceded at once. Thing is, the choice of Max as Chancellor kind of had the Allies thinking “more of the same”, since he was of a noble house and a relative of the Kaiser’s. Hindenburg and Ludendorff now went to Max and told him what they’d told the Kaiser- that they needed an immediate truce, but Max disagreed. See, he thought that even with the military setbacks, the army could hold out for many months still, and he didn’t want to start negotiations with his position already basically surrendered. Hindenburg said you are very much mistaken, and Max said if things are so bad, just raise the white flag in the field. Max thought that too quick an armistice would result in the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the Polish parts of East Prussia under Wilson’s 14 points. Hindenburg said that while losing Alsace-Lorraine was okay, losing ANY territory in the east was verboten. You may think from that that the Chancellor had actually read the 14 points and Hindenburg had not. I don’t actually know, but you may be right. So at the end of the week, and with Austrian support, Max telegraphed Washington requesting an armistice. And what a week it was, with Damascus falling, Bulgaria leaving the war, and four Allied offensives in progress on the Western Front- one of them breaking the mighty Hindenburg Line. Ludendorff famously said on the 30th, “we cannot fight against the whole world” (Gilbert). Also, he had written a letter to Berlin stating that the collapse of the Macedonian Front and the impossibility of making up the enormous losses in the west made an immediate armistice necessary. Hindenburg had signed it too. Ludendorff ended the letter with (Gilbert), “Every day lost costs thousands of brave soldiers’ lives.” That sentence could have been written about any of the past 1,527 days of this war. If you want to find out more about Bulgaria before the war, you can click right here for our Bulgaria episode from back in the day. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Erik Finkemeier. Your support on Patreon kept this show on the air over the last few years and we are eternally grateful for this. Consider supporting us on Patreon at / thegreatwar And don’t forget to subscribe, see you next time.



The terms of the armistice called for the immediate demobilization of all Bulgarian military activities. It ordered the evacuation of Bulgarian-occupied Greek and Serbian territories, placed limits and restrictions to the size of Bulgaria's military employment and required Bulgaria to return military equipment that had been taken from the Greek Fourth Army Corps during the Bulgarian occupation of Eastern Macedonia in 1916. German and Austrian-Hungarian troops had to leave Bulgaria within 4 weeks. Bulgaria and especially Sofia were not to be occupied, but the Allies had the right to temporarily occupy some strategic points and to transfer troops over Bulgarian territory.

According to article five of the Armistice, about 150 000 Bulgarian soldiers that had been situated to the west of the Skopje meridian were to be delivered to the Entente as hostages.[1]

The French would send troops to Romania and the British and Greeks to European Turkey, at that moment still at war with the Allies.

The document would remain in effect until a final general peace treaty (the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, in November 1919) was concluded.



  • (1919) "Bulgaria Armistice Convention, September 29th, 1918". The American Journal of International Law Vol. 13 No.4 Supplement: Official Documents, 402-404.

See also

This page was last edited on 31 December 2018, at 01:51
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