The Battle of Dobro Polje came at a very tenuous time for the Bulgarian army. They had spent years living in trenches in enemy territory. Morale was already low before the battle began and the soldiers were losing faith in the war and in their own country. Once the artillery shells starting falling and the infantry started advancing upon them, soldiers in the Bulgarian army started to desert en masse. They had poor supplies and were tired of fighting and instead of giving their lives for a cause they did not support and a country that was no supporting them, they chose to leave.
A large group of deserters reached the town of Kyustendil on September 25. They started looting the city and this caused the Bulgarian High Command to flee, fearing an attack by the rampaging soldiers. The rioting soldiers then met up together at the railway center of Radomir which was just 30 miles from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
The Bulgarian Agrarian National Union took advantage of the situation, and on September 27 they took over control of the troops that had deserted the army. Now that they suddenly had their own army the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union declared the Bulgarian Republic. The next day between 4,000 and 5,000 soldiers moved on to Sofia and threatened the city.
With their own country in chaos and the fear of an Allied invasion, the Bulgarian delegation traveled to Thessaloniki to ask for an armistice. On September 29, just 15 days after the start of artillery shelling on Dobro Polje, General d’Esperey granted the Armistice of Salonica to the Bulgarians.
“Desperate Frankie” Led The Charge to Finally Liberate Serbia
Louis Franchet d’Esperey was a French General who was career military man. He was the son of a cavalry officer and was educated at Saint-Cyr. After graduating he was assigned to a regiment of Algerian Tiralilleurs. He served in French Indochina, China, and Morocco. In 1913 he was made commander of I Corps.
In the first year of the war, Franchet d’Esperey proved himself as corps commander during the Battle of Charleroi. He was also able to rally his I Corps to a successful attack at the Battle of the Guise. His skill as commander of I Corps earned him the position of Commander of the Fifth Army. He found that the best way to rally his men to perform was to act the tyrannical leader, despite the fact that he was actually a rather kind man. He would threaten to shoot any man who did not do his duty.
In March 1916, he as promoted yet again to be in command of the Eastern Army Group. By January 1917, he was put in command of the Northern Army Group. But his luck seemed to have run out as he was soundly defeated by the German at the Battle of Chemin des Dames in Mary 1918.
His defeat had him removed from the Western front and sent to command the Allied Army of the Orient at Salonika. In September 1918, he was in command of a very large army that consisted of allies from Greece, France, Serbia, Britain, and Italy. It was during his time as commander of the Allied Army of the Orient that he was given the name “Desperate Frankie” but British soldiers who were not quite able to say his name properly. Whether or not Franchet d’Esperery really was desperate for a win after his defeat against the Germans, he did succeed in collapsing the Southern Front and making it all the way to Hungary.
When the Bulgarians fell to the Serbian army, Kaiser Wilhelm was furious. He sent a telegram to Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria that said “Disgraceful, 62,000 Serbs decided the war.” It is unclear whether or not Kaiser Wilhelm really knew the likely outcome of a Bulgarian surrender or if he was simply expressing his anger at the Tsar’s failure.
But after the Battle of Dobro Polje, the British Forces headed East toward the Ottoman Empire. They headed toward Constantinople and the Ottoman government had no forces to stop them and decided to surrender on October 26.
The French and Serbian forces continued moving throughout Serbia to free the country. The German 11th Army without the support of the Bulgarian army were completely on their own and had no choice but to surrender to the Allied forces. Austria signed their own armistice on November 3 due to the overthrow of the Hapsburg monarchy. They continued on and the forces under General d’Esperey crossed the Danube river and were ready to enter Hungary. General d’Esperery requested an armistice which the Hungarian government willingly signed.
Germany was now completely alone in the war effort, and with the Allies strong enough to continue fighting, the Kaiser knew that there was no longer any chance for victory. The armistice was signed at 5 a.m. on November 11, 1918, but the ceasefire did not come into effect until hours later. So on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” the war officially ended. Up until the last moments, fighting continued as Generals tried to capture more land before the end of the war.
Despite the initial French reluctance to mount an offensive on the Southern Front for most of the war, there is no denying the impact the battle had on the outcome of World War I.
To remember the importance of the battle, not only the French soldiers who fought in the war but the battle that ended the Southern Front of World War I, there is a street named after the battle in Paris. Rue du Dobropol is in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. The street was named and opened in 1928.
Rue du Dobropol is not the only street that takes its name from the outcome of the battle. There are several streets throughout France that are named after Louis Franchet d’Esperey in cities such as Dijon, Reimes, Versailles, Lorient, and Saint-Etienne.
But it is not only France that has chosen to commemorate Louis Franchet d’Esperery and the Battle of Dobro Polje. In Serbia, the city of Belgrade has a boulevard that takes its name from the famous French commander and the role he played in liberating the country during World War I. Greece also has a street that is named after Louis Franchet d’Esperey, in Salonika.