wars, the Greek Army Staff estimated that Bulgaria
had the capability to strike Greece
fast and effectively as it had a stronger army that could be mobilized and moved
forward to the borders more swiftly on account of the terrain and the good
condition of the transportat network. Moreover it was expected that if Greece and Turkey were engaged in military
conflict, a Bulgarian attack would be imminent. It was as a result of these
circumstances that the fortification of the Greco-Bulgarian border was
decided upon, following an initiative of the director of Directorate A of the
Army Staff Service, lt.col. Ioannes Metaxas. The construction of the
fortifications was assigned to the Salonika Fortress Command with a special
staff under the command of colonel (Eng) Eulampios Messalas.
The part of Macedonia east of the Mesta river is divided
by the Struma river into two regions: central and eastern Macedonia. Eastern
Macedonia was exposed to the Bulgarian attack,
therefore the fortification of the frontier was of primary importance.
However the finances of Greece
were poor because its army had been doubled in size. The safety of the urban
centres of eastern Macedonia
(Drama, Serres) was of a vital importance, because if these towns were lost,
this would mean the loss of the whole Eastern Macedonia.
As a consequence, Salonika, which was a
large military base, would be threatened. The only way to ensure the safety
of these towns was to fortify the frontier.
fortification of just one line was inadeguate because, if it were to break at
one point, the entire region of eastern Macedonia would be placed under
threat. Therefore a second interior line was necessary to contain an
invasion. However it was realized that if the construction crews working on
the fortifications were divided among two locations, it would take them too
long to complete the plan. For this reason the main passes at the frontiers
were fortified and of the interior line only Kavala, and the bay of Eleutherae, along with a few isolated
interception works on the border. In this way eastern Macedonia was secured and the
problem regarding the mobilization and the strategic concentration of the Greek
force was resolved. The fortification by interception works were designed to
withstand an enemy attack lasting no more than a few days. They were
fortified enclosures, of a semi-permanent nature, affording all-round
defence. Their garrison artillery should interdict some approaches to the
enemy, while their infantry should secure local defence. Isolated forts
flanked by smaller enclosures would deny the investment of the main fort and
forts were constructed on the Greco-Bulgarian border:
Rupel, 11 kilometres north
of Siderokastro for the defence of the Siderokastro pass and to safeguard the
Greek valley of the Struma river and Serres;
Phaia Petra, 28 kilometres north
of Serres for the defence of the mountain passes that lead from the Bulgarian
valley of the Struma and Ali Butush towards
Serres and Siderokastro;
Perithori, 25 kilometres east
of Phaia Petra for the defence of the approaches from the plateau of Kato
Neurokopi to Serres;
Lisse, a twin of the Perithori Fort, for the defence
of routes to the plateau of Kato
Neurokopi to Drama;
Tulumbar, 16 kilometres
northeast of Drama, for the defence of the routes which converge from Rhodope
mountain to the bridge
of Papades village
Paranesti, near the railway bridge
over the Mesta river, for the defence of the Korpyla defile.
Paradeisos, 20 kilometres north
of the mouth of the Mesta river for defence from the direction of Xanthe.
Owing to a
lack of means, the forts were not flanked by smaller permanent constructions,
but with field fortifications that were built by the units stationed there.
The fortifications of Kavala included fortified enclosures of the same type
as the interception forts, and provided the capability of cross fire. The
enclosures were complemented by smaller ones. Thus the entire line was
strongly fortified, covering Kavala and the bay of Eleutherae.
The area from the fort of Paradeisos to the mouth of the Mesta river was
considered an obstacle for the enemy and so it was not fortified. The ridge
of Kerkine mountain also remained unfortified. The fort of Dova Tepe
(Kastanousa) east of Dojran lake was constructed for the defense of the
passes and the protection of the railway line. The defensive position of
Dysoron mountain (Krusha Balkan), east of the fort of Kastanousa, was not
fortified because the conditions for the assembly of the Greek Army in the
area between the Mesta and Struma rivers were more advantageous compared to
those of the Bulgarians.
The forts were
intended to accomplish their mission mainly through the use of their
artillery. Therefore it was essential to maintain the effectiveness of their
fire and the security of the personnel and the materiel for as long as
possible. Since there was neither steel armour available, nor the capability
to employ reinforced concrete in the construction of the forts, protection
was achieved through the use of earthworks and shelters. The artillery was
protected by in-depth coverage, which resulted in the increase in the size of
the fort. Thus the fort at Rupel and the forts north of Kavala reached a
perimeter of approximately 2
km. It was not possible to effectively guard such a
large area with the only one infantry battalion, that
had been allocated to each fort. Therefore the infantry occupied a simple
line composed of trenches with no depth. The combat trenches were linked to
each other by communication trenches. The shelters that were connected to the
trenches provided protection from enemy artillery fire to the troops
depending on the situation. Special attention was paid to the organization of
the infantry and artillery observation posts, ammunition and food warehouses
and dressing stations. Each fort was surrounded by continuous barbed wire.
Balkans war the Greek Army had acquired many machine guns from booty, which
were distributed to the forts. The forts of Rupel and Kavala had more than 50
machine guns each. They were placed in the same trenches with the infantry.
The result was that only a very few could cover effectively the terrain in
front of the forts with enfilade fire.
offered only frontal coverage to the fort, while the sides and rear of the
fort were left uncovered. Therefore, if the enemy managed to penetrate the
fort on one side, it would constrict the fort from all sides. At any rate,
the forts were intended to hold out for a few days, during which time the
army would mobilize and assemble. The army then immediately would flank the
SOURCE : HELLENIC ARMY GENERAL STAFF - ARMY HISTORY
DIRECTORATE, A concise history of the
participation of the Hellenic Army in the First World war 1914-1918, Athens 1999, pp. 32-36.