Battle of Monastir (1917)

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Battle of Monastir (1917)
Part of Macedonian Front (World War I)
Location of Hill 1248 and Pelister mountain range.png
Location of Hill 1248 and Pelister mountain range
Date 12 March 1917 - 26 May 1917
Location West and North of Monastir, Kingdom of Serbia (present day Republic of Macedonia)
Result Central Powers victory
Commanders and leaders
German Empire Otto von Below French Third Republic Maurice Sarrail
Kingdom of Bulgaria First Army
German Empire 11th Army
5 French divisions
Casualties and losses
unknown 14,000 killed, wounded or sick[1]

The Battle of Monastir (1917) was a failed French attack against German-Bulgarian fortifications North and West of Monastir, between March 12 and May 26, 1917 during the Salonika Campaign in World War I.

The battle, or, better said, series of operations, is known under several names. In French it is known as Bataille de la cote 1248 (Battle of Hill 1248) and Bataille de Pelister (or Péristéri) after the Pelister mountain. In Bulgarian it is known as the Battle of Chervena Stena, after the Chervena Stena or Crvena Stena ridge, also in the Pelister mountain range. This could be translated as the Battle of the Red Wall, but that name wasn't used in French or English. Another used name is the Battle of Lake Prespa.[1]


Monastir (today known as Bitola) seen from Pelister

In November 1916 the Entente had managed to capture Monastir but it was impossible for them to use the city because it was within the range of the Bulgarian artillery in the Pelister mountain range to the West and Hill 1248 to the north of the city. The Allied commander-in-chief, Maurice Sarrail, made plans for a large spring offensive in 1917, besides attacking the Crna Bend and Doiran, he also planned an attack north and west of Monastir to give the city, which was always under enemy fire, a wider breathing space.

For this attack, Sarrail disposed of the French 57th Infantry Division,[2] 11th Colonial Infantry Division, 16th Colonial Infantry Division, 76th Infantry Division and 156th Infantry Division.

The battle

Sarrail's plan was to attack the enemy line between the Lakes Ohrid and Prespa and to also launch a frontal attack North from Monastir against Hill 1248. On March 11, the operations between the two lakes began with an intense bombardment and an attack by the 76th French Division against the Crvena Stena west of Monastir, where they captured some strong entrenchments around the villages of Dihovo, Tirnova (Tirnovo) and Snegovo. But the enemy's resistance proved more vigorous than expected, and together with the extremely bad weather, this caused the attack to fail.

The French attack on Hill 1248, which was to have been delivered at the same time, did not commence until the 14th. On the 18th, after 4 days of intense engagements, the French captured the whole of Hill 1248 as well as the fortified village of Krklino (also named Krklina, Kir-Klina, Kerklino, Kerklina, etc.), taking 1,200 prisoners. But the enemy succeeded, by a counter-attack, in recapturing part of Hill 1248, whose summit remained abandoned by both sides. Monastir was somewhat relieved, but the town continued to remain under fire until the Armistice, when more than half of it had been destroyed by the 20,700 shells dropped on the town proper. Some 500 inhabitants were killed and 650 injured.[3]

The Chervena Stena was also retaken by the Bulgarians on 18 May.


This French defeat meant that the whole spring offensive of 1917 left the allies with no results at all.[4]

For the Bulgarians this victory was a great boost in moral and there were even comparisons made with the historic victory in the Battle of Shipka Pass against the Turks in 1877.

It was only 15 months later that the allies succeeded in breaking through the Bulgarian-German defenses in the Battle of Dobro Pole (September 1918). This forced the capitulation of Bulgaria, thus decidedly turning the strategic and operational balance of the war against the Central Powers.

See also


  1. ^ a b The Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History, p. 667 
  2. ^ Parcours du 372 RI 57e Division d’infanterie (PDF) 
  3. ^ Villari (1922), pg.126
  4. ^ PREMIERE GUERRE MONDIALE : LA GUERRE DES BALKANS (1915-1918), Monastir est bombardée quotidiennement. En mars, les 57ème, 76ème et 156ème Divisions d’infanterie attaquent le massif du Péristéri et la cote 1248 afin d’établir une liaison avec les troupes présentes dans la région des lacs de Prespa et d’Okrida. Ces offensives se soldent par un échec : les Alliés ne parviennent pas à dégager Monastir. Printemps 1917 : les offensives ont peu de succès malgré les lourdes pertes, et les Alliés ne gardent pas les positions conquises. 


  • Satellite map of the battlefield around Crvena Stena
  • The Story of the Salonica Army by G. Ward Price, Chapter XIII
  • Cambrian Daily Leader, Friday 30th of March, 1917 The Monastir gaines
  • Historique du 8e RIC (anonyme, Imprimerie Mouton & Combe, TOULON 1920) Chapter X
  • Journal de Marche et d'opérations du 34e Régiment d’Infanterie Coloniale (2 août 1914 – 1er avril 1919) Chapter VII
  • Pages 1914-1918 Le Pelister ou Péristéri
  • French photos of the battle for Hill 1248, showing French soldiers and Bulgarian prisoners
  • Photos and casualties list from the bombardment of Monastir
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