This Day In History: September 24

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On September 24, 1918, the government of Bulgaria issues an official statement announcing it had sent a delegation to seek a ceasefire with the Allied powers that would end Bulgaria’s participation in World War I.

After being secretly courted as an ally by both sides in the opening months of the war, Bulgaria had decided in favor of Germany and the Central Powers in October 1915. By the end of that same month, Bulgarian forces had clashed with Serbia’s army in the former Ottoman province on Macedonia, driving a wedge between Serbia and Allied forces in Greece that were attempting to come to that country’s aid. In the summer of 1916, Bulgaria invaded and occupied a section of then-neutral Greece, mounting a major offensive in August that was only halted by British aerial and naval attacks. In April 1917, further British attacks against the Bulgarian trenches at Macedonia’s Lake Doiran proved unsuccessful, and the two sides remained locked in stalemate for much of the following year.

Over the course of 1918, as the Allies began to put more pressure on Germany on the Western Front, the Germans were forced to transfer many of their troops from the Salonika front—as the battlegrounds of northern Greece and Macedonia were known—where they had been aiding their Bulgarian allies. As a result, a planned Bulgarian offensive for that summer was canceled, contributing to disintegrating morale and growing discontent among the Bulgarian troops and on the home front, where people were starving. In mid-September, the Allies capitalized on the enemy’s weakness by launching their own offensive in Salonika, led by French General Louis Franchet d’Esperey. Less than a week after the initial attack against German and Bulgarian positions in Macedonia, the Allies had captured Lake Doiran. Defeat in Macedonia sparked unrest in the Bulgarian capital city, Sofia, including mutinies in the army garrison.

On September 24, with British forces approaching the Bulgarian frontier—they would cross it the following day—the Bulgarian government issued a statement announcing that due to “the conjunction of circumstances which have recently arisen,” its authorities had “authorized the Commander-in-Chief of the army to propose to the Generalissimo of the armies of the Entente at Salonika a cessation of hostilities and the entering into of negotiations for obtaining an armistice and peace.” Armistice talks began on September 28, and Bulgaria formally exited World War I the following day, having lost a total of 90,000 soldiers over the course of the conflict.