Macedonia : The Liberation of Thessalonica (26 October 1912)

Liberation of Thessaloniki by the Greek army (1912)

By Akritas

Immediately after the victorious battle of Giannitsa, the Hellenic Field Army made the necessary preparations to cross the river Axios and to move from there to Thessalonica. Timely orders issued specified that its units advance to the Axios, which was to be bridged as quickly as possible using makeshift materials. The bridges (one wooden road bridge and two railway bridges) had been destroyed by the Turks during their withdrawal, while the river waters had risen due to the constant rainfall. In order to facilitate operations, General Headquarters asked the Ministry of the Army to order the fleet to make a demonstration and stage a feint landing at Epanome bay, east of Thessalonica, so as to deceive the Turks.

On 23 October, General Headquarters was relocated from Giannitsa to Adendro village. At the same time, the Ministry of the Interior informed General Headquarters that the Bulgarian Army had captured Didymoteicho, which meant that communications between the Ottoman Army of Macedonia and Constantinople had been cut-off. Furthermore, the ministry informed General Headquarters regarding the situation prevailing in Thessalonike and the demoralization of the Turkish army there, which was ready to surrender. Reports generally indicated that the Ottomans were withdrawing towards Thessalonica and to the northwestern heights of the city, where its forces were hastily organizing temporary defensive positions.

In the meantime, the Ministry of the Army had not been informed about the progress of military operations since the day of the battle at Giannitsa, and, having been concerned about the fate of Thessalonica ever since it received information about the swift movement of strong Bulgarian forces towards the city, sent the following telegram to the Commander of theArmy, with a copy to King George, who was then in Beroea.


Athens 24-X-12. 7p.m. To H.M. the King, Beroea.
I have the honor of bringing to Your Majesty’s notice that I am sending a telegram to the Commander of the Army of Thessaly, to wit:
Headquarters, Army of Thessaly.

Ever since the battle of Giannitsa you have not announced to the ministry anything concerning your subsequent military operations as well as those of Division V Yet four entire days have passed since the battle of Giannitsa. This silence and the total lack of knowledge of the Government and of the Nation about the fate of its Army is indeed amazing.


The prime minister informed General Headquarters by another telegram of the actions taken for the execution of the feint landing at Epanome, which had been requested by it. He also recommended that the Hellenic Army hasten its entry into Thessalonica and informed General Headquarters that the consuls of the Great Powers were negotiating with the Turkish authorities for the city’s surrender. Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised General Headquarters about information in the foreign press regarding the condition of the belligerents in Thessalonica, and pleaded for the entry of the army into the city as soon as possible.

Greek army liberating Thessaloniki
The Greek army Liberating Thessaloniki while thousands of Macedonians cheering out on the streets

Divisions I, 11,111 and IV crossed the river Axios on 25 October. They were not, however, able to arrive at the assembly areas designated by General Headquarters until the early hours of the night. General Headquarters was established on the morning of the same day at the village of Gephyra.

On the same day (25 October), as the Hellenic Army was advancing, the consuls of the Great Powers in Thessalonica, persuaded the commander of the Ottoman army, Hasan Tahsin Pasha, to agree to negotiations in order to avoid needless bloodshed. Hasan Tahsin Pasha then charged two staff officers to deliver a document to the Greek outposts; in the document he announced that a delegation consisting of the consuls of the Great Powers and General Sawfik Pasha had been authorized to talk with the commander of the Hellenic Army, and for that reason it would be proper to avoid all military action before the delegation’s mission was accomplished. The document was delivered at the outposts of Division I and then forwarded to General Headquarters.

On noon at the 25 October the consuls of the Great Powers and General Sawfik Pasha arrived at the village of Sindos on a special train. But since their timely arrival at General Headquarters at the village of Gephyra was not possible via Sindos, the train returned to Thessalonica, escorted by the commanders of the Evzone Detachment and the divisional Cavalry of Division III. In Thessalonica the train changed rail lines and then reached the village of Gephyra via the Skopje line.

The commander of the Hellenic Army received the delegation immediately, and the conditions of Hasan Tahsin Pasha were submitted to him. The most important term was that Tahsin Pasha be allowed to withdraw his army, with all its weapons, to the eastern outskirts of Thessalonica and remain there until the end of the war. The commander of the Hellenic Army rejected the terms, demandingthe immediate surrender of the Ottoman Army, which would be considered a prisoner-of-war and transported, at Greek government expense, to a port in Asia Minor; only the Ottoman officers would be allowed to keep their swords. The delegation was given a deadline to respond on 26 October, and returned on the same train to Thessalonica.

In the meantime, the Ministry of the Army and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed General Headquarters of the southward advance of the Bulgarian Army following the capture of Serres, and expressed fear that a dangerous situation would be created if the Bulgarian and Greek armies arrived in Thessalonica simultaneously. A little after midnight, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs forwarded new information to General Headquarters on allied operations and affirmed that the entire city of Thessalonica was awaiting the entry of the Hellenic Army in order to participate in the doxology at the church of Agios Demetrios.

On the next day, 26 October, late noon , General Sawfik Pasha arrived at Gephyra village and announced that Hasan Tahsin Pasha had accepted all the terms set by the commander of the Hellenic Army. He only requested that the Turks be allowed to keep 5,000 weapons for the training of new consciipts. The request was rejected and the Ottoman general asked for a two-hour deadline to respond. However, the deadline passed without a Turkish response.

Meanwhile, the advance of the Greek divisions continued, wit,h the encirclement of the Turkish army becoming ever tighter, after which, seeing the futility of persistence and the consequences of a purposeless battle on the Ottoman army, Hasan Tahsin Pasha decided to accept all the terms set by the commander of the Hellenic Army. Shortly thereafter, Hasan Tahsin Pasha sent an officer on horseback to deliver a written statement according to which he accepted the terms of surrender of his army. At the same time, General Headquarters sent a letter to the commander of the Bulgarian forces moving towards Thessalonica, informing him of the Hellenic Army’s imminent occupation of the city by evening, and stating that the Bulgarian column could spare itself from the effort of further advance towards the city and turn to where its presence would be more important strategically. The Bulgarian forces spent the night south of Asseros, while Bulgarian officers visited the Cavalry Brigade commander and were briefed about his intentions for the following day and on the Hellenic Army’s plan of operations.

Meanwhile, the Greek officers who had been dispatched to Thessalonica immediately began negotiations with the commander of the Ottoman Army; after a two-hour conference, at night on 26 October, the protocol of surrender of the city and of the Ottoman Army was signed.

On the morning of the same day, 27 October, the representatives of the Greek commander in chief in Thessalonica and of the Ottoman commander signed a supplementary protocol agreement which settled various details relating to the Turkish Army’s surrender and the capture of the city

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1.Konstantinos Avitzigiannis,The Entrance of the Hellenic Army in the Thessaloniki at 1912,ekdoseis Amyntiki Grammi
2.GES,The Balakn wars 1912-1913

Online Source: MOTW

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