File No. 763.72/12170
The Consul General at Sofia ( Murphy) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 7.]
Sir: I have the honor to report that at 7.30 p.m. Wednesday, the 25th of September, Mr. Liaptcheff, Bulgarian Minister of Finance, called upon me to say that the Cabinet had just decided to break with Germany—and that all the members united in the request that I should accompany to the Macedonian front the delegates who had been selected to open negotiations for an immediate armistice as a preliminary to peace with the Entente.[Page 477]
Mr. Liaptcheff spoke freely of the situation in which Bulgaria found herself—a situation with which I had already become perfectly familiar. He reminded me of the long-existing dissatisfaction which had become intensified and had developed into such a universal hatred that the army at the front had become exceedingly discontented—three entire divisions refusing to fight longer on the German side.
I informed Mr. Liaptcheff that I had no instructions to guide me in such an emergency—but that if he could positively assure me that Tsar Ferdinand assented to the step about [to be] taken, I would accompany the delegates to the front and immediately notify the Department of my action. I was assured that the Tsar was fully in accord with the Cabinet and had accepted its decision without question.
I then sent a telegram to the Department advising of the situation and of my intention to leave for the front with the Bulgarian delegates. At 9.15 p.m. of the 25th, Mr. Liaptcheff, Minister of Finance, Mr. Radeff, Minister Plenipotentiary, Mr. Vassileff, a distinguished lawyer of Sofia, Mr. Walker and I left the city—the three first named going in one automobile, Mr. Walker 1 and I in the other. We travelled at full speed all night without stopping,— except once or twice when halted by patrols—and at 5 o’clock on the morning of the 26th we arrived at the headquarters of the general in chief of the Bulgarian forces.
The reason for the violent haste of the journey was to get to the front and open negotiations with the Entente commander in chief so quickly as to forestall action by the Germans and Austrians. And here it is proper to say that by the convention between Germany and Bulgaria, entered into in September 1915, it was provided that in case the latter should find herself in danger of invasion from the Entente forces, Germany would, upon receiving notice, immediately send six full divisions to aid the Bulgarians. Austria-Hungary likewise solemnly agreed that in such a contingency, she would despatch six other divisions. Two months ago, the new Government notified Germany that help was needed as the Entente pressure on the Macedonian front was too heavy to be borne long—but the answer was: “No troops can be spared.” The last request made on the 12th of August last, by Mr. Malinoff, Prime Minister, was answered by General Hindenburg, in effect, that as German forces were engaged in the decisive battle on the western front, no men could be sent—but that a corps would be ordered to Bulgaria from Sebastopol. Translation of the Hindenburg letter will be found herewith.2[Page 478]
This Hindenburg letter was the “last straw”. At once the Cabinet was called together—the session lasting all night. The unanimous verdict was that as Germany had violated her solemn compact with Bulgaria, the moment had come for a severance of relations. Hence Mr. Liaptcheff’s visit to me—and hence my journey to the front.
What Happened at the Front
Arriving at headquarters on the Strouma front, a Bulgarian captain was sent across the lines under flag of truce to General Milne, the British commander of the Salonica forces. The captain not returning, it was thought proper to send Mr. Walker over under another flag of truce early on Friday morning. Mr. Walker carried to General Milne a letter from me introducing the Bulgarian delegates and asking his good offices in putting them in touch with the commander in chief of the Army of the Orient with as little delay as practicable. As Mr. Walker had not returned by midnight Saturday, the 28th, I determined to return to Sofia,—the delegates having passed over the lines early that morning. On Sunday morning at 6 o’clock I started, accompanied by the adjutant of the Bulgarian commander in chief, a guard and a chauffeur.
It was subsequently learned that it was necessary for Mr. Walker to go to Salonica which place he left on the 30th.
On the return journey, in making a sharp turn in a narow defile, we found ourselves in the midst of a German division of artillery in full retreat. We went about four miles through their lines until there was a block caused by a broken bridge. The damage was repaired in an hour—but in the meantime nine British aviators attacked the German column—inflicting considerable loss. None of my party were injured—nor was the automobile damaged—although the bombardment by bombs and rapid gun fire was terrific, lasting about twenty-five minutes.
Forty minutes later there was another attack—lasting twenty minutes—and again none of the party were hurt. It should be said that the adjutant, when questioned about me by the officer in command of the German division, answered him that I was a Swiss writer who had been to the front. We were four hours working our way through the enemy’s lines—and it was early Monday morning, the 30th September, before I reached Sofia.
Mr. Walker had an experience also, as he was passing through Dupnitza, in the evening of the same day. At this place, the Bolsheviks, as they are now called—Bulgarian divisions which refused to fight longer—established a republic. A crowd gathered about the automobile in which Mr. Walker was returning and hurled rocks and stones—their purpose being to kill the officer who accompanied [Page 479]him. A large piece of rock struck Mr. Walker on the right side of the head, inflicting a severe wound from which he is now but recovering. The ridiculous “Republic of Dupnitza” lasted for the whole of forty-eight hours, when it disappeared from “the family of nations.”
What Happened in Sofia
As soon as news was received that an armistice had been declared, there was great rejoicing in Sofia—but it was soon learned that the three retreating divisions of the Bulgarian Army were marching on the city with the avowed purpose of taking the heads of Tsar Ferdinand and former Prime Minister Radoslavoff—the two men, more than any others, being held responsible for the alliance with Germany and the evil days that had fallen upon Bulgaria in consequence.
A battle was fought on the outskirts of Sofia lasting three whole days, many being killed and wounded on both sides, but the victory was with the Government. Then followed the abdication of the Tsar, the enthronement of the Crown Prince, Boris III, the Germans ordered to leave Bulgaria within eight days, the establishment of order in the country, and more than all the decisive blow given to German hegemony in the east and the weakening of the Central Powers by the defection of Bulgaria. And as was said in a recent telegram,1 Bulgaria, if needed, will fight on the side of the Entente. To-day again, I have had the assurance from an authoritative source that Bulgaria is ready at the word of invitation, to join forces with the Entente and the United States.
If it is at all possible, American troops should be sent to Bulgaria. They will be royally welcomed by the people—and their coming will mean that American influence in the Balkans will be permanent. Munro in his book Bulgaria and Her People well said—“Bulgaria is the only country in Europe in which the United States has played an important rôle in the development of a state … and the Bulgarians gratefully recognize their obligation.”
A large Red Cross contingent should also be sent to Bulgaria with ample supplies, for there is widespread suffering and much sickness. There is likewise a most lamentable lack of food as well as medicines and surgical supplies.
In conclusion I have to state that the Germans in evacuating Bulgaria are playing their usual rôle of violence and robbery. They are carrying off everything they can put hands to—robbing people of food, clothing and about everything they possess. At Nish they robbed the Bulgarian officers of all their belongings leaving them to get to their homes as best they could with nothing but underclothing, [Page 480]shoes and pantaloons. Here in Sofia, they have been sullen and impudent, refusing to leave the hotels until they were ready. In consequence, I am forced to entertain the French and English officers—with their eight chauffeurs. The Legation, which has been a decided centre of activity, is crowded—every room being occupied.
The English and French military officers are very well received—Bulgarians, without exception, being rejoiced that peace has been made with the Entente. My particular regret at this time is that no American officers are here.
I have [etc.]