Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why France Stayed the Course at Salonika

A Parisian in Salonika
France stuck steadfastly to a Balkan campaign while half her coalfields and the iron ore of Briey and Longwy had fallen into the clutches of Germany... France obviously had certain territorial designs in
the eastern Mediterranean—in the first instance this involved the possession of Syria and Cilicia and included, at least in the first half of the war, Palestine.

But the possession of Syria merely reflected a deeply held conviction that France's future was inextricably bound up with her standing in the Near East. It masked, therefore, a much broader aim, to carve out as wide a sphere of influence as possible in the whole area. Thus, while campaigns on the Western Front might help France win the war, those in the east would play as important a role in aiding her to win the peace. In a strategic sense, then, the Salonika expedition was a lever for French ambitions in a wide area. More immediately, however, it was used as the vehicle by which France would acquire direct economic and hence political influence in the area closely affected by the presence of her army.

All of these factors made it most unlikely that France and England would be able to cooperate fully in the Salonika venture, especially when there were few in England who even favored the continuation of the campaign. France's underlying strategic motivation inevitably cut across British interests in the Mediterranean balance of power, while her commercial and political aspirations in Greece and Macedonia ran counter to British policy, which in this part of the world at least, was more concerned with winning the war as soon as possible.

Professor D.J. Dutton, University of Liverpool
"The Balkan Campaign and French War Aims in the Great War"

1 comment:

  1. Excellent question and answer. The Salonika Front doesn't get nearly enough attention.

    What's the best modern reading on that, Alan Palmer's _The Gardeners of Salonika_?