Region: Greece / Balkans Area
Group: Occupations in the Balkans, ww1
Classification: Military Occupation
Prior Regime: Kingdom of Bulgaria
1913 – 1919 – Thrace controlled by Bulgaria
1919, Oct 10 – Entente Forces officially take military control Western Thrace
1919, Oct 22 – Inter Allied administration of Western Thrace begins with French General Charpy appointed Governor
1920, May 20 – Greece annexes Western Thrace
Following Regime: Greek Occupation of Thrace
Scott Catalogue: (Thrace) #N1-N25, NJ1-NJ8
Pick Catalogue: (Thrace Interalliee, Bulgarian provisional issues) #s101-14
Thrace, the region which encompasses European Turkey, southern Bulgaria and eastern Greece, had been under Ottoman rule since the 14th century. Northern Thrace became the province of Eastern Rumelia in 1878, and was annexed by the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1885.
In 1912, the Balkan League, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro, went to war against the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War (1912-1913). After a clear victory, the Balkan countries divided and annexed most of its European territory, including Adrianople. Bulgaria, unhappy with the allocation of the land, (especially Greek and Serbian gains in Macedonia), launched an attack in June 1913 against its former allies. The Bulgarian attacks were quickly driven back, and Greek and Serbian armies invaded Bulgarian-held territory. Simultaneously, the Ottomans advanced into Eastern Thrace and retook Adrianople, while Romania used the opportunity to invade Bulgaria from the north and advanced with little opposition to within a short distance of Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Attacked on all sides, Bulgaria was forced to agree to a truce and peace negotiations. In the end, the Bulgarians did not receive the territories in Macedonia that they wanted, but they were awarded much of the territory of Western Thrace. The region remained as part of Bulgaria until the end of World War 1
On the 1918 Entente forces defeated Bulgaria in Macedonia and as part of the surrender agreement, Bulgaria was to retreat from the area of Western Thrace, while “inter-allied” forces assumed control. On 10 Oct, 1919, General Charpy of France went to Komotini (Gumulcine) and assumed military control over the area. On 22 Oct, 1919, General Charpy was appointed Governor of Western Thrace. The subsequent Treaty of Neuilly agreed in November, Bulgaria ceded all of Western Thrace to the Entente, thereby cutting off Bulgaria’s direct outlet to the Aegean Sea.
After the war, the Allied Supreme Council (without the U.S.), gathered at a conference in San Remo in April, 1920. At that conference, it was agreed (among other things) that the Greeks would assume control of Western Thrace, and would be allowed a Greek presence in eastern Thrace as well as on the Anatolian west coast and the Aegean Islands commanding the Dardanelles. Upon this agreement Greek forces moved into Western Thrace to replace the international troops, and on 20 May, 1920, Greece officially annexed Western Thrace.
In 1919, Allied forces overprinted stamps of Bulgaria, including 3 postage due stamps, with various configurations of “THRACE INTERALLIEE”. The first issue of 6 denominations were handstamped diagonally in violet, but subsequent issues were printed either horizontally or vertically in black.
In 1920, an additional six definitive issues of Bulgaria, along with five postage due issues were overprinted “THRACE OCCIDENTALE”, meaning Western Thrace.
As the Greeks assumed control in Western Thrace in May, 1920, the Greek authorities replaced the Inter Allied stamps with Greek stamps overprinted “Διοίκησις Δυτικής Θράκης” (Western Thrace Administration).
In 1919-1920, during the occupation by international forces, provisional banknotes were issued. Initially, Bulgarian banknotes were handstamped with a circular design containing a seated Liberty image. Soon afterwards, an adhesive stamp inscribed “THRACE INTERNATIONALE” with the same seated Liberty design was affixed to the banknotes. After the Greeks occupied the region in 1920, Greek currency was used.