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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Great Serbian Retreat

The Central Powers' invasion of Serbia began on 7 October 1915 as Austro-German troops attack ed from the north. A week later, the Bulgarians declared war and attacked from the east. The outnumbered Serbs were poorly supplied and stretched too thin to defend both fronts. Belgrade then fell to the Germans and the Bulgarians captured Kumanova, severing the country's north-south rail line. 

The Retreat Begins

Serbian Field Marshal Radomir Putnik ordered a full retreat of the Serbian military south and west through Allied Montenegro and into neutral Albania on 25 November 1915. 

Transport Abandoned on the Roads

The retreat got fully under way by mid-December with the troops joined by civilian refugees. King Peter and Putnik accompanied the columns. Boys, who could become soldiers in the future, were also encouraged to join.

Through the Mountains

The roads were terrible and transport had to be abandoned. The weather in the mountains was equally bad.

Field Marshal Putnik Became Ill and Had to Be Carried

The same conditions also limited the pursuit by the enemy. Nonetheless many others were lost to hunger, disease, hypothermia, and raids by Albanian tribal bands. Some estimates of the dead during the retreat are as high as 200,000.

Exhausted Survivors Arrive

About 155,000 exhausted Serbians — mostly soldiers — started reaching the coast by January 1916. Allied ships carried them to various Greek islands, particularly Corfu, for refitting before being sent to Salonika.

Respite in Corfu

1 comment:

  1. Didn't the Serbs drag central power prisoners with them to Corfu?