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

Thursday, October 8, 2015

100 Years Ago: The Fall of Belgrade Signals the Coming Conquest of Serbia

German Celebration of Bulgaria's Joining the Central Powers

With the Allied loss in the Battle of Gallipoli and the Russian defeat at Gorlice, King Ferdinand signed a treaty with Germany and on September 23, 1915 and Bulgaria began mobilizing for war. Militariy, Serbia was exhausted by the fall of 1915. It has suffered huge military losses in turning back invasions of 1914 and was economically drained.  Further, a devastating typhus epidemic raged throughout the country.

When the combined armies of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Germany attacked, Serbian defenses collapsed. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans began their attack on 7 October, with their troops crossing the Drina and Sava rivers, covered by heavy artillery fire. Once they crossed the Danube, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians moved on Belgrade itself. Vicious street fighting ensued and the Serbs' resistance in the city was finally crushed on 9 October.

Serbian Defenders

Then, on 14 October, the Bulgarian Army attacked from two directions, from the north of Bulgaria towards Niš and from the south towards Skopje (see map). The Bulgarian First Army defeated the Serbian Second Army at the Battle of Morava, while the Bulgarian Second Army defeated the Serbians at the Battle of Ovche Pole. With the Bulgarian breakthrough, the Serbian position became untenable; the main army in the north (around Belgrade) could either retreat or be surrounded and forced to surrender. In the Battle of Kosovo the Serbs made a last and desperate attempt to join the two incomplete Allied divisions that made a limited advance from the south but were unable to gather enough forces, due to the pressure from the north and east, were halted by the Bulgarians under General Georgi Todorov, and had to pull back.

The Conquest of Serbia — 1915

Marshal Putnik ordered a full retreat, south and west through Montenegro and into Albania. What ensued was one of the great epics of military history, and with the help of the Allies, a reversal of fortune in 1918.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. My favorite quote from the Belgrade battle:
    "At precisely 3 pm, the enemy will be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets... Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the Fatherland. Therefore, you no longer need worry about your lives; they no longer exist. So forward to glory! Long live Belgrade!"
    -found in Prit Buttar, Germany Ascendant: The Eastern Front 1915 (375)

  2. This is an interesting read in light of the Kosovo War of 1998-99. So many ethnic groups with nationalistic aspirations that only Tito could keep a lid on during his dictatorial reign.