Before I begin with AoT story, I have to talk a bit about the Great War. Although not the worst, Great War was one of the most horrible period of human history. Some 17 millions of deaths, 20 millions wounded, destroyed countries and economies, proved that we haven’t learned almost anything from previous conflicts, nor we learned anything from Great War either. Only what we learned is how to kill more, and how to make more money out of it.
War for in that time small Kingdom of Serbia was in a line of the biggest catastrophes – around 20% of entire population died, and 33% of all men. Autro-Hungarians and Bulgarians, while they managed to occupy Serbia for two and a half years, performed many atrocities and crimes, killing civilians and making their lives living hell. On the front, for entire four years, Serbian men were fighting, and kept fighting even when they lost entire country by joint operation of Germany, AU and Bulgaria.
I have to stay on this very epic moment, since its not so common for Westerners to talk about that part of the Great War history… and I ll try to be short as possible.
So, what we have is that in central Balkan majority are the Serbs. We had there in that time two states – Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Montenegro. They stood together in previous Balkan Wars, and when the Great War started, they stood together again. It was great courage to fight for own freedom and rights against the closest neighbor – ten times larger Empire of Austro-Hungary.
Picture 1: Serbian infantry marching to front
So, one would say, c’mon they don’t have any chance at all. But, Serbs managed to repel all attacks in 1914, and actually first major victory for Triple Entente (Allies) was done by Serbian army against AU army – Battle for mountain Cer (200.000 AU and 180.000 Serbian combatants). It was followed by continues combats and operations – Battle on the river Drina and the most famous Battle for Kolubara.
After almost calm 1915, Bulgaria saw its chance taking German and AU side, and they all attacked on the end of 1915 Serbia and Montenegro from all sides. Allies, Brits and French, had some troops in Greece in that time, but they couldn’t stop Bulgarians, so Serbs lost connection with Allies and found themselves in complete encirclement. What they done next was complete madness.
Picture 2: Kingdom of Serbia against 2 Empires and Bulgaria
Madness and spite, to preserve and to fight till end. They decide to move to south west, to the Adriatic cost in Albania, where they should be picked by Allies ships. Not only soldiers started that journey, but also lots of civilians. Even the old King Petar of Serbia. For days they were passing big mountains in middle of winter, dying in thousands, tens of thousands. Soldiers, old people, children. Golgotha of Serbs in Albania.
Sadly, both Kingdoms – Serbia and Montenegro were occupied and Montenegro sign capitulation. By the way, just to clear that thing out – Montenegrins, Serbs in origin, are proud people and good fighters, but on the end they were and are in small numbers, with poor economy and harsh conditions in their country. Army and soldiers maybe would join Serbian army and keep fighting in Greece, but taking in account situation in the country, that families depends on those soldiers, no wonder that their King sign capitulation in that moment.
On the end, Serbian army and civilians managed to get to Greece, with pressure by Tzar Nikolai of Russia – as in first moment Western Allies weren’t so cooperative to help Serbs in transport from Albania, around Greek peninsula to Thessaloniki.
Picture 3: Terrible roads and conditions during Golgotha in Albania
Those convoys transported not humans anymore, but living skeletons. That is how hard that entire errand was. But, only few months later, well rested and rebuilt Serbian Army helped Allies to stop Bulgarian offensive in Macedonia, created Thessaloniki Front and liberated small but for moral important part of their country, in southern Macedonia.
For over two years all Serbs kept fighting and waited moment to push forward and liberate motherland. And when that moment came, no one could stop them. While on Western front there were some good pressures on Germans by Allies well helped with Americans, it was still more or less stalemate. No Ally soldiers managed to cross in Germany. Then entire structure crumbled. Allies prepared on Thessaloniki Front major offensive. All three armies pushed together – French, Brits and Serbs, but Serbian part of the front exploded. Serbian soldiers pushed so strong and hard in the background of entire front, through Macedonia, and toward Serbia, that we had reports of Allies commanders as this one: French cavalry cannot maintain speed with Serbian infantry. They were flying on the foot. Toward own homes, families and country.
In just two weeks Bulgaria signed capitulation. Serbs entered in main part of Serbia and fought away Germans near Nis. Then they just keep going north-west and west. Belgrade, Serbian capital, was liberated on 1st November. Few days before, since French and Brits were marching toward Istanbul, Ottoman Empire also signed capitulation. It was over and all knew it. Germany and AU capitulated too.
Picture 4: Serbian Army at victory celebration in Paris 1919.
I hope you enjoyed this really quick and brief the Great War history from Serbian perspective.
The thing is why I had to write about it is that we all have our grandfathers fought in that war. My grand-grand fathers fought for 6 years and one of them, Stojan Eric, managed to get Order of Karadjordje’s Star (highest military decoration) and his picture is my gravatar.
In his and theirs honor, to preserve memory on those hard but epic times, i have made site www.prvisvetskirat.rs (its in Serbian for now, maybe in some other languages in future) with lots of material from the Balkan Wars and the Great War.
But, even with all that effort, I still have a feeling that no matter what I do, it will be hard to give enough honor to all of them. Glory to them, and glory to all soldiers that fought in that war, but which kept honor and humanity in their hearts.