The Great War
James Mowbray

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The Balkans Front

1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918
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4. The Balkans Front

1914 .. return to top

    29 July
    Austrians shell Belgrade, but are unready for offensive operations

    12-21 August
    Austrian invasion repulsed by the battle hardened (from the earlier Balkan Wars) Serbs

    6 September
    Serbs invade Bosnia, with an eye to incorporation

    7-17 September
    Battle of the Drina (River) Austrians invade Serbia, disregarding Serbs in Bosnia, who are shifted back to defend Belgrade, but after ten days of fierce fighting are forced to withdraw southwest of their capital (still in Serb hands)

    5-30 November
    Austrian offensive pushes Serbs back into the mountains, and Belgrade is seized by them; once the Austrians were fully extended into the mountains,

    3-9 December
    Battle of Kolubra Serbians counterattack, pushing the Austrians back, and then force the collapse of their enemy who retreats from Serbian soil

1915 .. return to top

    6 October
    Austro-German-Bulgarian invasion of Serbia pits 330,000 men against half as many Serbs at the point of contact, who conduct a three month long fighting withdrawal towards Montenegro and Albania, from the coast of which the survivors are evacuated by French and Italian vessels to Corfu (January 1916); Serbian Army is reequipped and retrained on Corfu preparatory to being committed in Greece

    9 October
    Anglo-French forces land at Salonika, northeastern Greece, on invitation of the pro-Allied Greek government, fearful of a Bulgarian invasion; on the same day King Constantine of Greece, a pro-German monarch, changed his government and announced Greek neutrality, but the Allies were not about to go home at that point; you thus have the anomaly of a neutral country with the war going on within it, while it watches

1916 .. return to top

    17-27 August
    Battle of Florina Bulgar-German offensive drives the Allies, under French General Sarrail, back to the Struma River line, where the front is stabilized

    10 September-19 November
    Allied counteroffensive recovers much of the lost ground, and seizes Monastir, a key strategic objective in the theater

    Italian operations in Albania, disconnected from the Salonika front, proceed against the Austrian occupiers of that country, until the two fronts are joined on 10 November

1917 .. return to top

    Stalemate Two Allied offensives fail to gain ground, 11-17 March and 5-19 May, while German air supremacy crippled the Allied intelligence service and rendered them vulnerable to harassment from the air; Allied commanders were at cross-purposes and Greece was in turmoil

    12 June
    Constantine forced to abdicate and the new King Alexander reappoints a pro-Allied government (26 June), whereupon

    27 June
    Greece enters the war on the Allied side, and

    10 December
    Clemenceau replaces Sarrail with General M.L.A. Guillaumat, who begins an overhaul of the Allied Army

1918 .. return to top

    Clemenceau replaces Guillaumat with the brilliant warrior General Franchet d'Esperey, who supported by Milne his British colleague, wrests agreement from the Allied Supreme War Council for a major offensive in the Balkans

    15-29 September
    Battle of the Vardar In which d'Esperey with 200,000 men fit to fight (out of 600,000, the rest of whom were malarial, unfit, or otherwise rendered hors d'combat due to disease and conditions in the theater) attacked the Bulgarian Army of 400,000 men

      15-16 September
      Franco-Serb assault, led by the Serbs, begins to penetrate Bulgarian lines

      18 September
      British diversionary attack begins and takes ground, pinning Bulgarians who cannot thus aid on the main front, where the Serbs continue to make gains

      25 September
      the Serb attack split the Bulgarian Army, and the French on the flanks of the Serbs drove open the wedge;

      26 September
      the British reach Strumitsa, while French cavalry penetrated the Serbian spearhead, and

      29 September
      French cavalry reached Skoplje as Allied air power created panic in the retreating Bulgarian armies which were continually attacked in the narrow passes north of the battlefield, leading to

      29 September
      Bulgarians signed an armistice, but d'Esperey pushed rapidly north for the next six weeks, headed for Austria by the back door, and on

    10-11 November
    Allied forces seized a crossing over the Danube River as Germany, threatened from all sides capitulated

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