Serbia Is Invaded Once Again – The Entente Lands in Greece I THE GREAT WAR Week 63
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Serbia Is Invaded Once Again – The Entente Lands in Greece I THE GREAT WAR Week 63


Last year- 1914- Serbia was repeatedly invaded
by the Austro-Hungarian Imperial army, but managed to repel the invaders each time. Over
the following winter and spring, a typhus epidemic secured Serbian borders but at a
great cost in lives, and over the summer, Serbian enemies had their hands full on other
fronts, but this week, Serbia is invaded once again. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War The big news last week were brand new French
and British offensives on the western front in Artois, Champagne, and at Loos. They failed
to produce the much hoped for breakthrough, but did produce tens of thousands of corpses.
The Austro-German summer offensives had finally been stopped on the Eastern Front along the
entire line by stiffening Russian resistance and autumn mud, and in the Middle East, the
British Indian forces had taken Kut and were setting their sights on Baghdad. This is what
happened next. One other reason that the German offensives
in the east had come to a halt is that their chief architect, General August von Mackensen,
had been called to another theater of war. German army chief of staff Erich von Falkenhayn
had sent the German 11th Army to join his Austrian counterpart Conrad von Hotzendorf’s
forces under the command of Mackensen to invade Serbia from the north and knock her out of
the war. Another Balkan nation, Bulgaria, was going to join the war and attack from
the east. The Bulgarians had seen the enormous success of Mackensen’s earlier offensive
in Poland and Galicia and thought this would be a good time to get the land in Macedonia
they’d been promised after the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, but never given. They were
now promised plenty of land at Serbian expense and they’d agreed last month to join the
Central Powers, though they were going to wait until Germany and Austria had invaded,
since they were justifiably skeptical of the Austrian army’s prowess after its losses
against Serbia in 1914. Taking Serbia out of the war would not only
close its front with Austria-Hungary and free up a bunch of Austro-Hungarian troops, it
would open up a land route from Germany to the Ottoman Imperial capital Constantinople,
so the Germans could then supply the Turks who were still locked down at Gallipoli. On October 2nd, British Foreign Secretary
Sir Edward Grey says the “situation one of utmost gravity” and notes that Austrian
and German officers have arrived in Bulgaria to take direct command of local troops. On
the 3rd, Russia issued an ultimatum to Bulgaria that basically said, “we know what you’re
up to, and you better not do it.” And on October 6, 1915, the Austro-German
combined assault began with a heavy artillery bombardment on Serbian positions on the Danube
and Sava Rivers. German and Austrian bridgeheads were established pretty much right away, and
once the Serbian lines were broken, the weight of the invaders- some 400,000 strong- overwhelmed
them. On the 7th, the invaders crossed the Sava, Drina, and Danube Rivers, on the 8th,
the Serbs evacuated Belgrade, and on October 9th, 1915, Austro-Hungarian Imperial forces
occupied Belgrade, capital of Serbia. Meanwhile, Bulgarian forces concentrated across
the Serbian border to the east. But to the south, in Salonika, allied troops began landing
on the 5th, and by the end of the week, there were 20,000 troops there. Also at the end
of the week, Austria-Hungary invaded Montenegro. This whole front was getting really really
ugly. But what exactly were the Allies expecting
to do in Salonika, in neutral Greece? Well, by now it was pretty apparent that the
only thing that could prevent Bulgaria actively joining the war and attacking Serbia was a
show of force, but where was that going to happen? The Austrian navy was a big threat
in the Adriatic, and there weren’t harbors on the Albanian coast that could support a
big allied landing, so the Greek port of Salonika was pretty much the only choice. Greece, though, was in turmoil and was really
worried about being dragged into the war. I mean, technically Greece had been a winner
in the two Balkans Wars, but it was a rough experience, so Greece had remained neutral
when this war broke out, but there were still huge internal political battles about which
side to support. The King, King Constantine, was for the Central powers. Well, he was married
to the Kaiser’s sister. The Prime Minister, though, Elutherios Venizelos, was a supporter
of the Allies and saw their help as a real chance to expand Greek influence in the Balkans.
So, as the threat to Serbia grew, the Allies sort of bullied Greece using Venizelos as
their inside man who made the offer of allowing British and French troops to land at Salonika,
which they did as I said. But this was a flagrant violation of Greek neutrality, and it sparked
a huge fight between King and Prime Minister, which caused Venizelos to resign. Now, the expeditionary force itself was pretty
tricky for the Allies to arrange. Only the French acceptance of total failure at Gallipoli
allowed them to pull over troops, so they sent a division, and the British managed to
send a division, and they were all under the command of French General Maurice Sarrail,
so 20,000 of them landed, and at the exact same time 20 times that many Austrians and
Germans invaded Serbia from the north, and the Bulgarians were gearing up to the east.
So what was their purpose in Salonika? A show of force? Not likely anymore. But the Allies were certainly making a show
of force on the western front, as their offensives there continued. They didn’t continue with nearly the force
they had during their first week, which had resulted in tens of thousands of casualties
including three British major generals, but there were new developments. At Loos, the
Royal Flying Corps under Brigadier General Hugh Trenchard was making itself known. Early
in the battle, they had flown target sorties to help artillery shells from being wasted.
They had been using new improved wireless transmitters, which made a huge difference
in relaying target information, though many artillery batteries refused to use the information
because they didn’t believe it was accurate. One thing, though, during this battle British
pilots carried out organized tactical bombing for what may have been the first time in history,
targeting German trains, railway lines, and marshaling yards. The Germans made several
counter attacks at Loos this week, hoping to recover lost ground, including an enormous
push at the end of the week, but these resulted in heavy German losses. British tactics were also in play in the Middle
East this week. After last week’s victory at Kut, General
John Nixon, Commander of the British Indian army, wanted the battle’s winner General
Charles Townshend to pursue the enemy all the way to Baghdad. Townshend saw things a
little differently, and this is from his diary from October 3rd: “The army commander does
not seem to realize the weakness and danger of his line of communications. We are now
380 miles from the sea and we have only two weak divisions, including my own, in the country.
There is my division to do the fighting and Gorringe’s to hold the line of communications
from Kut to the sea. Thus there is no possible support to give me if I receive a check.” Thing is, because of the lack of success against
the Turks after over five months at Gallipoli, the war office in London was pretty desperate
for any success over the Ottomans, so it allowed itself to believe there were sufficient men
and enough transport to make the capture of Baghdad feasible. We haven’t looked at the Eastern Front this
week, but the Russians had begun new attacks in the region of Dvinsk. We’ll see more
of that soon. And a note I didn’t have time to mention last week: on September 27th, in
the Italian port of Brindisi, Austrian saboteurs destroyed the Italian battleship Benedetto
Brin, killing 456 sailors. And so we come to the end of yet another week
of war, as the Serbian front becomes active once again and the Austrians occupy Belgrade.
The fighting is still intense on the Western Front, the British are making plans in the
Middle East, and the Allies landed thousands of troops in neutral Greece. And Serbia is invaded once again, this time
by not one, not two, but possibly three larger nations. The Serbs had fought better than
perhaps any other nation in the war, but had paid a terrible price for their continued
independence. Disease was rampant throughout the country, doctors now numbered fewer than
200; there was hunger, refugees, and unlike its invaders, Serbia had lost far more of
its fighting men then it could hope to replace. Winter would soon be upon Serbia and despair,
destruction, and death, death, death would rule. And all for what? I don’t know. Do
you? I got nothing. What a waste. If you want to find out more about how General
Typhus’ rampage in Serbia, check out our episode right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Mike
Donahue. If like our show and want to meet us on the original locations of World War
1, consider helping us on Patreon. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow us
on Twitter for all announcements related to our show. See you next week.

26 Comments

  • aleksandar sijerkovic

    bulgaria was given part of macedonia as was the part of the deal just they wanted more and that is the reason for second balcan war so u said that bulgaria didnt had nothing in macedonia that is not correct she had but she lost that cus she wanted more part of greece teritory and part of serbian teritory

  • Pure Autism

    I know it's an old video but some matters have been dragged a long way. I won't go into tedious detail but I need to clarify some things about the conflicting interests and legality of claims in Macedonia.
    Firstly, the first Balkan war came as to liberate the Balkans from the Ottomans who were under the new Young Turk party starting a cruel turkification process from Sandjak to Thrace. The atrocities committed prompted Serbia, under the patronage of Russia to form a bloc of Balkan nations to confront the Ottomans. This eventually resulted in the formation of an alliance between Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro.
    Now before the war the alliance issued an ultimatum to the Ottoman Empire in which it demanded all of it's Balkan lands be given wide autonomy and envoys from neutral foreign countries (like Switzerland and Belgium) be employed as governors, so as to protect the various minorities without bias. The Ottomans refused and war broke out.
    The Bulgarians and Serbs agreed to split Vardar Macedonia down a sideways line, from the southern border with Albania to the northern one with Bulgaria. Serbia's main prize in the war was going to be Albania and sea access which it desperately needed to circumvent Austro-Hungarian economic sanctions and restrictions. An important part of the agreement between Serbia and Bulgaria was that in case of post-war disagreements between the two in regards to Vardar Macedonia they would seek arbitration from the Russian Tzar. And both agreed to accept whatever Russia decided.
    After the victory in the First Balkan War, most of the Balkans was liberated from the Turks. And Serbia played a major role in all theaters of the conflicts. When it achieved it's own war goals it helped the Montenegrins take Skadar, helped the Greeks take Salonica and the Bulgarians to take Edrine and break the stalemate in Thrace. All vital cities that wouldn't have been taken without Serbian help and helped end the war in the favor of the league.
    But in the peace conference in London, both Austria and Italy pushed for the independence of Albania, a push that was successful. And so under threat of war Serbia was forced to evacuate Albania, even the Montenegrins who sacrificed a lot of lives to take Skadar, weren't allowed to keep it. With this Serbia was left without any considerable territorial gains and with vital national interests lost. Have in mind that most of Vardar Macedonia was liberated by Serbia and during it many decisive battles were fought there between the Serbs and Turks, the only patch liberated by the Bulgarians was a small strip around the city of Strumica in South East Macedonia.
    Despite all that, after the London Conference the Bulgarians started pushing for even more land (They were coaxed on by the Austrians), despite them getting the most territorial gains during the war. They demanded Serbia not only give them what they agreed upon but also renounce all claims on Macedonia and evacuate the entire territory. Serbia was outraged and called in the arbitration of Russia. The Russians decided Serbia should keep Macedonia.
    And soon after the Bulgarians launched a surprise night attack on both Serbian and Greek lines in order to secure their hegemony in the Balkans. This marked the start of the Second Balkan War. In which Bulgaria would be defeated by the Serbs and Greeks and subsequently invaded by both Romania and the Ottoman Empire. Despite all that, the Bulgarians would still gain significant territorial gains from the war. Gains that could have been much larger if they respected to what they agreed upon.

  • Bojan Janković

    What do you mean what? They were fighting for their country's liberty,answer is so simple isn't it? You could have read Dragutin Gavrilovic speech instead of asking question why serbian people died?

  • Short bus rider

    Serbia knew they were screwed as soon as the Bulgarians asked for the offensives to be German led instead of led by a 6th generation inbred “General”

  • WhiteTemplar01

    You ask what it was all for with Serbia?! If there was any country that had a reason to fight it was Serbia, and this is coming from someone of Croatian ancestry. If you don't see what they were fighting and dying for you have to be blind.

  • murino Max

    It would be interesting to make episode about Stevan Sindjelic and Batle on Cegr. It woul be very interesting for all, for sure.

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