Uoči godišnjice početka bitke na Kajmakčalanu, naša gošća na blogu je koleginica Tara Finn koja je sa partnerskim organizacijama u UK radila na istraživanju i edukativnoj kampanji o manje poznatim ličnostima i događajima iz Prvog svetskog rata.
The Serbian Army's brave retreat over the mountains into Albania in the winter of 1915 is a story that was well known a hundred years ago. The hardships they faced after that are much less known. Those members of the Serbian Army who survived the retreat headed for Salonika.
Between 1915-18 troops and nurses from a number of countries were based in Salonika. On the Entente side this included Britain, Ireland, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, India, Italy, and Serbia. From the Central Powers this was Bulgaria, Germany, Turkey and Austria-Hungary. Many of them had survived harsh places, such as the Eastern Front, Gallipoli or the retreat from Serbia. For all bar one of these countries, this was not the only theatre in which they were fighting. The exception was Serbia. Throughout the war Serbs from around the world returned to Europe to fight, but as a national army after the retreat, the Serbs only fought on the Salonika Front.
©Imperial War Museum Q 79036
Description: British labour battalion digging a drainage channel to help destroy the area as a breeding ground of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
The war in Salonika saw few offensives in 1915. In common with other places, the soldier's experience was a combination of boredom and terror. Because the fighting there was not constant President Clemenceau of France dismissed those stationed there as ‘the gardeners of Salonika'. However, the plants in this garden had vicious thorns. Extreme heat, high malaria rates caused by mosquitoes breeding in stagnant pools, and dysentery were typical in summer. In winter, the extreme cold led to many cases of frostbite.
1916 saw more action. 12 September 1916 saw the beginning of the Battle of Kajmakčalan (‘butter churn'). This was fought up a mountain, the highest peak of which was 7,700 feet above sea level. Serbian forces took the lead, supported by the French. The aim was to secure the high ground, strategically necessity to capture the town of Monastir (now called Bitola) and push the Bulgarians back. At the same time British and Commonwealth forces applied pressure in the centre of the Salonika front.
Courtesy of the National Army Museum, NAM. 1978-11-157-11-50
Description: Shell case dump left by the retreating Bulgars at the capture of Monastir.
The Bulgarian forces would not give up the tactical advantage of holding the high ground easily. Throughout the following weeks there were offensives and counter-offensives. By the end of September the Serbs held the summit, and retained it for the remainder of the war. The campaign in Salonika slowed down in November after the Allied capture of Monastir, just as winter conditions began to set in. Exactly two years after the capture of the summit, on 30 September 1918, Bulgaria surrendered.
Although the Battle lasted less than three weeks, it was one of the most costly in the theatre. The number of casualties is unclear, however it was tens of thousands of men, rather than insignificant numbers. Despite their losses, the effect on morale for the Serbian troops, for whom this was an important step in liberating Serbia, was to reinforce their determination to continue fighting.
In the centenary period it is right that we remember all of those who played a part in the war, particularly those who risked their lives. We have an opportunity to widen our understanding and correct a historical injustice towards these men.
The Imperial War Museum lead the First World War Centenary Partnership , a growing network of over 3,000 not-to-profit organisations from 50 countries marking the First World War Centenary. Within the UK National programme to commemorate the Centenary, the FCO leads on the international engagement.
WW1 Centenary Commemorations Team
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London