100 years of Battle of Kolubara marked
The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Kolubara was marked with full state and military honors at the memorial complex in Lazarevac, near Belgrade, on Sunday.Source: Tanjug
The battle was fought in western Serbian between the Serbian Kingdom's army and the invading troops of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I.
A liturgy for the victims was offered by Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej, and the ceremony was attended by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, who was the first to lay a laurel wreath at the memorial ossuary in the church and pay his respect to the heroes of the Battle of Kolubara.
Also laying wreaths and flowers and paying their respects to the fallen Serbs were Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, General Ljubisa Dikovic, Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic and Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin, descendants of Duke Zivojin Misic, who was in command of the Serbian army in the Battle of Kolubara, representatives of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the association of veterans fostering the tradition of Serbia's liberation wars.
It is impossible to talk about the first year of the Great War, which engulfed the whole world one hundred years ago, without mentioning two victories by the Serbian army which decisively helped embolden the Allies on the way to the final Allied victory, President Nikolic said during the commemoration.
“The Battle of Kolubara was hailed as marvel by both conquerors and allies, and perhaps even by the Serbs themselves,” Nikolic said, stressing that the battle was being studied at military academies throughout the world as an example of military skills, courage of generals, and tactics and strategy.
"You cannot defeat the Serbs unless you have them divided. That is the message from our great ancestors from (the battles of) Kosovo, Kolubara and Suvobor, Kaymakchalan and Thessaloniki. The Serbs were then not weakening their strong people because they knew that by weakening the strong individuals you weakened your nation against the enemy,” said the Serbian president.
He compared the Battle of Kolubara to the biblical battle between David and Goliath, pointing out that “the small Serbia, great in its non-division, in its unity, waged a direct war against a vast empire, and indirectly, against four empires, and won again."
Nikolic said that the Serbian army had faced the Great War exhausted from the Balkan wars, decimated and frostbitten, hungry and barefooted, with rifles but no ammunition.
"The Battle of Kolubara is the flagship in the glorious and victorious war epic of Serbia's, and not just in the Great War. As well as being won by the skills of the military commanders, it was won by every soldier's personal sacrifice. During the battle they showed heroism, and after the battle a rare display of humanity. You could see what one was made of and what kind of mark they would leave for eternity,” Nikolic said.
He said that today, 100 years later, Serbia had the names and surnames of only 50,000 of those killed in the Great War.
“The remaining one million and 100 thousand are not on the same list, and we do we know where they are entered, if anywhere, either” Nikolic said.
He stressed that today, fortunately, we were fighting different battles, which called for different kind of wisdom and skill.
"We will win these battles by keeping the family vow to give our best, show our inherited virtues and love for the fatherland always and everywhere and on every occasion, because we have no right to betray our heroic ancestors," the Serbian president said.
"Serbia will be healed, and it would not have gotten sick had it always known who protected their country with fire and sword and life,” Nikolic said, concluding his address before those gathered with the words: “Long live Serbia!”
The Battle of Kolubara, the biggest battle for Serbia in World War I, was fought on a front stretching over 200 kilometers from November 16 to December 15, 1914.
Following defeat in the region along the River Drina, the Serbian army found itself in a difficult position and was forced to retreat under fire, facing a lack of artillery ammunition, food, shoes and clothing, and ordinary people, fleeing atrocities by the enemy, were leaving their homes and joining the soldiers’ retreat.
Austro-Hungarian troops occupied Belgrade, Sabac, Valjevo, Uzice and the entire northwestern Serbia, committing mass crimes against civilians.
When the whole world expected Serbia’s capitulation, a miracle happened. After a month of heavy fighting, the Serbian army launched a successful counteroffensive under the command of General Zivojin Misic and beat the Austro-Hungarian Balkan Army group (5th and 6th Army) commanded by Field Marshal Oskar Potiorek.
After the Battle of Drina, the Serbian army retreated to the right bank of the Kolubara River. Greatly outnumbered and under attacks by the Austro-Hungarians, the Serbs retreated further to a new position in front of the town of Gornji Milanovac to delay combat, rest their troops, and then launched a counteroffensive which resulted in a decisive Serbian victory.
Serbia’s 1st Army, which played a central role in General Zivojin Misic's plan, captured Mount Suvobor on December 5, forcing the Austro-Hungarian 6th Army to retreat north. In the days that followed, the Serbian 2nd and 3rd Army managed to hold their positions and stop most of the Austro-Hungarian attacks, pushing north, eventually forcing the 5th Army to leave Belgrade and cross the Sava River on December 15.
Over 260,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers were out of commission after the Battle of Kolubara. Of the number, 27,216 were killed, 118,000 wounded, nearly 74,000 went missing, and 1,800 were captured.
With around 22,000 killed, 91,000 wounded and 19,000 missing and captured, Serbia’s losses were massive as well.
The Serbs found large quantities of military equipment abandoned by the invading army, including two aircraft, more than 140 guns, and 3,500 vehicles with ammunition and 60,000 rifles.
Following his defeat, Potiorek was retired and replaced by Archduke Eugen of Austria, and 1st Serbian Army Commander Misic was promoted to the rank of vojvoda.
The battle is an example of clever tactics and strategy employed by the Serbian army, which although smaller in number and poorer in equipment, managed to turn from being on the defensive to launching a tide-turning counteroffensive which led to a World War I major victory for Serbia and the Allies.
The Battle of Kolubara showed that Austria-Hungary was not able to defeat, or, as it planned, destroy the Kingdom of Serbia, and it forced the Central Powers to fight on all three fronts and to have Germany directly involved in battles against Serbia in 1915.
The victory helped Italy decide to join the war on the Entente side and hold off Bulgaria’s joining the Central Powers for a while.