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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

November 1915 Ė Serbia ceases to exist

November 5

Austrian and German forces in northern and western Serbia continue their attacks against which the Serbians gradually yield. The Bulgarian offensive has made such progress that it seems to be out of the question for the Serbians to do much more than fight rearguard actions.

The present plan of the Central Powers is to cut off towards the south the line of retreat of the main Serbian army of the north. The object of the Serbian headquarters is to conduct a retreat in good order to the armyís new line of defenses.

It is believed in Greek military circles that while the position of the Serbian army is difficult, it is not desperate. The mountainous nature of the country offers opportunities for elusive tactics and skillful maneuvers in which the Serbians are well versed. The consumption of ammunition in mountain warfare is much less than in fighting on the plains. Thus, the Serbians will be able to conserve supplies of both men and bullets, and that moreover the campaign from now on will offer the Germans massed artillery formations and heavy guns few opportunities to make themselves felt.

According to the Italians however, the situation of Serbia is desperate. With her army completely isolated the only chance of safety is for it to retire to the Adriatic coast, outside its own territory. Once there, Italy could supply provisions and munitions.

To make matters worse for the Serbians, Albanians living in Serbia have revolted. A desperate battle between Serbian troops and rebels has been fought in Kosovo. The anti-Serbian movement has spread into northern Albania. If the reported uprising against Serbia assumes increased proportions, it may prove a menace to the Serbian army, already threatened on three sides, and whose only apparent avenue of escape is into the Albanian mountains.

While the Serbians are fighting to keep the way open for a retreat to Montenegro, the French and British are beginning to make their presence felt in Macedonia, where, according to unofficial reports, they have gained some success on that front.

November 12

The Balkan campaign is apparently nearing a climax. Nish, which has been the Serbian capital during the greater part of the war, has fallen to the Bulgarians, while Austro-German forces continue to press down upon the remains of the Serbian northern army.

Nish fell into the hands of the Bulgarians after three days of fighting. According to the Greeks, the Serbians offered a magnificent defense at Nish. They succeeded and retiring in good order before the greatly superior forces.

Nish is the second largest city in Serbia, Belgrade, the largest city, fell in the opening days of the current offensive. Nish is situated on the main railroad line in Serbia which connected Belgrade to the Greek port of Saloniki, recently occupied by the British and French over the objections of the Greeks.

The Central Powers now control about two thirds of Serbia and within a few weeks will have the rail line running through Belgrade and Nish back in full operation. Once operational, it will give the Central Powers two routes to Constantinople, as communication by way of the Danube via Bulgaria is already open.

Meanwhile, a new junction near Krivivir, between Austro-German and Bulgarian forces has been made, completing a semicircular wall of hostile armies about the retreating Serbians. The whole movement represents a gradual closing in on the Serbians from the north, east, and south, in the formation so often employed by the Teutonic Allies. The Serbians now have only an open line of less than 70 miles for their retreat into Montenegro. Should they seek refuge in that country, they would be menaced by Austrian forces, which already have begun an attack along the northern and western Montenegro frontier.

There is great reason to fear that the main body of the Serbian army which has been fighting the Germans and the Bulgarians has been cut off between Kralievo and Nish. As the southern Serbian army is still holding at Katchanik, the possibility still exists that the retreating columns of the Serbian northern army may escape the tentacles of the invaders, but it is considered significant that no news has been received from the main Serbian army in five days.

A prediction that the Serbian campaign will end in two or three weeks has been made by the Bulgarian Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said that upon the defeat of the Serbian army, the Bulgarians will force the British and French forces into Greece, whereupon Bulgaria will demand Greece to fulfill its obligations of neutrality and disarm and intern the British and French forces for the duration of the war. If the Greeks do not agree to this demand, the Bulgarians will threaten invasion of Greece.

The Russians have landed a small force of men and guns on the southern bank of the Danube, in Romanian territory, some 30 miles east of where the River reaches Bulgarian soil. The landing of Russian troops in neutral Romania came after Romanian and Russia agreed that the Danube was international waters, and that Russia had free right to send warships and troops up it.

The Allies believe that if the Russians send into the Serbian campaign a force of 200,000 men, while the French and British troops are landing on the Aegean coast, the hesitation in certain quarters in Romania would be dissipated, and both Romania and Greece would throw in their lot with the Allies. In this event, Romania could fall on Bulgariaís rear with 200,000 men and simultaneously attack the German front with 400,000 men.

However, a majority of the Rumanian people seem to believe that in so much as Romania now is virtually surrounded by the fighting forces of the Central Powers, her entry into the war now would only result in the useless sacrifice of men upon which the Allies might count on in the future. One of the chiefs of the interventionist cause is credited with having said that everything indicates Romaniaís military aid will decide the Balkan war, but that this help would be offered only at the most opportune time, when the British and French have landed sufficient number of troops to balance the scales.

Italy meanwhile is reported to be preparing to send troops into Albania, to aid the Serbs. The violation of Albanian neutrality was sanctioned by the Italians based upon the threat made by Bulgaria when they threaten to invade Albania to reach the Adriatic, a design so dangerous to Italyís interest that the mere threat obliged Italy to take appropriate measures.

Charges of incompetency and neglect of their work were brought against the British staff in France in the House of Lords. It was asserted that men have been added to the staff for no military reasons, who ought to be in the trenches, and that the British headquarters staff was five or six times as large as the French staff. It is reported that officers, living at headquarters, could not get to the front lines in time for battle because they were up late playing bridge. According to Lord St. Davids, "more than once British troops have broken the German lines, but thanks too bad staff work the whole thing fell through. Many lives have been sacrificed only to muddling in high places."

November 19

No figure in British politics has been the target of more criticism since the war started then Winston Spencer Churchill, who resigned this week from the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the British cabinet and is now about to join the army in France.

Rightly or wrongly, Churchill has been blamed as if solely responsible for the inadequacy of the British relief of Antwerp, a military movement that brought little relief to the Belgians and ended with the interment of a large part of the British marine expedition in neutral Holland. Similarly he has been the brunt of public censor for the attempt to force the Dardanelles without the help of the army, a failure which up to date has produced a British casualty list of approximately 100,000 men.

It is logically unreasonable to place upon his young shoulders the complete responsibility for both these undertakings, which could not have been made without the approval of his older cabinet associates.

He would not be forced to bear the full brunt of disapproval if he was not addicted to a rather boastful method of public address. His prophecy early in the war that if the Germans ships did not come out and fight: "We would dig them out of their holes like rats," whose prediction that if Zeppelins came to England they would be surrounded by: "a swarm of hornets," and his claim before his constituency after his clash with Admiral Fischer, that the British on the Gallipoli Peninsula were: "Within a few miles of a great victory," are typical instances of this form of oratory.

The Times takes the view that although Mr. Churchillís actions recalls the equally dramatic resignation of his father, it is not likely to close his political career, as it did in his fatherís case. "Mr. Churchillís great gifts and vivid imagination," the newspaper says, "have been amply demonstrated in his decade of office, and there are few who would venture to predict his permanent withdrawal from public life."

Chief interest in military operations continue to center upon the Balkans. The Germans, fighting their way step by step from the north, are gradually taking the grounds over which lies the Serbian line of retreat. The Serbs, fighting as they are now in the mountain regions, seem to be holding the invaders to slower progress.

The Bulgarianís have taken Krusevo, and are only 6 miles west of Perlepe. Thus the southern Serbian army and its French and British Allies are confronted with the imminent threat of an outflanking movement. With Krusevo and Babuna taken, the fate of Perlepe is sealed and the road to Monastir opened.

The French are being held on the left bank of the Oranya river by considerable Bulgarian forces, and are unable to send assistance to hard pressed Serbians. Should the Bulgarians reached Monastir the Serbs would be cut off from their lines of supply, leaving them only the option of retreat towards the Albanian border.

What Greece will do in the event Allied troops are forced back over the Greek border is still a matter of speculation. A message from Greece says the government will extend to the Serbians the same privileges as those accorded to the French and British in case of their encroachment on Greek territory. But in view of the fact that no definitive announcement has been made as to what these privileges will be, it is expected the Allied troops will be permitted to reach the sea unmolested.

Bulgarian troops following retreating Serbian troops from Nish, are said to have captured enormous military supplies of all kinds, which the Serbians had abandoned. The demoralization of the Serbians had evidently reached such a point that their serious resistance on a large scale was no longer to be expected. A large number of rifles have been picked up along the line of march, as also were pieces of artillery and ammunition wagons with harness cut and the horses gone. The desertions and heavy losses of the Serbians in cannon and war material are declared to have made her defensive fight a hopeless one.

The British advance against Baghdad has been checked south of Kut, in Mesopotamia, by the mutiny of Indian troops, who refused to march further against Baghdad because of the presence in that city of objects sacred to their religion. In response, the British executed every 10th Indian soldier, but the Indians continued to refuse to march against Sulman Pak and Baghdad, were several holy images are buried.

The Shiite clergy continue their agitation for a holy war in southern Persia and important events are said to be impending.

November 26

The Serbian military situation is going from bad to worse. The northern Serbian army is giving way slowly before the battering of Austrian and German forces and in the south, the Bulgarians have taken Prilep and Monastir. British and French troops based in southern Serbia seem to do no better than hold their positions.

Advances by Austrian and German troops through Serbia is being hampered not only by the desperate resistance of the Serbs, but by the severe winter weather. The invaders are struggling through deep snow in the mountains where their hardships are increased by low temperatures. Some of the fiercest engagements have been fought on heights more than 5,000 feet high, where the troops on both sides are encamped in deep snow.

The approaches to the historic battlefield of Kosovo, which were expected to form a strong defensive line for the Serbians, has already been taken by the Germans. The Serbians are reported to have been unable to stand the shock of the attack, and they are now said to be in retreat towards the Albanian border.

The conditions among the Serbian refugees gathered around the plains of Kosovo are described as deplorable. Families remain without cover, exposed to severe winter weather. Owing to the lack of fodder, cattle are dying by the hundreds. Escape by way of Albania is closed to these unfortunates on account of the lack of transportation. In Allied capitals it is now openly admitted that for all intents and purposes, Serbia no longer exists as a nation.

In response to the Greek governmentís failure to give assurances they will not hinder the retreat of British, French and Serbian troops across the Greek border with Serbia, the Allies have declared a commercial blockade on Greece, cutting off all her supplies.

Greece is described as prey to conflicting emotions - fear of Germany, whose military success has brought the Balkan war nearer, and natural sympathy for the cause of the Allies, dictating opposite paths out of her present difficult neutrality. Some Greek newspapers regard the blockade of Greece as a violation of international law.

According to the Allies however, their actions, including the ceasing of the port of Salonika, are legal based on the London Treaty of 1863, which guaranteed the independence and the constitutional institutions of Greece. The Allies believe that Greece is threatened from within and without, and as a result, they have full liberty of action under the terms of the treaty.

The declaration of the commercial blockade of Greece by the Allies has produced a marked impression in Athens. The Greek government accuses the Allies, especially Great Britain, of seeking to drag Greece into the war by harsh measures.

The Greek government claims it has given sufficient proof that it intends to maintain the policy of benevolent neutrality, and has had no thought of taking hostile steps. However, she cannot permit the transfer of the theater of war into her own territory.

Ministers of the Allies have called upon the Greek government to clearly state what action Greece would take should Allied troops now in Macedonia be compelled to retreat across the border.

In response, the Greek king has stated he never considered disarming or interning Allied soldiers who might take refuge on Greek soil, effectively yielding on every essential point raised by the Allies.

Whether this guarantee of safety to the Allied troops will carry Greece to the extent of opposing German and Bulgarian forces which might attempt to pursue the Allies across the Greek border probably will not be ascertained until full details are received in regard to the assurances given by Greece.

Greek affairs having emerged from the uncertainty which for some time have been a potential menace to the Allied campaign in the Balkans, Romaniaís problem now command chief attention in Europe. Although Romania is beset with difficulties somewhat similar to those which cause Greece to hesitate, she is not involved in the same political turmoil and her situation is expected to mature more rapidly.

Germany and Austria are understood to be asking Romania to preserve her neutrality, at the same time offering certain concessions to her if she would intervene in the war on the side of the Central Powers. However, German efforts made in Romania, have been largely offset by the presence of a quarter million Russian troops near her border.

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