From the Balkans to Britain, these battles 100 years ago transformed a continent
The centenary commemorations of World War I will undoubtedly concentrate on a trio of well-known battles; Verdun, the Somme and Jutland. All three ended inconclusively, and all witnessed tremendous bloodshed. Verdun and the Somme etched themselves into the national consciousness of France and Great Britain, respectively, while Jutland helped transform naval architecture.
But 1916 also witnessed a number of other, lesser known battles. Although they lack the same resonance in the West, the outcome of these battles helped determine the post-war map of Europe, not to mention the nature of warfare for the next generation.
Although World War I began as a conflict between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, the focus of war quickly spread to the Eastern and Western Fronts, where Germany would struggle to simultaneously defeat France, Russia and Britain.
The war between Austria and Serbia would continue, however, with the tough Serbs resisting repeated Austro-Hungarian offensives. The entry of Bulgaria into the war in 1915, however, spelled the end for the Serbs; they lost their supply lines, became overstretched and eventually retreated to Italy.
After the Serbian collapse, only Montenegro remained in the Triple Entente’s corner. Montenegro had joined the war out of pan-Slavic sympathies with the Serbs, then had withdrawn into its own borders after the Serbian defeat. The Central Powers decided to exploit the moment to end the war in the Balkans, and pushed into the tiny country.
After a short offensive, the Austrians forces rolled the country up and forced a capitulation. Along with the conquest of most of Albania, this freed up a greater portion of the Austrian military for much more lethal fights against the Russians and the Italians.
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