In these days, from 5th October to 10th October 2015, we are marking 100th anniversary of the Belgrade defense in WW1, when the army of Kingdom of Serbia heroically fought against much stronger aggressors.
Kingdom of Serbia Association’s City Committee Belgrade and the First Belgrade high school are organizing marking of the 100th anniversary of the Belgrade defense battle in the First World War on October 6th 2015 at the monument to the Defenders of Belgrade, Danube Quay in Dorcol.
Short summary of the defense of Belgrade 1915.
Austro-Hungarian and German armies had been ruthlessly bombarding Belgrade for over a year, but all of their attempts to cross the rivers Sava and Danube were contested for three full days by the heroic Serbian army units. The city ultimately fell, but the ferocious resistance of its defenders earned it the distinction of being one of the five cities awarded with the Legion of Honor.
During the first year of the Great War, Belgrade was bombarded from across the Sava and Danube rivers with countless shells. The city was annihilated; casualties were immense, while the survivors hid in shelters or fled abroad. Many had wholeheartedly helped the army. The city resisted the attacks despite the great efforts of the enemy to cross the Belgrade rivers and conquer the Serbian capital.
In September of 1915, the enemy started to intensify its attacks which culminated on the 5th of October. Belgrade was bombarded throughout the day and night. According to some estimates, 30,000 shells were fired on Belgrade that day. Even that didn’t stop the valiant defenders from protecting their city until their last, dying breath.
The first line of defense consisted of the members of the 10th and 7th Regiment, and the remnants of the Srem and Gendarmerie Regiments. They had only one objective: to fight for Belgrade until death!
Belgrade’s defenders achieved this objective and forever engraved their names in the Serbian history books. Among all the brave soldiers, the ones that were most talked about were the Danube quay heroes, who were nearly all killed during the three days of defending the Belgrade. The White City turned to crimson.
On the day of the decisive battle, they received the Communion in the Ružica church (Little Rose church) in the Kalemegdan Fortress, and then they scattered around Dorćol and the Danube quay, readily waiting for the enemy. They sang to chase away the fear of certain death to which they were led by the speech of their commanding officer Major Gavrilović, who wanted to inspire them and lift their spirits before the upcoming battle.
“Soldiers, exactly at three o’clock, the enemy is to be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets. The honor of Belgrade, our capital, must not be stained.
Soldiers! Heroes! The supreme command has erased our regiment from its records. Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the motherland. Therefore, you no longer need to worry about your lives: they no longer exist. So, forward to glory! For King and country! Long live the King, Long live Belgrade!”
German and Austro-Hungarian troops started crossing the Danube on the 7th October. Defenders met them on the Danube quay with strong infantry and artillery fire. Alongside the soldiers, civilians, women, children and elders also participated in the defense.
Almost all members of major Gavrilović’s regiment were killed, whereas he himself was gravely wounded. The enemies were more powerful and prevailed quickly, pushing the defenders across Ada Ciganlija and Banovo brdo, who were retreating towards Zvezdara, while the defenders of the Danube quay were pushed out to Dušanova and Vasina street, and then to Avala, which was also conquered in the end. In that moment Bulgaria attacked Serbia, so Moravian Division was transferred to Belgrade on that front. The enemy was more powerful and larger in numbers, and despite the heroic efforts of its defenders, Belgrade had fallen, and soon the Austro-Hungarian and German flags were raised on and on the Stari Dvor palace in the Knez Milan street.
General Mackensen, who was a commander of the enemy troops, had written in his memoirs about the Serbian soldiers who were defending the Belgrade in October,: “We fought against an army that we have heard about only in fairy tales, who defended themselves with virtually unprecedented courage. The moment we conquered Serbia hurt us more than her allies.”
For the outstanding bravery of its defenders, marshal Franchet d’Espèrey awarded the Legion of Honor to the Serbian capital, an accolade bestowed to only five cities in the whole, only two of those cities not being French.