In many ways this terrible war started because the leaders of Austria-Hungary wanted to punish Serbia for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and neutralise the threat posed by the troublesome Slavic nation. However, the Serbians have repelled three invasions of their country, inflicting embarrassing defeats on the Austro-Hungarians. The last invasion was defeated in December. Since then thing have been relatively quiet on the frontline between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, though the dislocations of war has led to an outbreak of disease in Serbia itself.
It has become increasingly clear to Serbia’s leaders that a new invasion is about to begin. They realise with dismay that they will not just be facing the Austro-Hungarians, but also a German army. The Serbians fear also that Bulgaria has made common cause with their other enemies. Bulgaria has indeed entered an anti-Serbian alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary. This pact is still secret but with Bulgaria’s army now mobilised it is clear to Belgrade that something is up.
The embattled Serbians have issued increasingly desperate pleas for help to Britain and France. However, apart from the small force recently landed in Salonika in northern Greece, no help is forthcoming. Serbia must face the juggernaut alone.
And today the blow falls. After an intense artillery bombardment, German and Austro-Hungarian troops cross the Sava and Danube rivers, advancing into Serbia. The invasion is commanded by the Field Marshal August von Mackensen, the German who has won a string of victories against the Russians. Mackensen has warned his men against complacency. The Serbs are tough fighters and there will be no easy victories against them. Nevertheless, the strength of the invading forces bodes ill for Serbia’s continued existence.
image source (World War 1 Today)