Today marks 102 years since the breakthrough of the Thessaloniki front when the Serbian army won one of the greatest victories and determined the further course of the First World War.
In memory of September 15, 1918, Serbia and the Republic of Srpska will celebrate that date as a joint holiday from this year – the Day of Serbian Unity, Freedom, and the National Flag.
The Serbian army was transferred to the Thessaloniki front, which was several hundred kilometers long, in the spring of 1916, after recovering in Corfu after the Albanian Golgotha.
On one side of the front were Serbian, French, and British soldiers who were later joined by a number of Greeks and Italians, while on the other side of the line were the Austrian, German and Bulgarian divisions.
French General Franche D’Epère was appointed commander of the Thessaloniki Front, and the decision to finally start breaking through the front was made in June 1918.
It was decided that the offensive would begin in the sector Dobro Polje – Veternik – Kozjak, where the Serbian army was located, which consisted of a total of six divisions with 140,000 soldiers.
The Serbian army was divided into two armies – the First, under the command of Petar Bojović, and the Second Army, headed by Stepa Stepanović, while the commander of the staff was Duke Živojin Mišić.
The fighting began on September 14, 1918, with all-day artillery fire from all Allied cannons on Bulgarian, German and Austro-Hungarian positions, and at dawn on September 15, at 5.30 am, after strong artillery preparations, the divisions of the first echelon of the Second Army on the Sushica front – A falcon 17 kilometers long.
The Serbian First Army operated on the 16.5-kilometer-long Soko-Lesnica front, fighting a hand-to-hand battle with the enemy.
Already on the first day, 11 kilometers of the front were breached, which was expanded to 40 kilometers on the second day, and thus the collapse of the central forces began, whose line on the Thessaloniki front was falling apart.
In a report to the French government during the breakthrough of the Thessaloniki front in late September 1918, French Marshal François D’Epère wrote that “operations must be slowed down because there is no communication to supply food to advancing French troops,” and that “only Serbian troops do not need communications.” they go like a storm – forward “.
With the outbreak of the Serbian army on the Vardar, the operational-strategic breakthrough of the German-Bulgarian front was definitely carried out, which led to the Bulgarians sending a request to Thessaloniki to stop the operations in 48 hours.
Franche d’Eperre rejected that request and said that only capitulation was possible, which the Bulgarians accepted and signed a truce in Thessaloniki on September 29, by which the Bulgarian army capitulated.
Although the terms of the armistice were very difficult, the Bulgarian delegates accepted them with only one request – that the Serbian army not be allowed to enter Bulgaria.
The Germans did not recognize the armistice and their troops withdrew from contact with the Bulgarians, and the remnants of the German army, pursued by Serbian-French forces, retreated to the north.
On October 5, the First Serbian Army captured Vladicin Han, broke through the Grdelica gorge during the battle, captured Grdelica, penetrated the Leskovac gorge on October 7 and captured Leskovac, and on October 9 broke out in front of Nis.
The Serbian Supreme Command, at the suggestion of the army commander and regardless of the technical superiority of the enemy, approved the First Serbian Army to attack the German army near Nis.
In the battles from October 10 to 12, the First Serbian Army broke up parts of that German army and on October 12 entered Nis.
Belgrade was liberated on November 1, 1918.
With the defeat of Bulgaria, German-Austro-Hungarian forces in the Balkans found themselves in a difficult position, followed by the collapse of the empire.
The Ottoman Empire capitulated on October 30, 1918, Austria-Hungary capitulated on October 31, 1918, and Germany on December 11, 1918.