The First Balkan War
The First Balkan War followed the formation of the Balkan League (Bulgaria, Serbia & Greece) which aimed to drive Turkey from Europe. Serbia's main objective was the 'liberation' of Macedonia.
Action on the Macedonian front began with the invasion by the Serbian First and Third Armies on 19 October. The First Army consisted of 3 infantry divisions and a cavalry division (60,000 men and 172 guns) commanded by General Putnik. The Third Army under General Jankovic consisted of 3 infantry divisions (33,000 men and 72 guns). The Turkish Vardar or Western Army commanded by Zekki Pasha consisted of three corps (94,000 men and 258 guns) most of whom were concentrated at Skopje.
The Battle of Kumanovo took place on 23/24 October 1912, 15 Kilometres northeast of the Macedonian capital Skopje (then called Uskub). The Turkish 6th and 7th Corps attacked the left flank of the Serbian 1st Army with a supporting attack on the centre. The attack consisted of repeated infantry assaults supported by massed artillery. After some initial success these attacks were driven back. The following day both Serbian armies counter attacked driving both Turkish corps back towards Skopje.
On the 26th the Turkish 5th Corps was defeated by the Serbian 2nd Army at Kratovo, east of Kumanovo, forcing the Turks to abandon Skopje. Some Turkish units retreated down the Vardar towards Salonika. Others fought a series of rearguard actions towards Monastir where the second major action of the war took place in November.
Set out below are a number of photographs of the battlefield today courtesy of Tom Bierschenk.
Zebrnjak memorial, seen from about 4km to the north. The memorial is located about six kilometres to the west of the city of Kumanovo and the main Belgrade-Salonica highway.
View from the monument to the East; the city of Kumanovo is barely visible over the second ridgeline.
View of the monument from the north side
(There are several more of Tom's photos of the battlefield which we didn't have room for. E.mail the editor for copies)
For a good introduction to the war on land and sea we recommend two booklets by A.J. Martins The First Balkan War 1912-13 published by Plantsman Press.
The best one volume history is Richard Hall's The Balkan Wars 1912-13 published by Routledge 2000. for the Turkish army Edward Erickson's Defeat in Detail published by Prager 2003.
For uniforms and equipment see The Balkan War 1912-13 by Alexander Vachkov.
On a more modern note. The second time Kumanovo achieved note in Balkan military history was the summer of 1999, when a tent on the French temporary airfield just north of the city was used as the site for the second and subsequent days of negotiation for the Military Technical Agreement providing for VJ and MUP withdrawal from Kosovo during the second week of June.
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