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Battle of Drina
Part of the Serbian Campaign of the Balkans Theatre (World War I)
Monument on Gucevo hill.JPG
Monument to fallen Serbian and A-H heroes on the site of the battle
DateSeptember 6 to October 4, 1914
LocationDrina River, Serbian border
Result Serbians conduct limited offensive action, Austrians establish bridgeheads[1]
 Austria-Hungary  Kingdom of Serbia
 Kingdom of Montenegro
Commanders and leaders
Oskar Potiorek
Liborius Ritter von Frank
Stepa Stepanović
Pavle Jurišić Šturm
Elements of the Second and Third Serbian Armies
Casualties and losses
approximately 17,000 dead approximately 18,500 dead & wounded

The Battle of Drina (Serbian language: Bitka na Drini) was a battle of World War I fought between the Serbian and Austro-Hungarian armies in September 1914. The Austro-Hungarians engaged in a significant offensive over the Drina river at the western Serbian border, resulting in numerous skirmishes (the heaviest being the Battle of Mačkov Kamen and the Battle of Gučevo. In early October, the Serbian Army was forced to retreat, and later regrouped to fight in the subsequent Battle of Kolubara.

Prelude[edit | edit source]

Serbian soldiers during the battle

After being defeated in the Battle of Cer in August 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army retreated over the Drina river back into Bosnia and Syrmia. Under pressure from its allies, Serbia conducted a limited offensive across the Sava river into the Austro-Hungarian region of Syrmia. Meanwhile, the Timok First Division of the Serbian Second Army suffered a heavy defeat in a diversionary crossing, suffering around 6,000 casualties while inflicting only 2,000.

With most of his forces in Bosnia, general Oskar Potiorek decided that the best way to stop the Serbian offensive was to launch another invasion into Serbia to force the Serbs to recall their troops to defend their much smaller homeland.

The offensive[edit | edit source]

September 7 brought a renewed Austro-Hungarian attack from the west, across the river Drina, this time with both the Fifth Army in Mačva and the Sixth Army further south. The initial attack by the Fifth Army was repelled by the Serbian Second Army, with 4,000 Austro-Hungarian casualties, but the stronger Sixth Army managed to surprise the Serbian Third Army and gained a foothold into Serbian territory. After some units from the Serbian Second Army were sent to bolster the Third, the Austro-Hungarian Fifth Army also managed to establish a bridgehead with a renewed attack. At that time, Marshal Radomir Putnik withdrew the First Army from Syrmia (against much popular opposition) and used it to deliver a fierce counterattack against the Sixth Army that initially went well, but finally bogged down in a bloody four-day fight for a peak of the Jagodnja mountain called Mačkov Kamen, in which both sides suffered horrendous losses in successive frontal attacks and counterattacks. Two Serbian divisions lost around 11,000 men, while Austro-Hungarian losses were probably comparable.

Marshal Putnik ordered a retreat into the surrounding hills and the front settled in a month and a half of trench warfare, which was highly unfavourable to the Serbs, who possessed heavy artillery that was largely obsolete, had short ammunition stocks, limited shell production (having only a single factory producing around 100 shells a day) and also a lack of proper footwear, since the vast majority of infantry wore the traditional (though state-issued) opanaks, while the Austro-Hungarians had soak-proof leather boots. Most of the war material was supplied by the Allies, who were short themselves. In such a situation, Serbian artillery quickly became almost silent, while the Austro-Hungarians steadily increased their fire. Serbian daily casualties reached 100 soldiers from all causes in some divisions.

During the first weeks of trench warfare, the Serbian Užice Army (one strengthened division) and the Montenegrin Sanjak Army (roughly a division) conducted an abortive offensive into Bosnia. In addition, both sides conducted a few local attacks, most of which were soundly defeated.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. World War I: encyclopedia. S - Z, Vol.4, Ed. Spencer Tucker, (ABC-CLIO, 2005), 366.

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