The Battle of
Kolubara (Serbian Cyrillic: Колубарска
битка, German: Schlacht an der Kolubara) was a campaign fought
Austria-Hungary and Serbia in November and December 1914,
during the Serbian Campaign of World War I. It commenced on 16
November, when the Austro-
Hungarians under the command of Oskar
Potiorek reached the
Kolubara River during their third invasion of
Serbia that year, having captured the strategic town of
Serbian Army to undertake a series of retreats. The Serbs
Belgrade on 29–30 November, and the city soon fell
under Austro-Hungarian control. On 2 December, the Serbian Army
launched a surprise counter-attack all along the front.
Užice were retaken by the Serbs on 8 December and the
Hungarians retreated to Belgrade, which 5th Army commander
Liborius Ritter von Frank
Liborius Ritter von Frank deemed to be untenable. The
Hungarians abandoned the city between 14 and 15 December and
retreated back into Austria-Hungary, allowing the Serbs to retake
their capital the following day.
Both the Austro-
Hungarians and the Serbs suffered heavy casualties,
with more than 20,000 dead on each side. The defeat humiliated
Austria-Hungary, which had hoped to occupy Serbia by the end of 1914.
On 22 December, Potiorek and von Frank were relieved of their
respective commands, and the 5th and 6th armies were merged into a
single 5th Army of 95,000 men.
2.1 Austro-Hungarian plans
2.2 Third Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia
2.3 Serbian retreat
3.1 16–26 November
3.2 Fall of Belgrade
3.3 Serbian counterattack
7 Further reading
On 28 June 1914,
Bosnian Serb student
Gavrilo Princip assassinated
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. The assassination
precipitated the July Crisis, which led
Austria-Hungary to issue an
ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July on suspicion that the assassination had
been planned in Belgrade. The Austro-Hungarian government made the
ultimatum intentionally unacceptable to Serbia, and it was indeed
rejected. The Austro-
Hungarians declared war on Serbia on 28 July
and that same day the Serbs destroyed all bridges on the
Danube rivers in order to prevent the Austro-
Hungarians from using
them during any future invasion.
Belgrade was shelled the following
day, marking the beginning of World War I.
Eastern Europe began with the first Austro-Hungarian
invasion of Serbia in early August 1914, under the command of Oskar
Potiorek. The number of Austro-Hungarian troops assigned to the
invasion was far smaller than the 308,000-strong force intended when
war was declared. This was because a large portion of the
Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army had moved to the Russian Front, reducing the
number of troops involved in the initial stages of the invasion to
approximately 200,000. On the other hand, the Serbs could muster some
450,000 men to oppose the Austro-
Hungarians upon full mobilization.
The main elements to face the Austro-
Hungarians were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Užice armies, with a combined strength of approximately 180,000
Serbian Army was commanded by Crown Prince Alexander, with
the chief of the Serbian general staff, Radomir Putnik, who had
commanded Serb forces in the Balkan Wars, as his deputy and de facto
military leader. Petar Bojović, Stepa Stepanović, Pavle Jurišić
Miloš Božanović commanded the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Užice
Serbian soldiers marching through the countryside, c. 1914.
The Balkan Wars had only just concluded and Serbia was still
recovering. Over 36,000 Serbian soldiers had been killed and 55,000
seriously wounded. Few recruits had been gained from the newly
acquired territories, and the
Serbian Army had been stretched by the
need to garrison them against Albanian insurgents and the threat of
Bulgarian attack. To compound matters, the Serbs were dangerously
short of artillery, and had only just begun to replenish their
ammunition stocks. Their supply problems also extended to more basic
items. Many soldiers lacked any uniform other than a standard issue
greatcoat and a traditional Serbian cap known as a šajkača. Rifles
were also in critically short supply. It was estimated that full
mobilization would see some 50,000 Serbian soldiers with no equipment
at all. The Austro-Hungarians, on the other hand, possessed an
abundance of modern rifles and had twice as many machine guns and
field guns as the Serbs. They also had better stocks of munitions, as
well as much better transport and industrial infrastructure behind
them. The Serbs had a slight advantage over the Austro-
many of their soldiers were experienced veterans of the Balkan Wars
and better trained than their Austro-Hungarian counterparts. Serb
soldiers were also highly motivated, which compensated in part for
their lack of weaponry.
The Serbs beat back an Austro-Hungarian invasion in August, at the
Battle of Cer. It marked the first Allied victory over the Central
Powers in World War I. Potiorek was humiliated by the defeat
and was determined to resume the assault against the Serbs. He was
given permission in September to launch another invasion of Serbia
provided that he "[did not] risk anything that might lead to a further
fiasco." Under pressure from the Russians to launch their own
offensive and keep as many Austro-Hungarian troops as possible away
from the Eastern Front, the Serbs invaded Bosnia in September with the
Chetnik irregulars but were repulsed after a month of fighting
in what came to be known as the Battle of the Drina. Bojović was
wounded during the battle and was replaced by
Živojin Mišić as
commander of the Serbian 1st Army.
Aftermath of the Austro-Hungarian bombardment of Šabac, October 1914.
Armeeoberkommando (AOK) acknowledged that an undefeated Serbia
severed Austria-Hungary's connection to the
Ottoman Empire and
prevented the completion of the Berlin–Baghdad railway. The AOK also
realized that the Austro-Hungarian Army's inability to defeat Serbia
would discourage neutral countries—such as Bulgaria, Romania and
Greece—from joining the
Central Powers and would tempt Italy to open
up a third front against Austria-Hungary. Nevertheless, the AOK
was hesitant to authorize a third invasion of Serbia. This changed in
September 1914, when Austro-Hungarian troops discovered a map in an
abandoned Semlin bookshop, titled The New Division of Europe.
Originally printed in a Russian newspaper, the map was widely sold in
Serbia and depicted the borders of Europe as they would appear
following the war. Germany was to be divided into northern and
southern confederations and
Austria-Hungary was to be abolished, its
eastern provinces given to Russia, Romania, the
Czechs and the
Hungarians, and its southern provinces divided between Serbia and
Italy. Alarmed by the prospect of Austria-Hungary's
disintegration, Emperor Franz Joseph personally authorized a third
invasion of Serbia in early October 1914.
Having just repelled the Serbian incursion into Bosnia, the
Austro-Hungarian Army regrouped and positioned itself for one final
invasion before winter set in. Potiorek was again placed in charge
of Austro-Hungarian forces and was given command of the
Austro-Hungarian 6th Army. The Austro-Hungarian 5th Army was commanded
by Liborius Ritter von Frank. In total, the Austro-
450,000 troops at their disposal. The
Serbian Army had 400,000
soldiers ready to face the Austro-Hungarian advance. In
mid-October, the Austro-
Hungarians launched another thrust into
northwestern Serbia; Potiorek appeared confident. "Soldiers of the 5th
and 6th armies," he said. "The goal of this war is nearly
attained—the complete destruction of the enemy. The three-month
campaign is almost over; we must only break the enemy's last
resistance before the onset of winter." The Serbs were exhausted
and demoralized.[a] In a telegram to Putnik dated 27 October 1914,
Stepanović complained that the 2nd Army did not have enough shells to
resist the Austro-
Hungarians effectively and requested that he be
removed from his command;[b] Putnik denied the request, but ordered
all units to resist the Austro-Hungarian advance for as long as
possible before retreating. This strategy had worked in Putnik's
favour during the summer months, but heavy rainfall in September and
early October had reduced all of Serbia's roads to "muddy quagmires"
that made movement of troops, guns and wagons extremely difficult.
Potiorek recognized that the
Serbian Army was in a difficult
situation; he was certain that a third invasion would bring him the
decisive victory that he so desperately wanted. In
Sarajevo, Austro-Hungarian officials began planning for the occupation
and dismantling of Serbia. The country was to be plundered and its
territory used to bribe the neutral Balkan states into joining the
Central Powers, with the Romanians getting the region of Timočka
Krajina and the Bulgarians getting Macedonia and southeastern Serbia.
Hungarians intended to annex everything west of the Morava
River, as well as the cities of Scutari (Shkodër) and Durazzo
(Durrës) in northern Albania. The Serbs living west of the
Morava—or "the compact masses of the Serbian element", as the
Hungarians called them—were to be expelled and replaced with
Austrian settlers (colonisten), who would "change the psychology [of
the region], making Serbia more Habsburg [and] less Serbian in
outlook." Ludwig Thallóczy, section chief of the Austro-Hungarian
Finance Ministry, wrote Potiorek in October, recommending "the West
Europeanization of the Serbs with a strong hand" as soon as Serbia was
Potiorek planned to launch a converging attack across northern and
western Serbia; the 5th Army was to capture
Valjevo and envelope the
Kolubara River from the north, and the 6th Army was to secure the
Jagodnja plateau and outflank Serbian units on the
Kolubara from the
south. The capture of the southeastern Serbian city of
Potiorek's main objective;
Niš had been Serbia's capital since July
and was a crucial transportation hub for its military. It also acted
as a clearing house for munitions produced at the arsenal in nearby
Kragujevac. The city's capture would effectively cut Serbia in two and
scatter the Serbian Army.
Third Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia
All of the valleys of northwestern Serbia were swamped by constant
rainfall. The mountains had been covered in snow since early October.
Acknowledging the opportunity that such conditions presented, Putnik
told his closest advisors: "All my strategy consists in placing the
'Serbian national mud' between the enemy's fighting line and his
supplies." On 31 October, von Frank's 5th Army pushed down into
the region between the
Drina rivers while Potiorek's 6th Army
drove west across the
Drina and into the
Austria-Hungary's third invasion of Serbia commenced on 6 November
1914, with intense artillery fire strafing a series of Serbian border
towns. On 7 November, the Austro-Hungarian 5th and 6th armies
attacked across the Drina. Despite being outnumbered and in desperate
need of ammunition, the
Serbian Army offered fierce resistance but was
forced into strategic withdrawal. The 3rd Army fell back against a
road by the Jadar River in an effort to block the Austro-Hungarian
advance towards Valjevo, while the 1st Army retreated southward into
the Serbian interior and the
Užice Army managed to prevent the
Hungarians from crossing the Drina.
On 8 November, the Austro-
Hungarians attacked the Serbian 2nd Army
near Cer Mountain and came within 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) of the
Serbian frontline, entrenching themselves at the foot of the
mountain. The 2nd Army was given orders to hold the
Hungarians down for as long as possible and, if its position
became untenable, retreat towards the right bank of the Dobrava River
and position itself so as to block the approach to Valjevo. Elsewhere,
Hungarians drove a wedge between the 1st and 3rd Army and
forced another Serbian retreat. Later that day, the Serbian
Government held a joint session with the Serbian Supreme Command with
regard to Serbia's worsening military position. Putnik stressed that
it was critical for Serbia to hold the
Kolubara and the towns within
its vicinity and suggested that the Serbs make a separate peace with
Austria-Hungary if this proved impossible. This notion was rejected by
the Prime Minister of Serbia, Nikola Pašić, who urged further
resistance to the Austro-
Hungarians and threatened the resignation of
his government if peace discussions began. The session ended with the
Serbian Government and Supreme Command agreeing to fight on.
Austro-Hungarian soldiers stand beside captured Serbian artillery.
Putnik reasoned that Austro-Hungarian supply lines would become
overstretched as their forces pressed deeper into Serbia while the
Serbs would continue to hold the railheads in the Serbian
interior. On 10 November, he ordered a general retreat from the
Jadar and withdrew the Serbian 2nd Army to Ub and positioned the 1st
and 3rd armies north and west of Valjevo. Meanwhile, the Užice
Army took up positions to defend the town from which it took its
name. The Austro-
Hungarians pressed after the Serbs, hoping to
capture the Obrenovac–
Valjevo railroad. Clashes ensued and the
Serbian Army managed to prevent the Austro-
Hungarians from taking the
railroad for a time. It quickly became clear to Putnik that he had
underestimated the Austro-Hungarians, who managed to bring their heavy
artillery through the muddy Serbian country roads. They established
firing positions on the Serbian side of the
Drina and began targeting
the Serbian Army, which suffered heavy casualties. Morale plummeted
amongst the Serbs, who were already significantly demoralized due a
lack of cold-weather clothing and ammunition and exhausted by the long
retreat towards the Serbian interior. Putnik realized that his forces
would need to regroup if they were to provide any effective resistance
to the Austro-Hungarians. He ordered that
Valjevo be abandoned and had
Serbian Army take up positions on the Kolubara. The retreat
towards the river was long and excruciating, with the Serbs being
forced to destroy all bridges and telephone lines so that they would
not fall into Austro-Hungarian hands. The
Serbian Army also abandoned
most of its heavy equipment to speed up the withdrawal. Seeing
that the situation was critical and that Serbian forces were lacking
artillery, ammunition and supplies, Pašić sought the help of the
Triple Entente. He sent a telegram to his envoys abroad, which read:
"Urgent help is required. Beg and plead." France provided the
Serbs with munitions and supplies. Representatives of Russia and the
United Kingdom "expressed understanding", but those countries failed
to deliver weapons and munitions.
Valjevo on 15 November, prompting wild
public celebrations in Vienna. Franz Joseph praised Potiorek for
seizing the town; cities across the empire made Potiorek an honorary
Sarajevo even named a street after him. Valjevo's
capture led the Austro-
Hungarians to believe that they were on the
verge of defeating Serbia and that the
Serbian Army was no longer a
coherent fighting force, but the scorched earth tactics employed by
the Serbs during their withdrawal complicated the Austro-Hungarian
advance. Although the Austro-
Hungarians were right in assuming that
Serbian Army was exhausted, its defensive positions along the
Kolubara had been prepared months in advance. Putnik's carefully
timed withdrawals had ensured that the losses of the
Serbian Army were
lighter than if it had stood and fought pitched battles with the
Austro-Hungarians. Moreover, the geography of northwestern Serbia
favoured defensive operations since the approaches to the
not offer any cover to armies invading from the direction of
Austria-Hungary and the river itself was surrounded by mountainous
terrain. In October, the Serbs had fortified the Jeljak and Maljen
mountain ranges in anticipation of an Austro-Hungarian attack. This
gave them an advantage over the Austro-
Hungarians as it placed them in
control of all roads leading to Kragujevac. The Serbs also established
a series of field fortifications blocking the approach to Niš.
The extensive series of fortifications and the difficulty of the
terrain which they faced left the Austro-
Hungarians with no choice but
to conduct operations in the gruelling Serbian countryside with almost
no lines of communication.
Kolubara River in Valjevo.
Hungarians reached the
Kolubara on 16 November and launched
an assault against Serbian defensive positions there the following
day. The Serbs managed to force the Austro-
Hungarians back and over
the course of the next five days, the two armies fought a series of
battles under heavy rain and snowfall. Both sides suffered heavy
casualties, with a large number of soldiers succumbing to frostbite
The Austro-Hungarian assault began at Lazarevac, a strategically
located town just south of
Belgrade whose capture would have given
them access to the
Mladenovac railway line and the ability to outflank
the Serbian forces holding the road to Belgrade. Further south, the
Hungarians attacked the Serbian 1st Army. During this assault,
they made the mistake of attacking its stronger right flank and were
met with determined Serbian resistance which prevented them from
gaining any ground. Military historian David Jordan notes that had the
Hungarians attacked the junction splitting the 1st and Užice
armies, they might have been able to split the Serbs down the centre
and gotten hold of an unimpeded passage to the Morava River. The
Serbian 1st Army was quick to reinforce its left flank, realizing that
any subsequent attack against it would be far less easy to repel.
During the night of 18 November, the Austro-
Hungarians moved into
position to carry out a further assault, which began the following
morning. The Austro-Hungarians' main goal was to break through the
defenses of the Serbian 2nd Army, concentrated primarily around
Lazarevac, and to drive the Serbian 1st Army back towards the town of
Gornji Milanovac while simultaneously assaulting Serbian positions
around the villages of Čovka and Vrače Brdo which threatened the
Austro-Hungarian flank. The Austro-
Hungarians gained a foothold at
Vrače Brdo by the evening of 19 November, and seized higher ground
from the Serbs further to the south. The Serbian 1st Army was forced
to retreat the following day, giving the Austro-
Hungarians the ability
to advance down the main routes leading to Kragujevac. Potiorek
believed it was possible that Putnik was trying to lure the
Hungarians deeper into Serbia for the purpose of encircling
them and then attacking their flanks, but correctly assessed that the
Serbian Army was in no position to carry out such an attack.
Hungarians made a renewed attack against the 1st Army on 21
November, forcing the Serbs back after a series of brutal engagements.
Hungarians then advanced towards Mount Maljen, aiming to
drive the 1st
Serbian Army from its positions there. The Serbs
withdrew from the mountain after three days of heavy fighting;
Potiorek decided not to pursue the retreating Serb units, allowing
them to make an orderly withdrawal. The Austro-
Hungarians had suffered
heavy casualties and the intensity of the fighting caused them to lose
cohesion. As they advanced deeper into Serbia, the terrain became
increasingly difficult and exhausted the already tired
Austro-Hungarian soldiers. While the Serbian 1st Army withdrew, the
2nd and 3rd armies fiercely resisted the Austro-Hungarian advance.
This led Potiorek to reinforce his positions around Lazarevac, which
he aimed to capture and use as a pivot from which to attack Kragujevac
while his right flank pushed down the
West Morava valley.
Austro-Hungarian advances convinced Potiorek that his army had the
upper hand. He envisaged that his forces would pursue the surviving
soldiers from the Serbian 2nd and 3rd Armies and predicted that the
Serbian 1st and
Užice armies would be forced to manoeuvre towards
Belgrade and Lazarevac, where they would be encircled and destroyed.
Combat on the outskirts of
Lazarevac intensified once again as a
result, and the
Serbian Army managed to repulse every Austro-Hungarian
assault despite a lack of ammunition. The Serbs quickly began to run
out of shells and Stepanović asked the Serbian Supreme Command that
the artillery of the 2nd Army be redirected to its rear, as he felt
that its failure to contribute to the defense of
his troops and was bad for morale. Putnik instructed Stepanović to
keep the artillery of the 2nd Army on the front and told him that the
Russians had sent artillery shells for its guns. Stepanović was
skeptical that the Russians had sent supplies to the Serbs, but kept
the artillery of the 2nd Army on the front line as Putnik had
By 24 November, Potiorek was predicting that Serbia would be defeated
within a matter of days and appointed
Stjepan Sarkotić to be the
country's governor once it was occupied. The Austro-Hungarians
made further gains on 25 November, forcing the
Serbian Army from
Čovka and Vrače Brdo with an intense artillery bombardment. On 26
November, they attempted to cross the
Kolubara at its junction with
Sava River and managed to do so in their initial attack. The Serbs
soon counterattacked and forced the invaders back, inflicting 50
percent casualties on the Austro-
Hungarians and causing their
offensive to grind to a halt. On 27 November, the Serbian Army
attacked Čovka and Vrače Brdo and succeeded in forcing the
Fall of Belgrade
Serbian soldiers on the island of Ada Ciganlija, in Belgrade
Serbian Army had put up fierce resistance and inflicted
heavy casualties on the Austro-Hungarians, Putnik became concerned
that his lines were over-extended. He began contemplating another
strategic withdrawal, one in which
Belgrade would have to be
evacuated. On the night of 26–27 November, the Austro-Hungarian 6th
Army attacked all along the front and pushed deeper into the Serbian
Defending along an over-extended front, the Serbian Supreme Command
decided to abandon Belgrade. The city was evacuated on 29/30 November.
Hungarians entered the city on 1 December, prompting yet
more celebrations in Vienna. The Serbian people withdrew alongside
their army and many retreated to Niš, where news of Belgrade's fall
was greeted "impassively", as it had been "expected since the
beginning of the war". Albin Kutschbach, a German agent in Niš,
reported: "More refugees are arriving by the day, and despite many
people being sent on south, there are certainly still 60,000 people
here." Germany responded to the capture of
Belgrade with delight and
sent a congratulatory telegram to the Austro-Hungarian leadership. The
Hungarians ascertained that their war with Serbia would soon be
over and began preparing for the country's occupation. On 2
December, the anniversary of Franz Joseph's 66th year on the throne,
Potiorek wrote that he was "laying town and fortress
Belgrade at His
It became increasingly clear to both Potiorek and Putnik that
Austro-Hungarian supply lines were over-extended and so, on 1
December, Potiorek ordered the Austro-Hungarian 6th Army to stop and
wait for the 5th Army to secure its supply lines east of the Valjevo
railway, resulting in a short pause to all Austro-Hungarian military
operations. Mišić exploited this brief respite by withdrawing
the Serbian 1st Army a full 19 kilometres (12 mi) from the front
line and ensured that his soldiers had an opportunity to rest.
Serbian Army then converged around Mount Rudnik, where it received
long-promised supplies from its allies via the Niš–Salonika
railroad. Putnik's confidence in the ability of his army to launch a
counterattack was restored.
On 2 December, he ordered his forces to attack the Austro-Hungarians
all along the front and informed his officers that the offensive was
to have the specific purpose of improving Serbian morale.
Determined to play his part, the aging Serbian king, Peter I, took a
rifle and accompanied his troops to the front. The Serbian
offensive caught the Austro-
Hungarians by surprise, and at the time
that the attack was launched they were holding a large military parade
through the streets of Belgrade. The Austro-
Hungarians now found
themselves defending along an over-extended front as Potiorek had just
begun strengthening his left flank, leaving the front line very
lightly held. Potiorek knew that he could avoid a serious reversal on
the battlefield by preventing the Serbian 1st Army from reaching the
watershed of the
Kolubara and Morava rivers, but the Serbs were
confident. They discovered that the Austro-
Hungarians had failed to
adequately prepare for a Serbian counterattack, as their artillery was
positioned well behind the front line. This meant that the
Austro-Hungarian defenders would be unable to use their heavy guns to
break up any Serbian advance. Rested and resupplied, the Serbs pushed
forward towards Belgrade. By the night of 2 December, the Serbian 1st
Army pushed several kilometres past Austro-Hungarian lines, taking a
large number of prisoners and inflicting heavy casualties on the
Austro-Hungarians. The 2nd and 3rd armies captured a number of
important positions on high ground, while the
Užice Army met fierce
resistance but was ultimately able to push the Austro-Hungarians
The offensive's initial success served to greatly enhance the morale
of Serbian troops, just as Putnik had wanted. Significantly weakened,
Hungarians did not have time to recover before the
offensive resumed the following morning and they were forced into
retreat by the end of the day. On 6 December, the British
ambassador to Serbia informed the British Government that the Serb
offensive was "progressing brilliantly". That day, the Serbian
Army had broken the Austro-
Hungarians at their centre and on their
right flank. Outmanoeuvred, the Austro-
Hungarians were forced into a
full retreat, abandoning their weapons and equipment as they went.
Meanwhile, the Austro-
Hungarians attempted to consolidate control
around Belgrade. On 7 December, they attacked the right flank of the
Serbian Army in the city's outskirts.
On 8 December, the Austro-
Hungarians fell back against
Valjevo. The Serbs anticipated that their opponents would entrench
themselves and attempt to block the Serbian Army's advance, but the
Hungarians had failed to construct any defensive networks and,
as such, were in no position to block the Serbian offensive. The
Hungarians had ensured that Valjevo's defenses were fortified
and had laid down artillery plans for the town's defense, but their
lack of prior preparation meant that the hills surrounding the town
were devoid of any significant defensive positions. The Serbs
exploited this weakness by manoeuvring around the hills and encircling
the Austro-Hungarians, suffering minimal casualties. The Serbian
3rd Army then broke through the defenses of the 6th Army at Mount
Suvobor and stormed Valjevo. In Niš, the Bulgarian ambassador to
Serbia reported: "The most improbable news from the battleground,
sweet to the Serb ear, has been going around since this morning." He
wrote that, in the last three to four days, the
Serbian Army had
captured one Austro-Hungarian General, 49 officers and more than
20,000 troops, as well as 40 cannon and "huge quantities of war
matériel". By 9 December, the Austro-Hungarian counter-offensive
Belgrade lost its momentum and the Austro-
Hungarians began to
retreat back towards the city centre. One Austro-Hungarian soldier
wrote: "We could not have imagined that the Serbs were on our heels,
after all we had recently been victorious." On 10 December, the
Serbian Army captured the lower reaches of the Drina, forcing the
majority of surviving Austro-Hungarian troops to flee across the
river. They did not stop until they had crossed the
Sava and the
Danube and entered the Banat. Very few Austro-Hungarian soldiers made
it back into Bosnia.
On 13 December, von Frank informed Potiorek that he considered it
impossible for Austro-Hungarian forces to remain in
Belgrade for much
longer. As a result, Potiorek ordered the Austro-Hungarian forces in
the city to withdraw. The Austro-
Belgrade on 14 and 15
December and retreated back into
Austria-Hungary under the cover of
their river monitors on the
Sava and the Danube. The Serbian Army
Belgrade on 15 December and was in full control of the city
by the end of the following day.
Oskar Potiorek (left) was dismissed as Austro-Hungarian commander in
the Balkans and relieved as commander of the 6th Army. His deputy,
Liborius Ritter von Frank
Liborius Ritter von Frank (right), lost command of the 5th Army.
The battle ended in a decisive Serbian victory. A directive issued
by the Serbian Supreme Command on 16 December reported: "The recapture
Belgrade marks the successful end of a great and magnificent period
in our operations. The enemy is beaten, dispersed, defeated and
expelled from our territory once and for all." Franz Conrad von
Hötzendorf, the Austro-Hungarian Chief of the General Staff,
attributed the defeat to a Serbian "thunder bolt from the south". The
battle did not achieve any of Austria-Hungary's objectives: it failed
to knock Serbia out of the war, it failed to induce Bulgaria to join
Central Powers and it failed to convince Romania to stay neutral.
Austro-Hungarian historians concluded after the battle that defeat by
Serbia constituted "a serious diminution in the Dual Monarchy's
prestige and self-confidence". The battle, like the Battle of Cer
before it, drew considerable attention to Serbia and many foreigners
came to the country in late 1914 to offer political and humanitarian
aid or to fight alongside the Serbian Army. German publicist
Maximilian Harden wrote: "Serbia has risen from its grave on the field
of Kosovo. From the source of the
Kolubara River it will draw courage
for the greatest battles of the whole century."
Hungarians suffered about 225,000 casualties, including
30,000 killed, 173,000 wounded and 70,000 taken prisoner. They
reported that 200 of their officers were taken prisoner during the
battle and more than 130 cannon, 70 heavy machine-guns and a large
quantity of matériel were captured. The Serbs also suffered heavy
casualties, with 22,000 killed, 91,000 wounded and 19,000 missing or
captured. The Western press was appalled with the scale of
atrocities committed by the Austro-Hungarian troops against Serbian
civilians, including women and children. William Shepard, of the
United Press, confirmed as an eyewitness that at least eighteen towns
were fully abandoned, and the whole of northwestern Serbia was nearly
Mišić was promoted to the rank of vojvoda for his command during the
battle. Potiorek, on the other hand, was relieved of command on 22
December for "this most ignominious, rankling and derisory
defeat". The decision reportedly made him suicidal. He was
replaced by Archduke Eugen of Austria, who the Austro-
would "restore Habsburg forces to the glory days of Prince
Eugene". Von Frank was dismissed as commander of the 5th Army and
replaced by Karl Tersztyánszky von Nádas, who had commanded the 4th
Corps at the Battle of Cer. The 5th and 6th armies were then
merged into a single 5th Army consisting of 95,000 men.
Dobrica Ćosić's novel A Time of Death revolves around the
battle. It was adapted into a stage play in 1983, titled The
Battle of Kolubara.
^ Interrogations of Serbian prisoners of war revealed that Serb
soldiers had not been fed or paid adequately since the war began. Many
prisoners ridiculed Serbian Prime Minister
Nikola Pašić for "leading
the country into war" and spoke of "regular abuse" at the hands of
their "brutal officers". Such comments appear to have convinced
Potiorek that the
Serbian Army was nearing collapse.
^ "We have yet to receive shells; the enemy is bombarding our trenches
and we have nothing to fire back. My men are dying under this fire and
I have no reserves to replace them with, and no shells to limit the
casualties; I thus feel incapable and powerless, and request removal
from this command."
^ Jordan 2008, p. 16.
^ Pavlowitch 2002, p. 93.
^ Strachan 2001, p. 335.
^ Jordan 2008, p. 17.
^ a b c Jordan 2008, p. 21.
^ a b Jordan 2008, p. 20.
^ Glenny 2012, p. 314.
^ Pavlowitch 2002, p. 94.
^ Glenny 2012, p. 316.
^ a b Mitrović 2007, p. 104.
^ Jordan 2008, p. 29.
^ Strachan 2001, p. 345.
^ Wawro 2014, p. 315.
^ Wawro 2014, pp. 315–316.
^ a b c Wawro 2014, p. 316.
^ a b c Mitrović 2007, p. 70.
^ a b c d Herwig 2014, p. 110.
^ Cove & Westwell 2002, p. 153.
^ a b Wawro 2014, p. 317.
^ a b Wawro 2014, p. 318.
^ Wawro 2014, pp. 318–319.
^ a b Jordan 2008, p. 33.
^ a b c d e Jordan 2008, p. 34.
^ a b c d Shrader 2005, p. 643.
^ a b c Jordan 2008, p. 35.
^ Mitrović 2007, pp. 70–71.
^ a b c d e Mitrović 2007, p. 71.
^ Jordan 2008, pp. 35–36.
^ a b c Jordan 2008, p. 36.
^ Jordan 2008, pp. 36–37.
^ a b Jordan 2008, p. 37.
^ a b c d e f Jordan 2008, p. 38.
^ a b c d e f g Herwig 2014, p. 111.
^ a b c d Jordan 2008, p. 39.
^ a b c d Jordan 2008, p. 40.
^ Jordan 2008, pp. 40–41.
^ Jordan 2008, p. 41.
^ a b c d e Mitrović 2007, p. 72.
^ Jordan 2008, p. 42.
^ Judah 2000, p. 98.
^ Mitrović 2007, pp. 72–73.
^ Bataković & Popović 1989, pp. 192–193.
^ a b Buttar 2014, p. 312.
^ Wachtel 1998, p. 203.
^ Jestrovic 2013, p. 59.
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Media related to Battle of
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Ottoman Empire and Its Successors,
1801–1927. London: Routledge. pp. 523–530.
ISBN 0-7146-1974-4. OCLC