Serbian soldiers marching through the countryside, c. 1914.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Battle of Kolubara (16th November to 16th December 1914) fought between the Austro Hungarians and the Serbs, was one of the more remarkable battles of the First World War.
Both sides were attempting to capture the Serbian capital of Belgrade, and in late November the Austro Hungarians gained the upper hand and were able to capture the city, entering as conquerors on December 1st.
However the Serbian withdrawal had been well executed and the army were able to rest and recuperate across the next 24-hour period. The Serbs then launched a massive counterattack on December 2, when the Austro Hungarians were holding a premature victory parade through the streets of Belgrade.
The Serbian commander Radomir Putnik led his forces with great skill and was joined by the 70-year old Serbian King Peter 1st, who accompanied his troops as an infantry soldier for the battle.
The Austro Hungarians were unprepared for the quick Serbian response and fell back rapidly ahead of the attack. The celebrations that had been taking place in Berlin and Vienna such a short time before were quickly replaced by doubt and fear as the Serbs rolled forward.
On 6th December the British Ambassador to Serbia was able to inform his Government of the astonishing turn-around in the battle, stating that the offensive was “progressing brilliantly”. The Austro Hungarian defences were collapsing catastrophically with troops abandoning their weapons and many prisoners falling to the Serbs.
Although the battle would have just over another week to run, the Serbs had executed one of the great counterattacks of the First World War, literally snatching a great victory from the jaws of a disastrous defeat. The resulting boost to morale was immense, not just for the Serbs but across all the Allied armies and their parent populations.