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On their way to victory, the Serbs were helped by a high command that developed the best strategies and won the Balkan wars. They also helped Allied forces to lose battles since the war began, but not all.
It was difficult to gather reliable information about enemy positions, as analysts sought to collate information from pilots who were trying to estimate troop concentration and movements with the naked eye, and widespread fear was compounded by a general sense of helpless ignorance. In fact, it was a testament to how little most people, civilians and soldiers, actually knew what was going on.
This sense of ignorance and insecurity helped fuel the wave of paranoia that swept across Europe, with spies fixated on Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia’s northern neighbour, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. News that little Serbia had succeeded in defeating Austro-Hungarian troops, even though it was at a disadvantage in every respect, met with a surge of interest in the country’s military history, and its reputation grew unexpectedly.
News also came that the Germans were approaching the fortified city of Namur, and on 15 August Lanrezac’s only army corps, Dinant, came under attack by German advance troops trying to cross the Meuse, which the French were able to repel with heavy fighting. Russian communications and logistics were extremely poor (it did not help that Rennkampf and Samsonov apparently despised each other), and the army was separated by an East Prussian maritime patchwork that provided an additional obstacle to a coordinated attack. The Serbian army fell back on traditional lines of defence, so Putnik ordered them to move the bulk of their troops as far east as possible. The third French army was split and created a new army of Lorraine to guard the right flank, while the rest of the third army attacked northeast of Luxembourg.
Belgrade, Smederevo and Veliko Gradiste continued to cross the Danube, but were subjected to more intense artillery fire. The French brought artillery support and continued their march doggedly, although they suffered more casualties than the Germans. The Austro-Hungarian troops subsequently tried to cross the Drina and Sava rivers near Ljubovija and Sabac. This attack was considered more significant, and a series of failed attempts to cross the Danube led to heavy Austro-Hungarian losses.
Although the Serbs managed to repel the Austro-Hungarian attacks, they used much of their ammunition as they needed to prevail. The Austrians tried to push them back on August 18, but this failed, too, and they tried to bring them artillery and cavalry reinforcements in the early morning hours of August 19th.
Exhausted by the violent marches, including a 40-kilometre march a day, the Combined Division sent units into battle in pieces, some of which came on the march. At the border they went on foot to the border, where they were taken in by a French troop. The train reached its destination, but they had to travel for two days, during which people had fainted from exhaustion.
The Habsburg troops began to retreat, with heavy losses on both sides, but the troops went into battle, some of them advancing, causing confusion and panic among the Habsburg troops. The 1st Combined Division continued its attack on the village of Rasuliaca before coming under heavy pressure in Kosanin Grad. This attack failed, however, when the Serbs defeated the Austro-Hungarian troops and forced the surviving soldiers to retreat. In the following days they launched a counter-attack against the Austro-Hungarian troops in the town of Kranjevo, about 100 kilometres west.
The German resistance grew stronger, machine guns and heavy artillery claimed heavy casualties, and the battle intensified rapidly. The
French offensive seemed to begin again when the first and second armies attacked and then withdrew, but the advance of the second army slowed down when they encountered massive gunfire from the Austro-Hungarian troops in the town of Kranjevo. In the following days, the Serbs, who were attacked by the First Army on their march to the village of Kosanin Grad, were caught up by the sleeping Austro-Hungarian troops and wrapped in their beds.
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