A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

XIV THE COLLAPSE OF THE ENTENTE PLANS IN THE BALKANS IN 1915

FALKENHAYN, as we have seen, had long determined to destroy Serbia in the autumn of 1915. Until the route to Constantinople should be under German control, the capacity of Turkey to remain in the Alliance was doubtful. In spite of the Russian defeat, Rumania was allowing only a niggardly ration of ammunition to pass over her railways. Shells for the heavy howitzers, it is related, were sometimes smuggled in beer-barrels. Conrad was no less anxious for a final reckoning, for the Austrians had to avenge the lamentable loss of prestige incurred by two complete defeats. Moreover, since Italy had become an enemy, the threat to Bosnia had a greater strategic significance. If the Italians should succeed in breaking through towards Klagenfürt, the pressure of the Serbs on the eastern flanks might be highly dangerous.

But obviously the attack on Serbia required the cooperation of Bulgaria. All through this year she had been persistently wooed and cajoled by both sides. It is highly improbable that anything would have induced her to join the Entente except the capture of Constantinople. Her people burned with indignation against the Serbs, who had deprived them in 1913 of that part of Macedonia which they regarded as their just recompense for their sacrifices in the Turkish war. Their King Ferdinand, a Coburg by birth, one of the wickedest and most astute of European diplomatists, cherished an intense hatred against Russia, whom he regarded as responsible for the disaster of 1913. He is reported to have said to Alfonso of Spain at their meeting in Vienna in December 1913: 'I will avenge myself upon Russia, and my vengeance will be terrible.' In any case the Entente was quite unable to induce Serbia and Greece to make such territorial sacrifices as might alone pave the way to Balkan unity. The

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