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Austria-Hungary’s invasion of Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 initiated a spiral of events that left Europe in the most complete state of war the world had ever seen. Men were mobilized in their millions across the continent as Governments scrambled to both protect and promote their national interests.

The Balkan Front was where the First World War began. Fighting in Serbia and Macedonia lasted throughout the war and claimed thousands of lives. Yet both then and now its historical significance is overshadowed by the predominant struggle on the Western Front. The Balkans became a sideshow to events in France and Belgium.

The defensive positions:

That does not mean that men suffered less. Here too they endured the deprivations of the stagnant, attritional form of warfare that developed as military leaders struggled to understand the horrifying capabilities of new technology. The machine guns, barbed wire, aeroplanes and gas that killed men in their thousands in France took their dreadful toll in the Balkans as well. And together with the technological horrors, came the natural enemies of malaria; influenza; the extreme heat of summer and the extreme cold of winter.

Serbian, Bulgarian, French, British, German, Austrian, Russian, Irish, Italian and Greek soldiers suffered here. Their trenches, dug-outs and bunkers still litter the lush green hillsides. The dead still lie in quietly dignified cemeteries.

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