Battle of Krivolak

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Battle of Krivolak
Part of Serbian Campaign (World War I)
Macedonia location krivolak kosturino.jpg
Date 17 October 1915 – 21 November 1915
Location Krivolak, Kingdom of Serbia (now Macedonia)
Result Bulgarian victory
Belligerents
 France  Bulgaria
Commanders and leaders
France Maurice Sarrail Kingdom of Bulgaria Georgi Todorov
Strength
45,000 men - from the French 57th and 156th Infantry Divisions and parts of the 122nd Infantry Division Bulgarian 2nd Army - comprising elements of 2nd Thracian Infantry Division, 5th Danube Infantry Division, 7th Rila Infantry Division, and 11th Macedonian Infantry Division
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Krivolak (Bulgarian: Криволашко сражение (1915)) (also known as the Battle of Krivolashkoto) was a battle between the forces of Bulgaria, under the command of General Georgi Todorov, and France, under the command of General Maurice Sarrail, during the Ovche Pole Offensive (which was part of the Serbian Campaign), where the Bulgarian 2nd Army was able to defeat the French led Armée d'Orient - separating the defending Serbian forces from their only outside source of supply.

Background[edit]

Conquest of Serbia, 1915, showing the French advance in Southern Serbia

Following the intervention of Bulgaria in World War I, on October 1, 1915 the Bulgarian offensive against Serbia started, with the First Bulgarian Army defeated Serbian forces in the Morava Offensive and 2nd Bulgarian Army defeating Serbian forces in the Ovche Pole Offensive . However, in early October, parts of the Entente Armee d'Orient land in Salonika (Thessaloniki) and advance to the north to support the retiring Serbian units in Kosovo.

Intending to protect the rail line linking Salonika to Niš, French forces (elements of the 57th Infantry Division) moved into southern Serbia on 19 October to Krivolak, where they discovered that Bulgarian forces had already managed to cut the railway line to the north of Krivolak. As a result of continuous requests for reinforcements from the Serbian Government, further French forces were sent into the area, until by 20 October there was the entirety of the French 156th Infantry Division and part of the French 57th Infantry Division spread from Krivolak to near the Bulgarian border (a frontage of nearly 50 kilometers).

The Battle[edit]

Battle of Krivolak, November 1915, showing the Allied advance northwards.

On November 2, General Sarrail ordered his northern most force (the 57th Infantry Division) to advance further north to the Tcherna River (now the Crna River) and seize crossing points. By this point in time, the Bulgarian 2nd Army had driven past Krivolak, and was threatening to cut off the Serbian forces from their only escape route (through Albania).

As the French forces tried to advance, on 3 November Bulgarian forces conducted strong attacks on the southern end of the French front, and was threatening to cut off the entire French force.

As a result of the threat to his flank, between November 3 and November 12, General Sarrail switched his attack eastwards (using the 156th Infantry Division) into the southern flank of the Bulgarian forces, whilst guarding the railway line around the junction of the Tcherna and Vardar rivers with the 57th and part of the 122nd Infantry Divisions.

By November 12, following growing evidence that Serbian forces to the north had collapsed, the French Minister of War (Joseph Gallieni) ordered General Sarrail to gather together as much of the Serbian Army as he could, and to retreat to Salonika. Despite this, General Sarrail continually requested reinforcements, and did not retreat until November 23 (despite continuous Bulgarian attacks having forced the 122nd Infantry Division to retreat south of the Tcherna River on November 20).

During the retreat, the British 10th (Irish) Division, who defended the right flank, was also defeated in the Battle of Kosturino (6-8 December).
By December 12, all allied forces had withdrawn out of Serbia into Greece.

Aftermath[edit]

With the Serbian forces cut off from outside supply, they were forced to retreat westwards into Albania, where they were evacuated to the Greek island of Corfu.

References[edit]