Dragutin Gavrilović

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Dragutin Gavrilović
Born 25 May 1882
Čačak, Serbia
Died 19 July 1945(1945-07-19) (aged 63)
Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Allegiance Kingdom of Serbia, later Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Rank Major (most famous), Colonel (last)
Unit 2nd battalion of the 10th Cadre Regiment (most famous)
Battles/wars First Balkan War
Second Balkan War
World War I
World War II
Awards Karadjordje's star, Croix de guerre

Dragutin Gavrilović (25 May 1882 – 19 July 1945) was a notable Serbian and, later, Yugoslav military officer.

Gavrilović was born in Čačak, Serbia, in 1882. After his graduation from the military academy in Belgrade in 1901, he took part in every war the Serbian army fought until World War II.

He is remembered in Serbian history books for his dramatic order to his troops issued on October 7, 1915, the first day of the defense of Belgrade against the Austro-Hungarian and German attack during the First World War. Holding the rank of major, Gavrilović at the time commanded the 2nd battalion of the 10th Cadre Regiment, which, along with a detachment of Belgrade gendarmerie and a group of about 340 volunteers from Syrmia, was defending positions at the very confluence of Sava and Danube, beneath the Kalemegdan Fortress. In the early morning, Austro-Hungarian troops attacked across the rivers after a heavy two-day artillery barrage, but the Serbians in a series of counterattacks trapped the invaders against the Danube in this sector with heavy casualties on both sides. The Serbian position grew worse every minute because of an incessant flow of Austro-Hungarian reinforcements and a vast superiority in artillery, which the Serbs countered by employing close-quarter tactics. The Serbs had their last stand in front of the "Jasenica" kafana, and a small flower shop, from where the soldiers took flowers and put them on their coats and guns as they prepared for one last charge into a certain death. Preparing his already decimated troops for that last attack, Major Gavrilović addressed them with these words:

Soldiers, exactly at three o'clock, the enemy is to be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets. The honor of Belgrade, our capital, must not be stained. Soldiers! Heroes! The supreme command has erased our regiment from its records. Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the Fatherland. Therefore, you no longer need to worry about your lives: they no longer exist. So, forward to glory! For the King and the Fatherland! Long live the King, Long live Belgrade!

The desperate charge that followed, in which Gavrilović was badly wounded, failed to destroy the Austro-Hungarian bridgehead. But the charge and similar acts of bravery and self-sacrifice by Serbian troops and by the inhabitants of Belgrade during the battle earned deep respect from the invaders, who suffered around 10,000 casualties in the course of capturing the city. The German commander August von Mackensen himself[citation needed] erected a monument on the battleground commemorating the city's zealous defenders; it still stands to this day and is inscribed with the words "Here Rest Serbian Heroes" in German and Serbian.

Gavrilović was awarded the Serbian war medal, Karadjordje's star, the French Croix de guerre, and many other medals.

In the Second World War, then a colonel in the Yugoslav Royal Army, Gavrilović was captured by the Axis during their invasion of Yugoslavia. He survived the war in a prison camp, later returning to Yugoslavia which was then under the control of Tito's Partisans, a socialist anti-fascist movement. The Partisans had no love for officers of the Royal Army, no matter how decorated. Malnourished and weak, Major Gavrilović was imprisoned by newly established communist secret police UDBA at a collection center and political prison at Banjica for a week before he was allowed to go back to his family.

He died humiliated by new communist regime in relative poverty on July 19, 1945 in his family's apartment at Slavija Square in central Belgrade. Dressed in a ragged colonel's uniform of Royal Yugoslav Army, he was buried in his cousin's crypt at Belgrade's New Cemetery.[1] Gavrilović's family was punished by new authorities by not being allowed to have military pension for 10 years, although they were entitled to it.[2]

Legacy and honors[edit]

A street stretching along the Danube riverbank in the Dorćol area of Belgrade (where Gavrilović and his men fought) bears the name Major Gavrilović's riverbank in his memory. There are also streets bearing his name in the cities of Niš, Čačak, Valjevo, and Užice.

Gavrilović is the topic of the song "Last Dying Breath" in the 2016 album The Last Stand by Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Život u ponosu, smrt u poniženju" (in Serbian). Bašta Balkana. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Poniženo srce majora Gavrilovića". Večernje Novosti. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  • Dr. Savo Skoko: Vojvoda Radomir Putnik (2), ISBN 8613004539, Beogradski izdavačko-grafički zavod, Belgrade 1985. (pages 238-240)