Battle of Sorovich

The Battle of Sorovich (Greek: Μάχη του Σόροβιτς, Turkish: Soroviç Muharebesi) took place between 22–24 October 1912 (O.S.). It was a battle fought between Greek and Ottoman forces during the First Balkan War, and revolved around the Sorovich area. The 5th Greek Division which had been advancing through western Macedonia separately from the bulk of the Hellenic Army, encamped at Sorovich where it found itself to be heavily outnumbered by an opposing Ottoman force.

Battle of Sorovich
Part of the First Balkan War
Gorno Varbeni Ekshi Sou Panorama IWW.jpg
Panorama of Ekshi Su (Xino Nero) c. 1916
Date3–6 November [O.S. 22–24 October] 1912
Location
Result Ottoman victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of Greece Greece  Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Dimitrios Matthaiopoulos Hasan Rıza Pasha[1]
Units involved
5th Infantry Division 16th Infantry Division
17th Infantry Division
18th Infantry Division
Strength
7,080 20,000
Casualties and losses
168 killed
196 wounded
10 captured
Unknown

After withstanding repeated attacks between 22 and 23 October, it broke ranks on the early morning of 24 October; after Ottoman machine gunners struck its flank in an early morning surprise attack. The Greek defeat at Sorovich resulted in the Serbian capture of the contested city of Monastir.

BackgroundEdit

The disastrous Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 exposed major flaws in the Hellenic Army's organization, training and logistics. Georgios Theotokis was the first post-war Greek prime minister to focus his attention on strengthening the army. He established the National Defense Fund which financed the purchase of large quantities of ammunition. In addition a new table of organization was introduced for the country's navy and army, the latter being augmented by numerous artillery batteries. Theotokis' resignation in January 1909 and the perceived neglect of the armed forces by his successor resulted in the Goudi coup seven months later. Rather than taking power for themselves, the putschists invited Cretan politician Eleftherios Venizelos to rule the country.[2] Venizelos followed in Theotokis' footsteps by re-arming and re-training the military, including extensive fortification and infrastructure works, purchase of new weapons, and the recall of reserve classes for training. The climax of this effort was the invitation in 1911 of a British naval mission and a French military mission.[3]

After being informed of a Serbo-Bulgarian alliance, Venizelos ordered his ambassador in Sofia to prepare a Greco-Bulgarian defense agreement by 14 April 1912, fearing that should Greece fail to participate in a future war against the Ottomans, it would be unable to capture the Greek majority areas of Macedonia. The treaty was signed on 15 July 1912, with the two countries agreeing to assist each other in case of a defensive war and to safeguard the rights of Christian populations in Ottoman held Macedonia, thus joining the loose Balkan League alliance with Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. Fearing a new war in the Balkans, the Ottomans declared mobilization on 14 September and began transferring units to Thrace; the Balkan League responded in kind.[4] On 30 September, the League presented the Ottomans with a list of demands regarding the rights of its Christian population. The Ottoman Empire rebuffed the demands, recalled its ambassadors in Sofia, Belgrade and Athens and expelled the League's negotiators on 4 October, with the latter declaring war against the Ottomans, while Montenegro had already began military operations on 25 September.[5]

PreludeEdit

The Army of Thessaly crossed into Ottoman territory in the early morning hours of 5 October, finding most border posts to be abandoned. The first major clashes took place the following day when the 1st and 2nd Greek Divisions attacked Elassona, resulting in an Ottoman withdrawal towards Sarandaporo.[6] At 7 a.m. on 9 October, the Greek infantry began its assault on Sarandaporo. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions attacked the Ottoman main line frontally. In the meantime, the cavalry brigade, 4th and 5th Divisions conducted a flanking maneuver from the west with the intention of striking the rear of the Ottoman positions.[7] Despite being perceived as impregnable by its defenders,[8] the main body of the Greek forces managed to advance deep inside the pass,[7] while auxiliary units broke through the Ottoman flanks. The Ottomans abandoned their defensive line during the night, fearing encirclement.[9]

At 4 p.m. on 10 October, the 4th Division marched into Servia,[10] while the Greek cavalry entered Kozani unopposed the following day.[11] After their defeat at Sarandaporo, the Ottomans augmented the remnants of Hasan Tahsin Pasha's force with fresh reinforcements[12] and organized their main defensive line at Yenidje. On 18 October, Crown Prince Constantine ordered the bulk of the Army of Thessaly to head towards Yenidje despite receiving conflicting intelligence reports regarding the disposition of the enemy troops.[13] In the meantime, the 5th Greek Division under Dimitrios Matthaiopoulos, continued its advance across western Macedonia; aiming at reaching the Kailaria-Perdika area, where it was to await further orders. Either uniting with the rest of the Army of Thessaly or capture Monastir. After crossing the Kirli Derven pass, it reached Banitsa on 19 October.[14]

The 5th Greek Division continued its march through the Florina plain during the night of 19 October. At 11 a.m. 20 October, it was attacked by an Ottoman division which had been brought to the area by rail from Monastir. Although the Serbians were aware of this maneuver, they only allocated a limited a number of troops to strike the Ottoman rear, as they intended to seize Monastir first. Seeing that his troops were exhausted and exposed to Ottoman fire on the plain, Matthaiopoulos ordered a retreat towards Sorovich at 6 p.m. After passing through Kirli Derven, the 5th Division camped at Sorovich next to the Petersko lake. Matthaiopoulos placed his 7,000 infantrymen north-east of the town, the 20 artillery pieces were stationed in the Sotiras village, while 80 cavalry were to protect the western flank of the division at Giouloun.[15]

BattleEdit

On 22 October, the 18th Ottoman Infantry Division split into two columns, simultaneously attacking Sorovich from the direction of Xino Nero and Petersko. The Ottoman charge was suppressed by Greek artillery fire, leading to an artillery duel that lasted for the remainder of the day. A second Ottoman offensive from Petersko was successfully repulsed during the night. Unbeknownst to the Greeks, the 18th Ottoman Infantry Division which already outnumbered them was reinforced by the 16th and 17th Ottoman Infantry Divisions bringing the total number of the Ottomans to 20,000 men.[16]

On 23 October, the Ottomans launched a series of large scale attacks on the Greek center and eastern flank. The 5th Division held its ground, counter-attacking at 4 p.m. and driving a wedge between the Ottoman center and its western flank. This caused the Ottomans to flee the battlefield during the night, while the Greeks took hold of the nearby railway line and road junction. The 5th Division was also augmented by its rearguard, 3 infantry companies and 3 engineering companies. While the Ottomans who had just been defeated at the Battle of Prilep, withdrew most of their troops at Sorovich to Monastir in an effort to halt the Serbian drive towards the city.[17]

Shortly before the dawn of 24 October, a company belonging to the 17th Ottoman Division armed with several machine guns approached the Greek western flank undetected. At 6.30 a.m., it opened fire on the Greek positions at Spantza while the defenders were still asleep. The Ottomans penetrated the Greek lines, capturing an artillery battery and signalling another Ottoman unit to attack from the east. The soldiers guarding the Greek eastern flank offered stubborn resistance, refusing to yield until given a written order, while the rest of the 5th Division fled in panic. The Greek eastern flank was eventually overpowered, while many Greek soldiers were killed by Ottoman riflemen and sympathetic civilians.[18]

AftermathEdit

Greek casualties in the battle of Sorovich numbered 168 killed, 196 wounded and 10 prisoners of war.[19] Although the Greek victory at the Battle of Yenidje, overshadowed the defeat at Sorovich, it perplexed Greek Crown Prince Constantine making him hesitate just as the Greek majority city of Thessaloniki seemed to be within his grasp.[20] The remnants of the 5th Division assembled in Kailaria and were reorganized in Kozani on 25 October. On 29 October, Constantine allocated the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Divisions and a cavalry brigade for the capture of Monastir. Those forces convened at Edessa on 2 November and were eventually able to seize Florina, yet Monastir fell into Serbian hands after the conclusion of the eponymous battle.[1]

By May 1913, the numerically inferior Ottomans had suffered a series of serious defeats to the League's armies on all fronts. The League had captured most of the Ottoman Empire's European territories and was rapidly approaching Constantinople. On 30 May, the two sides signed the Treaty of London which solidified the League's territorial ambitions, granting its members all Ottoman lands west of Enos on the Aegean Sea and north of Midia on the Black Sea, as well as Crete. The fate of Albania and the Ottoman-held Aegean islands was to be determined by the Great Powers.[21]

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b Kargakos 2012, p. 72.
  2. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 19–21.
  3. ^ Katsikostas 2014, pp. 5–6.
  4. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 26–29.
  5. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 35–38.
  6. ^ Christopoulos & Bastias 1977, p. 290.
  7. ^ a b Christopoulos & Bastias 1977, p. 291.
  8. ^ Dimitracopoulos 1992, p. 42.
  9. ^ Apostolidis 1913, pp. 203–205.
  10. ^ Dimitracopoulos 1992, p. 44.
  11. ^ Christopoulos & Bastias 1977, p. 292.
  12. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 79–81.
  13. ^ Christopoulos & Bastias 1977, p. 295.
  14. ^ Kargakos 2012, p. 66.
  15. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 66–67.
  16. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 67–68.
  17. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 68, 70.
  18. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 71–72.
  19. ^ Christopoulos & Bastias 1977, p. 298.
  20. ^ Kargakos 2012, pp. 72, 90.
  21. ^ Christopoulos & Bastias 1977, pp. 330–332.

ReferencesEdit

  • Apostolidis, Dimitrios (1913). Ο νικηφόρος ελληνοτουρκικός πόλεμος του 1912-1913 [The Victorious Greco-Turkish War of 1912-1913] (in Greek). Vol. I. Athens: Estia. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  • Christopoulos, Georgios; Bastias, Ioannis (1977). Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Εθνους: Νεώτερος Ελληνισμός απο το 1881 ως 1913 [History of the Greek Nation: Modern Greece from 1881 until 1913] (in Greek). Vol. XIV. Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon.
  • Dimitracopoulos, Anastasios (1992). The First Balkan War Through the Pages of Review L'Illustration. Athens: Hellenic Committee of Military History. ASIN B004UBUA4Q.
  • Kargakos, Sarandos (2012). Η Ελλάς κατά τους Βαλκανικούς Πολέμους (1912-1913) [Greece in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913)] (in Greek). Peritechnon. ISBN 978-960-8411-26-5.
  • Katsikostas, Dimitrios (2014). "Η αναδιοργάνωση των ενόπλων δυνάμεων και το έργο της γαλλικής στρατιωτικής αποστολής Eydoux" [The Reorganization of the Armed Forces and the Efforts of the French Military Mission of Eydoux] (PDF) (in Greek). Hellenic Army History Directorate. Retrieved 13 November 2019.

Coordinates: 40°25′N 21°25′E / 40.41°N 21.41°E / 40.41; 21.41