Greece in the First Balkan War

Greek: Η Ελλαδα στο Α Βαλκανικος Πολεμος
Date: October 8, 1912 – May 30, 1913
Location: Balkan Peninsula
Result: Balkan League victory, Treaty of London
Balkan League: Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro
Greeks Killed: 3,910 (23,500 wounded)

First Balkan Wars.

First Balkan Wars.

The First Balkan War was a war fought between the”Balkan League” consisting of Greece allied with Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire that began on October 8, 1912. It was one of the most important periods in modern Greece’s history, as they were able to almost double its size. The territories of Southern Macedonia, Epirus and all of the Aegean Islands (except those of Italian-occupied Dodecanese) came under Greek control. The war would also be the catalyst for what would become a sour relationship between Greece’s Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, and the Army’s commander-in-chief, and soon to be King of Greece Constantine I.

The war for Greece was mainly fought in the region of Macedonia. This region was inhabited with a mixture of nationalities, including Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Vlachs, Turks, Balkan Muslims, Albanians and Sephardic Jews. Greeks represented the majority of the population followed by the Turks and the Bulgarians. The aim of the war for the Greeks was part of the “Megali Idea”, of uniting all the Hellenes, or Greek speaking regions. At the time, Greece’s army numbered 125,000 men and was divided into two armies; the Army of Thessaly and the Army of Epirus. Of the three allies Greece had the smallest army, however the Greeks had a strong navy which was important to the Balkan League in helping to prevent Ottoman reinforcements from using the Aegean Sea as a transfer point. The Army of Thessaly’s goal was to advance towards south and central Macedonia, with the aim of taking Thessaloniki and Bitola while the Army of Epirus was to hold down the Ottoman forces until reinforcements could be sent from the Army of Thessaly.

The city of Thessaloniki served as an important position in the war and when the Army of Thessaly captured Thessaloniki on November 9, 1912 the ultimate demise of the Ottoman Army in the Balkans was inevitable. With successive defeats in Macedonia by the armies of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria theOttoman’s were pushed to Thrace. The battle in Epirus also proved to be a success. The outnumbered Greeks were able to hold off the Ottoman’s and even capture the city of Ioannia when it fell on March 6, 1913. They continued their advance into northern Epirus (the southern part of modern Albania) which it occupied. There they stopped as the Serbian line of control was very close in the north. The naval operation in the Aegean Sea also proved to be a success. With the Ottoman Navy spending most of their time in the Black sea battling the Bulgarians the Greeks were able to seize the islands in the northern part of the Aegean sea.

The First Balkan War ended when the Treaty of London was signed on May 30, 1913. All Ottoman territory west of the Enez-Kiyikov line was ceded to the Balkan League and Albania was declared an independent state. Bulgaria though had unresolved issues with the division of northern Macedonia with Serbia and southern Macedonia with Greece. Therefore, Bulgaria was prepared to go to war with its former allies and began to deploy its troops from Eastern Thrace to Macedonia. Greece and Serbia had signed a military alliance direct against Bulgaria on May 1, 1913 that soon was followed by a treaty of “mutual friendship and protection” on May 19/June 1, 1913. This would set the scene for the Second Balkan War.

The Doubling of Greece: 1912-1913 part 1/6 by National Geographic

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