The first six chapters of “The Traitor” are available to read on-line. Copies of the book can be purchased from : ISBN  978 1 4092 9076 6 Based on “Superior Force” the acclaimed study of the escape of Goeben and Breslau THE BALKANS MARCH 1913 At the turn of the century the moribund Ottoman Empire still exercised a tenuous sovereignty over much of south-eastern Europe. Greeks and Serbs, Bosnians and Albanians co-existed in an uneasy mix, their mutual contempt for each other only held in check by their greater loathing for their Ottoman overseers. All this was to change in 1908. The long and oppressive reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid — Abdul the Damned of popular legend — was to end, against expectations, in a bloodless revolution (or as bloodless as these things ever are). Seizing their chance, following the upheaval caused by the Young Turk revolution, in October 1908 the Austrians (after the Italians, and due to their lack of confidence in their Great Power status, the most cynical players in the game of diplomacy) formally annexed the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were still nominally Turkish. Simultaneously, Bulgaria, whose undisputed status as a very minor power excused such opportunism), declared her independence. These actions provided the signal for the rise of Albanian and Serb nationalism and made the collapse of Turkey-in-Europe ever more likely. Envious and covetous in equal measure, the Greeks longed for their chance. Too weak militarily to force the issue at the time the Greeks sought strength on land through a system of loose alliances with neighbouring states and strength at sea through a revivified navy. Adding a sense of urgency to the plans for Greek re- armament was the increasingly parlous state of the Ottoman Empire, which, by 1911 was beginning to crumble — a lumbering wounded animal surrounded by snapping dogs. Ironically, the certainty of the Empire soon becoming involved in a war was only partly offset by the surprise felt that it should be the Italians who began the process of dismantling the Empire. Using the excuse of long standing ambitions on the African littoral Rome declared war on Turkey on 29 September 1911. The first hole had been gouged out of the ramshackle edifice of the Ottoman Empire. It should come as no surprise, however, that Italian military ambitions did not live up to Italian diplomatic ambitions; the fighting was anything but one-sided. Eventually, after protracted negotiations a treaty of peace, recognizing Italian sovereignty over Libya, was signed on 18 October 1912. But Turkey had finished with one war only to be embroiled, before the ink was dry on the peace treaty, in a far more dangerous conflict against that unholy alliance, the Balkan League. What one alone could not accomplish, together the uneasy allies hoped to achieve. The attempt to reconcile the competing aims of the restless states was only partially successful: the Serbs, above all, desired an outlet to the sea; the Bulgarians and Greeks looked to carve up Macedonia between them; and King Nicholas of Montenegro? Well, Nikita wanted whatever he could lay his hands on. Tension mounted throughout the summer of 1912, fanned by further Albanian unrest, until, finally, the Balkan League mobilized on 30 September. By arrangement (or so it was thought at the time), Montenegro made the first move, declaring war on Turkey on 8 October; Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece followed suit on 17 October. From the start the war went disastrously for the Turks as three of the four members of the League quickly marched to their respective primary objectives: before the end of the month, the Montenegrins had invested Scutari and the Serbs had besieged Uskub, while Salonica surrendered to the Greeks on 8 November, just hours before a flying column of the Bulgarian army arrived. In the interim the two sets of troops of the erstwhile allies warily occupied the city. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Bulgarian army, involved in the heaviest fighting and directed against the main Turkish army rather than towards easy territorial conquest, had invested the strategic city of Adrianople (modern Edirne) by 23 October, when it appeared that the fall of the Turkish capital could not be long delayed. Finally, the last bastion of defence for Constantinople – the Tchatalja lines – is assaulted by a massive Bulgarian attack in mid-November, despite an earlier request by the Turks for an armistice. To general surprise, the Turkish lines held. Following this unexpected check and a perhaps more predictable outbreak of cholera amongst their troops, the Bulgarians were forced to adopt a more conciliatory tone and (in conjunction with the Serbs) an armistice was arranged on 3 December; the Greeks, however, refused to sign as they wished to continue their naval blockade. Despite this cynical Greek opportunism, all the warring states sent representatives to the St James’s Conference which convened in London on 16 December. Taking advantage of the armistice, the Turks regrouped and gathered strength behind the Tchatalja lines while remaining in possession of Adrianople, Scutari and Janina. Past military disasters were soon forgotten, to be replaced by a new-found belligerency, as the Turks refused to lie down and submit following the coup d’etat in Constantinople which brought Enver Pasha and his cohorts to power. However, with the expiration of the armistice on 3 February 1913, the bombardment of Adrianople recommenced and, one by one, the Turkish garrisons began to capitulate.
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"The terrible ‘ifs’ accumulate" The Traitor A novel by Geoffrey Miller The Balkans, 1914 Home Synopsis Balkans My Books Contact Order
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