Montenegrin Campaign of World War I

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Montenegrin Campaign
Part of the Serbian Campaign in the World War I
Montenegro campaign.png
Date 5 – 17 January 1916
Location Montenegro
Result

Austrian-Hungarian victory

  • Austrians occupy Montenegro
Belligerents
 Austria-Hungary  Montenegro
Commanders and leaders
Austria-Hungary Hermann Kövess von Kövessháza
Austria-Hungary Stjepan Sarkotić
Kingdom of Montenegro Nicholas I
Kingdom of Montenegro Janko Vukotić
Strength
100,000 35,000

The Montenegrin Campaign of World War I, which was fought in January 1916, was a part of the Serbian Campaign, in which Austria Hungary defeated and occupied the Kingdom of Montenegro, an ally of Serbia.

By January 1916, the Serbian Army had been defeated by an Austrian-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian invasion. The remnants of the Serbian army had withdrawn through Montenegro and Albania, and were being evacuated by allied ships since 12 December, first to Italy and later to Corfu.

The k.u.k. High command in Teschen, decided to use the success in Serbia to knock Montenegro out of the war. The army of Montenegro that had fought alongside their allies in Serbia, had now withdrawn into their own territory, but were still resisting against the Central powers. Furthermore, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf wanted to take the Italian-held Albanian ports of Durazzo and Valona.

Two Austrian army corps were formed in December 1915. One in the west under command of Stjepan Sarkotić between Trebinje and Kotor, composed of the XIX. Armeekorps, reinforced with troops from Bosnia-Hercegovina and Dalmatia. They had to attack the main force of the Montenegrin army, gathered around Mount Lovcen, and a second attack was planned from Trebinje towards the east. In the east and north, the VIII. Armeekorps under command of Hermann Kövess von Kövessháza was to bind the Montenegrin troops there present.

Eastern front

The VIII. Armeekorps, which pursued the withdrawing Montenegrin Expeditionary army, had two tasks. On the one hand to slow down the Montenegrin troops; for this the 62nd and 53rd Infantry Divisions were used. On the other hand, it had to pass the Montenegrin right wing and converge with the XIX. Korps on Podgorica.

The 62nd and 53rd Infantry Division entered Montenegro on 5 January 1916 from the North-East and advanced along the river towards Pljevlja and Bijelo Polje, where they were stopped by the Montenegrins in the Battle of Mojkovac. At the same time, the 10th and 18th Mountain brigade advanced from Novi Pazar and on 10 January took the city of Berane. The 205th and 9th Mountain brigade advanced westwards from Priština and took Peć and Velika. The 57th Infantery Division advanced from Prizren.

Western front

Montenegrin soldiers leaving for the Lovcen front

Mount Lovcen was the key defensive position of the Montenegrin army, who defended it as a citadel with roughly 2/3 of its forces. The Austrian-Hungarians, under Croatian general Stjepan Sarkotić, gathered large quantities of heavy artillery in Kotor, supported by ships artillery from the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

On 8 January the attack began with a massive artillery bombardment. The Montenegrins lacked everything: guns, ammunition, food and shelter. On 11 January, Mount Lovcen was in Austrian hands. In the meantime, two independent brigades under Feldmarschalleutnant Braun advanced towards Nikšić, covering the left flank and threatening to cut off the Montenegrins from the north-east.

On 13 January 1916, the vanguard of the Austrian army reached the capital Cetinje. Braun had encountered stiff resistance and advanced only 10 km in the direction of Nikšić.

Consequences

Negotiations on an armistice started on 13 January, after the fall of Cetinje. King Nicholas I of Montenegro first refused the harsh Austrian terms, but fled to Albania and from there to Italy on 19 January. From there he issued an order to Janko Vukotić demanding that the army continued to fight and eventually retreat with the Serbians to Albania and Corfu. But the ministers that had remained in Montenegro issued a proclamation to the Montenegrin armed forces to surrender all weapons.

On 1 March a provisional military government was established under Viktor Weber Edler von Webenau, he was replaced by Heinrich Clam-Martinic on 10 July 1917, who filled this position until the end of the war.

General Stjepan Sarkotić was made a Hungarian baron and officially styled Stefan Baron Sarkotić von Lovćen.
Major General Ignaz Trollmann, commander of the XIX. Corps, was ennobled as baron in 1917 with the style of Freiherr Trollmann von Lovcenberg.
General Kövess was awarded the Silver Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) with war-ribbon on 12 January 1916 and promoted to Generaloberst on 26 February 1916.

During the following weeks the troops of the 3rd Austrian Hungarian army occupied the rest of Montenegro and invaded Albania, taking Scutari and finally Durazzo at the end of February. The evacuation of the Serbian army had been completed on 10 February.

Literature

  • Theodor Konopicky: Der österreichisch-ungarische Krieg, Leipzig: Barth 1922.
  • Srdja Pavlovic: Balkan Anschluss: The Annexation of Montenegro and the Creation of the Common South Slavic State, West Lafayette (Indiana): Purdue University Press 2008, pp. 75-86.
  • Hermann Baron Kövess von Kövessháza
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