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themselves with serviceable horses served only a year and
a half, and infantry soldiers who received the grading of
"Very Good" were released at the end of fourteen months.
The actual period with the colors was shortened by exten-
sive furloughs.

The reserves of the active army were called out for
training twenty days in each year; reservists belonging to
the second and third categories received fifteen days' training




Heavy Serbian artillery.




^trliian ci>iiuiii:>:^:irv train.



The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 349

annually, and the general reserv'es were called out for five
days in the year.

The peace strength of the army of 1912 was 2,275 offi-
cers and officials, and about 30,000 men, including troops
of the customs service and the gendarmerie, which together
amounted to about 2,000. The war strength of the field
armies was estimated at 180,000 rifles, 9,000 sabers, and 436
guns. The third category and the general reserve brought
the number up to more than 350,000 men.

Serbia was poor in horses and depended largely on Russia
for her supply for war. The government maintained a
remount depot where officers could purchase mounts at
reasonable prices.

Non-commissioned officers were trained in special schools
or in the ranks. They were well paid and after twelve years'
service received appointments to civil positions. Fourteen
years' service entitled the non-commissioned officer to
a pension and after thirty years' service he received the
maximum pension.

The officers came from the military academy in Belgrade
or by promotion of specially qualified non-commissioned
officers. The grade of general officer was limited to grad-
uates of the military academy. The corps of reserve officers
was formed by transfer of officers from the active list and
by appointment of students who served six months and
passed the required examination; but they were not pro-
moted above the grade of major. A superior military
academy or schoo! of war was maintained for the higher
education of officers of the line. Specially qualified officers,
selected by a system similar to that of Austria-Hungary,
were detailed in the General Staff.

The first-line army comprised 20 infantry regiments,
each of which on a peace footing had 3 battalions, but, on
a war footing was increased to 4 field battaUons with 1 or



350 The Great War

2 depot battalions. In addition, 6 four-battalion regiments
were formed from the reserves of the active army, making
a total of first-line war strength of 104 battalions, to which
should be added 1 guard company, 4 companies of frontier
guards, and a battalion of gendarmes.

The second-line infantry was not organized in peace,
but formed on mobilization 15 four-battalion regiments
from the second-class reserves. The commanders of regi-
ments, battalions, and companies, the regimental adjutant,
and one platoon commander for each company were to be
professional officers. The third-line infantry was formed
from the reserves of the third catagory. It was without
organization in peace, but formed in war 15 four-battalion
regiments for duty as garrison troops, frontier guards, and
on the line of communications.

The first and second-line regiments had 4 machine-guns
to the regiment in war. The man in the ranks carried the
Mauser repeating rifle with bayonet. The non-commis-
sioned officers carried saber and revolver. The third cate-
gory were not provided with modern arms ; part of them
had an old model Mauser repeater, and the others old
single-shot breech-loading rifles of difi^erent types.

The cavalry consisted in peace of 4 line regiments
of 4 squadrons each, 1 guard squadron, and a mounted
platoon of gendarmes in Belgrade. In war, 5 additional
four-squadron regiments were formed from reservists who
furnished their own horses. The second category reserves
were to form in war 5 two-squadron regiments, and the
third class reserves 5 individual squadrons. The cavalry
of the peace establishment and that formed from the
first and second classes of reserves were armed with the
Mauser repeating carbine and saber. The guard squad-
ron carried, in addition, the revolver. The carbines of
the third catagory were old model single loaders, and



The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 351

the mounts of both the second and third classes were
very inferior.

Five regiments of field artiller}^ 1 division of horse artil-
lery, 1 howitzer regiment, and 1 regiment of mountain
artillery formed the peace establishment. The field artillery
regiment was composed of 3 sections, each of 3 four-gun
batteries. The horse division consisted of 2 horse-batteries
of 4 guns each. The howitzer regiment was made up of
2 divisions of 3 batteries each, making a total of 6 batteries,
one of which was a mortar battery. Four of these were
four-gun batteries in peace, but all were six-gun batteries
in war. In addition, there were 10 batteries of field how-
itzers from the Schneider-Creusot factory which were to
be taken over by the first-line artillery, while the older
pieces were to pass to the second-line regiments. The
second category artillery, like the first, was made up of 5
regiments, — 1 for each division; 1 mountain regiment of
7 six-gim batteries ; and 1 howitzer regiment to be formed
with guns released by the first-line regiment, which took
over the new guns. The third category consisted of some
50 batteries of old type guns which were from time to
time transferred from the first and second categories upon
receipt of new equipment. Field pieces, howitzers, mor-
tars, and mountain guns of modern make were of the
Schneider, Schneider Creusot, or Schneider-Canet systems.
The field piece is the caliber 7.5 centimeter French rifle.
The mountain gun weighs about 1,000 pounds and is car-
ried dismantled or five pack animals. It is a 7 centimeter
gun. The howitzers are caliber 120 to 150 millimeters,
weighing with carriage about 5,000 pounds.

The technical troops consisted of 1 pioneer company,
1 telegraph section, 1 sanitary company, 1 train squadron, 1
bakery and butcher company, and 1 company of mechanics
for each infantry division. In war, 5 division bridge trains,



352 The Great War

1 large bridge train, 2 railroad companies, 1 mining com-
pany, and 2 reserve telegraph sections were organized.

As a result of the campaign of 1912-1913 against Turkey
and the campaign of 1913 against Bulgaria, Serbia increased
her territory by two-thirds of her original area. Steps were
immediately taken to organize 5 new infantry divisions in
the conquered territory with the corresponding auxiliary
forces. This would give her in war 10 divisions of first-line
troops, which were to be increased on mobilization by 5
divisions of the second-line and 60 battalions of the third-
line troops. The infantry division counted 12 battalions of
infantry, 2 squadrons of cavalry, and 9 batteries of artillery.
The cavalry division was composed of 2 brigades of 2 four-
squadron regiments each. The total strength of the field
armies in war became 250,000 rifles, 8,000 sabers, 500 guns,
and 150 machine-guns.

The Serbian campaign of 1912 against Turkey was
undertaken under conditions so unfavorable to the Turks
that the rapid successes of the Serbian forces cannot be said
to have established any real superiority of the victors over
the vanquished, but it demonstrated that the work of the
Serbian war office had been well done. The mobilization
was accomplished in ten days, and the troops that took the
field showed that the Serbian army had taken its place
among the first forces of the Balkan States. The first suc-
cess, after a long period in which a series of wars had
brought one defeat and disaster after another, created a
confidence in the king and his military administration
which only a successful campaign can accomplish. Cholera
and a hard campaign against the Turks left Bulgaria in a
poor state to meet the Serbian attack of the next year ; but
the Serbian victory is not to be attributed altogether to Bul-
garia's weakened condition, for the Serbian troops proved
that they were equal, if not superior, to those of Bulgaria,




o
U




The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 353

hitherto counted the best in the Balkans. Two victorious
caiiipaiirns, coming ([uicivly one after another, are an asset
on which one can hardly place too high an estimate in
summing up the fighting strength of an army. Due to
inferiority in numbers, but particularly in resources and
equipment, the Serbian army cannot be compared to the
great armies of Europe; but it was, in 1914, an army of vet-
erans such as none of the great armies possessed. Almost
devoid of transport and the auxiliary services which make
extensive operations of large armies possible, it could hardly
take the offensive against a first class power; but, on its own
ground, in a country so little developed and offering so many
obstacles to the movements of large bodies of troops, the
Serbian army was sure to prove a very dangerous adversary.

In uniting Belgium to Holland in 1815 the Congress of
Vienna was not influenced by any consideration for the
peace and happiness of the Belgian provinces. The Bel-
gians themselves had no voice in their own fate; they were
the victims of the national jealousies of the powers. A large
percentage of the population was closely related to the
Dutch, but the Catholic element, which predominated, was
never reconciled to a Protestant king and constant friction
was the inevitable result.

The excitement caused by the revolution in Paris in 1830
roused the smoldering discontent into a flame of rebellion,
and the Belgians, after centuries of suffering under foreign
rulers, awoke to national life. Insurrections and mob vio-
lence were quickly checked by a provisional government
of responsible citizens who proclaimed the independence of
Belgium and released the Belgian regiments from their
oath of allegiance to the Dutch crown, and thus formed
the nucleus of a Belgian army. These were highly trained
and efficient troops, officered by patriotic and gallant men.



354 The Great War

The Belgian soldier, always brave and loyal, had passed
through a hard and exacting school of training, the school
of actual war. During the time of Spanish domination the
country was paralyzed under the weight of an iron rule.
The people became mere spectators of their country's affairs,
and the army, poorly equipped and rarely paid, was only a
tool in the hands of Spanish officers. The jealousy and
suspicions of the foreign governors permitted native Bel-
gians to hold only subordinate positions, so that those best
qualified to lead were forced to seek service in other
countries. For the past hundred years, however, they had
had an opportunity to develop into intelligent, resourceful
troops. Under Austria and under Napoleon they gradually
attained a position of self-respect, "well-clothed, armed,
mounted, and equipped." The fifteen years following the
union with Holland had been a period of normal develop-"
ment, when officers and men alike awoke to the dignity of
independence and the ideal of national unity. With these
troops, few though they were, the provisional government
was ready to face the world and demand independence.

Through the efforts of Talleyrand, representing the
French government as ambassador in London, Belgian
independence was recognized; and due to favorable condi-
tions in Europe, in which the revolution in Poland was not
without its influence on Russia, the election, in 1831, of
Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg as King of the Belgians
was finally ratified by the powers. By the aid of the
French army and the British fleet, the King of Holland
was forced to surrender Antwerp; but it was not until 1839
that the treaty of peace between Belgium and Holland was
finally executed and the little kingdom was able to begin
the peaceful pursuit of its national ideals.

The creation of Belgium as a buffer state, with a guar-
antee of neutrality by the Great Powers, gave a measure of



The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 355

relief to the rival nations by which she was surrounded.
The same interests that created the state could be relied on
to maintain it against the aggressions of Holland, the only
neighbor whom she could hope to meet on anything like
terms of ecjuality. No one of the parties to the Treaty of
London was in a position to defy the other signatory
powers. Belgium was, without doubt, secure against for-
eign aggression so long as the states of Europe stood in the
same relation to each other as they did at the time of her
birth.

The armies of Europe were at that time largely profes-
sional. It is true that Prussia had, since the beginning of
the century, nationalized her army; but Prussia had not
yet attained the position that she was so soon afterwards to
occupy, and the strength of the nation in arms had not
been demonstrated. Professional armies were maintained
for the security of the state against internal disorders, and
of all the states of Europe Belgium seemed most secure
against any other danger. The hatred which the French
felt towards the army as a result of the Napoleonic wars
was shared by the Belgians; the economic value of military
training, still so little understood, could hope for no recogni-
tion in an atmosphere of such hostility; industrial develop-
ment fully absorbed the energies of the people; finally, the
apparent security of a guaranteed neutrality seemed to
solve the problem of national defense. Except as a gov-
ernmental agency for maintaining order within the state,
the army found little support.

Under such conditions it is not strange that the idea or a
national army was little favored even long after the system
had become firmly rooted in the principal states of the con-
tinent. The impossibility of aggressive action on the part
of so small a country restricted, quite naturally, the plans
for national protection to purely defensive measures.



356 The Great War

Fortifications as a means of defense still held a place of im-
portance of which the development of modern high-power
guns has since robbed them. Antwerp was already a forti-
fied city, and according to the plans of the sixties it became
the great bulwark of national defense. The development
of Liege and Namur into great fortresses was undertaken
by Brialmont, the foremost military engineer of his time,
after the Franco-Prussian War and the formation of the
German Empire. Germany's increasing population and
military strength, and the relative weakness of France, as
displayed in 1870, as well as the growing friendship between
Belgium and France led to a concentration of the defensive
strength in the direction of the German frontier. The
fortified camps of Liege and Namur were designed to be
impregnable against assault; they were remodelled at great
expense to resist the fire of the most powerful field guns,
and were considered impossible of reduction except by
siege operations.

Belgium maintained until 1909 a professional army, in
which enlistment was voluntary, only the deficiencies being
supplied by draft. Substitution was permitted, the system
being similar to that which prevailed in France until after
1870. The color strength of the army did not exceed
40,000 men, nearly all of whom were needed to garrison
the fortresses. The reserve was small, so that there were
few trained men to form field forces. The law of 1902
marked the first important increase in the strength of the
army. It remained a professional army based substantially on
volunteer service, but the number of men with the colors
was almost doubled, and the period of liability was extended
from eight to thirteen years. The law was expected to
provide an army with its reserve which, on mobilization,
should furnish 80,000 fortress troops and a field army of
100,000. The population was still less than 8,000,000 and




Belgian rapid fire guns In carts drawn by dogs.




liilt^i.ui IniIui\ ,>(.rci.ncd l>v wnuds.



The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 357

the system of voluntary enlistment proved a failure, as
indeed it must always do when ade(iuate numbers are
required for military preparedness. Special inducements
in pay and emoluments will produce neither the numbers
required for national defense nor the class of recruits who
will take the intensive training on which the creation of an
efficient reserve depends.

The first step in the creation of a national army was taken
when the law of 1909 provided for the military training of
one son in each family. The peace strength remained
about 40,000, and the period of liability was reduced to
twelve years; but the compulsory enrollment of about
17,000 recruits annually and the corresponding elimina-
tion of long service men would rapidly create a valuable
trained reserve. At this time, however, the new scheme
of defense revived the importance of Antwerp as an in-
trenched camp without abandoning Liege and Namur,
so that the new war strength of about 200,000, after pro-
viding garrisons for the fortresses, made no increase in the
field army.

The problem of national defense was finally squarely met
by the law of 1913, which extended the principle of com-
pulsory service, introduced in the law of 1909, so as to pro-
vide an available annual contingent of 67,000 men, of whom
forty-nine per cent were to be drafted. The draft was not to
be made by lot, but with reference to the material situation of
the individual, taking into consideration the military service
already rendered by the family. The annual draft of re-
cruits was increased from 17,000 to 33,000, exclusive of
about 2,000 volunteers. Service began with the nineteenth
year of age and lasted thirteen years, eight years of which
were in the active army and five in the reserve. The actual
service with the colors was, for the infantry, fortress artil-
lery, and engineers, fifteen months; for the cavalry and



358 The Great War

horse artillery two years ; and for the field artillery and train
twenty-one months.

The strength of the army was to be raised from 40,000
to 100,000, and by 1918 was to reach 150,000. The war
strength was almost doubled. The field army was to num-
ber on mobilization 150,000. For the fortress of Antwerp,
90,000 men were provided, 22,500 for Liege, and 17,500
for Namur, with 60,000 reserves. The system of one-year
volunteers was introduced so as to provide officers and non-
commissioned officers from the educated classes. Young
men who demonstrated by examination that they were
mentally and physically qualified were sent to a special
school to be prepared for reserve officers. Students of
medicine, pharmacy, and veterinary science served only
one year. Foot soldiers who passed the non-commissioned
officer's examination were discharged at the end of one
year in numbers not to exceed 5,000. The students' class
was subject to three periods of field training of three weeks'
duration each; the non-commissioned officers' class re-
ceived one three-week period of field training, and the
other men were called out for six or eight weeks according
to the arm of the service.

The new Belgian army was to have the division as its
largest organized unit, which was accordingly provided
with proper complements of all arms, and the auxiliary
services to make it an independent operative unit. It in-
cluded 3 brigades of infantry, to each of which was attached
3 four-gun batteries of field artillery, 1 regiment of 36
guns, 1 regiment of cavalry, 1 battalion of engineers, and a
section of aeroplanes. The cavalry division was composed
of 3 brigades of 2 regiments each, and had 3 horse batteries
and 1 bicycle battalion. The increases due to the new
organization were to be distributed over a period of five
years, so that by 1918 the army should number 120 battalions



The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 359

of infantry, 1 bicycle battalion, 20 niachine-jjun sections,
117 batteries of field and horse artillery, 12 regiments of
cavalry, and 1 gendarme regiment. The peace strengths
were: for the infantry company 110; for the bicycle com-
pany 85; for the machine-gun section 55; for the fortress
batteries 70 to 95; for the horse battery 105; for the cav-
alry squadron 140; for the field pioneer company 95, and
the foot pioneer company 70.

The officers for the army were drawn from non-com-
missioned officers of not less than two years' service, subject
to examination, from the cadet schools and from the miH-
tary school in Brussels. The corps of reserve officers was
made up of officers transferred from the active list to the
reserve, and by appointment of non-commissioned officers
of the active army or of those who had been out of service
less than one year. Both classes were subject to examina-
tion. In fact, it may be said that promotion in all grades
from private to captain was made onh^ after successful
examination. Exception was made of staff officers, officers
of the artillery and engineers, and graduates of the School
of War who were not appointed to the General Staff. In
addition to the School of War, a school of equitation, a
fencing school, and a school of fire for artillery were
maintained for the higher training of officers. Non-
commissioned officers were appointed from the drafts,
from military schools, and from volunteers from the cadet
schools. Long service men received civil appointments
after eight years' service and pensions after twenty years'
service.

The first and second-line infantry were armed with the
Mauser repeating rifle, 7.65 millimeter caliber, with bayonet.
The third line had either the Mauser or the Comblain 11
millimeter rifle. The cavalry carried a short Mauser car-
bine and lance or straight saber. The gendarmerie were



360 The Great War

armed with carbine, automatic pistol, and saber. The artil-
lery had Krupp guns, model 1905, 7.5 centimeter caliber.

The technical troops were sufficient for the peace
organization. The train could be readily augmented by
the use of motor transportation requisitioned in the coun-
try, and the excellent roads assured a maximum efficiency
from this class of transport. The domestic supply of draft
horses was sufficient for mobilization, but riding horses
were largely imported, even in peace.

The gendarmerie formed in war a part of the armed
forces and was immediately available. It numbered about
60 officers and 3,000 men. They were armed with the
Mauser carbine and automatic pistol, and mounted men
also carried the saber.

The army law of 1913 was calculated to produce a
national army on a modern basis, but in men and material
the Belgian army of 1914 was the product of the law of
1909. There was a large percentage of long-service men,
and such men may be depended on to render first class
service in war; but the reserves of trained officers and men
fell far short of the number required to develop the full
military strength of the nation.

When in 1815, at the fall of Napoleon, the states of Italy
were again restored to their legitimate rulers, the Italian
regiments found themselves in the strange position of
supporting the very powers they had for years opposed.
Under the sway of Napoleon the French system of con-
scription had been introduced, and it is estimated that the
annual levies amounted in all, for the four years, to 98,000
men. Thousands upon thousands of these were sacrificed
in Napoleon's many wars; but those regiments that were
left were either disbanded or, transferring their allegiance
to the restored monarchs, were retained in the service of



The Armies of Serbia, Belgium, and Italy 361

the petty principalities which made of Italy a mere "diplo-
matic expression." But the spirit of freedom and inde-
pendence aroused and fostered by the French Revolution
was still alive, never to be suppressed, and the lessons
learned under Napoleon left their impression. In destroy-
ing the old governments and vmiting the people under one
strong central government, Napoleon planted the seed
which eventually flowered in liberated Italy, united under
the cross of Savoy. Nearly a half century must elapse
before this could be, years of hard discipline for the lovers
of national independence. It was a period of training,
however, and when the time was ripe the army of Pied-
mont, 80,000 strong, was ready, while the great patriot
Garibaldi attracted thousands of volunteers by the fire of
his enthusiasm. When, after the many campaigns against
the domination of Austria, of the Pope, and of the King of
Naples, in which Piedmont was greatly aided b}^ the sub-



Online LibraryGeorge Henry AllenThe Great war .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 29 of 40)