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The 60 km long Kresna Gorge

The Battle of Kresna Gorge was fought between the Greeks and the Bulgarians during the Second Balkan War.

After the Serbian front became static, King Constantine seeing that the Bulgarian Army in his front had been already defeated ordered the Greek Army to march further into Bulgarian territory and take the capital city of Sofia. King Constantine wanted a decisive victory on this war despite the objections of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos who realized that the Serbs, having won their territorial objectives, were now trying to move the weight of the rest of the war to the Greeks by staying passive. In the pass of Kresna the Greeks were ambushed by the Bulgarian 2nd and 1st Army newly arrived from the Serbian front that had already taken defensive positions there. The battle was continued for eleven days, between July 8-18, over a front of 20 km, in a maze of forests and mountains with no conclusion. The Greek King, seeing that the units he fought were from the Serbian front, tried to convince the Serbs to renew their attack, as the front ahead them was now thinner, but the Serbs, already under Russian pressure, rejected it having nothing more to gain.

By 8 July the Greek army was outnumbered by the now counterattacking Bulgarian armies, and the Bulgarian General Staff, attempting to encircle the Greeks in a Cannae-type battle, was applying pressure on their flanks.[1] The Greek army resisted successfully however, and even launched local counter-attacks. After committing all available forces to the attack without succeeding a penetration, by 17th of July Bulgarian Armies reduced their attack activity having to repulse Greek counterattacks on both sides. To the western flank, Greek Army occupied Berovo, closing Mehomia to the eastern. By then, news came for the Romanian success towards Sofia and its imminent fall. King Constantine realizing the aimless of the continuation of the counterattack, listened to Venizelos' proposal and accepted the Bulgarian request for armistice, delivered through Romania. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties. The Bulgarians, with the Romanians having declared war over Silistra and their army closing Sofia had asked for a Russian arbitration. The resulted general armistice signed on 18/31 July 1913 ending the most bloodshed battle of the Second Balkan War.

Legacy

Armistice left both parties claiming victory. From the Greek point of view, after 11 days of attack the Bulgarians had clearly failed to turn the Greek army's flanks, and consequently they consider the battle a defensive victory.[2] To the Bulgarians, the battle was a victory since their attack successfully stopped the Greek Army's advance towards Sofia and thus induced the Greeks to accept the proposed armistice. Although the battle was ended inconclusively by the armistice, there is even a Bulgarian claim of an imminent encirclement of the Greek army had the operations continued. The Greek side counters the argument by pointing to the fact that during the prolonged battle, the Bulgarians had progressively involved all available forces, and anyhow lacked the additional manpower to complete the encirclement of the Greek forces. In any case, the battle would not decide the outcome of the war: on 18 July, the day of the armistice, the Romanian army, facing no resistance, had reached Vrazhdebna, just 7 miles from Sofia.

References and notes

1. ^ Hall, Richard (2000). The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War. Routledge. p. 121. ISBN 0415229464.
2. ^ Price, Crawfurd (1914). The Balkan cockpit. T. Werner Laurie LTD.

Battle of Kresna Gorge

Battle of Kresna Gorge

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