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The Battle of Sarantaporo ( ) took place on October 9-10 (O.S.), 1912. It was the first major battle fought between the Greek and Ottoman armies in the First Balkan War, and resulted in a Greek victory.

Background

During the course of 1912, tensions grew in the Balkans between the Christian Balkan states, allied in the Balkan League, and the Ottoman Empire. From mid-September, both sides started mobilizing. Bulgaria and Serbia mobilized on September 16, Greece followed on September 17. On September 25, Montenegro declared war, followed on October 4 by Bulgaria and Serbia.

Opposing forces

The Greek Army of Thessaly, under Crown Prince Constantine (with General Panagiotis Danglis as his chief of staff) consisted of 6 Divisions (1st-6th) with the 7th Division forming at Larissamarker, a Cavalry Brigade and 4 independent Evzones battalions.

Against the Greek army, the Ottomans deployed their 8th Corps under General Hasan Tahsin Pasha, with 3 divisions: the regular 22nd Division at Kozanimarker and two reserve divisions. The total Turkish force equaled 14 infantry battalions with further 11 in reserve, supported by 24 artillery pieces and three machine-gun companies. However, Turkish formations were up to 25% under strength, since the Ottomans had demobilized large parts of their army in August. The Turks hoped to hold the naturally strong position of the Sarantaporon passes, which had been extensively fortified under the supervision of a German military mission before the war.

The battle

The Greek army crossed the border on October 5. The 1st and 2nd Greek divisions engaged the 1,500 Turkish covering forces, occupied Elassonamarker and Deskatimarker, and reached the Sarantaporomarker passes on the 7th. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Turkish forces withdrew to Sarantaporo.

The Greek offensive against the Ottoman position began on 9 October, with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions attacking the Turkish main line frontally, the 4th Division attempting a flanking move to the west, in order to bypass the fortifications and thence occupy the Porta pass, in the rear of the Turkish positions, while the 5th Division was ordered to execute an even broader manoeuvre to the west. The advance of the Greek troops on open terrain, under Turkish artillery fire, caused many casualties, but by the night the three Greek divisions had established contact with the main Turkish line. The 5th Division ran into stiff resistance, but the 4th Division managed to push back the Turkish flank and to occupy its designated objective. During the night the Turks, after becoming aware of the 4th Division's move, retreated in good order under the cover of the darkness and the heavy rain to avoid being completely encircled.

The battle, although not very successful, was nonetheless of major significance to the Greeks. Despite the somewhat clumsy Greek plan, the Greek soldiers performed well, and the victory helped expunge the stain of the defeat in the war of 1897. Furthermore, the Sarantaporo passes were the only positions where the numerically inferior Ottoman Turkish forces had any hope of stopping the Greek Army. Indeed, Field Marshal von der Goltz had confidently proclaimed that the passes would prove to be "the graveyard of the Greek Army".

Notes

  1. Memoirs of General Hasan Tahsin Pasha, p. 22-23
  2. Memoirs of General Hasan Tahsin Pasha, p. 24-25


Sources




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