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TIA Janus

R. W. SETON-WATSON

SERBIA

We are fighting this war for two main reasons. First, for the very existence of Britain and her Empire, which has been challenged by the hatred and envy of the Germans. Secondly, as all our leading Statesmen have told us, for the independence of the small nations of Europe, whom Germany wishes to conquer and crush. Of these small nations, the two which have suffered most are Belgium and Serbia. The Belgians are our near neighbors and so many of them have fled to England for safety, that almost everyone now knows a little if them and their brave little country. But Serbia is far away at the other end of Europe, fem Britons have traveled in Serbia and even fewer Serbs ever crossed the Channel, and practically nothing was known over here of them and their country. The war has made them our Allies, and their heroic defense against tremendous odds will always be counted as one of the great deeds of the war, just as the retreat of their starving soldiers across the snowy and inhospitable mountains of Albania will be remembered as one of its greatest tragedies. I want to tell you in as few words as possible what Serbia has stood for in the past, and what are her hopes for the future, and to add a few anecdotes which will give you some idea of the patriotism and unconquerable spirit of her soldiers.

Serbia is a small country, of about the same size as Scotland (33,000 sq. m.), but with fewer inhabitants (4,500,000). The Serbs are almost all peasants living on their own land. Poverty is almost unknown among them, but on the other hand there are no very rich men. The forests are owned by the State. Ninety per. cent. of the population depends upon agriculture for its living, especially upon the breeding of pigs, which are exported in large numbers. There are large fruit orchards; Serbian plums and home-made jams are especially, famous. With the exception of Switzerland, Serbia is the only: country in Europe shut off from the sea. But while the Swiss are in the very center of Europe, in close touch with all the great nations of the west, the Serbs are distant and isolated. From the west they can only be reached through the territory of their deadly enemy Austria-Hungary, who has often tried to ruin them and reduce them to the position of her servants by blocking the way out for what they had to sell.

Over a thousand years ago, not long after the time when the Angles and Saxons were settling on our own island, the Serbs and their near kinsmen the Croats, speaking the same language, took possession of the Western half of the Balkan Peninsula--a wide bit of country stretching from the great Hungarian plains and the River Danube on the north-where our British bluejackets trained their guns all last summer against the Austrians-as far south as Salonica on the Aegean Sea, where the French, British and Serbian Armies are at present fighting against the Bulgarians.

For a long time after their first arrival the Serbs remained broken up into a number of rival clans and families, Ali of which had to own the powerful Eastern Emperors at Constantinople as their masters. But by the end of the 19th century-Serbia had already become a powerful kingdom, able to hold its own against all its neighbors; and though English history books do not tell us much about her, it is quite true to say that in the 300 years which lie between the Norman Conquest of England and the death of Edward III., Serbia was one of the strongest States in the whole of Europe. The greatest of her kings, Stephen Dushan, was crowned as Tsar or Emperor in the year 1346. He was great not only as a soldier and as the leader of a score of victorious campaigns, hut also as a lawgiver, a builder of churches and a generous patron of art and literature. The devotion with which he inspired the Serbian nation is reflected in the famous words in which the nobles of his Court answered his appeal for military help: " Wherever thou leadest us, most glorious Tsar, we will follow thee." Unhappily Dushan died before he was fifty, and when his strong hand was removed, rival princes quarreled among themselves, instead of uniting against the growing menace of the Turks, who now crossed over into Europe and began to extend their conquests in all directions. On 28th June (l5th Old Style) the Turkish Sultan, at the head of a large and magnificent Army, gave battle to the Serbian Tsar Lazar on the Plain of Kosovo, the so-called "Field of the Blackbirds." Lazar and many of his nobles fell upon the field, and though the Sultan also was killed in his tent by the Serbian hero Milosh Obilitch, the victory of the Turks was none the less complete. The battle of Kosovo was one of the most decisive events in the whole history of South Eastern Europe; it meant not merely the fall of the medieval Serbian Empire and the conquest of the whole Balkan Peninsula by a barbarous Asiatic invader, but also the triumph of Islam over Christianity for 500 years.

For the next half-century the Serbs retained some fragments of their liberty; but in 1459 their country became a mere province of Turkey and they themselves the slaves of the conqueror. The nobles were completely exterminated. Not content with seizing their country, the Turks used the unhappy Serbs themselves as the instrument of their own enslavement. One boy in every family was torn away from his home, and brought up as a Turk and a Mohammedan; and thus were formed the so-called Janissaries, the famous crack regiments which made the Turks so long the terror of Europe.

So completely were the Turks masters of Serbia, that no Christian dared ride into a town on horseback; if lie failed to dismount when he met a Turk on the highroad, he risked being killed upon the spot. He was not allowed to have firearms, and was at the mercy of the Turkish soldiery when they chose to plunder. A proverb which dates from those terrible times says that " grass never grows under the hoofs of the Turkish horses."

In the books of travelers who passed through Serbia when she was still under the Turks it is possible to get some idea of the misery of the people, and of the cruelty of their Turkish rulers. What are now the most fertile and prosperous valleys, full of corn and pasture and little farmsteadings, were. in those days uncultivated and almost deserted; it was only in those districts which lay off the beaten track and where the soldiers and tax-collectors did not come so often, that the Serbs had any chance of living peaceful and settled lives.

So from 1459 to 1804 Serbia ceased to exist as a state and a nation. How was it that she was able to rise again from the dead? There is probably no other example in history of a nation which saved itself by its national poetry. It seems hardly possible, and yet this is literally true of the Serbs. Every Serb is half a poet, and when everything seemed lost, the local bards or poets kept alive the memories of Serbia's past glories by their songs and ballads, and sang too of the great days which would come again and console them for the miseries of the present. For centuries every village had its own singer, very often a blind man, sometimes even a man gifted with the " second sight," as the bards of our own Scottish Highlands in past days. In the long winter evenings the villagers gathered round these singers and listened to them as they chanted, to the accompaniment of their primitive one-stringed fiddle, the adventures and victories of dead Serbian heroes. Many of the finest of these ballads centered round the thrilling incidents of the battle of Kosovo-how on its eve Tsar Lazar was deceived by the traitor Brankovitch and denounced his most loyal follower Milosh Obilitch as himself a traitor before all the nobles of his and though the Sultan also was killed in his tent by the Serbian hero Milosh Obilitch, the victory of the Turks was none the less complete. The battle of Kosovo was one of the most decisive events in the whole history of South Eastern Europe; it meant not merely the fall of the medieval Serbian Empire and the conquest of the whole Balkan Peninsula by a barbarous Asiatic invader, but also the triumph of Islam over Christianity for 500 years.

For the next half-century the Serbs retained some fragments of their liberty; but in 1459 their country became a mere province of Turkey and they themselves the slaves of the conqueror. The nobles were completely exterminated. Not content with seizing their country, the Turks used the unhappy Serbs themselves as the instrument of their own enslavement. One boy in every family was torn away from his home, and brought up as a Turk and a Mohammedan; and thus were formed the so-called Janissaries, the famous crack regiments which made the Turks so long the terror of Europe.

So completely were the Turks masters of Serbia, that no Christian dared ride into a town on horseback; if lie failed to dismount when he met a Turk on the highroad, he risked being killed upon the spot. He was not allowed to have firearms, and was at the mercy of the Turkish soldiery when they chose to plunder. A proverb which dates from those terrible times says that " grass never grows under the hoofs of the Turkish horses."

In the books of travelers who passed through Serbia when she was still under the Turks it is possible to get some idea of the misery of the people, and of the cruelty of their Turkish rulers. What are now the most fertile and prosperous valleys, full of corn and pasture and little farmsteadings, were. in those days uncultivated and almost deserted; it was only in those districts which lay off the beaten track and where the soldiers and tax-collectors did not come so often, that the Serbs had any chance of living peaceful and settled lives.

So from 1459 to 1804 Serbia ceased to exist as a state and a nation. How was it that she was able to rise again from the dead? There is probably no other example in history, of a nation which saved itself by its national poetry. It seems hardly possible, and yet this is literally true of the Serbs. Every Serb is half a poet, and when everything seemed lost, the local bards or poets kept alive the memories of Serbia's past glories by their songs and ballads, and sang too of the great days which would come again and console them for the miseries of the present. For centuries every village had its own singer, very often a blind man, sometimes even a man gifted with the " second sight," as the bards of our own Scottish Highlands in past days. In the long winter evenings the villagers gathered round these singers and listened to them as they chanted, to the accompaniment of their primitive one-stringed fiddle, the adventures and victories of dead Serbian heroes. Many, of the finest of these ballads centered round the thrilling incidents of the battle of Kosovo - how on its eve Tsar Lazar was deceived by the traitor Brankovitch and denounced his most loyal follower Milosh Obilitch as himself a traitor before all the nobles of his court; how, Milosh proved his loyalty by killing the Sultan with his own hand: how the Empress begged that one of her nine brothers might be left behind and how none of them would consent to stay: how they all fell in battle, and how their mother mourned over their slain bodies, and how coal-black ravens brought back the hand of her youngest son and dropped it in her lap: how Lazar was given the choice between an earthly and a heavenly kingdom, and choosing the latter, fell upon the stricken field. These and many other tales have been sung for centuries by every peasant, however ignorant, not only in Serbia and Montenegro, but also in the Serbian provinces of AustriaHungary. For over five centuries every Serb has celebrated every year the anniversaries of the great battle, not only as a day of mourning for the lost battle, but as a day to be remembered and avenged - as a proof that for the Serbian nation, as for every man and woman, death is followed by resurrection. It is difficult for us to understand how completely the story of Kosovo is bound up with the daily life of the whole Serbian nation. Perhaps the simplest proof of it is the fact that in Montenegro (whose people are all Serbs too) part of the national dress is a red cap with a black border, and that this black is a mourning band first worn for the defeat of Kosovo, and never again laid off. (The only thing which can be compared with this in our own history is the battle of Flodden, over which all Scotland mourned for many generations.)

What Kosovo meant to every Serb was seen in 1912, when Serbia, then in alliance with Bulgaria and Greece, went to war with Turkey. In the first days of the war the second Serbian army found itself at night in a difficult position, without food or shelter, amid torrents of rain, and without certain news of the movements of the enemy. When dawn came, a building became visible on a distant hillock. It was the mosque in which Sultan Murad, the conqueror of Kosovo, had been buried after the battle. In a moment the depression of the night had vanished, the soldiers advanced, drenched and without food, but gay and happy, chanting the national songs of Kosovo. Of another Serbian regiment it is told, that as they reached the edge of the Kosovo plains, a strange silence fell upon them: their voices fell to a whisper, the men took off their caps, and all, officers and men alike, almost without knowing it, trod more softly, as if they were afraid to awaken the slumbers of their ancestors who had fallen in the great battle 523 years before. Not less famous than the ballads of Kosovo are those which tell of Marko Kralyevitch (Mark, the King's Son), the favorite hero of the Serbs, a kind of mixture of Robin Hood and Robert the Bruce, who, according to the legend, is not dead but sleeping, and will return from his mountain cavern to lead his people when the day of victory comes. On his wonderful piebald charger, Sharatz, which drank the red wine with his master and shed human tears, Marko for three hundred years per-formed prodigies of valor against the Turks and always championed the weak against the strong. Here, again, an incident from the Balkan wars of 1912 will show better than anything else what

Marko means to every Serb. The Serbian army had to advance across a flat and marshy plain without cover of any kind, to attack the entrenchment's of the Turks. On one of the hills above the battlefield is the ruined castle which once belonged to Marko Kralyevifch. Next day, after the victory, the Serbian officers were visiting their wounded men and praising them for their bravery. The answer came: " With Marko Kralyevitch to help us it was easy enough." The men were sure that they had seen Marko on his piebald horse splashing through the mud before them and with his battle mace waving them on to victory.

In 1804 the day of liberation at last came. The Serbs found a leader in Kara George, George the Black, a well-to-do peasant who carried on the national industry of pig breeding. Under him, as one ballad says, " every tree became a soldier." He gathered round him a hand of brave and desperate men, and boldly challenged one of the chief Turkish Pashas, with the insulting message that if he were a hero, he would come down into the plain to meet the Serbs in the open. The Turks despised these peasants whom they had ruled as slaves for so man centuries, and warned them that they could not hope to defeat an army in which there was not one soldier who would be afraid to seize with his naked hand the edge of an enemyís sword. But the Serbian leaders were every whit as brave. Kara George himself, as a mere boy, gave a proof of his wild and impetuous spirit. Being ordered by a Turk to stand out of the way or have his brains blown out, he shot the man dead on the spot. Ho was a born leader of men, without fear and with the irresistible energy of a waterfall. Besides valor in the field, he showed diplomatic skill in dealing with the enemy. Only less famous than Kara George were men like Stephen Singelitch, who after a heroic defense against tremendous odds fired the powder magazine as the Turks were storming the fort and blew friend and foe into the air.

Another leader was Velko the Outlaw, who quarreled with his wife because she refused to treat his followers as well as she treated him. " If I possess anything," he said, " anyone may share it with me: but if I have nothing, woe to him who will not share with me what he has." - He loved war for its own sake and prayed that Serbia might be at war during his lifetime, but after his death might enjoy peace. Many priests, it should be added, fought in the Serbian ranks and encouraged them to shake off the yoke of the Turk. All these men were rough and blunt, without education or refinement: most of them could not even read or write. In fact they were what five centuries of brutal Turkish tyranny and neglect had made them. But their straightforward and fearless devotion to the national cause was beyond all praise, and Serbia, who owed her freedom to them, has every right to be proud of their simple heroism.

The work which Kara George had begun was completed by his chief rival, Milosh Obrenovitch, who in 1817 was proclaimed as Prince of Serbia. The Turks still garrisoned Belgrade and several other fortresses in the country, and the Sultan remained as its nominal sovereign. But henceforth

Serbia was self-governing, and during the rest of the 19th century grew more prosperous with every year. In 1867 the last Turkish troops were withdrawn: in 1878 Serbia, after helping Russia in a war against the Turks, declared her complete independence, and in 1882 her prince took the title of king.

Prince Milosh was a man of first class ability, who laid the foundations of the new state and was in his own way one of the greatest rulers of his time. But he committed one terrible crime, which affected the whole future of Serbia. At his orders Kara George was treacherously murdered, and his head sent as a trophy to the Sultan. This was the beginning of the fatal quarrel between the descendants of Karageorge and Milosh: sometimes the one family, sometimes the other, occupied the throne, and the whole nation fell more or less into two rival camps and exhausted itself in a private squabble from which Serbia had absolutely nothing to gain. So while all the other Balkan countries had to import their kings from outside because none of their own people were suitable, the Serbs, on the other hand, had no less than three to choose from-the families of their two first leaders and the reigning family of Montenegro, who are also Serbs. Thus Serbia during the 19th century was in the same unhappy position as England in the 19th century, when York and Lancaster fought each other.

The last two kings of the Obrenovitch family were men of bad character, utterly unfit to govern a country, and acted practically as the agents of Austria-Hungary, instead of thinking always of Serbian interests. They not only were hopelessly extravagant and wasted the money of the State, but they also continually broke the laws, altered the constitution and interfered with the work of parliament. As the direct result of their misdeeds Serbia seemed on the very edge of ruin: and the universal discontent expressed itself in a military plot against King Alexander. In June,1903, he and his wife were brutally murdered, and as they had no children with them the Obrenovitch dynasty came to an end. This crime which horrified the whole world, gave Serbia a bad name, just as England had a bad name in Europe after the execution of Charles I. And so it was really only in the present war that people began to understand that in Serbia under her new king, Peter, the grandson of the great Kara George, everything had changed for the better, and that the nation had been able to forget its old squabbles and to shake off the evil influences of the tiny group of favorites who had surrounded the unfortunate King Alexander. In fact Serbia took a new lease of life, and the practical proof of this was soon to be seen in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. In the first of these Serbia, in alliance with Bulgaria Greece, and Montenegro, attacked Turkey: and within one month the armies of the four Balkan allies had driven the Turks out of all their huge possessions in Europe, except little scraps of land round their capital Constantinople and round the Dardanelles. As a result all the Christians who had lived so miserably under the yoke of Turkey were set free by their own free kinsmen from across the frontiers.

The Turks had been armed with German cannon and had many German officers to lead them, and so both Germany and Austria had expected them to gain an easy victory, over the Balkan allies. Everything happened very quickly and by the time they found out their mistake, from their point of view the mischief was already done. They therefore set to work to produce a quarrel between the Balkan allies, and in this they succeeded only too well. Serbia had gone to war with two main objects-first to set free all the Serbs who were still under the yoke of the Turks, and second to get a port on the sea, so that in future she could get into direct touch with other countries and trade with them without having to go through Austria-Hungary or depend on its permission for everything. The first of these two things was done, but now Austria-Hungary refused to allow Serbia to reach the sea, mobilized her huge army and threatened to attack the Serbs at once, unless they gave up all idea of having a port. Serbia knew quite well that if she stuck to her point, it would lead to an European war, and at the request of Russia and Britain she gave way. But this of course upset all her arrangements with her allies, especially with Bulgaria. Not being allowed to find a way out to the Adriatic, she had to find a way out to the Aegean, towards Salonica: across just the bit of country which Bulgaria specially wanted for herself. Austria-Hungary did everything to encourage the quarrel and in June, 1913, it came to a terrible war between Bulgaria on the one hand and Serbia and Greece on the other. Bulgaria attacked treacherously in the middle of the night, without declaring war: but she was completely defeated and lost a great deal of what she had gained in the earlier war. But the real winners were Austria-Hungary and Germany, who by their intrigues had put an end to the friendship between the Serbs and Bulgarians and prevented the political union of the whole Peninsula. Everyone knew that the Bulgarians were waiting for the first opportunity to take their revenge, and they were very soon to find one. In the wars of 1912 and 1913 the Serbs had seen one of their old dreams come true. For the first time for 500 years, there were now no longer any Serbs under Turkish rule. But in Austria-Hungary there were still seven millions of their kinsmen waiting to be liberated, and they, it so happened, had been misgoverned during the last ten years and were more and more discontented with their lot. The Austrian Government tried to frighten their leaders by bringing them to trial on charges of high treason, and as there were no proofs of any kind against them, all kinds of sham documents were invented to prove their guilt. Fortunately the forgeries were discovered in time, and it turned out that some of the highest Austrian officials and diplomatists had been mixed up in a disreputable plot to ruin Serbia. Their object had been to prove that the Serb and Croat leaders in Austria-Hungary were really working against their own country and were in the pay of Serbia: and of course if this had been true they would have had some excuse for attacking Serbia. For Serbia is the gate to the East, the gate through which alone Austria-Hungary and her partner Germany, can reach Constantinople and Salonica. Before the present war came, many of us were blind to this fact, though it ought to have been clear to anyone who looked at a map. But anyhow this war has shown as very clearly what Germany wants, and how important it is for us that the gate which leads by land to Egypt, Persia and India, should be in the hands of a brave and loyal friend like Serbia, and not in the hands of Austria-Hungary, who has been very suitably called "Germany's baggage porter."

Of course the Austrians ought to have known that it is impossible, and therefore very stupid, to try to crush the national feeling of any people; but they went on trying and so produced the very effect which they wanted to avoid. The seven million Serbs and Croats of Austria-Hungary were furious and indignant at the way in which they were being treated, and began to sympathize more and more with Serbia, where their brothers were free to live their own national life in the way which pleased them best. And, of course, when these brothers won such magnificent victories over the Turks and proved how strong and brave Serbia was, then these seven millions were carried off their feet with delight, and compared Serbia's freedom with their own wretched condition. Even then they would have been quite content with good government at home and friendly behavior on the part of Austria-Hungary towards Serbia, so as to avoid all danger of a war which to them would have been a war between brothers. Instead of this, Austria-Hungary insisted on making the quarrel worse by treating her own Serbs as traitors and Serbia as a band of robbers.

We know now that early in 1914 the Austrian and German Governments were already laying their plans for a war which would be short and rapid and would over-power the Serbs before their Russian friends could come to their aid. Then, suddenly in June, 1914,a young Bosnian student, one of Austria's own subjects, murdered the heir to the Austrian throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. This terrible crime, the work of an irresponsible and misguided boy of 19, horrified the whole world. To Austria and Germany it provided a splendid excuse for attacking Serbia, and the very same man who a few years before had prepared the forgeries against Serbia of which I have already spoken, now had control of the Austrian Foreign Office and tried to make everyone believe that the murderer had been sent by the Serbian Government. In reality, the Serbs were worn out by two wars, short of money and ammunition, and only too eager to be left alone. They offered to do everything they could to help in clearing up the murder, and to show that they had a clean conscience, they suggested that the inquiry should. be made by the International Court at the Hague, which exists to settle quarrels between different nations by peaceful methods. But Austria-Hungary was not satisfied, made a lot of impossible demands, gave Serbia only 48 hours to answer, and then declared war. This short time-limit was given because Austria did not want to give any other country the time to intercede, and because Germany had promised to give her an entirely free hand against Serbia and help her if the result was war. We all know that the European War was the result.

From the very first day of the war every Serb has known perfectly well that for him and his country it is a matter of life and death. The war can only end in one of two ways. Either Serbia and Montenegro, the two little countries inhabited by free Serbs, must be conquered and annexed by Austria-Hungary, and become an instrument for spreading German " culture " in the East of Europe. Or else Serbia and Montenegro must set free the seven millions of their brothers who are now under Austrian rule, and many of whom are being forced, utterly against their will, to fight against them. That is what is meant by Southern Slav Unity, and that is what every Southern Slav dreams of and prays for. To-day, all Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the three brother peoples, call themselves Southern Slavs or Yugoslavs, just as English, Scots, Welsh and Irish all call themselves British, and they wish to form an United Kingdom, just as we four form an United Kingdom in these islands.

Nothing shows more clearly the feeling among the Southern Slavs of Austria than the fact that at the beginning of the war they surrendered in thousands to the Russians and the Serbs. In December, 1914, when the Serbs defeated the invading Austrian Army and drove it headlong out of their country, the prisoners, after being disarmed, were sent back to the rear of the Army; but as they were only too glad to be " out of it," and as there were no soldiers to spare for an escort, they were simply told to follow the telegraph posts, and did so quite happily until they reached the town of Nish. On one occasion a single Serbian corporal was sent off in charge of 87 Austrian-Serb prisoners and was given a written order which, when presented at various villages along the road, entitled him to receive rations of bread for the men with him. Next day at one place he duly handed in this order to the Captain in charge, who said there must be something wrong. The order spoke of 87 prisoners, but when counted they were found to number 140; the extra 53 had slunk out of the hedges and ditches where they had been hiding since the retreat, and were only too glad to join on. On another occasion two Serbian soldiers on outpost duty ran into six of the enemy, and seeing that there was no chance of escape, called out in Serb, " don't fire; we surrender." Whereupon there came a furious answer from the six Austrians, who were also Serbs: " You silly' fools! donít surrender to us. We want to surrender to you."

These Southern Slavs of Austria cannot be blamed for not wanting to fight against men of their own race in the Serbian or Russian Armies. With the Serbian's it is quite different. No words can describe the bravery and determination with which their soldiers have fought. They have now been away from their homes for the greater part of four years; but nothing can shake their spirit or make them give in, and to-day they are ready to fight once more-this time side by side with French and British soldiers outside 5alonica. Let me close with a few anecdotes about the splendid spirit with which the Serbs are defending themselves in the present war.

A young Serbian cavalry officer had been carrying back dispatches from the Front, and after handing them over, had a few hours to spare and sat down to a meal at an open air cafe. Soon after an old peasant seventy came up to the table and asked if he might take the vacant chair at the same table. " Certainly," said my friend, and the old man sat down, but instead of talking, he rested one elbow on the table, laid his head on his hands, and kept sighing to himself. When the officer asked him what was the matter, he replied: " It is no use my telling you. You would not understand." " Do tell me," said the other, " and I would try to understand." " Well," said the old man, " it is this way. I had three sons. My first son was killed in the war against the Turks. My second was killed in the war against the Bulgarians, and I buried my third son this morning." My friend tried to console him by reminding him that they had all fallen on the field of honor and that their country was proud of them. " I knew you would not understand," said the old man quite fiercely. " That's not what troubles me. But they have left five little boys at home; and it is dreadful to think how long it will be before they grow up to a rifle." That is the spirit of the Serbian peasant farmer.

After the defeat of the Austrians a young soldier got three days leave and returned to his village. He found his mother working in the fields. She looked. at him in surprise and asked him what he was doing ? " Why, I'm home on leave, mother," he said. " But my dear boy," she said, " what are you thinking of? You must not stay here. Suppose there was fighting while you were away ? You must go back at once to your regiment." That is the spirit of the Serbian mother. .

A certain Serbian regiment found itself hard pressed in an exposed line of trenches, and sent repeated messages to headquarters for help. For one reason or another nothing happened, and the regiment lost very heavily. At last a corporal was sent back to report, and his message simply ran as follows: " There are seven of us left, sir. Shall we go on holding the position ? " That.. is the spirit of the Serbian rank and file in the trenches.

In November, 1914, when the Austrians were pressing on into the very heart of the country, when Serbian ammunition was running short, and everything seemed lost, there were moments--why deny it? when many soldiers lost heart altogether. One young fellow called Birtchanin, a member of one of Serbia's most famous families, deserted from the ranks and made his way home to his native village. The first man to greet him was his grandfather, to whom he declared that all was lost; but he was met by the stern answer that no Birtchanin had ever yet fled from the enemy, and that he must return to the army, unless he wished to forfeit his grandfather's blessing; Two days later he was back with his regiment, and duly reported himself ; and his colonel, hearing his story, said to him, " By rights you should go before a court martial, but this time I overlook it, on one condition. Never forget the splendid words of your grandfather." Then came the great advance. His regiment charged the enemy with the bayonet, and with his own hand he captured the flag of an Austrian regiment. With it he returned, desperately wounded, to his captain. " We are close to my village," he said. To-morrow you will be there. Tell my grandfather that I kept my word and died: as' a true Birtchanin." He was buried on the field. Next day the regiment; when it reached the village; found the old man upon his deathbed. Ten days before a Hungarian regiment had arrived; and its officers had demanded. of him, as the chief man of the village, that he should act as their guide in the direction of Kraguyevatz. " What ? " he said. " Kraguyevatz ? You will never reach Kraguyevatz: I, the old Birtchanin, can promise you that ! " At this they fell upon him and beat him, and he never recovered. His grandson's Colonel kissed him on the forehead. " You too," he said., " have died as a true Birtchanin."

The spirit of the whole Serbian army is one of true comradeship between officers and men, from the King himself to the last of his " brothers '' in the ranks; for " brothers " or " heroes " are the customary forms of address. No one has set a more gallant example than old King Peter, who, though infirm and crippled with rheumatic gout, placed himself in the trenches at the moment when all seemed lost during the first Austrian invasion, and gave a stirring address to his troops. " Heroes," he said (this at least is the sense of what he said), " You have taken two oaths: one to me, your king, and one to your country. From the first I release you, for the situation is far too grave to justify me, an old man, on the edge of the grave, in holding you to it. From the oath to your country no man can release you. But I promise you that if you decide to return to your homes, and if fortune favors our cause, you shall not be made to suffer. But whether you go or stay, I and my sons remain here:" It is easy to imagine the enthusiasm with which such words. were greeted by the Serbian soldiers and the great part which the speech played in the splendid rally which drove the Austrians out of Serbia in December, 1914. His son has been in every way worthy of him. Crown Prince Alexander shared with his men the horrors of the last terrible retreat across the in- hospitable snow mountains of Montenegro, and refused absolutely to accept for himself what they could not have. When he reached Skutari, it was found necessary to operate upon him: When he had recovered, an Italian gunboat was sent to the coast to carry him into safety; bat he refused to leave until arrangements had been made to remove the last Serbian refugee, and rather than take advantage of his favored position as heir to a throne by accepting a kindness in which his own subjects could not share; he insisted on remaining, though still weak and ill, and found his way with them on foot. for several days' journey, over roads which hardly deserve the name of roads, to the port of Durazzo. The whole Serbian nation is united.. to-day in its determination to win back its lost country and to set free its brethren from the rule of Austria-Hungary, or to die to the last man in the attempt. Just as she rose again after five hundred years of Turkish slavery, so Serbia will rise again from the ruins produced - by Austrian conquest and Bulgarian treachery. By their heroism the Serbs have won a glorious place in the Alliance, and, we may well be proud that French and British soldiers are fighting at their side for the common cause of European liberty.

On 26th March, 1916, by order of the French Minister of Education, a lecture by M. Victor Berard on the heroic history and achievements of our Serbian allies, was read aloud to the children in every school throughout France; and Serbia's example was held up to them as a worthy model to the armies of France in their glorious resistance to the Huns. The reply of the children of France to this appeal was the collection of L36,000 in pennies; and this has been made into a fund for the relief of Serbian exiles in France.

The Serbian Relief Fund is taking its part in this splendid work, and has undertaken to educate the 300 Serbian boys already in England. If the state of our special fund for Education should permit, this number will be increased. The proceeds of collections on Kosovo Day (28th June) will be applied for this purpose and for hospital work with the Serbian Army.

 

Europe and the Serbs

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