Who's Who - Radomir Putnik

Photograph of Radomir Putnik Radomir Putnik (1847-1917), the Serbian Chief of General Staff, began the First World War in rather unfortunate circumstances, one that caused no small amount of amusement in diplomatic circles in August 1914.  His health having suffered as a result of the Second Balkan War (1913), Putnik had elected to take the waters at an Austrian spa and was interned there by the Austro-Hungarian authorities when war was declared by Austria-Hungary against Serbia on 28 July.

The Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Josef, was however outraged that the 67-year-old Field Marshal should have been arrested in such circumstances and ordered Putnik's immediate release.

By 1914 Putnik had already established a remarkable career as a fighting commander, dating back to the Balkan wars of the 1870s and 1880s, continuing up until the Balkan war which concluded just one year before the start of the Great War.

In 1906 Putnik was appointed King Peter's Minister of War, in which capacity he oversaw Serbia's role in both Balkan Wars of 1912-13, from which Serbia emerged with her territorial mass doubled in size, while simultaneously modernising the army.  In 1912 Putnik was made Field Marshal, the first to be promoted such in the Serbian army.

Once Putnik had managed to return to Serbia from Austria-Hungary in August 1914, still somewhat frail, he set about organising Serbia's defence against the Austro-Hungarian onslaught led by Potiorek; although the nominal Serbian Commander in Chief was Prince Alexander).  In this Putnik was successful in all respects, ensuring that Austrian forces were in fact entirely expelled from Serbian territory.

Such a situation could not be expected to last however.  Austria-Hungary's second planned invasion, launched in October/November 1915 with the aid of German and Bulgarian troops and led by the renowned German August von Mackensen, succeeded in driving the Serbian army across the wintry mountains of Albania to Corfu.  Putnik himself, deeply ill, had to carried the entire distance in a sedan chair.

Reaching the Albanian port of Scutari on 7 December 1915 Putnik was relieved of command by Field Marshal Misic.  Putnik travelled to France, where he died in May 1917.

"Bully Beef" comprised cans of boiled or pickled beef used by the British Army.

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