Great Serbian Retreat: The Boys (1915-16)

Figure 1.--The Serbian boy here is Miodrag Stefanovitch who was found abandoned on the roadside by a British soldier during the Great Retreat. The soldier was a member of the Brotherhood Movement. Miodrag was adopted by the DErbyshire Federations of Brotherhoods which provided education, food, and clothing. This is a postcard sold by the Brotherhood Movement to support Miodrag. Note the cap. it was the same style worn by the Partisans in World War II.

The sadest aspect of the Great Retreat is the boys that accompanied the soldiers. Serbian officials not only ordered the Army to retreat out of Serbia, but also boys that could be future soldiers. I am not sure who ordered this. About 30,000 boys joined the retreat. I'm not sure if this was the number ordered. Nor do we know how the boys were selected or recruited. Nor do we know what the parents attitudes were. The boys were 12-18 years old. It soon became obvious that the younger boys did not have the strength or stamina to endure the orduous trek over mountains in winter conditions. Sadly the young boys found that the flight to safety was too difficult. About half the boys died in the Prokletije mountains from, cold, hunger, and disease. Many boys might have made it during the summer. But the combination of the long trek, poor food, and especially the bitter winter weather was too much. These stout hearted youngsters were beaten by the cold, hunger and the hardship of the journey and bandit attacks. An estimated 15,000 boys died in the Prokletije, the Hardship Mountains of Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania. The boys who made it over the mountains were in terrible condition. The supplies delivered by the Italians were inadequate. Another 6,000 boys died awaiting transport, primarily because they were in such poor condition after their winter trek. French transports took abour 24 housrs to move the boys from Avalona to Corfu. About 2,000 boys died during that short trip. Once on Corfu, the boys died at the rate of avout 100 a day. Only about 7,000 of the boys survived. They were eventually trasported to France and Britain.


Tatham, M. I. "Memoirs & Diaries: The Great Retreat in Serbia in 1915," C. B. Purdom, ed. Everyman at War (1930).


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Created: 10:11 PM 10/24/2007
Last updated: 10:11 PM 10/24/2007