In this section we review new books, articles, wargame figures and anything
else related to Balkan Military History. Previous reviews are archived:
The Armored Forces of the
Bulgarian Army 1936-45
A detailed history of motor vehicles and armoured fighting vehicles in
the Bulgarian Army from 1936, during the last years of peace, until the
end of the Second World War in 1945. This book is a result of the
author's years of study in the Bulgarian Central Military Archive. Such
a detailed study on this topic has not appeared before, and the author's
work is unlikely to be superseded.
The Long Turkish War
New Osprey style
book on the Long Turkish War 1593 to 1606.
28mm Greek War of Independence
Some very nice 28mm Greek War
of Independence figures in 28mm from
Steve Barber models.
Life and Death in the Balkans
Columbia University Press
This is the story of a Montenegrin family from the
end of the nineteenth century to the fall of Milosevic. Told by the
author, it is an amazing family saga that takes the reader from a small
village in the mountains of Montenegro and the battles with the Ottoman
Empire, the Austrian occupation in WW1, through the turbulent
inter war years and the partisan warfare of WW2. The family moves to
Kosovo and then back to Cetinje as WW2 erupts. It tells the story of a
fairly ordinary family and how the dramatic events of the last century
impacted on them. Strongly recommended.
The Wildest Province -
SOE in the Land of the Eagle. By Roderick Bailey
review by Captain Edval Zoto
This is a very detailed account of the KLA from its
post war origins fighting against Tito, to the recent conflict and the
achievement of a separate state, well sort of. The KLA was never the
best equipped guerrilla force and struggled for most of its existence
against the well equipped Yugoslav and then Serbian army and police
units. The 'revolution' in Albania gave them access to assault rifles in
large numbers, but not the high explosive they needed to interdict the
main road routes used by their opponents. The NATO intervention gave
them an air force, but I hadn't appreciated how ineffective this was in
Kosova. It was the attack on Serbian targets that forced an end to the
conflict and rectified the Serbian ethnic cleansing.
This is not a book for the general reader, but the
book for anyone interested in this conflict.
The author gives the background to the recruitment of
Muslims into the Waffen SS. It may seem a strange mix given that racism
underpinned Nazi ideology, but their racial theorists managed to justify
it - just. In reality, as the war progressed it was more a case of needs
must. For the Muslim volunteers it was also largely a question of 'my
enemies enemy'. Trigg takes the reader through the history of a wide
range of units. Some small and short lived, but others substantial with
credible fighting records. Probably the best known is the Bosnian 13th
SS Mountain Division 'Handschar'. Most of their recruits joined up
simply as a means of defending their villages from the Ustase on one
side and the Chetniks on the other. There is a more detailed history of
this division written and lavishly illustrated by George Lepre. Few of
these volunteers survived the war. Those who did, ended up being
executed or sent to Stalin's gulags. This is not an edifying tale or one
with a happy ending. However, its a valuable piece of research well
This is a history of German
(or more often Austrian) counter insurgency operations in Yugoslavia
during World War Two. It draws upon lower level officers experiences and
makes a link between these officers and their Austro-Hungarian army
experience during the First World War. It is often forgotten that these
operations were on a massive scale involving several divisions of troops
as Tito's partisans gradually built up support and military strength,
despite the inter ethnic conflict. The author gives us an historical
overview before looking at the main divisions that fought in Yugoslavia
and how they tackled the insurgency in their slightly different ways.
The Knight's Move (Operation
a combined airborne and ground
assault by the Germans on Tito’s headquarters at the Bosnian town of
Drvar in May 1944. Operation Rösselsprung involved the 500th SS
Parachute Battalion (Captain
making an air
drop on the town while several ground force columns (XV
converged on Drvar, supported by the Luftwaffe. Faulty intelligence
meant the paras attacked the town rather than the nearby cave that
housed Tito's HQ. By the time they realised the error, partisan units
arrived to make the attack a costly failure. Tito escaped before the
ground troops could close the trap.
David Greentree has
written a very good history of the operation for Osprey in its Raid
series. As you would expect from Osprey, it includes many photies and
several excellent colour maps.
War in the East
This is a military history of the
Russo-Turkish War 1877-78, one of the most interesting Balkan conflicts
of the 19th Century. An added pleasure is that it includes several
photos of mine, taken at the
battlefields today. There is only one word to describe this book,
magisterial. This is the first military history of the conflict in
English for over a century and it has everything you would expect. A
detailed text covering the war on land and sea, coverage of the major
and minor battles, together with all the context you need. Plus,
something modern historians sometimes miss, lots of orbats. It also has
lots of period illustrations (nearly 300) and maps.
Imperial Guardsman 925-1025.
It covers the units of the Taghmata and
Imperial Guard of the period. Most people think of the gradual decline
of the Empire, but in fact this period was one of considerable success.
It overcame Bulgarian and Rus invasions through the Balkans and Islamic
enemies from the East. By Basil II's death in 1025, what we call the
Byzantine Empire, ruled from the Danube to the Euphrates. They would
have called themselves Romans or Rhomaioi.
The regiments of the Taghmata were an
important part of that success. Raffaele D'Amato takes us through the
organisation of each unit and how they were commanded. This is followed
by a chapter on weapons and equipment. As you would expect there are
excellent colour plates and the book includes many photos.
Road to Manzikert - Byzantine and Islamic Warfare
527 - 1071'
Brian Todd Carey and
others Pen &
ISBN 184884215 5
Manzikert is of course one of the decisive battles in
medieval history. The defeat of the Byzantine Empire, including the capture of
the Emperor, by the Seljuk Turks resulted in the loss of Anatolia to the Empire.
While there was something of a recovery, the Byzantine Empire lost key revenue,
manpower and horse breeding areas to the Turks.
This book is about much more than the battle. The authors take us through 500
years of conflict from Justinian through the rise of Islam to the coming of the
Turks. Usefully, not just a focus on the Byzantine Empire but good chapters on
Islamic warfare as well.
The narrative is well written, but the strength of the book is in the maps and
diagrams of the key battles. This really brings the text alive
Blood in the Snow
University of Kansas Press
ISBN978 0 7006 1720 3
I thought I knew a bit about most WW1
campaigns in SE Europe, but I was not aware of this one. It was fought mostly
between Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops in the Carpathian Mountains during
winter. I have walked part of these mountains in the summer, the idea of
fighting through them in winter is just mind boggling.
But that is exactly what two, million man
armies did during the winter of 1915. The campaign was predicated on the need to
relieve the Austro-Hungarian garrison of Przemysl consisting of some 135,000
men. The A-H CinC, Conrad, inexplicably decided to launch three offensives
through the mountains with troops that were not equipped or trained to fight in
such terrain. Supplies of everything were totally inadequate. The Russian's,
commanded by Ivanov, were only slightly better prepared. The casualties far
exceeded the size of garrison they were attempting to relieve and the A-H army
was fatally weakened for the rest of the war.
Words just do not do justice to the horrors of
this campaign. Troops lasted on average 5-6 weeks before being killed, wounded,
captured or committing suicide. Battles in snow two metres high along the
Carpathian ridges and into the valleys.
The author has extensively researched the
campaign, mostly from the A-H perspective. Eye witness accounts add much to the
archive material. This is probably not a book for the general reader. The author
assumes a degree of knowledge of the area and each offensive is dealt with in
great detail. The maps could also have been better. One for the specialist, but
a campaign that fully deserves to be told.
Balkan Breakthrough -
Dobro Pole 1918
Indiana University Press
ISBN 978 0 253 35452 5
Dobro Pole is not
likely to be on many WW1 battle lists. However, it should be as it was arguably
one of the most decisive Entente victories of the war.
Dobro Pole was a key
Bulgarian defensive position in Macedonia. By September 1918 the Macedonian
front was largely held by Bulgarian forces following the withdrawal of German
units to the Western Front. The Bulgarian army was poorly supplied and morale
was low. The Entente forces saw an opportunity to achieve a breakthrough and
launched an attack with Mainly French and Serbian troops. The attack was
successful and the Bulgarian retreat turned into a rout with large numbers of
troops heading for home. There were insufficient competent troops to mount a
counter attack and reinforcing Austrian and German troops arrived too late. The
defeat quickly led to the collapse of the entire front and Bulgaria's withdrawal
from the war.
This book covers the
background to the war in the Balkans and the campaign in the run up to the
battle. The actual battle is covered in just a couple of chapters. The real
value of this study is that it views the conflict from a Bulgarian perspective.
This is a well written study of the battle that that led to the collapse of
the Central Powers in the Balkans and hastened the end of the war.
Pyrrhus of Epiros
Pen and Sword
ISBN 978 1 844159 390
His claim to fame is
that he defeated the Romans in two major battles and was rated by Hannibal as
the second greatest general after Alexander. His name lives on with the phrase
The author starts with an overview of the
Eastern Mediterranean in the 3rd Century BC and of Epirus itself. At this time
the state was a loose combination of tribes with the King's role primarily that
of war leader. Epirus covered large parts of modern North Western Greece and
Southern Albania. Pyrrhus spent much of his youth in exile. This was the period
of the Successors and war between them was the norm, dragging in other states.
He developed into an brave and capable commander before returning to Epirus as
King. He probably inherited a modern Macedonian style of army based on the pike
armed phalanx supported by cavalry and elephants.
The rest of the book takes us through his main
campaigns. Firstly his conflicts with neighbouring Macedonia and then, at the
invitation of the Southern Italian states, with Rome. His famous 'Pyrrhic
victories' at Heraclea and Asculum are covered in detail. He then campaigned in
Sicily against Carthage before returning to Italy, this time to lose against the
Romans at Beneventum. His final campaigns were in Greece, culminating in his
death in battle against Argos and the Spartans. A fitting end for a King who was
almost continually at war. Whilst he was undoubtedly a great battlefield
commander his strategic outcomes were poor. Too many campaigns were not seen
through to the end and his diplomatic skills in maintaining allies were weak,
even allowing for the shifting alliances of the period.
This is a book I would highly recommend. The
author has a good writing style and effectively deals with the limited sources
in way that retains readability for the general reader. I have spent some time
Epirus region and it is well worth a visit with plenty of sites of interest
for the historian.
Cross and Crescent in the Balkans.
Pen and Sword
ISBN 18441 5954-X
This is the story of the Ottoman conquest of
the Balkans. He covers the early history of the Ottomans and the chaotic world
at the time. The decline of Byzantium, divided Islam and distracted European
states all contributed to the extraordinary rise of this dynasty from a small
tribe to superpower status. This is not a simple narrative military history. The
author gives a fair amount of social history that puts the Ottomans in context
and explains their resilience. Not least the loyalty of Christian vassals in the
Balkans. He also gives some detail of the Ottoman military and administrative
system as well as their remarkable comeback after the defeat by Timur at Ankara
The military history is outlined and expanded
with a somewhat selective treatment of the major campaigns. The Crusade of
Nikopol and the Siege of Constantinople get several chapters each. However, the
battle of Maritsa plus the first and second battles of Kossova are virtually
ignored. This is a bit disappointing as this prolific author has written
detailed accounts of Nikopolis and Constantinople in the Osprey campaign series.
With that exception this is still a good overview of the period, written in
the David Nicolle's very readable style.
Barbara Jelavich Cambridge Press
This is a primarily a diplomatic history of
Russia's 19th Century engagements in the Balkans. Starting with the Napoleonic
wars and ending with WW1 and the subsequent collapse of both the
Austro-Hungarian and Russian Imperial Empires. The period included no less than
five wars with the Ottoman Empire from which Russia gained minimal territorial
advantage at considerable expense. The author concludes that emotional
commitments played a significant part in driving Russian policy. The irony is
that an autocratic regime supported, what we would today call liberation
struggles, at an economic cost that contributed to its own downfall.
I was about to say that the military operations
are given cursory attention. However, that would be overstating the case. They
are barely mentioned. Whilst this is not a military history, a reader not
familiar with these conflicts would struggle to follow events.
This is not an easy read, not least because the
author quotes primary documents at length. It does give a detailed understanding
of both the internal Russian considerations and the diplomatic exchanges between
the Great Powers. The author also threads the theme of the motives for Russian
engagement throughout the book. The analysis is excellent, if the presentation
is a little turgid. One for the real Balkan enthusiast now it is available at a
reasonable price in paperback. Not for the general reader.
Wargames Illustrated 279 January 2011
There is an excellent article in
this month's Wargames
Illustrated by John Bianchi on the second, and less well known, Battle
of Kossovo in 1448. John is the primary author of the WAB supplement Vlad
the Impaler that I, and fellow WAB players at GDWS, gave some modest
Unlike in the first battle of 1389, the Serbian leadership
remained loyal to the Ottomans and it was left to the Hungarian's led by Janos
Hunyadi, with Wallachian support, to do battle on the Field of Blackbirds. The
plan was to join up with the Albanian leader Scanderbeg, but the Ottomans moved
quickly to bring the Hungarians to battle before the Albanians arrived. They
were only a day's march away. Despite being outnumbered Hunyadi nearly pulled
off a famous victory. However, it was Sultan Murad who triumphed and the
Christian cause in the Balkans was on the defensive for the next 250 years.
The battlefield today, not surprisingly as the monuments
were built by Serbia, focus on the earlier battle. But you can still get a good
view of where the action took place as can be seen from the pictures on
Balkan Military History.
John's article is well illustrated with 28mm figures from
a number of ranges including the fine Kingmaker war wagons that represent the
wagonburg in the Hungarian centre. He also presents a scenario for WAB.
of a Military Attache in the Balkans
Colonel Napier Naval & Military
A detailed study of the diplomatic efforts
to bring Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Entente. He travelled
extensively across the Balkans during this period so you get a good
understanding of the position in all the Balkan states. He describes in some
detail his meetings with politicians and military leaders in these countries and
the reader gets a good understanding of the factors that resulted in the
decisions each country took. He is fairly critical of British foreign policy
towards Bulgaria and clearly believed that a firmer line could have brought them
into the allied camp. In the end he was captured by a German submarine when
leaving Greece on a passenger boat and spent the rest of the war in a prison
camp before being exchanged. He then returned as the military attache to Sophia.
Not a light read this but well worth the effort for anyone interested in the
Balkans during WW1.
Diary of a
Russian Artilleryman in the Shipka Pass 1877
The Foreign Correspondent
This is a translated extract from the diary of a Russian artilleryman first
published in the Royal Artillery Institution in 1881. It paints a detailed
picture of how artillery was used in the Shipka Pass actions.
the Crescent Moon
This is the story of the siege of Eger,
Hungary, in 1552. A small garrison successfully resisted a huge Ottoman army for
nearly six weeks, forcing it to withdraw. The novel concentrates on the life of
one of the Captains in the siege, Gergely Bournemissza. He takes us through his
early life and the events of the period he was engaged with. This all culminates
in the epic siege that is told in some detail.
Excellent novel, well written and highly
Latest title in the Warrior series covers the Ottoman infantryman of WW1. In
the usual format it covers the recruitment, training and weaponry used by these
troops as well as some idea of life on campaign. Well illustrated as always.
Vlad - The Real Dracula
A well researched history that keeps as close to what we know about the real
historical figure, yet written with a great fast paced dialogue. The real
Dracula was of course Vlad Tepes known as The Impaler after his favourite form
of execution. Dracula is a play on Dracul, or Dragon the knighly order he
belonged to. It was of course Bram Stoker who created the vampire version,
although in fact he did very little research on the original. The novel takes us
through Vlad's early years as a hostage in the Ottoman court, through several
periods as Prince of Wallachia until his final defeat by the Ottomans. To this
day Vlad is a national hero in Romania and many would welcome his success in
stamping out crime - even if his methods were a bit robust by modern day
Battle of Pydna
Detailed article on the Battle of Pydna, fought between the Romans and
Macedon in 168BC. The article takes the reader carefully through the sources on
each aspect of the battle and follows that with the author's interpretation.
Plus a helpful section on wargaming the battle.
Miniatures 15mm Balkan Wars
Very useful new range from
Irregular Miniatures covering the main combatants of the Balkan Wars 1912.
Helpful review by Ogrefencer at his
Dawn of the
Nicholas Dorrell Partisan Press
2009 ISBN 978 1 85818 594 1
A narrative history of the Poltava campaign 1708-09 with a detailed
description of the Russian army. Useful book somewhat damaged by the absence of
This book covers
Bulgarian military and political actions during the early
20th century. The book claims to expose Bulgarian bad
behavior surrounding the Balkan Wars and refuting attendant
Bulgarian claims to the territory of Macedonia. It also
seeks to explain the background to Bulgaria’s attitude
towards the Great War (WWI). Written by a Serbian national
it should be read with some caution, none the less it offers
an interesting view based on sourced materials.
Mountain Artillery in Bosnia 1878
A reprint of an article first published in the Royal Artillery Institution
journal in 1881. A detailed look at the organisation, equipment and deployment
of mountain artillery in the 1878 Bosnian campaign.
ISBN 978 0 571 23231 4
History of warfare in the Med (1521 - 1580) from the siege of Rhodes through
to Malta and the Battle of Lepanto. Excellent narrative history covering the age
of the great galley fleets and the lesser raiding and minor conflicts dominated
by the Spanish and Ottoman empires.
This history of the Balkan's seeks to take a more positive view of the region
in world history. It looks at the interaction of great civilizations with local
cultures. Good overview.
256 Feb 09
Early battle of the Balkan Wars between the Greek Army of Thessaly and an
Ottoman force defending fortifications by the Sarantaporo Straights. This
article gives a short description of the battle and uniform details for the
combat troops. Well illustrated.
Historical fiction but closely based on historical sources of the life of the
Ostrogothic King of Italy in the 5th and 6th century.
Illustrated article on the editor's tour of Albania with particular reference
Foreign Correspondent Issue 80 Oct 2008
Short narrative of the capture of the Bulgarian town of Tirnovo by the
Russian advanced guard in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.
Lion of the
Triumvirate ISBN 1 932656 01 4
A novel based on Bulgaria during the First and Second Balkan wars. The main
focus is on a number of families in the Rhodope Mountains on the present day
southern border between Bulgaria and Greece. It graphically describes the impact
the war had on this border region with conflicting loyalties both national and
religious. A good read.
The Enemy at
Bodley Head ISBN 978 0 224 07364 6
This is the story of the Habsburgs, Ottomans and the battle for Europe. The
author briefly covers the advance of the Ottomans into Europe up to the first
siege of Vienna in 1529. But the focus is on the second siege in 1683 and the
subsequent re-conquest of Hungary and much of present day Croatia. A period the
Austrians call 'The Age of Heroes'. This is a well balanced book that doesn't
fall into the common trap of portraying the Ottomans as simple aggressors.
Written in a lively style it is not only good history but a great read.
Battle of Lule Brugas
252 Oct. 2008
Detailed and well illustrated article of the key southern battle in Thrace of
the Balkan wars between the Bulgarian and Turkish armies.
Andrew Coleby & Nick Dorrell
Arquebusier Vol 31/2
An excellent overview of the conflict that followed on from the defeat of the
Swedish King Charles XII at Poltava. The authors set out the background to the
conflict and the Russian plans for a main assualt through Moldavia with
secondary fronts in the Crimea. The main battle on the Pruth was a rare defeat
for Peter the Great but it could have been a disaster on the scale of Poltava.
The article gives a good description of the troops engaged and the gaming
over the Balkans
University of Kansas ISBN 978 070061465 3
Usually overshadowed by the northern Soviet offensives in the Spring of 1944
this study traces the failed invasion of Romania by two Soviet army fronts in
April and May 1944. Heavily outnumbered Romanian and German troops fought a
skillful series of largely defensive actions that halted Stalin's Balkan
strategy. The campaign resulted in 200,000 casualties and David Glantz traces in
considerable detail the actions using the latest archive materials.
Wars of Independence 1821 - 1922
ISBN 1 84401 065 1
The main sections of this book give a concise military history of all the
conflicts within the period of the book. The text is clear and the maps are very
good. There are also some drawings of typical troop types but no photographs.
The author is of Greek descent and this sometimes shows in his description of
events but that should not detract from a useful overview of a series of
conflicts, most of which have received limited coverage in English.
war of 1885 - Combat at Slivnitsa
Colonel Regenspursky Nafziger
Collection ISBN 1 58545 177 0
George Nafziger has translated from the French this work first published in
1887 by a Colonel of the Austro-Hungarian Army. This is a valuable text as so
little has been written in English on this conflict and the decisive battle at
Slivnitsa. Unlike so many 19th century texts this was not written by a military
observer attached to one side and therefore producing an unbalanced report.
Regenspursky has produced a balanced work written close enough to the conflict
to benefit from a number of different reports. The maps could be better but
modern maps of the area are helpful as the area has not changed that much as
shown in the editor's visit to the battlefield.
ISBN 978 0 582 30807 7
This book covers what might be described as the slow decline of the Ottoman
military system following the defeat at Vienna in 1683 until the 1870's. It
describes the transition from a largely feudal force to a conscript army on the
Prussian model. This is by no means a narrative history and many of the key
campaigns are not always covered in detail. However, it does explain very well
the organisational, cultural and political context to the various changes and in
particular the attemts to introduce reform. This is an important contribution to
Ottoman military history and is highly recommended.
Well illustrated article on a lesser known battle in the Banat between the
Ottomans led by Sultan Mustapha II and the Imperial army commanded by Vetertani.
The Imperial army was the the Transylvanian corps left isolated by the main
Austrian force to the west and was heavily outnumbered. Surrounded on all sides
the Transylvanians were pushed back on their Tabor baggage that enabled the
cavalry to escape.
South Carolina Press ISBN 978 1 57003
A translation of the 1934 novel about a French unit serving in the Balkans in
WW1. The focus of the book is in the immediate post-war period when French
troops were stationed in Bulgaria and Romania. It seeks to show the impact war
had on these young men. The peacetime chapters that form the majority of the
book are frankly slow reading. Cornwall this isn't!
ISBN 978 1 84603 231 8
Latest in the Osprey campaign series covers the siege of Vienna in 1683 the
high water point of the Ottoman advance into Europe. Usual campaign format with
a general introduction, a description of the opposing forces and a narrative of
the siege. Well illustrated including the usual colour plates and excellent
Great War 1914-18
ISBN 978185065883 2
At first glance this appears to fill a big gap in the English language study
of WW1. The battles against the Austro-Hungarian offensives followed by the
retreat across the Albanian mountains should make an epic read. Regrettably this
is not that book. This is primarily a political history, valuable as context,
but the military history is relegated to a few paragraphs.
In the Camp
of the Ban
Foreign Correspondent January 2008
Notes on the 1848 Croatian army led by Jelacic that invaded Hungary in
support of the Hapsburgs. The focus is on uniforms and is illustrated with black
and white prints of the period.
Out of the
ISBN 1 84037 405 5
This is the story of Wellington bomber operations out of Italy in 1944-45.
Very much one man's experiences but the raids covered large parts of the
Balkans. The author flew the 'Wimpey' as part of 205 Group RAF mostly from a
base at Foggia . Raids included Sofia, Bucharest, Belgrade and Budapest as well
as mine laying in the Danube.
Realm of the
Elizabeth Roberts Hurst
ISBN 978 185065 868 9
This is a narrative history of Montenegro from early times to the recent
declaration of independence. Unlike many Balkan histories it gives due weight to
the medieval period when Montenegro first became a recognisable entity and the
Ottoman period. Well written this is a great read.
Michael Kihntopf White Maine Books
ISBN 1 57249 242 2
A narrative of German involvement on the Balkan and Galician fronts during
WW1. The book gives a fairly basic description of the campaigns with a focus on
the role of German troops. The author's treatise is that German troops bailed
out the Central Powers at times of stress on these fronts. A few B&W photos and
The Guns of
Story of the guns cast for Mehmed II by the renegade Hungarian, Orban for the
siege of Constantinople in 1453.
Targul Frumos May 1944
Germany's Army Group South had been driven out of Russia and the Soviet 2nd
Tank and 27th armies were pressing past Jassy to Targul Frumos inside Romania.
The defenders included Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland supported by
24th Panzer and 46th Infantry Divisions, all relatively well equipped by German
eastern front standards. This scenario written for the Battlegroup
Panzergrenadier rules includes a description of the battle and orbats as well as
a description of the refight.