A 1918 D.S.O. Award Document to Serbian Commander of 12th Infantry
A 1918 D.S.O. Award Document to Serbian Commander of 12th Infantry - Award Document: named to "Lieutenant-Colonel Nichailo J. Vassitch, Commander of the Battalion, of the 12th Infantry Regiment, Serbian Army" in handwritten black ink, emboss stamped with the King George V coat-of-arms, dated September 23, 1918, signature of George R.I. in handwritten black ink, printed signature of Secretary of State "Milner", text printed in black ink, 204 mm x 327 mm, soiled edges top and bottom, very fine. Accompanied by a booklet entitled "The Statutes of the Distinguished Service Order.", five-colour cover with four pages of text in black ink, inscribed "By His Majesty's Command, MILNER." on page 4, initialed on the front cover, 185 mm x 236 mm, string-bound, light soiling, booklet better than very fine. Footnote: By November 2, 1915, all Northern Serbia had been conquered, the railroad had been opened between Berlin and Constantinople and the armies of Austria had come in touch with each other. Farther south, in Macedonia the Bulgarian Army of General Teodoroff, after occupying Uskub, had advanced toward Katshanik Pass, which was held by the Serbian Army under General Bojovitch. Repeated assaults upon this pass failed to dislodge the Serbians, who used their bayonets most effectively. Meanwhile, Colonel Vassitch, with a small Serbian force, was holding Veles, where he expected to form a junction with General Sarrail's French Army, whose guns could be heard assaulting the Bulgarians some miles to the south. After holding back the Bulgarian hordes for an entire week, Colonel Vassitch retired to the Babuna Pass, which marks the division of Macedonia from Upper Serbia. It was soon apparent that the Serbians could hope for no aid from the outside. General Sarrail's French troops had indeed penetrated north as far as Gradsko, defeating the Bulgarians in several engagements, and were within sound of the Serbian guns, but lacking in strength, or for whatever reason, they could advance no further. General Sarrail's conduct of this campaign was afterward made the subject of a military inquiry, which left him with a clouded reputation. Great Britain had offered Greece the Island of Cyprus if she would keep her pledge to Serbia, but to no avail. Italy had declared war on Bulgaria, October 20, 1915, but had been unable to render any direct assistance. The Serbians in Macedonia were still holding tenaciously to the Babuna and Katshanik Passes, their only remaining avenues of retreat. The Babuna Pass was defended by Colonel Vassitch with a force of only 5,000 men. Here, within 10 miles of the French Army, was fought one of the most desperate battles of the Balkan War. Twenty thousand Bulgarians with heavy artillery, hurled themselves daily against the Pass during the first week in November, but were driven back at the point of the bayonet. General Sarrail, meanwhile, found himself unable to pierce the Bulgarian line and join the Serbs at Babuna Pass. To reach them he must first cross the Tserna River and take the strongly fortified Mount of the Archangel, which the Bulgarians held in superior numbers. Crossing the Tserna, Sariail's Army, now reinforced, began scaling the heights, 1,000 feet in air. Driving the Bulgarians out of the villages at the base of the mountain, he encircled the heights, forcing the Bulgarians to evacuate Sirkovo half way up the slope. On November 10, 1915, being reinforced, the Bulgarian Army of 60,000 assumed the offensive. Their plan was to take the French in the rear, cut off their retreat across the Tserna River, and annihilate them at the base of the mountain. For three days the battle raged, but the French Army fought so valorously that the Bulgarians were routed, leaving 4,000 dead upon the field. General Sarrail, however, dared not resign his sole path of retreat across the Tserna River and cross the mountain to the relief of the Serbians who, again forsaken, withdrew from Babuna Pass, falling back upon Prilip on November 16th.