A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 215

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BELGRADE RECOVERED


into two streams, flowing on either side of the column of fugi- tives in the river valley. And as these streams ran uphill more quickly than the grey-blue flood moved, the Austrian rearguards, composed of heavy forces entrenched on strong positions, were turned. By December 14 the Serbians approached the line of hills forming the southern defence of Belgrade. Here General Potiorek had constructed a system of earthworks, consisting of deep trenches with shrapnel cover, and well-concealed gun positions, with numerous heavy howitzers and field-pieces, ffe ititended to stand an indefinite siege on this fragment of Serbian territory, holding Belgrade as a bridge-head for another advance alongthemainMoravavalley. Inthiswaysomethingwould be saved from the debacle, enabling ftie campaign to be represented as a reconnaissance in force, similar to Hindenburg's first advance against Warsaw. But his troops had received so tetrible a punishment that they could not garrison the siege defences. The Serbians, steeled by victory after victory, and absolutely reckless of death as they <lrove in upon their capital, with their old king, the grandson of Black George, moving through their foremost ranks, charged up in the ring of liills. On the central height of Torlak, on the evening of December 14, they shot and bayoneted two Austrian battalions. Thenmovingforwardinthedarknesstheycaptured all the lieights. NoSerbianssleptthatnight. Theydraggedorman-handled their guns towards Belgrade, and placed them on heights com- manding the pontoon bridges by which the enemy were fleeing over the Save. At dawn on December 15, 1914, the pontoon bridge was destroyed by shell fire. A cloud of fog and rain veiled the scene, but the gunners knew the position of their mark, and, breaking down the' bridge^ they cut off the retreat of the remnant of the two Austrian army corps. The rearguard outside the city was destroyed, and then the Serbian cavalry- men, accompanied by King Peter, swept from the height of Torlak and entered the streets of the capital, killed a detach- ment of Hungarians who would not surrender, and began to round up the prisoners to the number of ten thousand. As the street fighting between the cavalrymen and the Hungarians was going on, King Peter entered the cathedral of his capital to give thanks for the almost miraculous salvation of his small, heroic nation.

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