WWI: a military expedition to be concluded by a speedy occupation

Serbian troops retreat through Albania, 1915In the House of Commons on 20th July, the Conservative MP for Plymouth, Shirley Benn, asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, “whether the Servians are now advancing upon Elbasan“?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Francis Dyke Acland, Liberal MP for Camborne, replied:

A report has reached me that they have crossed the Albanian frontier, but I have no confirmation of it.

On the same day, the Serbian Minister at Vienna wrote to Nikola Pašić, Serbian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs:

It is very difficult, indeed almost impossible, to ascertain here anything positive as to the real intentions of Austria-Hungary. The word has been passed round to maintain absolute secrecy about everything that is being done. Judging by the articles in our newspapers, Belgrade is taking an optimistic view of the questions pending with Austria-Hungary. There is, however, no room for optimism. There is no doubt that Austria-Hungary is making preparations of a serious character. What is chiefly to be feared, and is highly probable, is, that Austria is preparing for war against Serbia. The general conviction that prevails here is that it would be nothing short of suicide for Austria-Hungary once more to fail to take advantage of the opportunity to act against Serbia. It is believed that the two opportunities previously missed–the annexation of Bosnia and the Balkan war–have been extremely injurious to Austria-Hungary. In addition, the conviction is steadily growing that Serbia, after her two wars, is completely exhausted, and that a war against Serbia would in fact merely mean a military expedition to be concluded by a speedy occupation. It is also believed that such a war could be brought to an end before Europe could intervene.

The seriousness of Austrian intentions is further emphasised by the military preparations which are being made, especially in the vicinity of the Serbian frontier.

On 20th July 1914, Austria-Hungary sent troops to the Serbian frontier.

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