Edirne, 1913

Edirne, 1913

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Due to its important strategic location, the city of Edirne and its surroundings have often been the scene of military clashes. This is why the city has always been a defensive stronghold.

After the restoration of the independent Bulgarian state in 1878, the border between Bulgaria and Ottoman empire passes near Edirne and therefore not far from Istanbul. So the Ottoman government paid special attention to strengthen and modernize their defence system.

On the eve of the Balkan War the fortress is guarded by 59,000 men, 524 guns, 130,000 shells, 12 000 000 bullets, etc. ammunition. Shukri Pasha is in command of the Edirne fortress, who was "one active and knowledgeable person", distressingly familiar to the Bulgarians with his "feats" against the defenceless Thracian population after the Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising in 1903.

In the spring of 1913, after a siege lasting 149 days, the strategy of the Bulgarian High Command envisaged the capture of Edirne fortress with open force. This risky decision to attack was supported by the Commander of armed forces, Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, as the order was eloquent brief - "tonight at the hour when the moon rises, undertake daring attack on the fortress and conquer it!"
2nd Bulgarian army, which besieged Edirne fortress consisted of 82,000 men, 326 guns and 70 machine guns, more than half of them directed towards the eastern sector. Two Serbian divisions and the headquarters of the 2nd Serbian Army joined in with an armed force of 47,000 men and 98 guns.
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On March 11, 1913 at 13:00 hours the entire Bulgarian artillery opened fire. The enemy forces responded and a fearsome fight including thousand guns began on the battle field. In the evening the Bulgarian artillery stopped firing. The Ottomans decided to start an offensive and issued alert but a real offensive did not follow. The actual offensive began later, after midnight on March 12. It started quietly, without shooting, without the usual Bulgarian cheer. The surprise was complete. After passing through the handrails, the Bulgarian troops led by Rhodope Regiment began an unstoppable attack. By down, the fort Aidjiolu was captured. The other regiments in the first echelon continued to Aivazbaba and several other forts. The artillery took the fire in depth to prevent the enemy's counterattack. In Aivazbaba the tension escalates and leads to severe dogfight with bayonets. Here the foolhardy reserves of 23 Shipka Regiment offered tremendous help. For this momentum, many of the officers said that they made "big effort to compel soldiers to hide from the fire, all rush and prompt officers to rush in case some counters get captured without them"...
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At 06:18 before dusk the Bulgarian flag already stood over the fort Aivazbaba. Other forts as Yildiz Kestenlik, Kurucheshme were also subjected.... The commander of the Edirne fortress sent its last telegram to Istanbul - "it's all over ... Bulgarian troops intrude already in the city."
For the "miracles of bravery" of those last brave, naive and enthusiastic people, for whom it is clear today to have "died in the Balkan War", most suit worthy captains such as General George Vazov, for example. In this regard, very exciting to me are his words delivered on 13 March 1913 after the successful capture of the "impregnable fortress of Adrianople": "Officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, in your attacks against the front enemy positions yesterday and the counter belt today, you cover Bulgaria with a laurel wreath. The world has to wonder at you, valiant sons of Bulgaria, that you could conquer in 30 hours one of the most powerful fortresses. Only your lion's courage could resist the mad enemy resistance. Only the love for your country could strengthen you to overcome the myriad dangers of these two successive assaults in this ongoing bloodshed. Yesterday and today you entered a new glorious page in our history. Thank you! I am proud that I am your Commander. I am proud to be Bulgarian."

Ivanka Deleva, curator Department "History", Regional Burgas Museum