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Map and battle images of the Balkan Wars
  1. The cockpit of Europe – the Balkan Wars, 1912-13
    The First Balkan War lasted from October 1912 to May 1913. It involved actions of the Balkan League, consisting of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire. In the ensuing conflict the Balkan states overcame the Ottoman armies. The Tsardom of Bulgaria was a constitutional monarchy, established in 1908. In 1912 a secret treaty was signed between Bulgaria and Serbia. A similar treaty was signed by Greece and Montenegro. After the Ottomans refused to implement reforms in disputed Macedonia and Thrace, the First Balkan War broke out. The 4 allies had astonishing victories over the Ottomans and advanced against Constantinople, while the Serbs and Greeks took control of Macedonia.

    The Ottomans then sued for peace, but negotiations broke down and fighting resumed in February 1913. A second armistice followed in March, with the Ottomans losing all of their European possessions west of the Midia-Enos line, not far from Constantinople. The Serbs and Greeks took control of Macedonia and the Bulgarians gained most of Thrace.
illustration of balkan war armies
  1. The Armies Involved
    Contemporary illustration from the French “Le PetitsJournal” showing the opposing armies

    Bulgaria: This was the most powerful of the four Balkan States with a large, well-equipped army. Initially, it mobilized around 370 thousand men,
    rising to a total of almost 600 thousand out of a population of just 4.3 million according to information on Wikipedia.

    Serbia: The Serbian Army totalled around 250 thousand, out of a population of just under 3 million. Greece: With a population of just over 2½ million, Greece was considered the weakest of the three main allies, fielding a small army of around 125,000.

    Montenegro: This was even smaller, but it was the only Balkan country never to be fully conquered by the Ottomans. With an army of around 45 thousand it did not have huge influence.

    The Ottoman Empire: In 1913 the empire had a large population of around 26 million, of which 6 million lived in its European part, only 2.3 million being non-muslim. The regular forces were well trained and equipped but the reserve forces that reinforced it were ill-equipped and badly trained. Initially the army numbered around 4-500 thousand. It was later significantly reinforced, out numbering the Balkan League Allies by the end of the conflict.

3. Representations of the armies involved
There was considerable variation in the uniforms of the Allied States, as well as differences between the actual uniform as worn during wartime conditions and their parade/dress uniforms. Typically, it was the latter represented by Britains, who created various sets in response to the (then current) conflict, in their usual style, covering all the combatants – after all, they were toy soldiers. Turkish cavalry had been in the catalogue for a few years, but most of these sets appeared in 1912-13.

Turkish Cavalry - produced 1897-1941.
Set Number 71, Turkish Cavalry – produced 1897-1941.

The Ertoghrul Cavalry Regiment of the Ottoman Imperial Guards was named after the father of Osman [1299-1326] the founder of the Ottoman Empire. This rare early label was later replaced by a Whisstock
designed, illustrated label.

Turkish Infantry produced 1912-1941.
Set Number 167 Turkish Infantry produced 1912-1941.

This was one of the first sets issued is response to the conflict. A Whisstock label was used on the early boxes, but the set is occasionally found later with the Armies of the World label. The original set contained an officer, marching with sword, wearing a fez. The next configuration of the set saw the officer removed and replaced with another figure standing, on guard, with fixed bayonet.

illustration of Turkish soldier
Illustration of Turkish infantry
turkish infantry
greek infantry
Greek Cavalry produced 1913-1941.
Set Number 170 Greek Cavalry produced 1913-1941.

The officer rides a grey, cantering horse and is armed with an extended sword. Troopers are armed with carbines.

Greek Infantry, produced 1913-1941.
Set Number 171 Greek Infantry, produced 1913-1941.

The first version of the set had a pigeon-chested figure running at the trail, mounted on an unstamped square base. This was replaced in 1914 with a more realistic figure. The uniforms were originally light brown and later changed to a khaki shade.

The first version of this set came with figures marching at the slope. Later versions introduced figures marching at the trail. Some early sets were found with a mix of both. The sets came in a box with a printers decorated label.

 Bulgarian Infantry,
produced 1913-1941.
Set Number 172 Bulgarian Infantry,
produced 1913-1941.
Bulgarian Infantry
Illustration of Servian infantry
Servian Infantry, produced 1913- 1935.
Set Number 173 Servian Infantry, produced 1913- 1935.

This set was composed of eight charging figures with no officer. The set was deleted in 1935 as the state of Serbia no longer existed. It had become part of Yugoslavia after World War One in 1918.

Illustration of Montenegrin Infantry, produced 1913-1935.
Montenegrin Infantry, produced 1913-1935.
Set Number 174 Montenegrin Infantry, produced 1913-1935.

Two variations were offered, either marching at the slope or at the trail, each set had a sword carrying officer. The boxes had a printers decorated label.

4. Britains Paris Office
In 1905 Britains established their so called “Paris Office” to manufacture figures in France. This lasted until 1923. The figures they produced are often difficult to identify and document, as no catalogues or price lists have so far been found. The few sets, single figures and empty boxes that have shown up probably represent only a fraction of the factory output, which appears to have been much less regimented than the London Office. Incomplete lists have been published.

The majority of the figures cover First World War subjects of the major powers. However, sets of various other “foreign’’ troops were also produced, often probably to special order.

In order to enjoy the same protection for the range, as was the case in Britain, the word Depose was put under the figure when the design was registered. However the presence of the Depose stamp is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to establish that a Britains figure was made in France. They produced many interesting figures, including the flag bearer that graces our cover.” The other sets presented here are probably “one-off” Special Orders and as such, would not have been recorded in any catalogue. The Paris Office was closed in 1923 due to a “failure to run properly”.

Turkish Infantry marching at the slope. Circa 1914.
Turkish Infantry marching at the slope. Circa 1914.
Greek Infantry marching at the slope. A special order Circa 1914.
Greek Infantry marching at the slope. A special order Circa 1914.
Bulgarian Royal Guards at the slope.
Bulgarian Royal Guards at the slope. A special order- undated. In 1908 Ferdinand proclaimed independence from the Ottoman Empire, becoming its first Tsar. The country had been virtually independent since 1878.
Paris Office Serbian Infantry.
Paris Office Serbian Infantry. Serbia and Montenegro shared the same/similar flag. A simplified version was used by Britains.

Paris Office. Montenegrin Infantry.
Paris Office. Montenegrin Infantry.

A Gathering of the victorious allies.
A Gathering of the victorious allies.
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