In one of those episodes of the First World War that deserves to be much better known, a British naval mission under Rear Admiral Troubridge in the early months of the war advanced into Serbia to help the Serbs resist the Austro-Hungarians. They took with them batteries of guns, a mining section and a torpedo section to help defend the Danube, and they took a picket boat from Malta to Salonika and then put it on the railway to Belgrade. The mission then proceeded to fight a little war on the Danube against bigger Austro-Hungarian boats. It became affectionately known as the Terror of the Danube – affectionately known by us, that is. No doubt the Austro-Hungarians had other less affectionate terms.
On 22 April 1915 the picket boat, in a daring raid, sank the monitor Kersh with a torpedo, for which Lieutenant Commander Kerr was awarded a DSO and each of the crew received a DSM. Eventually, the Austro-Hungarians attacked in force and after bravely defending Belgrade, the survivors of the British naval mission retreated south with the Serbian army on an epic march under appalling conditions.
During the Second World War, Brits, including Fitzroy Maclean, were involved with assorted resistance operations in Serbia. Maclean helped to organise attacks on the Salonika–Belgrade railway to hinder the retreating Germans, and he was present when the Russians and partisans liberated Belgrade from the Germans.
On 24 March 1999, in response to Slobodan Milosevic’s actions in Kosovo, NATO launched a bombing campaign against targets in Serbia and in Kosovo. It lasted until 10 June 1999. RAF units played an important role in the campaign and the Royal Navy also fired cruise missiles.