Brief History

The oldest known appearance of the name of Montenegro dates back to 1053. In a papal epistle written on November 9th, the name Montenegro, meaning the area of the region of the state of Duklja or the Slavic Kingdom is mentioned. In its Slavic, Cyrillic form, the name Crna Gora was first mentioned in King Milutin’s Charter of 1276, meaning Black Hills or Black Mountains.

There are several civilisation layers from prehistoric and pre-Slavic times in Montenegro. Archaeological finds from the Red Cave, the Odmut cave and other localities prove the existence of human settlements in these parts dating back to 180,000 years ago. Prehistoric periods in Montenegro are represented from finds from the stone, the bronze and iron ages. Favourable geographic and climate conditions attracted various peoples to settle and live and leave traces in these parts. According to archaeological and historical sources, in the pre-Slavic times the coastal region of Montenegro was first settled by the Greeks, then the Illyrians, and in the interior, the Docleats and the Autariats. Their state was at its peak in the middle of the third century B.C., and it dwindled between 168 and 167 B.C. Coming under Roman rule, the Illyrians were exposed to strong Romanisation. The remains of the Illyrian and Roman arts are numerous, especially at the seaside. Duklja (Duklea) was the most influential town in central Montenegro in the Roman period, while in the north it was the Roman settlement Komine close to Pljevlja.

By the end of the fourth century, a separate province Prevalitana, with Skadar as its centre, was formed out of Dalmatia. According to written sources, there was an Archbishopric there as early as 343, or perhaps even earlier. Montenegro is heir to a rich treasure of spiritual and material culture from the early stages of its history. After the division of the Roman Empire, the territory of modern Montenegro remained under Byzantine rule. In the 6th and 7th centuries, the Avars and Slavs fiercely broke into Montenegrin area. The Slavs then started settling the Balkans which caused great ethnic changes and a re-composition of the whole peninsular. The forefathers of modern Montenegrins used to live in the Elbe valley (eastern Germany), and they originate from the Slavic union of tribes called Veleti (Ljutici) and partly Obodriti. They settled the areas of the Roman province Prevalitana and formed their skavinija within the east Roman Empire – Byzantium. The Byzantine sources record them mostly as Dukljans. The new coming Slavs accepted the name of Duklja, a part of Prevalis named after the antique Roman town of the same name. In the late 12th century the Roman name of Duklja was gradually replaced by the Slavic name of the river Zeta (meaning fruitful land). The name Montenegro was adopted for the same state the second half of the fifteenth century.

The first Slavic ruler of Duklja mentioned in written sources was Archon Petar (ninth century). In his Regnum Sclavorum (Kingdom of Slavs) – a blend of legends and history, chronicler and priest Pop Dukljanin lists as many as 28 kings from Archon Petar until the end of independence of Duklja-Zeta. The history and the legends especially single out Prince Vladimir Dukljanski, (997-1016), Petrislav’s son. He was married to Kosara, the daughter of the Macedonian Emperor Samuilo. Betrayed by his brother-in-law Emperor Vladislav, Prince Vladimir was killed and proclaimed a saint. His successor Prince Stefan Vojislav (1016-1043), after winning a battle against the Byzantine army, managed to render his state independent, which was recognised by Byzantium itself. Vojislav’s rule was recognised by Raska, Hum and Bosnia and established the dynasty of Vojislavljevic’s. Stefan Vojislav’s son Mihailo Vojislavljevic was the first crowned King of Duklja. According to historical sources, before him there were eight, and after him twelve rulers of Duklja – Zeta. He received the insignia of royal power from Pop Gregory VII in 1077. Under King Mihailo’s rule Duklja received the conformation of international recognition and grew substantially becoming a military power. His son King Konstantin Bodin (1081/2-1101) further consolidated and strengthened the kingdom and acquired new territories. Bodin was anointed emperor by the Macedonians in Prizen, in gratitude for his help in their struggle against Byzantium.

The Archbishop of Duklja grew stronger along with the strengthening of state power, and the range of jurisdiction expanded. After King Bodin, the state became weaker, grew smaller and began to break up. During the 173 years of its existence, a specific church developed, along with a distinctive culture. Duklja was conquered in 1189 by the great prefect of Raska, Stefan Nemanja, with the support and help of Byzantium. From that time, until 1360, Duklja – Zeta was part of the state ruled by the Nemanjic dynasty, within which it managed to preserve a high level of autonomy. Sava Nemanjic established the Orthodox Bishopric of Zeta in 1219. Some think this happened in Prevlaka, and the others that it could have been somewhere near Podgorica.

After 1360, under the dynasty of Balsics, the rebellious Zeta – a state within a state, recognised its autonomy, which lasted, with shorter interruptions, from 1360 until 1421. In these times the interests of the Venetian Republic and the Serbian state strongly intertwined in this area. The founder of the dynasty was Djuradj Balsic I, and his successors were Balsa II, Djuradj Stracimirovic II and Balsa III. The Archbishopric of Zeta grew stronger and became a significant factor in the society.

The third Montenegrin dynasty is the Crnojevic dynasty (1421-1496). Under the pressure from Turkey, Venice, Herzegovina and the Serbian state territory grew smaller. The Crnojevic dynasty managed to preserve and fought fierce battles, turning to the Venetian Republic in fear of the Turkish assault. At the same time they resisted the spread of Catholicism and attempt to submit them to papal authority. Under this dynasty in Montenegro, great care was taken of churches and monasteries, which were aided and granted estates. The Bishopric of Zeta became the Montenegrin Metropolitan. Although this whole dynasty had a major role in maintaining the country, it is Ivan and his son Djurdje Crnojevic that made a particular historical contribution to Zeta – Montenegro. Having lost Podgorica (1474) and Skadar (1479), and having renewed the alliance with the Venetians, Ivan tried to mobilise the western catholic countries against Turkey, which was taking Montenegrin territory bit by bit. Retreating before the great power, Ivan moved the capital and the seat of the Metropolitan from Zabljak to Obod and then to Cetinje (1482). There he erected a palace and a monastery. His son and heir Djurdje purchased a printing press in Venice, only several decades after Johan Gutenberg invented typography and the printing press, and brought it to the Slavic south for the first time. The first printed books (the Okoih, a psalter and prayer book, among others) were the last form of weaponry defending Montenegrin spirituality and liberty. Djurdje found refuge in Venice, and Montenegro fell under Turkish domination in 1496. The country assembly, the metropolitan, the chieftains and the people remained in the part of Montenegro around the foothills of Lovcen. In the final phase of the Crnojevic dynasty, humanist and renaissance influences are apparent in culture primarily on the coast, but also in Cetinje. Although the rest of Montenegro fell under Turkish control, The Montenegrin area around Mt. Lovcen, as the only reminder of a century old state, became the nucleus of the state and national identity in days to come – of a new Montenegro.

In the Turkish period, Montenegro was organised on the principles of clan society, ruled by the General-Montenegrin and Montenegrin chieftains Assembly presided over by the metropolitan Bishops. The Bishops were elected from different clans at the meetings of the assembly. From 1499 to 1697 this title was not hereditary. Only from Bishop Danilo of the family Petrovic Njegos did the theocracy become hereditary. Certain elements of statehood remained, although the medieval tradition was on the wane. Under Turkish rule Montenegro gained a special status and great privileges. Montenegrin autonomy was based on tax and other privileges. Apart from Cetinje, Montenegro had no towns in the Turkish period and hence it depended on trade in the surrounding area. The Montenegrin Metropolitan was the spiritual foundation of the Montenegrin clans and society in general, and the General-Montenegrin assembly represented the main institution of clannish and military democracy, functioning as the political, national and supra-tribal court of justice. Along with the bishop, it was instrumental in the establishment of the union of clans as a first step in the restoration of centralised state governance. From 1496 until 1697 there were 18 Bishops from various clans.

The Petrovics were the fourth Montenegrin dynasty, particularly significant for the survival and the historical fate of Montenegro and its overall development from the end of the seventeenth century until 1918. This dynasty was founded by Danilo Scepcev Petrovic. He took the bishops seat after Sulejman Pasha of Skodar sacked and ruined the Crnojevic monastery in 1692. The young bishop built both the monastery and the state – the new Montenegro. He took a more resolute and firm attitude towards Turkey. His majesty combined the power of an ecclesiastical and state leader. He won a battle against the great Turkish army at Carev Laz in 1712. In 1711 he established connection with Russia, which then became a Montenegrin protector and supporter for the next two hundred years. In 1717, because the coast had come under the spiritual authority of Montenegro, a concession was made to Venice establishing a governorship that held mostly by the Radonjic family from Njegusi, until as late as 1830. In times of disorder, Bishop Danilo tried to bring the country under greater control. The Country Court, established in 1713, had twelve members and adjudicated on conflicts between the clans and other significant issues. Bishop Sava Petrovic Njegos (1735-1781) succeeded his uncle and helped Russia and Austria in their wars against Turkey. He travelled to Russia and received from the Holy Russian Synod recognition for the autocephalous Montenegrin and Littoral Metropolitan. Bishop Vasilije Petrovic Njegos (1750-1766) was Bishop Sava’s nephew and assistant, and he became bishop in Pec. The Serbian Metropolitan called him “the Metropolitan of the Principality of Montenegro”. He was a visionary and very energetic, resolute, active, fierce and dauntless. He ruled together with his uncle as the “second Bishop”, but in reality he made the main decisions and was the carrier of the country’s internal and foreign policies. He wrote the first History of Montenegro in 1754. He died in Petersburg and was buried there, next to Suvorov.

The self-styled Scepan Mali, a person of unknown origin, suddenly appeared in Montenegro in 1767 during the rule of Bishop Sava Petrovic, and falsely presented himself as the Russian Czar Petar III. He imposed himself upon the Montenegrins as their lay ruler. During his short rule he handles state affairs very successfully, while the Bishop took care of ecclesiastical matters, especially after the Patriarchy of Pec when the Montenegrin metropolitan resumed functioning as an independent church. Scepan Mali introduced order into the country, he founded a court consisting of 20 members as well as an armed unit which enforced the courts decisions. This angered the Turks and the Venetians and Scepan Mali was assassinated in 1773. After his and Bishop Sava’s death, metropolitan Arsenije Plamenac (1781-1784), the bishop’s nephew, ruled in Montenegro for a short time.

In 1784 the General Montenegrin Assembly chose archimandrite Petar I Petrovic Njegos (1784-1830) as the Montenegrin bishop. He is undoubtedly, the greatest – the most important personality in Montenegrin history. He became bishop in Sremski Kolovci and went to Russia. With his victories in the battles of Krusi and Marinici in 1796 he steadied the basis of the Montenegrin state and incorporated Brda (the Hills) into Montenegro. Petar I was outstandingly honest and gifted. He was not only a gifted spiritual leader, but was also an outstanding statesman, military leader, legislator, thinker, diplomat, visionary and writer. He wrote Restraint (Stega) in 1796 and the General Code of Montenegro and Brda (1798 and 1803), known as the code of Petar I. He established organs of central authority – the senate and the Kulak. He was successful in combat against Napoleons in the Boka Kotorska gulf (1806-1813) and during the short union between Montenegro and Boka Kotorska (1813-1814) he was the head of the government. In his political visions and plans he worked on the idea of creating a Slavic-Serb empire on the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Slavs. The people considered him a saint during his lifetime, and his heir Petar II proclaimed his a saint according to church canons in 1834 (Saint Petar of Cetinje).

Petar II Petrovic Njegos (1830-1851) continued with his uncle’s work on internal consolidation of the country and on strengthening of the organs of centralised authority. He transformed the Justice Court of Montenegro and Brda established by his uncle, into the Justice Senate of Montenegro and Brada which was the highest court and co-ordinating organ of the regime. The Guardia was an executive organ, and institution of the perjanik represented the National Guard. In 1837, under Petar II, the state was divided into captaincies, with captains at their head. He also introduced taxes (1834) and managed to settle clear boarders with Austria (1841). He was also a propagator of the Yugoslav ideal. Petar II Petrovic Njegos founded the first state school and purchased a printing press from Russia (both in Cetinje in 1834) and also published the almanac Grlica (Dove). His works “The Mountain Wreath, The Light of the Microcosm and False Emperor Scepan Mali” established his reputation as the greatest south Slavic author, and one of the greatest European writers as well. He was buried on the top of the Lovcen Mountain.

His successor Danilo was the first secular ruler of the Petrovic dynasty (1851-1860). Supported by Russia, he proclaimed himself a Prince, and Montenegro a Principality (1852). Ecclesiastical rule was separated from the secular. Together with his brother, the Great Duke Mirko, he managed to resist the massive military assault launched against Montenegro by Omer Pasha Latas in 1852-1853, and to win an outstanding victory at Grahovac in 1858. During his short rule, he proved to be a resolute and energetic ruler and did much to complete the establishment of state institutions, creating preconditions for the development of civic society and state. He reorganised the army and created the guard, and made a new administrative and territorial organisation. He abolished General-Montenegrin Assembly, modernised the tax system, and reformed the court. His reforms were based upon the Code of Montenegro and Brda of 1855, known as Prince Danilo’s Code. There was opposition to the Prince’s reforms and absolutism which he managed to break. State policy was aimed at the territorial expansion of Montenegro, the liberation of surrounding areas and international recognition of independence. In order to fulfil these aims the Prince sought support from the traditional Montenegrin protector and supporter, Russia, until 1856, and from then he changed his political course and turned towards France. The victory of Grahovac drew the attention of the great powers to the Montenegrin issue, and they helped effectuate the establishment of boarders between Montenegro and Turkey (1858/1859). Although the territorial extension was rather slight, this meant that Montenegro, although not formally, gained real recognition as an independent state. The Prince was killed in Kotor in 1860, victim of a revenge assassination.

During the reign of Prince Nikola, who became King in 1910 and is the last of the famous Petrovic- Njegos dynasty, Montenegro experienced great progress in comparison to previous periods. It went through a renaissance in all spheres of state, social, economic and cultural life. The first period of his rule (1860-1878) is characterised by territorial extension and help to the population in surrounding areas still under Turkish rule. This led to war in 1861-1862 in which the Turks were again led by the notorious Omar Pasha Latas. A catastrophe was avoided only at the intercession of the Russia and France with the Turkish government. However, the Prince did not give up his goal of territorial enlargement. In the Great Eastern Crisis (1875-1878), Prince Nikola discerned a historical opportunity for Montenegro. When he understood that because of Austrian interests he could not hope for any part of Herzegovina, he turned towards the Tara and Lim valleys and the Adriatic Sea. Although the provisions of the Berlin Congress (held in the summer of 1878) were much more unfavourable to Montenegro than the San Stefano Peace Treaty (March 1878), its territory was more than doubled and it gained important towns and part of the Adriatic coast. In the second period of the reign of Nikola I (1878-1905), there were already ripe conditions for civic, industrial and cultural development, for the establishment of transport, telephone, telegraph, agricultural reforms, for reforms in schools, state management and the army. Instead of the Senate he established the State Council, the ministries and the Great Court. The Prince’s government was formed in 1902; judicial and executive power were separated, a new administrative and territorial division into regions (and further to captaincies) was carried out but the Prince’s power remained inviolable. Dr. Valtazar Bogisic made the greatest contribution to the development of the legal system in Montenegro. His General Property Code is a masterpiece of legal thought, theory and practice. The rapid development of the society and the schooling of pupils and students resulted in the increasingly vociferous demands for the democratisation of Montenegro. The newly emerging middle class and intellegencia generally opposed the attitudes of the Prince and his regime. Although they cherished democratic ideas, amid heated political infighting and under the influence of the surrounding area, they turned against the state interests of Montenegro and it survival. The growing tension became especially obvious in the third period of Nikola’s rule (1905-1918). This is the period of the first Montenegrin Constitution and the establishment of the parliamentary system. The national Parliament was constituted, and the Prince shared his power with it. Montenegro was claimed a constitutional Monarchy and in 1910 it was raised to the level of a Kingdom. With the traditional support of Russia it followed European policy.

In the first Balkan war with Turkey, Montenegro liberated Pljevlja, Bijelo Polja, Berane, Plv, Gusinje and Razaje, and extended to Metohia. In the battle if Skadar (1913) Montenegrin interests opposed the interests of the Great Powers, and so, along with great casualties, it was faced with defeat. In World War I, after outstanding military successes and the battle of Mojkovac, the Montenegro army, betrayed and abandoned by the allies, experienced a catastrophe. It surrendered at the beginning of 1916, the people fell into slavery, King Nikola left the country along with the government and a substantial number of soldiers and officers were sent to Austro-Hungarian prison camps. After the capitulation of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Great Peoples Assembly in Podgorica (November 24-28, 1918) voted for an unconditional unification of Montenegro with Serbia – disregarding the constitution of Montenegro and the will of its sovereign and its people. This was the end of the centuries- long statehood and independence. Two days later, on December I, 1918, the Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats and the Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) was proclaimed. In the new united state, Montenegro first fell within the Zeta region, and then the Zeta province.

In World War II, the July 13 uprising of the Montenegrin people in 1941 against Italian and German fascist occupation forces was unique in its massiveness in the whole of the conquered Europe of that time. Later, the majority of Montenegrin citizens joined the Yugoslav ant-fascist liberation movement, contributing, according to its ability, to the victory of the allies and democracy. In the Socialist Federation Republic of Yugoslavia, Montenegro achieved progress and affirmation in the fields of social and cultural life. After its disintegration in 1991 Montenegro chose to live together with Serbia in a new country – the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


HM Ambassador Kevin Lyne unveiling the stone sculpture presented by the British Government

In 2009 details of all secret operations carried out by the British SOE in WW II have been released under the Public Information Act for public view. It was of particular interest to the then HM Ambassador Mr. Kevin Lyne that the following details came to light.

The Government of Montenegro and British Embassy organized an event in the village of Brezna on Friday 4th September. The event included a military band, an air show the unveiling of the memorial, speeches from HM Kevin Lyne and the President and photo exhibition in the school in Brezna.

During World War II in the summer of 1944 there was a mission of cooperation between the British SOE (Special Operations Executive), BAF (Balkan Air Force) and Partisans (dominant communist resistance fighters).

“Partisans being forced back by German battalions”

By August 1944 the 2nd Battalion of the Partisans were in retreat and increasingly pinned down by German forces in the vicinity of Durmitor. By 12th August, desperate battles were being waged for control of Savnik (12 miles north of Niksic), Indeed, a BAF airstrip in Negovudje (which had been earmarked for the evacuation of Partisan wounded) fell into German hands. Pinned back to a line west of the Niksic-Pljevlja road, the Partisans awaited their fate. With the number of dead, injured and incapacitated growing steadily (not to mention the burden imposed by the bearing of stretchers, estimated at least two, possibly four fighting men or woman), the Partisans were at risk of being overwhelmed by the superior German battalions. The wounded became a burden, limiting the capacity of the Partisan fighters; their ability to defend themselves against the onslaught diminishing with every casualty taken. Put simply, the situation was critical. The Partisans could only become mobile again if the wounded were airlifted out. But whilst this was theoretically possible, it was in practice exceptionally ambitious and potentially hazardous. But luck was on their side. The capitulation of both Bulgaria and Romania in August 1944 dictated that the Germans had to refocus their efforts (and manpower) on safeguarding rail communications in Serbia, and thus they were forced to withdraw a significant number from the Savnik-Niksic area.

“Flt Lt Philip Lawson was guest of honour at the ceremony”

But whilst this relieved the immediate pressure, it did little to solve the problem of the burden of the Partisan wounded. They could not become mobile before this matter was resolved. The BAF was required to airlift them out, but this would prove problematic. The first problem would be finding a space where large enough craft (Dakota’s) could be accommodated. In the mountainous terrain surrounding Durmitor, the chances of finding an appropriate piece of ground upon which an airstrip could be constructed for that purpose was, put simply, slim. Arguing to their superiors at SOE headquarters in Bari that an airlift was the only option for saving the Partisan effort, two SOE officers who had been seconded from the RAF – Flt Lt Thomas Mathias and Flt Lt Philip Lawson – were dispatched to the Durmitor region on a reconnaissance mission to find a suitable piece of terrain upon which to construct an airfield which would allow for the landing of the Dakota aircraft. After several fruitless expeditions and two days of marching, they found such a spot near the village of Donja Brezna (located between Niksic and Savnik). Hardly ideal and only just large enough, the space would have to suffice. A small strip of flat ground in the village of Brezna was decided upon.

he village of Brezna incorporating lower (donja) and upper (gornja) was the largest valley in the Piva region of Montenegro. Situated about 30 miles north of Niksic, the valley stretched between Komanica Canyon on its northern edge to mount Vojnik on its southern. The village itself was situated on about 1000 meters above sea-level and the valley was about 8 miles long from east to west and around a mile wide. The north eastern part of the valley is called Gornja (upper) Brezna and Donja (lower) Brezna on the north-western section of the valley. The central part of the valley is called Potprisoje. Before World War II the village was populated with only 1000 inhabitants with agriculture its main source of economy, predominately the nomadic style of cattle and sheep breeding. Prior to the arrival of the SOE, the majority of population supported the communist-led Partisans’, although a small proportion opted to support the Chetniks. A number of villagers took an active part in fighting with the Partisans against the Italians and Germans. It is estimated that 104 people died during the war, 43 from Gornja Brezna, 24 from Potprisoje and 37 from Donja Brezna. The majority were innocent civilians killed by Germans between 1943 and 1944. The worst incidents involved the feared German Prince Eugene Division during the Fifth Offensive against Partisans. During this period the Germans forces slaughtered many civilians in Piva Region, among them almost 70 people were killed in Brezna, with the majority killed by firing squad or burned alive in their homes.

In Brezna and the surrounding villages, locals (mostly children, women and older men) were mobilised into action – to clear the fields, destroy existing walls, fill in ditches and prepare the foundations for the airstrip. Hardly ideal and only just enough, the space would have to suffice. In a broadcast given to the BBC in August 1944, Flt Lt Philip Lawson described the scene:

The plan of making airstrips in this particular zone were no strip had been made before was decided upon as the only hope. I was sent ahead to reconnoiter for level ground. With me came a British Army Major, a Partisan Engineer and some couriers. The ground wasn’t exactly ideal. It was on a slight hill, with a wheat field, slit trenches and sheep folds across it. But we collected the inhabitants of five villages, and people came from miles around. They scythed the green corn, removed fences and filled the trenches. They carried the hard white stones away in wooden buckets and on the evening of the second day of work the airfield was ready.

With the work completed within 48 hours the landings could begin. But according to Flt Lt Mathias, the pilots had no idea an airfield had been built at Brezna (they had been instructed that their next mission was near Dubrovnik). Upon seeing the airstrip, however, he noted it was very satisfactory for a daytime operation – being approximately 830 yards long and 80 yards wide. On 2th August, British Spitfires guided by the white parachute canopies laid out on the runway, dropped message bags informing the beleaguered Partisans that British and American Dakotas would soon arrive to provide vital assistance to the wounded , landing in waves of six per hour (with approximately thirty wounded on each plane). In the meantime, to ensure that the objective of landing Dakotas could be achieved, it was imperative that the Partisans held their line of defense during the German assault. Failure would mean that the Partisans would have to leave their wounded to an uncertain fate. Flt Lt Mathias was one of the first Dakota pilots to land on the airstrip. He succinctly depicted the scene as he arrived at Donja Brezna:

“Rough landing on temporary airstrip”

The atmosphere at Lawson’s airfield was the tensest I have ever known. Some of the wounded had been travelling for more than four months with little or no skilled attention. This, they knew, was their only chance. If the planes did not come they would be driven again to the hills, and with the Germans closing in, many undoubtedly would have been slaughtered.

As the German forces advanced, the Dakotas (protected by Mustangs and Spitfires) landed in Donja Brezna. Time was of the essence. However, in a daring, chaotic and ambitious maneuver led by Wing Commander James Polson, more than 800 wounded (SOE and BAF estimates vary between 800 and 1000) were airlifted to Italy. Typhus was widespread among those airlifted out, and many were suffering critical injuries. Polson was shocked by the condition of the wounded, as he recounted following the event:

From a medical point of view, most of the wounded were in a pathetic state of malnutrition. Because of their shortage of stretchers and bearers, these Partisans consider anyone who can stand upright and breathe to be a walking case. One man had walked to a report centre after having had a bullet pass clean through his chest, touching his left lung. He too was a walking case… They don’t always have anaesthetic for their amputations and conditions were such that the general state of sepsis was appalling, apart from the presence of lice, typhus and some malaria. But despite their weakness they gave a tremendous cheer each time a plane landed.

“Wounded being helped into Dakota’s arriving every 15 minutes”

The Dakotas managed to airlift thirty-five people per flight, taking, according to Flt Lt Mathias, twenty-five minutes to load and get each of the six aircraft away. Releasing the burden of the injured and infirm liberated the stretcher bearers, who were now free to engage the German forces. Despite this, the Partisans were overwhelmed and forced into retreat, and a few hours later the Germans occupied the village of Donja Brezna. The ambitious airlift had been successful only by a matter of minutes. It remains one of the most spectacular, yet little known, air stories of the war in Yugoslavia. The Dakota landings were the first in a series of joint SOE-Allied-Partisan actions that proved instrumental in changing the dynamics on the ground. But the roll of the Balkan Air force, whilst celebrated in the context of the Dakota landings, has been the subject of significant debate. Holistically effective, the Allied intervention brought some negative effects. The Allied bombing of major towns and communication routes, through which the German forces were retreating wrought significant damage upon Niksic, Bijelo Polje, Ulcinj, Pljevlja and Podgorica. Following the Dakota landings and numerous other SOE operations, a Partisan offensive was launched that would force the German units from Montenegrin soil.

“The wounded arriving in Bari Italy”

The fighting in the summer months of 1944 was fierce. The German command in Berlin had only one objective left, ensuring that Montenegro did not fall to the communists, and in this they found a willing partner in the Chetniks. Between February and July 1944 the Chetniks carried out mass executions in the areas they still controlled, whilst in the north-east of Montenegro the notorious Albanian-dominated, 21st SS Skenderberg Division massacred over 400 of the Orthodox population around Andrijevica. Both these areas were back under Partisan control by the end of August 1944, with much of the planning being done in the BAF headquarters in Bari

The above is an extract from a commissioned report by Kenneth Morrison (Lecturer in International Relations at Birkbeck Collage, University of London)