RCAF family visits Montenegro’s Battle of Mojkovac sites

Publication Date 
09 Nov 2018

This Remembrance Day, November 11, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. In 2016, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and his family visited the site of a First World War battle of which most Canadians are probably unaware. They also visited the graves of his ancestors.

“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”

By Captain Milovan Krgusic

During my summer holidays, I took my family of five to Northern Montenegro, where I spent my youth. I wanted my children to find out about their family history and spend some time with their grandparents.

During our four-week trip, we visited the battlefields of the Battle of Mojkovac, a First World War engagement fought January 6 and 7, 1916, near Mojkovac, Montenegro, between the armies of Austria-Hungary and Montenegro. Because of this battle, the 1916 Orthodox Christmas was called “Bloody Christmas”.

The Battle of Mojkovac is renowned for the fierce courage of the Montenegrin soldiers who, outnumbered and lacking supplies, and already weakened by months of fighting in harsh weather, gave their last breath to fight with every primitive weapon available against a much larger and well-equipped foe.

The battle ended in victory for the Montenegrins as they repulsed attacks by the Austria-Hungary armies and took back control of Mojkovac and its surroundings. The Austria-Hungary armies retreated with heavy casualties after two days of fighting hand-to-hand with fixed bayonets and knives in knee-deep snow, their heavy artillery bombardments not able to deter the Montenegrins.

In the autumn of 1916, the Serbian Army joined the Allied Forces on the Macedonian Front. Although secondary, this front played an important role in forcing the Axis powers to sign the armistice of November 11, 1918.

On the battlefields, there is a monument located at Bojna Njiva, the place where some of the fiercest engagements of the Battle of Mojkovac took place. It was built to mark, on August 19, 1996, the 80th anniversary of that historic battle. On the monument there is a plaque with the following text: "We have fallen so that Montenegro and Serbia could live."

There are remains of the trenches from the battle near the monument. Every year on August 19, called Transfiguration Day, the Mojkovac Fair is held near the monument to celebrate the heroes of the battle.

As a kid, I listened to glorious stories about the bravery of Montenegrin soldiers over the superior forces of the Austrian Empire. I was very proud to take my family to this location on the 100th Anniversary of the battle.

We also visited the tombs of my ancestors, who have inhabited the surroundings of Mojkovac for centuries. My great-great-grandfather, Sergeant Petar Krgusic, and my great-grandfather, Vid Krgusic, are buried near those battlefields in the region of Polja (for which Vid was designated captain by the King) alongside other tombs of my ancestors who protected their peers in battle and in peacetime.

My ancestors contributed to world peace, and I am proud to continue to contribute to a peaceful world with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Captain Krgusic is a construction engineering officer at 2 Wing Bagotville, Québec.