Начало История Biographical notes for Colonel Stefan Iliev

Biographical notes for Colonel Stefan Iliev

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Author:  Emilia Kozhuharova

Source: “Venets” magazine, volue 4, book 2

Book cover

Book cover

The full title of the commemorative book of the Belogradchik non-commissioned regiment “Col. St. Iliev” is “Biographical notes for Colonel Stefan Iliev,a commander of the 15th Infantry Regiment of Lom (killed on March 26, 1917 in the Red Wall location) “.  The first edition of the book, printed in 1930 in Stamen Kamenov’s print house in Belogradchik, was followed by a second edition two years later.

There are some senior officers in 15th Infantry Regiment of Lom who have left indelible memories in the heart of the Belogradchik community. Among them were Colonel Hranov, a battle commander of the Regiment during the first Balkan War, Colonel Kavarnaliev, killed in action in the Second Balkan War, Colonel Shishkov, a commander of 15th infantry regiment of Lom at the end of WWI – the officer with a major contribution to saving the battle flag of the regiment left in hostage after the Bulgarian ill fate at the end of the war, colonel Kehayov who commanded 15th infantry regiment of Lom for most of the Second World War. Among those names, the image of Colonel Stefan Iliev has a special halo of a hero. That’s why, the reserve of the Belogradchik non-commissioned officers carries his name with honor. Therefore, the plaster statue of this beloved regimental commander stands in the ballroom at the Officers ‘ Meeting Hall in the center of Belogradchik for years – it’s a sculpture of exceptional artistic qualities, unfortunately destroyed in the years of the early Communism.

 Colonel Stefan Iliev was born on 24 June 1869 in Vidin. He was the son of poor but humble and virtuous parents and since early childhood, he was raised in the spirit of patriotism. Quiet by nature and attentive to all, he spent his teenage years in hard work. With his noble character, he used to win the  respect of the people around him. He used to be the example of good manners for his teachers. The patriotism of his parents and the environment in which he lived infiltrated his soul. He loved his country since early childhood and made up his mind to become an officer which would most nobly fulfil his patriotic debt. In 1887 he graduated from the Male High School of Vidin and on July 17 he became a cadet in the Military School. And here in this sacred building, where only noble feelings bloomed, he was even happier to be trained and when the time for battle came, to be able to worthily fulfill his duty.

 He graduated the high school in October 1888 and became a cadet of the senior year and on 18 May 1889 he finished the Military school with honors and rose to the rank of second lieutenant to be later appointed a platoon commander to the Third Infantry Bdin Regiment. And as a young officer, his desire for development and knowledge intensified increasingly. He knew very well that the officer was not only the head but rather the educator, and to educate was not an easy task. Having already started to delve in this direction with his typical perseverance, his efforts were finally crowned with success: he learnt German and Russian in order to use and benefit from the military literature and acquired the ability to properly assessed and reasonably interpret each stage of the military life. His sharp intelligence quickly attracted the attention of his superiors. On the third month of his service, the commander of IInd company appointed Stefan Iliev an aide-de-camp.  He performed his duty with skillfulness and perfection for three years. The commander of the regiment was so impressed by this young officer and appointed him adjutant of the regiment as he apparently felt that only this second lieutenant Iliev would serve this post best.  And at the headquarters he was the example of efficiency, tactfulness and prudence.

On August 2, 1892, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.  He continued to serve as adjutant of the Bdin Regiment until 1 February 1895 when he left to attend the officer’s courses in the Military school. He was pleased that after all those years he could come back again where he used to spent his years as cadet. He cherished his memories from that time. His comrades already knew what kind of officer he was, thus respecting him more. It was an honor for them to have such a notable man in their class. After the successful completion of the course, lieutenant Iliev returned to his regiment as an assistant company commander of the 7th unit.  He spend one year on this post and on 1 January 1899 he was promoted to a “captain” and appointed a commander of the 2nd company of the 12th Reserve Regiment. A new field of work and new perspectives uncovered before him. He knew beforehand the hardships and responsibility of his new job as a company commander. To train was easy but to resurrect souls and create characters was a delicate and arduous task.  But he was prepared for such a task, he was burning from the desire to create.  Being far from corruption, vengeance, envy and malice, hating slander, meanness and hypocrisy, he taught more easily his subordinates with this spiritual and perfect image. He was loved by all – his superiors loved him for his diligence and perfection, his comrades also loved him for his sincerity and good heart, his subordinates loved him as a father for his advice to them. He recieved a medal for his excellent and immaculate 10-year service.

 In October 1901, he left the regiment and headed for his new post as “adjutant of 2nd Brigade” of Infantry Division Bdin. On this new post, he served with the same diligence and efficency. Considered to be the best and most faithful to his assignment, he was sent to Budapest in 1903.   After his return, he continued to be the Brigade Adjutant.

 On 1 January 1904 he became the company commander of the 3rd Infantry Division Bdin and and took the command of the 1st company. More than happy and with a new zest for work, he started educating and enlightening the people in his native region. Having served for 5 months only in the 1st company, on 1 June 1904 he was sent to the 1st Sofia Division as a company commander to the the training sergeant battalion. Again, Capital Iliev was the example and his knowledge and excellent teaching methods served as a good preparation for the future NCOs. After the end of this company’s course, he returned to his regiment temporarily commanding the 1st company.

In 1905-1906 he graduated successfully the staff-officers’ course and came to his regiment again to continue his service, however, as the commander of this group.  He continued to be as creative and useful and in the spring of 1907 he responded to his office as a “a senior adjutant of the 1/6 Brigade”. As a moral reward for his tirelessness and diligent service, he was awarded the National Medal of Military Merit (V degree), and then the Medal for 20 years of service. He spent two and a half years on this post, and when leaving it, he imprinted dear memories on the hearts of the people from the Brigade’s headquarters.

At the end of 1909 he was already a commander of the 2-a company of 15th Infantry Regiment of Lom in Belogradchik, in which regiment he was destined to spent his last days.  On 1 January 1910, he was promoted to “major” and in the same year he was awarded the Medal “For Independence”. Not long ago, all people in this new region started knowing and loving him. Totally unable to insult even an ordinary soldier, he used to influence people by his own example and words of excitement.  For him, remorse was enough punishment and sure step on the path of virtue. Everyone around him was willing to make sacrifices for him – his high morals and noble soul were appealing to all.

In January 1912 he left his subordinates with heartache in order to work in the regiment administration.  And he continued as conscientiously as always to work as administrator untill the mobilization for the Balkan War.

The manifest from September 17, 1912 declared general mobilization, and that was the actual start of the war with Turkey.  All Bulgarian hearts trembled with joy that finally the time of requital had come. Major Iliev has awaited this time since his youth – he was oblivious to his own needs and had one dream only – to see the Bulgarian people united, and to see all those still in slavery enjoy the final freedom. And he took the lead of 4th company.

He shared his joy and pride in his patriotic speeches to his subordinates and prepared them for the victory from the barracks.

In front of the Military Club – 25 September 2012

In front of the Military Club – 25 September 2012

On 25 September the regiment left the town solemnly and was sent from Belogradchik with good wishes; the fond scenes of separation excited the heart of company’s commander even more, and at this time of mutual hope, he saw freedom rising from the South.

 There followed days of hike: passing through village Dolni Dom – village Gushanci – the city of Vratsa-Eski Djumaja – Osman market – Kotel – Straldzha. On 2 October the regiment passed the border. All the soldiers were burning with desire to meet the enemy, but other regiments were assigned to enter into the battle first. The regiment of Lom passed through Lozengrad and on 16 October the soldiers recieved their first combat assignment: 1st and 2nd companies to the right of the 3rd Infantry Regiment in the first battle line, and 3-a and 4-a companies in the deployable brigade troops – to attack the line northwest from Lûle Burgas. Mad from the wild offensive, the enemy didn’t wait for the last moment and retreated to Qaraağac – Türk-Bay in disorder, with the troops doing nothing. The soldiers from the Lom Regiment took the eastern part of the city awaiting the new assignment. And here it was.

 Early in the morning of 17 October, the Brigade withdrew to take their place in the battleline – the East and Southeast heights from Turk-Bey against the Ushak Division. Three Bdin companies and one company from Lom were in the first line, one Bdin and one Lom companies served as support, and the 2-and 4-companies were in the deployable brigade troops. The orderly and headlong movement of the brigade continued to Turk-bay village.  The murderous fire of the enemy, the passing through the village and the river Ispo upset the rows of the soldiers, and to the front was only an open meadow and the impassible Karaağaç river. Offensive was now impossible. The attempts of the chiefs to move on was to no avail. The brigade commander then ordered the signal man to play “offensive” but no one heard the whistle among this hellish thunder of grenades and the horrible shriek of the bullets. No one moved from their places.  Then, the Brigade Commander ordered the unit of major Iliev, 15-and 16-a companies, to spread in rows to the south front of village Türk-Bey and with a battle cry “Hooray” to run over the enemy line. The moment was glorious, it was a moment of trial. But would the heroes of major Iliev, who were taught to scorn death and praise the immortality of those who fell dead for the national ideal, disgrace him?!

 The musicians were playing “Shumi Maritsa” and the drums were howling! The soldiers widely flew into attack with “Hurrah”. They were not disturbed by the deep Karaağaç river, they waddled in its waters, and the murderous fire from all directions didn’t stop them, but rather they attacked more vigorously. And this vortex of death engulfed the entire Brigade. Here they were – already near, ready to stomp into the terrible abyss of war. Knives out! The Turks were desperate, they dispersed in chaos, looking for salvation.  And the eastern army of Abdullah Pasha retreated behind Soudžak dere river.

 That was the glorious day on which the soldiers were baptized in their own blood and with that blood they wrote the date of their fight. On this day, at the frontline were the brave men from 4th unit.

 The war was still up and major Iliev together with his company, a significant part of the regiment, passed Çorlu and found theirselves in Ezetin to take position against the “Karakola” fortification. On November 4, at the head of the battalion, he lead the battle to win control over the village, he managed to pass it and the deep river Erkene and with a sweeping offensive, despite the strong enemy resistance, he took the fortified stronghold before “Karakola”. For this battle, he was awarded with the medal “For bravery”.

 Here, he stands in position, without leading any fights. By the end of November his company was substituted by 16th infantry regiment, and Iliev set off on vacation in the city of Erekli. In those days of hardship and deprivation, tending to any war in the region, he stoically endured everything, always providing his personal example to his subordinates.  The spirit of his soldiers was strong and this he saw as a promise for any future victory. In February 1913, the entire 6th Division had to reach the Chataldzha fortifications. Major Iliev had to settle his company in Kolibi village where he spent almost a month. On 11 March, together with his unit, he got the assignment to serve the Chief of the 1st Sofia Division at the station between Epivato and Surgun-kioi villages. 37 and 38 infantry regiments, under the stronghold of the numerous enemy, around 10 a.m. on March 10, left their position at the village of Arnavutköy.  The enemy was already in their trenches. Did that mean that the fame of the Bulgarian arms would be tainted?! The 4th company must save the day, even at the cost of their own lives. With their beloved commander in the lead, the battalion ran headlong in loose chains, and as in the attack at Turk-bey, they engulfed the rows of the retreating regiments.  The enemy again could not bear the cries of “Hooray” and “knives out” – the enemy soldiers escaped and never thought of a new offensive. The company stood on this position until the Truce.

 And when he thought to go back home with his lads, happy for having fulfilled his dream, the ghosts from the Second Balkan War began reappearing. With heavy heart, he dispised this meanness and treachery, as the fair and noble soldier could not even imagine that such an envy could taint to such an extent the minds of his yesterday allies.

 Major Iliev again left for new battles, together with his men. He did a heroic hike – from Çorlu – Rodosto – Dedeagach -Kavala – Drama – through the Rupel Gorge and far to Strumica where he was attached to the 35th infantry regiment to defend the line of Vardar River, left from the bridge across Gevgelija. That was a 28-day crusade but the exhausted heroes from 4th company behaved well in the unbearable heat. The Greek troops didn’t disturb them, they mowed the enemy lines with the the most violent fire. But there were moments when the enemy forced the unit to retreat from battle again at the Kosturski heights and thence to stop at Beas Tepe to thwart the numerous Greek waves of soldiers. The fight here reached its utmost cruelty, but what good was that heroic resistance of a small part when a total retreat was needed? Major Iliev withdrew his company to Ruen peak and the Truce found him with broken ideals and devastated dreams. He couldn’t see the brave Bulgarians united, on the contrary, a new even more cruel slavery was taking a toll.

Colonel Stefan iliev (1869-1917)

Colonel Stefan iliev (1869-1917)

Cruel retaliation for our selfless devotion. And all dipped their flags for better days. He believed in the bright future of Bulgaria, better late than never but he was sure that these days would come.

 On 22 September 1913, he returned to Belogradchik with his company and once again was assigned to the post of regiment administrator.  He fulfilled his duties with the same willingness and devotion as he used to do before the war.

 For his excellence and bravery in the times of war, he was awarded with the medal of St. Alexander” V grade and a medal “For bravery”. On 14 Feb 1914, he was promoted to the rank of “Lieutenant Colonel” and in the same month he was subsequently appointed a Head of the 15th Regiment Department. He served on this post until the new war.

 The World War began and with it the expectations that they should not stay indifferent. All Bulgarian hearts trembled with joy that the time for redemption had finally come, and there would be slavery no more.  Such were the feelings and desires in the soul of lieutenant-colonel Iliev.  Bulgaria announced its alliance with the Central Powers. The task was to break the Serbian resistance.

 The Lom Regiment left Belogradchik and took the highway to Golemanovo village. It was in this village where lieutenant-colonel Iliev reached his regiment and on 29 October he took the command of 4th company. As a support to the regiment, he spent his time in Halovo village, where the most violent battles were fought. On 14 November, the Lom unit smoothly took the road to Zaječar. The Serbs have already fled but they should not be given the opportunity to stop and dig trenches somewhere.  In Zajecar the soldiers moved towards Planinitsa village and up to 19th the same month, the regiment served as a reserve of 6th division.  The same day around 10 a.m., the Lom infantry regiment replaced 35th infantry regiment and took the first battleline directly against the fortification Vukova glava. In this case the lieutenant-colonel Iliev took the command of the regiment as the actual chief had gone to serve as a brigade Commander. He skillfully directed 2nd and 4th units to the first battleline and 1st unit as a regiment support.

 The position was strongly fortified and the Serbs expected to get hold of it for at least seven days in order to enable the troops behind to withdraw. The commander of the regiment led him men to attack around 7 p.m on 19 November but they were turned down; the Serbs were persistent and with a murderous firing they turned the Bulgarian troops back.  This,however, didn’t disturb lieutenant-colonel Iliev. Second, third … seven attacks in a row were made and all were unsuccessful.

 But he had full faith in his Lom Company that they would all die rather than lose. And he led the eighth attack at dawn, fighting to life or death, to glory or disgrace. The legendary Lom unit vehemently attacked. The death toll was immense but there was no way back, only headlong. In 8 a.m. on November 20, the Bulgarian knife was raised high to acknowledge the victory over the Serbian position. The defenders fled in despair, leaving everything behind. The chase was taken by 3rd Infantry Regiment, and lieutenant-colonel Iliev gathered his regiment on the highway to take the road to the city of Bolevac. Then came the captain of the 6th Division, who greeted the regiment for their brilliant victory  – a result of their immense bravery and sacrifice –  he thanked the Lom men and their commander. He was just leaving and here was the commander of the brigade.  In a strong heartfelt speech he underlined the importance of this victory and when thanking his Lom men for the brilliant deed, he started weeping, tears hindered his words and his speech ended up by kissing the beloved lieutenant-colonel Iliev.

 After this touching scene and the appreciation of the achievement, the regiment continued to Bolevac, as a division reserve. The chief commander of his regiment returned and lieutenant-colonel Iliev got the command of his men. With them, he went through Aleksinac – Nis – Prokuplje – Lebane, then returned back to pass along the border at D″sčan-well and went for Novo selo – Trun village – Breznik-Radomir – Dupnitsa. Up till now, the regiment had not taken part in any fights as the men served as reserve first to 1st Sofia Division, and then to Tundzha Division and there was no need for their interference.

 The men from the Lom company spent the winter accommodated in the city of Dupnitsa. The Commander of the 4th Battalion with his typical zeal made every effort to encourage his men and maintain the discipline of his troops. He knows that the war was not going to end soon, that the winner would be the one who lasts a moment more, and this required patience and high fighting spirit.

On 19 Feb 1916, lieutenant-colonel Iliev was assigned a commander of 15th infantry regiment.  There was no higher position for him, yet with much more responsibilities,  in which the excellent qualities of this army chief to shine. In April, he left Dupnitsa and on foot through Gorna Djumaya he reached Kolarovo village. He stayed in this village till 28 July when he headed for Udovo railway station. On this station, he stayed till 13 August and then he went from Gradsko – Driyanovo – Babuna planina – Prilep to take his position before Bitolya where to be the reserve of 1st army.  Fierce fights began for the possession of Chegan Peak. The regiment moved to Banitsa village, and the 3rd company, together with 52nd infantry regiment, attacked the hills. The Serbs were very well fortified, their opposition was desperate, and the location excellently facilitated their defense, and despite the support from 1st  and 4th companies in the first battle line, their high spirit and sacrifice, they hardly manage to protect the front trenches. These were the memorable fights of Chegan Peak from 24 to 30 August. First Lom company made most of the striking attacks but the major Chegan position could not be conquered by the Bulgarians. Exhausted bythe seven-days non-stop battles, the Lom regiment was replaced by 3rd infantry regiment, and was sent to Varben village in order to be prepared for new battles. On 13 September, lieutenant-colonel Iliev led his people to Vich Peak near Ostrovsko lake, but there he received the order to get back as Kaymakchalan and Chegan were completely devoid of any Bulgarian troops. He arrived in the city of Lerin and together with 33rd infantry regiment his people formed one big brigade. Late on 16 September, the Lom regiments with their brave commander were positioned at Armenohor village, ready to repel any enemy attacks. They all were ready to die but never to retreat. Only over their dead bodies would the enemy be able to conquer their position. That was the result of the education their brave commander gave them.

On the next day (17 Sept), the French batteries initiated their hurricane-like murderous firing against our Lom lads. They thought was that they could kill the Bulgarian spirit with iron only. But they were so wrong, these French guys! For 24 hours they attacked more than 12 times in order to see their own desertion and multiple victims. Even the Russian brigade attempted to enter the Bulgarian positions in waves but they also found the same doom as the French units. The artillery hurricanes and storm attacks continued for 5 days and the location was dispersed with Russian and French bodies.

On 22 Sept, when 51st infantry regiment, right from the Lom regiment, managed to withstand against the strong pressure of the French, lieutenant-colonel Iliev personally went to the commander of 3/15 battalion threading through the hard landscape and ordered him that no one was to  retreat without his permission.

The faultless eye of the brave warrior, expressed in his appropriate commands, gave the expected results – he managed to disperse 4th company in loose chains behind the retreating 51st infantry regiment, and when the last soldier saw how the Lom lads threaded ahead, they returned in excitement. With bombs and the typical cry of the Bulgarians “knives out”, the French troops ran in horror to leave the conquered line, and their brave comrades found their death there. 51st infantry regiment again took their position. With so many victims, the French started passive defense, they never tried an action of offense.

Heartbroken, lieutenant-colonel Iliev had to lead to Lazhec village, as the troops on the left were already retreating. In this village, he again took the position from 2 October and in 2 days the French firing invited him to prepare for battle again. On 4 October around 4 p.m., 18 Russian rows attacked under the cover of the French fire. They attacked for some time but after a while all their attempts were doomed. The Russians craved for the night to come and help them, hoping that the Lom company would get scared from the dark. There were only night attacks on 5 and 6 October – defeat and victims. The frontline was already silent. The Russians were no longer willing to fight. The general atmosphere demotivated them. This tranquility continued till the last day when the Lom regiment headed through Bitolya to Dyakovo village to take their position from 1248k. to the plain in front of Bratin dol and Tarnovo, and the Red Wall to the south to Prister Peak. The regiment commander did his best in order to strengthen their new section. There, the troops stood until 11 March 1917, not very often upset by the enemy.

A bust of lieutenant-colonel Stefan Iliev

A bust of lieutenant-colonel Stefan Iliev

On 11 March the position of lieutenant-colonel was heavily bombarded. He never before had managed to overcome the enemy but here he would definitely win. Without any offensive from the infantrymen, the French fiercely fired the defendants of the Red Wall. It was getting clear that the enemy had thought of something more serious and terrible. And in the morning of 16 March, two regiments attacked Shotka village from the Red Wall. Smoke and flames everywhere, and nothing could be seen through. The 3rd company heroically stroke back the attackers from the hills. The message of our defendants was that the enemy would take with them the lack of glory and their shame. And so it happened that way.

The fire got more fierce, hellish and murderous and this continued until 6 p.m. when it spreaded to the support troops. The regiment suffered so many victims; there were just a few alive from 9th company.  The French had attacked with two regiments against a single company! The French troops invaded the trenches of Shotka and took the 200-meter section. The enemy had paid dearly for this tiny victory. They were striking only on the right to expand their success but without moving from the already conquered sector. But their victory was rather brief. In the evening of 20 March, the enemy had to retreat in order to attack anew. With greater forces, Shotka fell in the hands of the enemy and also the Kupolata. The fierce fire continued for three days (22, 23, 24 March) and in all this horror, the 6th Lom company together with 1/55 battalion again conquered Kupolata. The French were furious and on  25 March they spillt hurricanes of bullets.  The same situation continued on 26 March until 2 p.m. when the French troops attacked Kupolata again. Lieutenant-colonel Iliev was intently watching the horrible scene among smoke and thunder of shells, waiting for the moment to show everyone that he was not afraid of death.

An eyewitness describes the next stages of the fight highly artistically:

 The smoke kept crawling on the back of the Red Wall, and already filled the entire Magarevski dol, it crawled up, striving to embrace in its dark grey veil the slopes of  Pelister peak. And the lieutenant-colonel, still propped up on his stick and eyes fixed in the distance, was still cheerful and relaxed when through the smoke an onlooker came from the trenches and breathlessly , in sweat and dust, brought the alarming message that the French troopos were advancing in large waves again, and the onlookers in the trenches of 6th unit were all killed, and the few alive could hardly hold the position for long.

 Hearing this bad news, the heart of the lieutenant-colonel got excited, his eyebrows were raised somewhat anxiously, and his eyes flashed in their orbits. He approached the commander of 3rd battalion:

“Captain, you be careful and watch from here and I am going with the support troops!”

After that he turned to the Commander of the 10th company, lieutenant Krosnarski, and commanded:

“The sergeant-major with 3 and 4 platoons immediately to occupy the trench and the entrance to the Shkodova heights, and you and the other two platoons go to the crest of these (Rocky) hills!”

He gave orders and directions, made the sign of cross, hailed with his wooden stick and called to 9th company, to 3rd platoon and the troops from 4th platoon and 6th company enthusiastically:

 “Lads, today, Bulgaria relies on us! – Our country expects us to protect it! We need to get rid of the French, who trampled in the trenches of the 6th company. Forward, lads, God is with us! … I am with you and I, your commander! – Ahead! “

 His voice was thundering amid the deafening crash, and the eyes of the soliders were filled with zest. When he uttered these words, he waved again with his walking stick in the air and rushed forward, and after him – the support troops. The hearts of all the soliders went in flames. Despising death, curled under their heavy backpacks but their spirit light with this grand moment, they flew forward. The platoons from the reserve trenches and those from the Rocky Heights had already started murderous fire against the French; the machine guns and mortars were already in use, and the troops, led by their commander, approached the enemy trenches in the left flank of the 6th company.

“Colonel, your arm is wounded!” – one of the accompanying soldiers called him, noticing blood on the right hand of the lieutenant-colonel, who still had the walking stick in hand, waving it to the enemy.

 But the colonel seemed to hear nothing. Near the colonel, Alexi Ivanov was waving his hands to his comrades that were lagging behind, and shirtless as in the moment of the attack, continued to shout enthusiastically:

 “Guys, comrades, let’s get along with the Commander! Next after him!

 Hearing this brave call, the “hurrah” of the guys mingled with the thunder of the shells and mines, machine-gun and rifle fire. When this unstoppable wave reached the trenches, the French managed to pass the barbed wire and jump over. Our soldiers, elated by their success, opened standing fire against the French; some were throwing bombshells, and others were knife-killing the enemy soliders who still lagged behind.  In a few minutes the enemy was swept from the trenches.

 “Colonel, please, step back, you’re wounded in the shoulder!”. – a soldier cried aloud, showing the hole in the colonel’s coat and the white fur of the lining.

“You are wounded in the forhead, as well,” – others noticed the tiny streak of blood running to his hat flap.

 However, the bright red face of the lieutenant-colonel stood as calm as if he was deaf and couldn’t see or feel anything around. His whole being was engulfed by the thought of his debt in this critical moment and he was interested in nothing else but the victory over the enemy.

When he stopped and defeated the enemy, he squeezed 9-company and the platoons from 10 company between 3rd company and parts of the 4th platoon of the 6th company, ordering the first to go to the left, the second – to the right, and only when he got convinced that this would bring peace around the position and these measures would recover the connection between the parts on the whole frontline, he decided to withdraw to get bandaged. It was already dark.

 The fire from the artillery and the mines had not yet reached the lines. On the contrary, in some areas the French were still firing as if they wanted to vent all their spite for their own damage.

 All alone, without taking anyone with him, the colonel marched slowly in the twilight to the ridge where the enemy bombs were spilling most. The shells muffled all the noises, and he was still mute and unabashed in this thunder. It was when he reached the crest that a heavy shell fell near him, took him to the ground and hurt him lethally in the left of his breasts.

Later in darkness, they found the hero dead. He had died instantly from the bombshell. His blushing face was peaceful. His spirit was still iron even in the moment of eternal separation with this world.

 On 26 March, the commander of the regiment paid with his blood, but he managed to stop the French advance by crushing their power and smoldering their spirit for long. That was the end of this glorious warrior. What his heart had from his early youth got expression in reality. In the night, he was transferred to Zhapare village and then, on 28 March – to the town of Prilep. Here, with all military honors of the garrison, lieutenant-colonel Iliev was buried in the churchyard.

 For his excellence and distinction early in fight, Stefan Iliev was awarded medals “For bravery” – I and II class, the German Iron Cross – II degree and the Turkish Crescent. After the end of these battles, an order came that on 16 March 1917 he would be promoted a “colonel” for his military achievements.

General Friedrich von Scholz (1851 – 1927)

General Friedrich von Scholz (1851 – 1927)

To honor the death of his corp commander, General Friedrich von Scholz issued an announcement which said:

 that on 26 March lieutenant-colonel Iliev, commander of 15th Lom infantry regiment, died as a hero in counterattack at the Red Wall leading his attacking troops. He was the embodiment of immortality and heroism in the full sense of the word.  Whoever has ever had the chance to look him in the eyes always got the impression that lieutenant-colonel Iliev was a really brave man. For his virtues and deeds, he was proposed to be awarded with the respectable “Iron Cross” – I grade, but alas the fate destined differently.

His regiment, 6th Division, and the entire army will never forget him – he will be always remembered and will be in our hearts forever.

With an order No 196 from 27 March 1917, the commander of the 6th Division spoke to the soldiers:

Dear officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers,             

Yesterday on March 26, 1917., the commander of the 15th infantry regiment of Lom, lieutenant-colonel Iliev died in the battle near the Red Wall – that was the northwestern ridge of the majestic Perister Peak. When seeing that a part of the soldiers of his 1/55 company, distressed by the strong fire, left the trenches and got conquered by the enemy, his soldier’s heart tembled and he decided to lead his support troops – 9th company of his regiment. He bravely led his men in counterattack and in this great moment, the brave and most dedicated lieutenant colonel Iliev was injured by bullet, and then by a grenade and his great soul flew away, accosting on the Perister peak as a guardian of eternity. 

General Hristo Popov (1859)- 1941), the commander of 6th division

General Hristo Popov (1859)- 1941), the commander of 6th division

Dear officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers,

 Let’s honor the remains of Stefan Iliev, say him last goodbye and may God bless him. Let his selfless feat be the example not only for us, but also for the future generations. Let his soul, together with the souls of the multitude of officers, NCOs and soldiers from the 15th and any other regiments of the division, who died for the Tzar and our Fatherland, be his eternal and cheerful sentinel.

Soldiers from Lom, do not hesitate to avenge your enemy for the death of your beloved commander lieutenant-colonel Stefan Iliev.

You can see the original text and reference used here.

 

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