Area 18: The battle of Durrës

  1. Skoda artillery being brought into position (E. van der Hoeven Collection, Bergschenhoek)
  2. Inspection of the troops by Zu Wied (E. van der Hoeven Collection, Bergschenhoek)
  3. The royal couple on tour, guided by Thomson (IMG, The Hague)
  4. Palace during the defence (IMG, The Hague)
  5. Miss Edith Durham (?) with Malisors in trench (E. van der Hoeven Collection, Bergschenhoek)
  6. Artillery in action (IMG, The Hague)

The rebellion expanded; the leaders included strong opponents of Essad Pasha. Calls were heard to restore the sovereignty of the Sultan. Durrës was now seriously under threat. In the meantime, Thomson had been named ‘director of the army’. His appointment made his already difficult relationship with De Veer even more tense. The city is located at the end of a peninsula and was separated by a swamp from the ridge where the rebels had taken up position. Thomson proclaimed martial law and quickly turned the city into a fortress. The gendarmes and adventurers, both local and foreign, were given intensive training. Fabius formed an artillery unit of volunteers (A). On 10 June, Zu Wied inspected the troops (B) and Thomson gave the royal family a tour of the new defensive positions (B). At critical moments, the palace was also placed in a state of defence (D).

The Malisors, paid volunteers from the mountain tribes of North Albania, grew to include 1,000 men (E). They were not commanded by Dutch officers; they obeyed their clan chief and followed ‘that terrible but great Kanun’. The Kanun is a strict code of conduct for the Albanian mountain tribes. It regulates everything from blood feuds to divorce. The writer Edith Durham was one of the few Westerners who was reasonably aware of these tribal laws. In Durrës, she was primarily busy with nursing duties. Early in the morning of 15 June, the city was surprised by an attack from the hills beyond the swamp. The artillery, according to plan, then went into action (F). At the moment that Thomson called on the clan chiefs to order their men into the trenches, he was hit in the chest, although the attack was taking place behind him.