Armstrong 76.2mm QF gun



During the Balkan wars and World War I the Bulgarian Army had at least one quick-firing gun manufactured by the British firm Armstrong. This is confirmed by many sources, but it is not easy to identify it.

История на служба Артилерийско въоръжение в Българската армия 1878-1990 г., p. 69 affirms that in order to test a quick firing gun in 1889 the Bulgarian Army bought an Armstrong gun, labelled 10-pdr (оръдието Армстронг, определено като 10-фунтово). The same book in the inventory of the Bulgarian artillery for 1912 mentions this 10-pdr Armstrong gun with 797 shells (p. 78), while in the inventory for the beginning of First World War mentions one 76.2mm Armstrong guns with 799 shells (p. 92).

Krapchanski confirms this information, adding the length of the gun in calibres: 76.2mm L/36 (Кратък обзор на бойния състав, организацията, попълването и мобилизацията на българската армия от 1878 до 1944 г., p. 203), while Военна техника и технически служби в българската войска и в БНА, p. 43 has 76.2mm L/63, that looks like a misprint. The conclusion should be that they are the same gun, even if it is strange that after a war the number of shells of a gun increased instead of decreasing. But there are some problems.


First, I was not able to find an Armstrong gun, which had such features. Furthermore where was this gun placed? Was it a naval gun on coast carriage, or a field gun on wheeled carriage? The head of the Bulgarian Fleet during Balkan Wars, col. Rusi Ludogorov, affirms that in 1912 the Bulgarian artillery placed at Karantinata, near Varna, a 76mm Armstrong and a 57mm Maxim-Nordenfeldt gun (Спомени за дейностьта на флота и гарнизона на Варненския укрепенъ пунктъ презъ войната 1912/13 г.”, Военноисторически сборник, I/5-6 [1927], p. 10). This is confirmed by Valdimir Pavlov in his book on the development of the Bulgarian fleet till the end of the Balkan wars, where he affirms that the Bulgarian coast artillery in 1912 had a 76mm and a 57mm gun (Развитие на Българската военноморски флот, p. 146). They were described as “old” and still two days after the beginning of the war they were without a commander (p. 146). The Bulgarian official history of First World War asserts that in 1915 the defence of the coast of the Black Sea had two 76mm guns placed at Karantinata, near Varna. Where does this second gun come from? As far I know, during the war against Turkey Bulgars did not capture any 76mm or 57mm gun, neither at Odrin, nor in the field battles in Thrace. In fact Petko Velev in his Морската артилерия на България 1879-1970 г. affirms that at the beginning of First World War at Karantinata there were the same 76mm and 56mm guns placed in 1912 (p. 29), but he says also that these two not quick-firing guns, without sight devices and quite worn out, came from Ruse and had been removed from ships that had been decommissioned (p. 19). Finally he added that in 1917 at Balchik the coast defence was reinforced by two 76mm naval guns, they too coming from Ruse (p. 41), whose origin is unknown.


The history of the Vidinski fortress battalion makes the question even more complex. It doesn’t mention any 76mm or 10-pdr gun, but affirms that during the war against Turkey Varna was defended also by five 56mm and 57mm guns (p. 37). The 57mm guns were probably the Gruson turret guns (Fahrpanzer), while I cannot identify the 56mm gun. This might be a misprint for 76mm. But the same book affirms also that in 1915 the Vidin strongpoint had also a 57mm Armstrong gun (p. 71), adding that its technical data were almost the same as the Gruson turret guns (p. 161). It is possible that the gun placed at Karantinata and presented sometimes as a 56mm, and sometimes as a 57mm gun, had been transferred to Vidin and replaced by a 76mm.

Finally Angel Angelov affirms that the coast defence received also a 10-pdr Nordenfelt gun with 797 shells of various kinds, but saying that its calibre was 110mm (Материалъ за история на българската артилерия…, p. 31). Since in 1889 the 10-pdr gun was purchased along with a Maxim-Nordenfelt machine gun, it is very probable that also this mysterious gun came from Nordenfelt, and the not Armstrong. However, what has become of this gun? Angel Angelov says that it was assigned to the coast artillery, after having been stored in the Arsenal. But during both the Balkan Wars and the First World War there is no mention of this coast gun in the sources that I could examine.


Finally a list of the ammunition of the Bulgarian artillery at the beginning of World War 1 (ДВИА, Фонд № 40, Инвентарен опис № 3, Архивна единица № 161, лист 13) listed three QF guns assigned to the coast artillery:

1 – 7.62cm L/36 Armstrong gun with 799 shells;

1 – 6 pdr L/25 Maxim gun with 449 shells;

1 – 10 pdr Armstrong gun with 763 shells.

The Maxim-Nordenfelt gun is easily to identify, since a catalogue of that firm for the Paris Universal Exposition in 1889 listed a 9 pdr QF caponnière gun with a calibre of 57mm that likely is the gun bought by the Bulgarian artillery. The 10 pdr gun (probably with a calibre of 110mm as affirmed by Angelov) poses more problems and I’m still not able to identify it or to find where it was placed.

What is certain is that at the beginning of the Balkan War and of the World War the Bulgarian Army had at least three guns bought originally to test quick-firing guns and then sent to the coast artillery that was desperately short of guns.