After Berlin : the Russian years

 

 

With the signing of the treaty of Berlin (13 July 1878) the dream of the “Greater Bulgaria” vanished. The new Principality of Bulgaria was only 37.5 per cent of the size of the state envisaged with the treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878) and was confined in a small area between the Balkan mountains and the Danube; the country south of the Balkans was to form an autonomous province called Eastern Rumelia, under the direct control of the Sultan, while Macedonia returned under Ottoman rule and the valley of the Morava river was assigned to Serbia. The Russian Army should leave Bulgaria within 9 months. On 29 April 1879 the Grand National Assembly elected as Prince of Bulgaria Alexander of Battenberg, who entered in Sofia in July, after having taken the oath to the new constitution, approved on 16 April at Tarnovo.

 

In 1879 the organisation of the Bulgarian army was arranged by the Temporarily authorized general basis, trainings and organization of the Territorial Army of the Principality of Bulgaria, approved on 14 May 1879 by the Russian Imperial Commissar and modified on 19 August by the Princely Edict N° 19, and by the Provisional status for the Bulgarian Army issued on 17 December. According with the latter document, the Supreme Commander of the Bulgarian Army was the Prince (§ 1), while the executive administration of the military forces of the country was assigned to the Military Minister (§ 2). The direct control of the artillery and of all the artillery establishments, as well as the direction of the particular occupations and the training of the artillery units was assigned to the head of the artillery (§ 32), who was subordinated to the Military Minister (§ 33). Artillery units were recruited only with youths coming from the district where they were raised (§ 16).

The composition of the artillery (§§ 20-22) in peacetime was as follows :

    6 foot batteries, identified by a number according with their seniority and by the name of the town where they were garrisoned, with 293 men each;

    1 mountain battery with 268 men;

    1 horse battery with 155 men;

    1 siege company with 320 men,

    the local artillery park with 100 men.

Every battery had 8 guns with 2-3 two-wheeled ammunition wagons each. Lower ranks were armed with revolver Smith & Wesson and Russian model sabres, non commissioned officers carried swords instead of sabres.

 

The new situation imposed a lot of changes to the Bulgarian army. Since two of the existing batteries were garrisoned in the territory of the Eastern Rumelia, the first problem was to redeploy them inside the Principality. Therefore in 1879 5th Plovdivska and 6th Slivenska batteries were moved respectively to Pleven and Shumen and renamed 5th Plevenska and 6th Shumenska batteries. The other 6 batteries stood in their previous garrisons, but after the arrival of the new Prince in Sofia, according with the Edict N° 28/10 August 1879 the battery of the capital was renamed after him, becoming 1st His Highness’ (horse artillery) battery. At that time all the battery were on war establishment, with 8 guns and 3 ammunition wagons, horsed and fully equipped.

Since the batteries were concentrated in a narrow area, the existence of two assistants for the head of the artillery became unnecessary, so on 20 May 1879 with the Order on the Territorial Army N° 33 the post of brigade commander was abolished and the batteries returned under the direct control to the head of artillery.

In meantime the presence of Bulgarian troops increased continuously. On 11 May 1879 some of the graduated of the first class of the Sofia Military School were enlisted in artillery : 12 ensigns joined the Bulgarian Army and 2 the Militia of the Eastern Rumelia, 2 non commissioned officers were added on 5 June, after having passed an exam in the same school. In addition 42 Bulgarians were sent to Russia to study in technical artillery schools. The same months was called up the third class of compulsory levy. In the same year for the first time a group of Bulgarian artillery officers were sent to Sankt Petersburg to continue their studies at the Mihailovskaya Artillery Academy : lt. Petar Gruev, lt. Konstantin Nikiforov and 2nd lt. Simeon Vankov. They graduated in 1883.

 

Coming back to Russia, the Occupation Army left in Bulgaria 192 guns, distributed as follows :

    148 field guns, half 4 pdr bronze and 9 pdr bronze and steel Russian guns M. 1867, and half 9 cm and 8 cm Krupp, captured during the war against Turkey, mainly old M. 1867 with a little number of long range guns;

    20 mountains guns, half 3 pdr Russian guns M. 1867, half 6 cm Broadwell and 4.5 cm Whitworth Turkish guns;

    24 fortress guns, 24 pdr long and short guns and 6 inch mortars M. 1867.

    in addition 5 Nobel six barrels and ten barrels machine guns.

All guns were breech-loaders, with Broadwell obturating ring to restrain the escape of gas, the only exception being the Whitworth mountain guns that were muzzle-loaders. Being rigidly attached to the carriage, they recoiled with it and had to be run back by hand to the firing position and re-laid after each shot. They were filled with charges composed by grainy black powder that produced thick smoke, allowing enemy observers to locate their position. In Russian guns the sighs were not graduated according with the range, but were marked in lines (2.54 mm) that did not correspond directly to the distance expressed in meters, making more complex the adjustment. On the contrary in 3 pdr mountain guns the sights were graduated according with the range expressed in sagene (2.13 m), the measure of length at that time used by the Russian artillery. Turkish guns had sight and firing tables written in Arabic characters and Bulgarian aimers had to learn to identify them, looking forward to their translation. Nevertheless most of the captured guns were almost unserviceable, being damaged and without every kind of accessories : sights, harnesses, firing tools.

Also the ammunition came from Russian depots, that had delivered 51,861 common shells, 23,180 canister shells (an early model of shrapnel), 12,339 sharoha (a kind of shell with spherical solid head that continued to fly after the burst of the proper shell), 18,262 shrapnel and 6,976 case shots for field guns; 4,970 cast iron bombs, 7,625 prolonged cast iron bombs and 5,551 case shots for fortress guns. Only a little number of rounds was available for the mortars. Percussion shells were effective only within a narrow area (4-20 m) against uncovered animated targets at medium range (1800 m for 9 pdr guns). Time fuzes for shrapnel and canister shell were usually graduated up to 7 ½ seconds, that allowed a range of just 1800 m, only a little number were graduated up to 10 seconds, for a range of 3200 m (9 pdr) or 2400 m (4 pdr). Krupp ammunition for long range guns was more effective, but only a few rounds were available.

 

The structure of the Bulgarian artillery was radically altered in 1880. On 19 June with Decree N° 75 the six numbered batteries were grouped into an artillery regiment with headquarters in Shumen. The artillery depot, the laboratory and the siege company were similarly put under the control of a single office, the direction of the local artillery establishments, with headquarters in Ruse. As their commanders were appointed two senior battery commanders, with the same rank of a battalion commander, major Leonov and cpt. Barannikov respectively. The staff of the artillery regiment should be temporarily composed by an adjutant and a clerk.

On 25 August 1880 with Decree N° 95 another unit was raised with the denomination of “Sofiyski artillery division”. It was composed by three batteries : 1st His Highness’ (horse artillery) battery taken from the artillery regiment, another horse artillery battery that had not succeeded in going back to Russia and was quartered at Radomir and the mountain artillery battery, that was later rearmed with 4 pdr guns. The division headquarters and two batteries were placed at Samokov, while 3rd battery remained at Dupnitza. As division commander was appointed maj. Frost. The artillery regiment was reorganized raising another battery that take the number 4th, while old 3rd Tarnovska and 4th Rusenska battery were renamed 1st and 3rd respectively. In addition from then on the batteries were identified only with their number, loosing their local appellation. The quick-firing battery was disbanded and its machine guns were stored in the artillery depot at Ruse.

As a result of these alterations, in 1880 the Bulgarian artillery was composed by 9 batteries with 48 – 9 pdr guns assigned to the artillery regiment in Shumen and 24 – 4 pdr guns with the artillery division in Samokov. In peacetime the staff of the artillery regiment was fixed in 10 men and 5 horses, while the artillery batteries had 157 men and 57 horses each. In addition there were the siege artillery company in Ruse and the local artillery establishments. According with gen. Panteley Tsenov, who at that time was serving in 5th battery, the composition of the artillery was different : 1st, 2nd and 3rd batteries of the artillery regiment and two battery of the artillery division were armed with 4 pdr guns, the rest with 9 pdr guns. It seems nevertheless not correct, since the number of the 4 pdr guns received by the Bulgarian Army did not exceed 24 pieces that were enough to arm only 3 batteries.

On 30 May 1880 seven of the graduated of the second class of the Sofia Military School were enlisted in artillery.

 

In 1881 with the Order on artillery N° 52/1881 the Bulgarian senior officers were appointed section commanders and junior officers as their assistants, to familiarize them with the conduction of an artillery unit both administratively and in line service. The same year in September, 16 Bulgarian officers who had graduated in Russia, at the Elisavetgrad Cavalry Cadet School, were enlisted in artillery. Among them there was also Dimitar Pernikliynski, who would fill important post during the Balkan Wars and World War.

 

In 1882 the Bulgarian artillery began to rearm its unit with long range guns. On April the Direction of the artillery sent Russian lt.col. Nikolaj Lavrentievich Reshetin, who had been attached to the Bulgarian Army on 4 October 1881 with the title of “officer for special purpose” assigned to the Staff of the artillery, to inspect the weapons of the regiment and to reorganize the instruction of the recruits. By his request on 10 August with Order on artillery N° 150 an independent 9 cm long range battery was raised in Shumen, with men and horses coming from the artillery regiment, ammunitions and guns from Ruse and harnesses from Razgrad. At the end of August a comparative test of firing was done in the presence of Prince Alexander to show the superiority of the Krupp guns over the 4 pdr guns of the same calibre. The result was so persuasive, that the rearmament of the batteries with long range guns was decided, in spite of the opposition of most of the Russian officers. On 30 August lt.col. Reshetin was appointed commander of the battery that was transferred to Nikopol. The same year the siege artillery company in Ruse was renamed siege park, where periodically sent groups of officers and men taken from the artillery units to be trained with fortress guns.

 

In 1883 lt.col. Reshetin was appointed head of artillery with cpt. Konstantin Nikiforov as assistant to carry out the planned rearmament of the batteries. The second long range battery, this time armed with 8 cm Krupp guns, was raised in May with Order N° 212 at Ruse, where was assigned to the siege park. Since the operational Krupp guns available in Bulgaria were not enough, at the end of June a group of junior adjutants of the Artillery Inspection was sent to Nikolaev to receive the Turkish war trophies stored there. As a whole the Russian depots delivered 40 – 8 cm and 9 cm Krupp field guns, 6 – 12 cm L/25 Turkish fortress guns without ammunition and a little number of 24 pdr long and short guns. Lt. Tzenov was charged to receive and store them in Nikopol.

On 25 July with Order on artillery N° 250 the structure of the Bulgarian artillery was again altered, raising with the existing batteries and a new one, two artillery regiments, composed as follows :

    1st artillery regiment with headquarters at Sofia : the 1st division with 1st His Highness’, 2nd, and 3rd batteries was composed by the Sofiyski artillery division, with two batteries rearmed with 75mm Krupp long range guns and one with 87mm guns taken from the 9 cm independent battery; the 2nd division by two batteries (5th and 6th) of the former artillery regiment, renumbered 4th and 5th and the 9 cm battery from Nikopol, renumbered 6th, all rearmed with 9 pdr steel guns;

    2nd artillery regiment with headquarters in Sofia : the 1st division was composed by the 4th battery of the former regiment rearmed with 87mm Krupp guns, a new battery with 75mm Krupp guns and the 8 cm battery from Ruse, renumbered 7th, 8th and 9th; the 2nd division by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd batteries of the former regiment, renumbered 10th, 11th and 12th and armed with 9 pdr bronze guns.

The regiments and the local artillery establishments were administratively under the direct control of the Military Minister, while as for the line service, the instruction and the technical matters they were subordinated to the head of the artillery, who was then renamed Artillery Inspector. The regimental commanders were in charge of the inspection of the materials, the drill and the line activities, but also of the economic administration of their regiments. The battery commander had to take care that guns and equipment were kept in good working order. The post of division commander was only honorary and was not even envisaged by the establishment, therefore the senior battery commanders were appointed to that charge.

The batteries were composed by 8 guns with 3 ammunition wagons each (2 for the Krupp batteries), but only 4 guns with 1 ammunition wagon each were fully equipped with horse teams in peacetime, while the rest of the material was stored in the regimental park to be employed in the event of the mobilization. Since there were no original Krupp ammunition wagons for the long range guns, some Russian wagons were adjusted in the workshop of the artillery arsenal of Ruse in order to carry their projectiles. Every regiment had also a field forge.

Two Russian officers were appointed as commanders of the artillery regiments, lt.col. Nikolay Vladimirovich Stoyanov, the former the commander of the Sofiyski artillery division, and lt.col. Leonid Osipovich Musnitzkiy, the former commander of the artillery regiment.

With the same order the siege park was assigned to the local artillery establishment and from then on no group of artillerists was sent to be trained with fortress guns as before.

 

In May 1884 a proving ground was established in Sofia for the artillery practice of the Bulgarian artillerists. The commander of 1st artillery regiment was appointed as its head and 3 officers with high artillery education, one Russian and two Bulgarian, cpt. Petar Gruev and cpt. Konstantin Nikiforov, were chosen as instructors. A 75mm Krupp battery of the regiment was provided to the proving ground the artillery practice, and to have a little number of guns permanently at its disposal 2 supernumerary 87mm long range guns were delivered by the artillery depot in Ruse. Its activity should cover not only the firing practice, but also the tactical education, the theory of firing, the laboratory works and every kinds of drills related with the line service : mounted instruction (individual and with pair), service of the piece, fire discipline and conduct of fire with the gun and the battery. The first course was already organized in the summer of the same year and lasted three and a half months, from 1 June to 15 October; 6 officers followed the course, 5 coming from 1st artillery regiment and 1 from the local artillery establishments.

 

In 1885 with Order N° 75 the designation of the artillery batteries was changed : they were no longer numbered consecutively from 1st to 12th, but were renumbered within the two regiments from 1st to 6th.

 

The structure of the Militia of the Eastern Rumelia was first fixed with Order 30 on 6 February 1879, when it was composed by the units of the Bulgarian army garrisoned within its borders :  Filipopolska and Slivenska Brigades with 1 cavalry squadron each and 6 and 3 infantry battalions respectively. In addition 5th Plovdivska and 6th Slivenska batteries were temporarily attached to them. Later they were transferred beyond the Balkans mountains, in the territory of the Principality. In place of them only a training half-battery was allowed. It was raised on 2 May 1879 with order N° 88 and was attached to the instruction battalion of Plovdiv that was composed also by 2 infantry companies, 1 half-squadron and a technical company. The half-battery was composed by an artillery section armed with 4 – 9 pdr bronze guns with only 70 rounds of ammunition, and a pyrotechnical (armoury) section. The head of the latter was lt. Atanas Petrov. In addition there were 2 artillery depots at Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. All ranks carried revolver Smith & Wesson and Russian model sabres. Although the number of the infantry battalions was increased to 12, no additional artillery units were raised before the Unification.