Between two wars 1913-1915



After the Balkan Wars a lot of artillery stuffs were consumed, wasted or damaged. In order to improve their state the Bulgarian Artillery Inspection intended to supply the Army with weapons and ammunition through imports from foreign countries, and through the repairing and manufacturing capacities of the Sofia arsenal and the artillery workshops of the Army. According to the estimates, the completion and the repair of the materials should be concluded within ten years, starting from 1914.

In order to rearm the Army the Artillery Inspection prepared a plan that provided :

1.      to replace not quick firing guns with quick firing ones;

2.      to buy an adequate number of mountain guns and field howitzers;

3.      to assure to every gun 700 – 1000 shells according to the model and the calibre;

4.      to arm the infantry only with modern Mannlicher magazine rifles and carbines;

5.      to increase until to 700 the number of the heavy machine-guns.

To achieve this goal 329,756,550 leva were needed, but in 1914 only 102,000,000 leva were granted. On the basis of this sum, orders were made in Germany, Austria-Hungary and France. Unfortunately the unexpected outbreak of the World War, only one year after the end of the Interallied War, rendered almost impossible to obtain anything from foreign countries, since the military industries of every belligerent had to manufacture weapons and ammunitions for their own army, or at least for their allies. Therefore until the Bulgarian Army mobilisation in September 1915 only 3000 Mannlicher rifles were delivered by Austria-Hungary, while 9000 more rifles, even packed and ready to be shipped to Bulgaria, were seized at the outbreak of the World War. The same happened with a great deal of ammunition ordered in France that could not reach Bulgaria.


As a result of the reduced possibility to receive supplies from foreign countries, became inevitable to rely on the repair of the out of order weapons, a task assigned to the technical service of the artillery. Owing to the load of the work to carry out, the Artillery Inspector asked to the War Ministry that the military budget allowed changes in its structure and organization. In August 1914 at the artillery arsenal in Sofia an arsenal company was established, composed by 90-100 conscripts that should watch over the arsenal and carry out the works in workshops and stores. During the same year an artillery workshop was established in Stara Zagora, while that existing one in Shumen was reorganized. Moreover the park platoons of the field, mountain and fortress artillery regiments increased their strength, becoming batteries. Thanks to the new formations most of the planned repairs and maintenance works were accomplished before the entry of Bulgaria in World War 1.


Thanks of this great effort and in spite of the impossibility of purchasing weapons abroad, the Bulgarian artillery was able not only to replace the losses suffered during the Interallied War (at least 138 pieces), but also to increase the number of its guns, especially the quick firing ones. After the war gradually one division in every not-quick-firing artillery regiment received modern Krupp guns, captured from the Turks. However the lack of guns did not allowed replacing also the second division, and in September 1915 each divisional artillery brigade had two quick-firing regiments and only one not-quick-firing artillery division. Nevertheless the authorized establishments were not reached, and at the beginning of the war some Infantry Divisions had only 9 quick-firing field batteries, instead of the planned 12, and some batteries had only 3 guns, instead of 4.

The situation of mountain artillery and field howitzers was even worse. Although during the war mountain batteries proved to be very useful not only in broken terrain, but also as accompanying batteries, thanks to their great mobility, only 11 guns could be added to the Army. As for field howitzers, in 1913 general Savov had concluded that one division (3 batteries) per Army was insufficient, and should be proper to have two divisions attached to every Army. Consequently 11 batteries of 120mm Schneider field howitzers were ordered, but at the outbreak of World War 1, the French Army cancelled the contract, and in 1915 seized the howitzers that were assigned to the Armée d’Orient and to the Serbian Army.

Thanks to the modern 150mm heavy howitzers and 105mm long guns captured at Odrin the situation of siege artillery was greatly improved : not only the number of the heavy artillery pieces increased from 70 to 91, but also 26 of them were quick-firing Krupp pieces. Unfortunately out of the 18 howitzers and 18 guns captured, only 14 and 12 respectively could be repaired. Since the long range gun with a curved trajectory and high explosive shell proved to be very useful during the previous wars, they were assigned to the fortress artillery regiments deployed along the Serbian border. The 12 long guns were shared among six two-pieces batteries, assigned two to every fortress artillery regiment.


Quick firing artillery









75mm field guns




+ 33 %


- 16 %





75mm mountain guns




+ 12 %


- 16 %





120mm howitzers




- 6 %


- 53 %







The situation of ammunition was more critical. At the beginning of the mobilisation, the Bulgarian field artillery had approximately 1064 rounds per gun. During the war against Turkey the expenditure averaged between 450 and 500 rounds per gun. In some cases it ran as high as 800 rounds. During the whole period 1912-13 the total expenditure averaged 1076 rounds per gun. At the end of the Interallied War there remained on hand as little as 40 rounds per gun, in spite of the utmost economy which marked the latter stages of the military operations. During the war the losses were replaced with ammunition captured from the Turks or purchased abroad.

Already in October and November 1912 a first order was signed in Germany for 25,000 Krupp and 25,000 Ehrhardt universal shells for field guns, 10,000 Ehrhardt universal shells for mountain guns and 23,000 Krupp shrapnel for field guns. They became to arrive in Bulgaria after the end of the war against Turkey and at the beginning of the Interallied War (16 June 1913) only 5000 rounds were available.

In March 1913, the Bulgarian Army decided to order shrapnel (25,000 for 75mm field guns, 15,000 for 75mm mountain guns, 14,000 for 120mm field howitzers and 2,800 for 150mm heavy howitzers) and H.E. shells (20,000 for 120mm field howitzers and 4,320 for 150mm heavy howitzers). As usually three firms were contacted : Schneider, Krupp and Ehrhardt. Schneider offered the lower price (7,315,000 leva, against 7,550,000 leva for Krupp and 7,390,000 leva for Ehrhardt), but the contract was not signed, since the Artillery Inspector preferred to break up the order, and give to each firm an order for the ammunition for which it asked the lowest price.


During the Balkan Wars and after their end, Bulgaria made several more orders of ammunitions for artillery, but it was impossible to restore the pre-war supply. In spring of 1915 general Ivan Fichev, at that time Minister of the War, asked to the Artillery Inspector, general Kalin Naydenov, to express his opinion about the following issues :

1.      in an eventual war how long could last the ammunition available at that time?

2.      how many ammunition could be at disposal at the beginning of the military operations?

3.      what would be the monthly needs of ammunition in wartime?

General Naydenov answered that, on the basis of the experience of the Balkan War, the ammunition available could be enough only for two months, but he specified that, since at that time the war had a world-wide proportion, without doubt the waste of ammunition would have been heavier. This meant that Bulgarian artillery was not ready for a new war. In the event of a war the Bulgarian General Staff considered that should be required 1500 round per gun. Recalling the difficulties to purchase weapons and ammunition since the main powers were involved in a great war, general Naydenov stressed that by any means the government should regularly assure enough supplies to the Army, otherwise it would be able even to defend the border.

The Minister of War reassured the Artillery Inspector, saying that if Bulgaria went to war, she would not fight alone, and would be able to obtain what it needed from its alleys. But he added that there was another problem : since the weapons adopted by the Bulgarian Army came from both of the belligerents (rifles from Austria-Hungary, guns from Germany and France), would the weapons coming from the enemy remain without ammunition? General Naydenov replied that since 1898 the Bulgarian Army used both French and German shells for its guns and French and Austrian bullets for its rifles.


In September 1915 at the declaration of the general mobilization, the ammunition available were greatly decreased compared to the beginning of the war against Turkey, both absolutely and per gun. The increase of the field and mountain quick firing guns together with the decrease of the ammunition caused that every artillery piece had a shortage of ammunition. Comparing the situation in 1912 and in 1915, we can notice that the number of rounds for 75mm quick firing field guns decreased of 28%, but every gun had only half of the supply. Only quick firing field howitzers had approximately the same number of rounds.