The birth of the Bulgarian Artillery
In October 1876 the well-known expert of the Eastern matters and trusted agent of the Slav Charitable Committees, the retired Major General Rostislav Fadeyev, sent to the chief of Russian General Staff, General Adjutant Graf von Heyden, a special note, entitled: “Bulgarian matter in the Turkish war”, in which he stressed the importance of attracting Bulgarian volunteers by means of the Bulgarian committees in the case of a war against Turkey. He intended to collect 15,000 Bulgarians and join to them 5,000 skilful Russian soldiers. To command them he wanted to employ all the Bulgarian officers serving into the Russian Army. He added that to arm this force the Slav Charitable Committees had already at their disposal 20,000 Chassepot rifles and 6 guns.
proposal was accepted and at the outbreak of the war against
On 1 May 1877 the theoretic war strength of the Bulgarian Opalchenie was of 112 officers, 6012 NCOs and soldiers, and 204 non-combatants, but at the beginning of the military operations, on 16 May, the fighting strength was of 82 officers, 7206 NCOs and soldiers, and 238 non-combatants. In August 1877 six more battalions were raised, bringing the theoretic war strength to 214 officers, 12,024 NCOs and soldiers, and 396 non-combatants, but this amount remained on paper for a whole year. The Opalchenie reached its establishment only after the end of the war, on 16 May 1878, when it comprised 171 officers, 12,349 NCOs and soldiers, and 302 non-combatants.
of the Bulgarian Opalcenie was mainly provided by the Slav Committee of
Moscow, presided by Ivan Sergeevich Aksakov, and by the Charitable
Organization of Kishinev, directed by Ivan Ivanov. They bought in
treaty of San Stefano, with the creation of the Principality of Bulgaria the
establishment of a Bulgarian army begun. The
basic principles of the organization of Bulgarian Territorial Army were made on
At the same
time also the Instructions
for the training of the troops of the Territorial Army were introduced. Every district should have a high officer charged
of the instruction of the Bulgarian recruits. As for artillery every company
would have a Russian cadre of 10 NCOs and lance-corporals, including the
aimers, 2 laboratory operators and in addition a trumpeter every four
companies. To direct the all the artillery units in
The fulfilment of this ambitious plan begun on 8 July 1878, when the Imperial Commissar issued the Order on the Territorial Army N° 1, but its goals were never fully achieved, due to the dissolution of the Great Bulgaria at the Congress of Berlin. On 25 August 1878 with the Order on the Territorial Army N° 5 every district raised and artillery battery, bearing the name of its district: 1st Sofiyska (horse artillery), 2nd Vidinska, 3rd Tarnovska, 4th Rusenska, 5th Plovdivska and 6th Slivenska. In addition a mountain artillery battery was raised in Dupnitza and a quick-firing battery armed with Nobel machine guns was formed in Ruse Arsenal. To form these units, entire batteries of the Russian Occupation Army were employed; all the officers and non commissioned officers were Russian, while part of the troops were Bulgarian from the second compulsory levy.
To lighten the work of the head of the artillery, Russian mayor general Lesovoy, who had to direct eight batteries spread out on a broad area and to take care of the formation of the technical establishments and the artillery depots, the Imperial Commissar decided to assign him two assistants. Therefore on 16 September 1878 with Order on the Territorial Army N° 16 the existing batteries were grouped into 2 artillery brigades: 1st brigade, with headquarters in Plovdiv, was composed by the batteries deployed south of the Balkan (1st, 5th, 6th and mountain); 2nd brigade, with headquarters in Ruse, by the batteries deployed north of the Balkan (2nd, 3rd, 4th and quick-firing). Two Russian officers were appointed as brigade commander: cpt. Hamilton, from Guard Horse Artillery, and cpt. Chudinov, from 30th Artillery Brigade. Actually the batteries were independent units, with single administration and direction; the head of the artillery and the brigade commanders took care only of the training of the troops. Advancements were made only by the head of the artillery himself, during his tour of inspection. Food supplies for men and horses were delivered by the civil authorities under the control of the Military Minister, using local resources. Everything was conducted according with the norms and regulations adopted by the Russian Army, also the orders were given in Russian.
The establishment of the batteries was :
– 5 officers : 1 battery commander, 2 half-battery commanders and 2 section commanders;
– 15 non commissioned officers;
– 26 Russian and 247 Bulgarian men;
– 175 horses : 9 for the staff, 145 for the artillery pieces, and 21 for the carriage.
At that time all the officers were still Russian, excepting two Bulgarian ensigns serving in the Russian Army, Simeon Vankov, who had served in 26th artillery brigade and was assigned to 8th battery, and Konstantin Nikiforov, who moved from the same brigade to the 1st battery.
On 9 November 1878 maj. gen. Vasilij Grigorevič Zolotarev, the Russian director of the Military department of the Imperial Commissar, asked the commander of the Bulgarian Territorial Army to select among the troops of the battalions of the District of Ruse 330 men, “tall, strong and healthy”, for the siege company that had been recently raised. They should be dispatched to Razgrad without weapons, but with all their clothing, even if not sewed, and should be temporarily assigned to the battalions quartered there.
As for the armament of the Bulgarian artillery, on 13 July 1878 the Imperial Commissar in a report to the Russian War Minister, Count Dmitry Alekseyevich Milyutin, asked that, in order to raise the first 6 batteries the Russian Army should give 48 – 4 pdr bronze guns M. 1867 fully equipped, with the horse teams and the ammunition wagons required, and another 8 Russian or Turkish mountain guns to raise a mountain artillery battery. In addition the Territorial Army would receive the second group of captured Turkish long range guns (6 batteries) with all their equipment and, if possible, also carriages and ammunition wagons for them coming from the Russian batteries. Finally the artillery depots would deliver as reserve also 12 steel Krupp guns with 2500 rounds that had been acquired by the Slav Committee of Moscow for the Opolchenie.
This change had delayed the dispatch of the Russian cadres, therefore the recruits enlisted to raise the first six batteries were sent to the infantry battalions to receive the first common training, awaiting the arrival of their Russian instructors. As for the two additional batteries, their crews would be selected among the recruits, who had already joined the infantry battalions. Furthermore the Imperial Commissar asked the Commander of the Occupation Army, adjutant-general Eduard Ivanovich Totleben, to send to every Bulgarian battery also 6 non commissioned officers and 20 riders to train the Bulgarian recruits in horsemanship and to teach them the correct care and management of their horses.
guns captured during the war were stored in the artillery depots in
To increase the number of modern guns, the Imperial Commissar solicited the delivery of part of the guns at first assigned to Serbia and Montenegro and of all the Turkish long range guns captured by the Russian Army during the war, even if there were not powder and ammunition for them, hoping to obtain what was lacking directly from Krupp. In addition he proposed to give a little number of greater calibre guns to be employed as heavy artillery and to form a special detachment with the cadre to train the Bulgarian in their use.
Thereby the Bulgarian artillery would have in all 20 batteries with 112 field, 14 mountain, 16 quick-fire (machine guns) and 31 heavy guns. Such an amount of guns was regarded as adequate for a “young” army like the Bulgarian one, since it assured a ratio of 4 guns to every infantry battalions, even when the battalions would have been twice as much as those existing at that time. The main defect was the wide assortment of calibres and models that made more difficult the supply of ammunition and the training of the troops.