The Russo-Japanese War and Bulgarian Artillery
Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) had a significant impact on the Balkan states
Armies. The Bulgarian General Staff had sent a special military mission to
defeat caused great concerns among the Balkan states because of concerns
about their territorial aspirations and national security. They realized that
Russian help might not be available to reach their aspirations against
Already in 1905 the Bulgarian War Ministry with the Order 374/20 June 1905 introduced some changes in the tactical employment of infantry in combat in order to test them during the summer training and maneuvers. They were inspired by the notes published by the Russian War Ministry in 1905 to emphasize the growing importance of the infantry and artillery fire and their consequences on the action of the troops.
As a result of the experiences gained in the Russo-Japanese War, artillery tactics seemed to need rethinking. For the first time modern quick-firing guns were employed in large quantities, being often deployed under cover and firing indirectly, despite their design as flat-trajectory guns. Large artillery concentrations were formed, particularly during offensive operations, but at the same time single batteries with short surprise fire proved very effective during the phase of operational standstill. In 1905, such reports were sent to the heads of military administration and the general staff. Shrapnel fire gained a growing importance, not only for its effect upon the troops, but also for its tactical use.
impression coming from various European military observers were noted by the
Bulgarian artillery officers and eagerly discussed in numerous articles
published in military periodicals. Among them we can mention the analysis of
the Japanese artillery at
The experience of the Russo-Japanese war demonstrated to the Bulgarian staff the importance of the entrenchment by each infantry soldier, the decisive role played by the machine guns and the efficacy of the employment of new communication techniques, like field telephone, telegraph, wire telegraph and heliograph.
assimilation of the lessons of the war was not easy. Still on 21 February
1912 the Army Command issued the Order N° 86 where it affirmed that, as a
result of an inquiry of the War Ministry on some Bulgarian units, appeared
that the trench warfare and the new ways of transmitting orders and
dispatches were not regarded with the right care. Therefore it was ordered
that all the commanding officers should take special care to the engineer art
and that should act in order to train the troops in trench warfare. These
directions were enforced in the
The great interest of the Bulgarian Army in the role of field fortification is clearly shown by a series of texts on this subject, published after the Russo-Japanese War, the most detailed among them being Field fortification, seven books written by may. Simeon Dobrevskij in 1906 – 1909, and Handbook on military engineer works in field, published by may. Rusi Ludogorov in 1909.
However the most important acquisition for Bulgarian Army was the cult of bayonet attack that would make famous Bulgarian infantry during Balkan Wars, but caused also many casualties. The experiences of the Russo-Japanese War were also very instructive in tactical use of artillery. The Bulgarian General Staff issued new instructions in 1905-1909 for field and fortress artillery that incorporated some lessons taken from the Russo-Japanese War.
First, instead of taking open positions and shooting
directly towards the target, field artillery had to take deep masked
positions which already had special and improved
means for fire towards the target. This was of great importance
because of the irregular topography of much of the Balkan Peninsula, and
especially of the Bulgarian borders with
Another important lesson was the demonstration that siege artillery could be used not only against fortress and fortified positions, but also against field positions. For this purpose Bulgarian Army began to buy heavy artillery. Before the Russo-Japanese War, the Bulgarian Army had acquired only 30 120mm Krupp howitzers, received about 1903. They were mobile and were distributed for war in five batteries assigned to first line troops. However at first they were attached to the fortress artillery and not to field artillery. Another 24 150mm Schneider howitzers were received in 1904. But in order to increase their rate of fire, in 1907 some accessories were ordered. They too were attached to fortress artillery. In order to provide field army with a modern mobile heavy howitzer, Bulgarian General Staff in 1907 ordered 36 120mm Schneider quick-firing howitzers. They were formed into 9 batteries of 4 guns and 12 ammunition wagons and were attached to field artillery. Every Army Inspectorate received a division composed by three batteries. In wartime they should support field army, especially in order to destroy enemy batteries with indirect fire. Nevertheless in 1912 Bulgarian Army too few howitzers and fortress artillery was too little in quantity and outdated (although in 1912 it was planned to buy 360 fortress guns).
Bulgarian Artillery began to buy quick-firing guns. Taking into account the
broken terrain of great part of its future theatre of war, the Bulgarian
General Staff paid great attention to mountain artillery. After having bought
56 – 75mm Krupp quick firing guns, it ordered another 36 more modern
Schneider quick-firing guns of the same caliber. In October 1912, At the
beginning of the War against Turkey, Bulgarian Army had 23 batteries of
modern pack artillery, more that twice the number of the batteries owned by
Serbian (9) or Greek (8) Army. Balkan Wars, fought mainly in the hills and
stemming from the Russo-Japanese War ignored by Bulgarian army was the
efficient use of cavalry. In fact during the war the Japaneses failed to use
their cavalry to harass the disorganized retreat of their enemy. They
especially failed to utilize the cavalry as a source of firepower. The
admiration for the Japanese Army and the progressive adoption of its tactics
may explain why Bulgarian Army did not provide its cavalry with artillery. This
was a great weakness for the Cavalry Division during the war against