The Bulgarian fortifications

 

 

In 1912 Bulgaria could not rely very much on fortifications for its defence. The absence of a specific plan and deficiency of resource kept from establishing adequate fortifications along its borders. From 1885 to 1912 the engineers worked sometimes on a strongpoint, sometimes on another, but at the outbreak of the war none of the planned fortification was finished. In 1912 the chief existing fortified places were :

1.      the works built along the Slvinitza position;

2.      the works of the Sofia position;

3.      the old Danube fortress;

4.      the works built against the Turkish border.

 

The Slivnitza position consisted of a number of semi-permanent works along the positions occupied by the Bulgarian Army in the war against Serbia (1885), 30 Km north-west of Sofia. There were some small closed redoubts armed with 57mm Gruson guns in cupolas that had an extensive field of fire over the open country towards the exit of the Dragoman pass. To the north along the same line, there was the old fort of Belogradchik and some other places selected for fortification, to prolong to the north and south the Slivnitsa position.

 

Belogradchik, a little town situated on the western slope of Stolova Planina, was an important junction, connecting the two roads coming from the passages Saint Nikola and Kadaboaz and directed to Vidin, and the nearby road Chuprene – Lom. The old fortress rose on a hill approximately 1 km west of the town and was inaccessible southward due to the sheer rocks. It was a regular quadrilateral in shape and was protected by stone walls, thick enough to allow the move of the gun from a lace to another. It had some barbets and platforms of earth from which guns could fired, while the powder magazines and secure rooms for the troops were demolished by the Turks when they left the fortress on 25 February 1878. Along the southern side some redoubts with cisterns for water were dug into the rock. The fortress could quarter a garrison of 4000 men. In 1885 the Serbian Army tried unsuccessfully to occupy it. After the war The War Ministry, recognising that its defences were too weak, decided to strengthen the place. An entrenched camp with thirteen works was planned, but never built. In 1888-92 a ring 30 km long was built around the town with five infantry redoubts (Nr. 0, 1, 2, 3, e 5), some batteries and roads connecting each other the fortifications. The place was divided in three sectors: I eastern, near “Venetz” (Stolova Planina); II south-eastern, east of the road Belogradchik-Lom; III south western, west of that road up to hill 274; IV western, from hill 274 up to peak north-east of Dubrava; V north-western, from the peak south-east of Slivovik up to the peak south of Koluger.

 

The Sofia position consisted of seven outlying works guarding the capital from the south and west. Two of them on the south commanded the exit from the Vladaya Pass with the road and the railway from Radomir. The remaining works were in the plain facing west to resist an attack from that side. The old Turkish earthworks were not included in the ring, remaining abandoned in the west. They were commenced in 1892 and in February 1895 three of them were completed, but not yet armed. At the beginning it was planned to arm them with four 57mm QF guns and four to six 150mm guns each. The fortified position was finished at the end of the century, but all the works were armed only with 57mm QF guns.

 

The Danube fortresses were Vidin, Nikolpol, Ruse, Silistria, Shumen and Varna. During the Ottoman rule the last four were known as “the Balkan Quadrilateral”. All these places were towns surrounded by one or two bastioned lines with a citadel and small forts at the points where these lines abutted on the Danube. During the Russo-Turkish war both Shumen and Ruse were entrenched camps, the first comprising eighteen and the latter twenty outlying redoubts, and an old masonry enceinte. The tracés were irregular polygons, the profiles of great strength, and the revetments largely of masonry. After the war all the fortress of the Quadrilateral were razed, according to the terms of Article 11 of the treaty of Berlin.

Vidin too a double enceinte with eight bastions and seven detached works. In 1912 it was armed with outdated Russian guns and mortars. Vidin was besieged both in 1885, when it was defended by capt. Atanas Uzunov and supported by the Danube Flotilla, and in 1913, when it was defended by may. gen. Krastyo Marinov. In both the occurrences the places was cut off, but hold out bravely and was not occupied by the Serbian Army. At the eve of the Balkan Wars these fortresses were not in a good state of repair, and were consequently unfit to resist serious operations.

 

Along the Turkish borders there were the following fortified position:

    the Dupnitza position in the Macedonian theatre of operations;

    the barrage works blocking the pass of the Rodopi mountains;

    the Tarnovo Seymen and the Yambol position in the Tharacian theatre of operation.

 

 

 

The question of the defence of Sofia

The fortification of the Slivnitza position in 1885

The Bulgarian fortification against Turkey

The planned garrison of the Bulgarian strongpoints in 1911

 

 

 

The Balkan Quadrilateral