The fortification of the Slivnitza position in 1885

 

 

The defensive works in the Slivnitza position started on 10 October 1885, just after Prince Aleksandar and his chief of Staff, cap. Racho Petrov, had choosen this position. They were executed by the Chief military engineer cap. Dobri Ivanov, later replaced by cap. Lalchev. The works were carried out by troops present at Slivinitza, by local residents and even by some Italian workers involved with the construction of the railroad. At first only low infantry trenches were dug, but afterwards they were enlarged and were reinforced by other entrenchments, batteries, redoubts and lunettes. However they were limited only to places close to the city, since nobody at that time could imagine the extent of the ground that would be covered by the fighting. Shortly before the Serbian attack, some more entrenchments were raised to the north and south of the Slivnitza heights, but they were not completed when the battle began.

 

The profile of the Slivnitza heights required that the infantry defensive line was moved to the foot of the western slope in order to avoid leaving dead angles, but this meant that the trenches offered a clearly visible target for the enemy and that they could not be occupied, reinforced or abandoned without being seen by the enemy. To compensate this disadvantage the trenches received a reinforced profile by establishing traverses and covers, but covered roads of approach for the reserve were not established.

The infantry trenches were usually 90 cm wide and had 80 cm heigh and 1.1 m thick parapets, but many trenches for standing troops were 1.2 m wide with 1.5 m high and 1.5 m thick parapets. Almost all the trench had covered positions. The trenches were deployed in two or three ranks, the rear ones being deployed such that there were no uncovered fields of fire.

The trenches were adapted to the lay of the ground, so they rarely formed straight lines. The length of the trench sections was 100-150 paces. Their flanks were wrapped up and this gave little protection against the infilade fire. Between trench sections there was an open interval of 20-30 paces at least. The interval between the three ranks of trenches varied with the length of the slope, but usually they did not exceede 100 paces.

 

Behind the trenches, in the middle of two terrace separate by a hollow, the Bulgars built two batteries for 8 guns each. They had a reinforced profile and the crews were protected by covers built from tree trunks, beams and earth. Their line was adapted to the ground, with the southern battery, which had four facades, shaped like a slight curve and the northern one, which had only three facades, like an obtuse angle. Behind the left flank of the terrace close to the crest there was another battery with a similar structure similar.

Behind the batteries, on the eastern hill of the Slivnitza heights, a pentagonal redoubt faced west was built, called “Central redoubt”, which could house two infantry companies. Its trenches were 2.5 m wide, 1.1 m depth and the parapet was 2 m thick, but there was no ditch. On a top 750 m north of it another redoubt faced north was built, but it remained unfinished. In the north-eastern side of the top a faced north lunette was built, and east of it some some trenches for guns faced north-east. During the battle these positions were not occupied by the troops and the Central redoubt served mainly as covered observation post for the senior commanders.

 

The right flank of the macadam road was not fortified, even if the chief of the General Staff had ordered to erect a covered redoubt for two companies at Meka Tzren. North of the road up to the raylroad ballast there were only two lunettes ans some infantry and artillery trenches of little worth.

The left flank was reinforced with a lunette for two companies and 4 guns near Aldomirovtzi, a redoubt at Bratushkovo, and another lunette for 4 guns north-east of Aldomirovtzi. The first two works were called respectively “Preslavski” and “Razgradski”, after the infantry regiments that had built them. Their outline was similar to that of the “Central redoubt” and some tenches were dug behind and between them. The “Razgradski redoubt” was not finished when the Serbian Army arrived, but it was anyway occupied and defended by the Bulgars during the battle.