The Fortress Artillery during the Balkan Wars



At the beginning of the war against Turkey, the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army had not a  definite plan for the employment of the fortress-siege artillery. The plan for the concentration of the army set only that, as soos as they had concluded the mobilization, the Sofiyski e Shumenski fortress artillery battalions were not dispatched to the 2nd Army assigned to the siege of Odrin, but to the Tarnovo-Seymen and Yambol strongpoints.

The deputy chief of the artillery, col. Kalin Naydenov, did not agree with this idea, thinking that the field army should not be without heavy artillery. By mutual consent of the Chief of the Operations Department, col. Stefan Nerezov, decided to assign to the 1st Army some of the most modern heavy artillery pieces, 12 – 150mm L/12 howitzers and 12 – 120mm L/28 guns. The chief of the General Staff was not informed of this decision, but this plan was not carried out, since later these batteries were sent back and assigned to the North-eastern Sector of Odrin siege army, without the chief of the artillery knowing it.

The mobilization of the fortress artillery battalions was very hard and slow. Clothings and equipments were not enough, and most of the men wore their own clothes. There were not even caps for all. Many reservists of the Sofiyski and Shumenski battalion were not correctly informed or were not informed at all on the unit where they had been assigned and went to Belogradchik instead of Vidin or vince versa. In spite of the greats lacks and troubles, the fortress battalion was able to mobilize on time.


Sofiyski Fortress Battalioncommander : Lt.Col. Stefan Slavchev

The battalion completed its mobilization on 5 October 1912 and the same day the 5th 75mm Krupp battery was sent to Burgas by rail. On 7 October the light siege division was sent to Yambol, where it arrived two days later. On 12 October the group armed with 120mm L/28 Schneider guns was sent to Mustafa Pasha, but owing to the traffic jam, it reached the town only on 17 October. The group armed with 150mm L/12 Schneider howitzers, together with the headquarters of the light division and of the battalion, was transferred on the railway line JambolKazal AgachGol. DerventProvadiya, where it arrived on 16 October.

The heavy siege division was transferred by rail to Tarnovo Seymen on 9 October. The group armed with 120mm L/25 Krupp guns was disembarked at Kadiköj and assigned to Shumenski fortress battalion. The rest of the division was sent to at Mustapha Pasha and was later deployed in the North-Western Sector. On 18 October the whole battalion was ready to fire and to take part in the siege of Odrin.

As for the rest of the battalion, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th 75mm Krupp batteries were sent to Tarnovo Seymen. The 5th and 6th 57mm Gruson platoons as a part of the heavy siege division were assigned to the Serbian Timochka Division I and attached to the 15th and 20th Infantry Regiment. I was not able to know where the four remaining 57mm platoons were deployed: probably the stood in Sofia during the whole war.


Shumenski Fortress Battalioncommander : Lt.Col. Petko Valchanov

The light siege division completed its mobilization on 28 September 1912 and was transferred by train on the railway line Shumen – PreslavVarbitzaIsupliAleksandrovoZimnitza – Yambol – Eni BegliKazal AgachChitalovoGolyam DerventProvadiya, where arrived on 14 October, covering a distance of 170 km within 16 days. On 16 October it was assigned to the 8th Tundzhanska Division at Kadzhiköj and was transferred on the railway line ProvadiyaChomlekköjHadzhiköjKajkaköjKadzhiköj. Arrived on 20 October at Kadzhiköj, it was subordinated to the head of the artillery of the 8th Division, Col. Krasto Bachvarov. On 22 October 3rd 150mm L/12 Schneider howitzers battery was dispatched to 11th Infantry Division in the North-Western sector.

The 1st group armed with 120mm L/28 Schneider guns was attached to the Sofiyski fortress battalion. But later the order was cancelled and the group went on to Chitalovo. On 14 October it was assigned to the 2nd Army. The next day it reached Hadzhiköj and was deployed in the sector hold by the 9th Plevenska Division.

The heavy siege division completed its mobilization on 1 October 1912 and was sent to Gabrovo together with the 1st and 2nd 57mm platoons. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd 75mm Krupp batteries were sent to Yambol, but the 3rd  battery was detached and dispatched to Burgas, where it arrived on 8 October. On 23 February 1913 it was followed by the two remaining batteries: a section of 1st battery was placed at Anchialo, two sections of the same battery at Sozopol, while the 2nd battery reinforced the Burgas garrison.

Between 3 and 6 October the heavy division crossed the Balkans at Sv. Nikola pass and reached Tilovo. There two batteries – 2nd 150mm L/12 Schneider howitzers and 5th 57mm Gruson guns – were detached and sent by road to Shumen and then by rail to Varna. The heavy howitzers were placed near the monastery of Sv. Konstantin (battery N° 9), but later, on 2 November, they were assigned to the 2nd Army, and took part in the siege of Odrin.

On 5 October at Shipka, the head of the Shumenski fortress battalion was appointed head of the Tarnovo Seymen mixed fortress battalion. On 7 October in the evening, the batteries of the heavy division became to reach Tarnovo Seymen by rail, while the two 57mm platroons were sent by rail to Lyubimetz. On 12 October the heavy division was again loaded on the train and dispatched to Mustafa Pasha, where it should be assigned to the 2nd Army. The next day the Tarnovo Seymen mixed fortress battalion was dissolved and the Headquarters of the Shumenski fortress battalion was sent to Mustafa Pasha, where Lt.Col. Valchanov took charge of the siege artillery against the Odrin fortress.

On 15 October the heavy division, stored on the train at Lyubimetz, was dispatched to Kadzhiköj, where it was assigned to the 8th Tundzhanska Division, together with the group armed with 120mm L/25 Krupp guns from the Sofiyski fortress battalion. The two 57mm platoons were sent back Tarnovo Seymen. On 20 October Lt.Col. Valchanov deployed his batteries, which took part in the siege of Odrin.

In view of the attack against the Chataldzha line, a siege artillery detachment under command of maj. Angel Angelov was formed with 1st and 3rd 150mm howitzers batteries and 3rd 120mm L/28 Schneider guns battery of the Shumenski fortress battalion. It was assigned to the 1st Army. On 13 December 1912 two 150mm howitzers of the 3rd battery were dispatched to Rodosto, but on 25 December the detachment was sent again to Odrin.

On 13 March 1913 two 120mm L/28 Schneider guns batteries were dispatched to the 1st Army at Chataldzha.

The rest of the battalion (3rd and 4th - 57mm platoons, 4th and 5th – 75mm not QF batteries), under command of 2nd lt. Ivanov, formed a mixed group, that stood at Shumen, where it was supported by six batteries of the Vidinski fortress battalion armed with old Russian guns. In May 1913 the 75mm batteries contributed to the creation of the new 12th and 13th artillery regiments, and on 26 May 1913 the 57mm platoon was sent to Vidin.


Vidinski Fortress Battalioncommander : Lt.Col. Konstantin Kirkov

At the outbreak of the war against Turkey, the battalion, except for 8 – 57mm Gruson turret guns, included only Russian outdated guns dating back to 1867. Even if they had been kept with great care, their significance in a modern war was very scarce. Therefore the battalion was not regarded as an operating unit, but was used only to defend strong points in the rearguard and along the Black Sea coastline.

Since 18 September 1912, the day after the declaration of the general mobilization, the 2nd ten-barrel Nobel MG battery with 4 machine guns was sent to Varna, in order to strengthen the garrison of Varna, at that time composed only by two Opalchenie (Varna I and II ban) and one replacement (8th Primorski regiment) battalion.

The headquarters of the fortress battalion were sent to Varna, where lt.col. Kirkov was appointed head of the artillery of the strongpoint,. Its units were distributes as follows:

         1st fortress siege division (maj. Nikola Minkov) :

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th 9 pdr [106.7mm] batteries with 24 guns,

1st 6 inch [152.4mm] battery with 4 mortars,

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th 57mm turret platoons with 8 guns.

         2nd fortress siege division (cpt. Sotir Atanasov) :

5th, 6th 9 pdr [106.7mm] batteries with 12 guns,

1st, 2nd 24 pdr [152.4mm] batteries with 6 short guns,

2nd, 3rd 6 inch [152.4mm] batteries with 4 mortars.

         3rd fortress siege division (maj. Dimitar Nachev) :

3rd 24 pdr [152.4mm] battery with 3 short guns,

1st, 2nd 24 pdr [152.4mm] batteries with 8 long guns,

1st ten-barrel Nobel MG battery with 3 machine guns.

         4th fortress siege division (maj. P. Todorov) :

7th, 8th  9 pdr [106.7mm] batteries with 12 guns.

The 1st division was sent to Sofia via Belogradchik. On 7 October it reached Mezdra, where the 57mm turret guns were dispatched by rail to Varna, arriving there on 10 October, while the rest of the division reached Sofia by rail on 9 October.

The 2nd division was sent to Shumen via Belogradchik. At Mezdra it was loaded on train and reached its destination on 10 October. There cpt. Atanasov was assigned to the Odrin-Macedonian Opalchenie as battalion commander, leaving its unit to lt. Ljuben Marinov.

The 3rd and 4th division were transferred on the steamers and the barges of the Danube Flottilla to Ruse, where they went on by rail to Varna, arriving there respectively on 1 and on 4 October.

Finally 1st six-barrel Nobel MG battery with 3 machine guns was sent to Burgas.

During the war against Turkey all these units did not take part in any military operation, except for a few shells fired against Turkish ships. After the fall of Odrin the Vidinski fortress battalion raised a 105mm L/30 battery with four Turkish long guns and men taken from the 9 pdr batteries sent to Sofia. In May 1913 the 9 pdr batteries stationed in Sofia raised a division with three six-guns batteries armed with 75mm not QF Krupp guns. It was put under the command of maj. Minkov and assigned to the 1st Reserve Infantry Division, later designated 12th Infantry Division.

When the diplomatic relations with Serbia became to worsen, the Shumen group (cpt. P. Todorov), with 4th 57mm platoon from the Shumenski battalion, was assigned the to defence of Vidin. The group left Shumen by rail on 26 May 1913 and the next day arrived at Ruse. There it was embarked the steamers and the barges of the Danube Flottilla and reached Vidin on 31 May. The same day also the headquarters of the Vidinski battalion arrived in the fortress. It was carried first on the railway line VarnaMezdraLom and then on the Danube. Since the 24 pdr short guns and the 6 inch mortars could not be used in the expected offensive, Lt.Col. Kirkov with their crews built up a three companies battalion, charged with the protection of the artillery of the place. It was assigned to the commander of the 240mm coast battery, cpt. Milko Zhelezov, temporary detached to the place of Vidin.

On 15 June 1913 the Varna group (cpt. Evlogi Todorov) with 5th 57mm platoon of the Shumenski battalion and two MGs batteries (7 machine guns) arrived at Vidin. The division under command of maj. Nachev (3 short and 8 long 24 pdr guns) was detached at Mezdra and dispatched to Sofia. On 17 June the Vidin garrison raised an artillery division with eighteen 75mm not QF batteries come from Ferdinandovo and men taken from 9 pdr, 24 pdr and 6 in batteries. It was put under command of cpt. Zhelezov.

Three of the 9 pdr batteries were assigned to the advanced towards Serbia, along with two 75mm not QF batteries, three 57mm platoons and three ten-barrell old machine guns, while 3rd – 75mm not QF battery was attached to the Kula Detachment (three opalchenie battalions and one pioneer platoon under command of lt.col. Cherkovski). The remaining artillery pieces (6 – 57mm, 6 – 9 pdr, 6 – 24 pdr short guns and 4 – 6 in mortars), along with 4 six-barrel machine guns, was assigned to the defence of the fortress.

During the Interallied War 105mm L/30 battery was assigned to the 2nd Army: one section under Lt. Rodev was placed at the Kresna defile, while the other section, under 2nd Lt. Kolev, fought bravely at Rupel defile, and after having fired all the available rounds, its crews destroyed their guns and withdrew. At Sofia 2nd Lt. Kolev and his men were assigned to a mountain artillery section armed with 75mm not quick-firing guns, that fought against the Greek Army at Razlog until the signing of the armistice.