The development of the fortress artillery



At the end of the Serbo-Bulgarian War fortress artillery was composed only by a siege cadre with 1 non commissioned officer and 22 privates. It was attached to the artillery arsenal in Ruse and was commanded by the deputy head of the Arsenal. Nevertheless during the war it had been able to arm a fortress detachment that concurred effectively in the defence of the fortress of Vidin, besieged by the Serbian Timok Army.

The expansion of the fortress artillery took place very slowly. On 1 January 1887 a siege battery was raised in Vidin, but three years later, on 8 June 1889 it was moved to Sofia, where it was lodged near the barracks of 4th artillery regiment. Its first commander was cpt. Vladimir Kovachev, who was replaced on 9 January 1891 by cpt. Atanas Rakovski, the future father of the Bulgarian anti-aircraft artillery.

On 11 January 1890 the siege battery was renamed “Sofiyska fortress battery”, while a similar battery was raised in Shumen, where it was lodged in the barracks called “Topchane”. Its commander was maj. Georgi Sotirov, coming from 5th artillery regiment. To assure the defence of the country against a possible Serbian attack, on 30 April 1891 it was moved to Vidin and renamed “Vidinska fortress battery”. At that time the fortress batteries were regarded as independent units and were administratively subordinated to 4th artillery regiment and 2nd Foot Brigade respectively.


The Law for the organization of the Armed Forces of the Principality of Bulgaria passed in 1891 established that fortress artillery should be composed by 2-3 battalions with 3-4 companies each. Nevertheless the Budget for 1892 authorized only 2 fortress battalions with 5 companies and 2 pioneer detachments in all. Therefore with Edict N° 176/27 December 1891 the two existing fortress companies were expanded into fortress battalions, one with 3 (Sofiyski) and one with 2 companies (Vidinski). The pioneer detachments were raised later: in late 1892 for Vidinski and at the beginning of 1893 for Sofiyski battalion. The same year Vidinski battalion raised its 3rd company. In such a way the fortress battalions had by then the same structure.

The state of the Sofiyski fortress battalion was established with Order N° 88/1893. The battalion was administratively composed by 3 companies and a pioneer detachment, and technically by the fortress division and the fortress-siege and pioneer detachments. Its task was to instruct the troops in fortress-siege service, to take care of the guns required to arm the defences of Sofia, to store the artillery material for the siege division and to guard the fortification of Sofia. At the mobilization the fortress division formed some companies that would give the men for the batteries. The fortress-siege division, besides the troops for the siege batteries, would have also the park for the transports. The task of Vidinski fortress battalion was almost the same, but it was charged to defend the fortress of Vidin and Belogradchik.


On 1 January 1895 with Edict N° 1 a third fortress battalion (Shumenski) was raised, with the same composition of the two existing ones. Its main task was to defend the fortress of Shumen. It was equipped with old guns, but in summer 1895 it received a little group of modern guns for the instruction of the troops : two 57mm Gruson turret guns, two 150mm L/30 and two 120mm L/30 Krupp guns.

The 120mm Krupp field howitzers purchased in two batches in 1891-92 and assigned at first to the artillery regiments, in 1895 were replaced with 87mm field guns and delivered to fortress artillery. At that time in fortress battalions warrant officers and non commissioned officers were armed with revolver Smith & Wesson and swords, privates (Kanonir) and lance-corporals (Bombardir) with Berdan carbines. In 1900 the latter were replaced with the recently purchased Mannlicher carbines.

The same Edict established also the creation of the Direction of the fortress artillery, with a staff of a colonel, with the rank of a brigade commander, as head; a captain, with the rank of a battery commander, as adjutant; a senior clerk and a young clerk. From then on the fortress battalions were directly subordinated to the head of the fortress artillery. As battalion commander at that time was established a lieutenant colonel, with the rank of an artillery division commander, and as company commander a captain, with the rank of a battery commander. The fortress company had the same number of men of a field artillery battery.

The duty of head of the fortress artillery was at first performed by lt. col. Nikola Ryazkov, replaced on 1 January 1906 by col. Panteley Tzenov, who was at the same time Inspector of the Armaments. In 1908 he was replaced by col. Hristo Kushev and in 1912 by col. Stoyan Zagorski, who held the post till the beginning of the Balkan War.


With the changes introduced into the Law for the organization of the Armed Forces in 1897 the fortress battalion in peace should be composed by 5 companies, and would raise more units in wartime. Nevertheless no new unit was raised, even if new modern guns and howitzers had been ordered in France.

Waiting for the arrival of these guns, the General Staff of the Army, in order to assure the defence of the country, decided to assign to the fortress of Vidin and Belogradchik 8 – 24 pdr long guns, 8 – 150mm and 8 – 120mm long guns, in addition 12 – 4 pdr to Vidin and 10 – 4 pdr to Belogradchik. It ordered that all the ammunition available in Bulgaria for these kinds of guns should be collected and delivered to those two fortresses, to avoid that they might surrender for lack of ammunitions.


The situation did not change at the beginning of the 20th Century. Even if the Law for the organization of the Armed Forces passed in 1903 envisaged that the fortress battalion should be composed by 8 companies, the budgets for 1904 – 1911 authorized only 3 companies as before. 

In return the tasks of the fortress battalions were carefully detailed with the Order N° 311/1905. In peace it was composed by 3-8 companies, 1 park platoon with laboratory detachment. Its task was a) to instruct officers and soldiers in the artillery service during the attack of fortress or fortified position; b) to keep in perfect working order and ready for action all the material, clothing, arms and equipment; c) to train the personnel; d) to take care of horses and oxen. According with the circular of the General Staff N° 459/1901 the men to be assigned to the fortress artillery should be literate, strong, healthy and at least 160 cm tall.

In wartime the companies should form the batteries according with the artillery material that they manned in peace. Its task was to arrange the artillery defence of a fortress or fortified position. Therefore its mobilization plan should contain a detailed list of the works that the battalion had to do in the fortified point where it was placed or it would be send. At the mobilization the battalion would form: a) the mobile siege groups, composed by 3-4 heavy field batteries, drawn by horses or oxen; b) the units of the siege artillery park required for the attack of a fortress or a fortified position; c) the means of transport required to defend a fortress.