Technical and tactical regulations





At first the instruction of the Bulgarian artillery was carried out along Russian regulations, but in 1892 these were modified according with the peculiarity of the Krupp guns at that time adopted by the Army. In 1880s the training of the artillery was essentially founded on the firing theory, while the firing practice was seen as a sort of show without any relation with the real tactical situations and the probable enemy actions. In fact, at that time in Russian artillery schools the fire was directed according with theoretical estimates.

Before the war against Serbia (1885) the instruction of the artillery troops was based on the Russian Regulations for gun and battery exercises of foot artillery and instructions to conduct ammunition wagon (Устав орудійнаго и батарейнаго ученія пешей артилеріи и инструкція веденія заряднихъ ящиковъ) published in 1884. Even if it contained notions for firing from covered positions, indirect fire was almost unknown. Actually the guns were not fit for it, and the artillery officers did not understand the meaning of the angle of sight. Tactically the lesson of the Russo-Turkish War was almost ignored, and the batteries were not used en masse. Rarely two or more batteries were put under a common commander, very often the battery itself was split and even a single gun was used independently.

At that time the Bulgarian artillery officers were young, and had not enough field training. Many of them had graduated at the Sofia Infantry Military School. Similarly not many battery commanders had shot at least some rounds, while others had been only present at firing tests, and the greater part of the officers had not even see them. As a whole they were not trained in the tactical use of the artillery and the infantry commanders did not find the need to know the characteristics and tactics of the artillery.


The first Bulgarian instructions for the artillery fire, the Rules for artillery adjustment and fire were adapted from the Russian instructions by the Artillery Inspector lt.col. Petar Tantilov, and published with a red cover. This “Red booklet”, as it was known among the artillery officers, followed strictly the rules used in 1884-85 by the Russian Artillery School, and modified by the most authoritative artillery scholars of the time, like Aleksandr Trofimovich Baumgarten and Vladimir Nikolaevich Shklarevich. It contained instructions about the tactical methods of choosing artillery positions, and for shooting at different targets. Moreover for the first time some models to draw up practice reports were offered to the gunners. In 1891 the “Red booklet” was integrated by the Instructions for acting and firing of artillery division with two or three eight-guns batteries, which for the first time provided directions to operate with groups of batteries and to concentrate the fire.

At that time however the rules for the field artillery were directly influenced by the accurate fire of the fortress artillery. Therefore they did not pay great care to the peculiarity of field targets: their mobility, their quick appearance and disappearance, the depth of their front, their vulnerability and so on. Most of all, the demands of the law of probability always prevailed against the needs of the real battle fire, even if the experts were aware of the great variety of the battle conditions.

At the same time the organization of the artillery was changing : the strength of the field batteries was reduced to six guns, instead of eight as previously, and the batteries were grouped by three in artillery divisions (отделение), that became the basic tactical unit. This meant that new instructions and regulations should be introduced.

After a long debate, attested by a great number of articles published in the Bulgarian military press, in 1897 the “Red booklet” was replaced by new instructions inspired by the most recent acquisitions about the artillery fire borrowed from the regulations of the great powers armies: the Draft direction for firing in field and mountain artillery and the Draft rules for firing in fortress-siege artillery, followed in 1898 by the Regulations for cavalry instruction with artillery division. Lacks and inaccuracy of the first two texts were amended, and a new version was published in 1899 and intensely tested. The definitive text was finally adopted in 1902.


Within the gradual development of the Bulgarian artillery, the most substantial change was its rearmament with quick firing guns. This was the result of the transformations and improvements of the techniques at the beginning of the 20th Century, the grown of the fire power, and the increasing rôle of the artillery fire in battle. A great contribution was also offered by the experiences of the Russo-Japanese War.  The new weapons adopted by the Bulgarian Army, and the new requirements of the modern warfare needed new ways of training in artillery. Since this time the guns came mainly from French factories, the instructions adopted were directly inspired by the French system of fire discipline. After all it was adopted by most of the armies which had been rearmed with French quick-firing guns, but it also exerted a marked influence even upon the regulations of those powers which had not adopted it, such as Germany, Russia, Great Britain or Austria.

New Instructions for the employment of the field quick-firing artillery in combat were published in 1905 and a new Direction for firing in field and mountain quick-firing artillery was added in 1908. The main novelty was the introduction of the indirect fire (defilade). Instead of occupying open positions on the crest of the hills, and firing directly to the target, now, as a general rule, the artillery should fire from covered and deeply masked positions with the aid of the new improved sighting devices. However the text added that defilade was not the aim, but only a mean and the artillery should not hesitate to occupy also open positions, if the circumstance required it.

In 1906 these two texts were followed by the Draft instructions for the employment of the fortress artillery and by the Draft field service regulations for quick-firing field artillery, that were confirmed two years later, remaining in force till the outbreak of the Balkan Wars. Finally a Field service regulation for quick firing mountain artillery was published in 1909.

The new instructions and regulations for the artillery were drawn up by a Committee attached to the Artillery Inspection. The texts were approved by the Artillery Inspector on the basis of a report of the president of the Committee and of the head of the respective section of the Inspection. Then they were printed and sent to the troops for 1-2 years as “draft regulations”. After the submission of the proposals of modifications and additions, and the introduction of the appropriate corrections, the final texts were approved by the War Minister and issued to the units to be fully applied and implemented.


Unlike the French school, which thought that artillery should be mobile, rapid firing and able to fight from forward positions, the Bulgarian Army assigned great importance even to the greater calibres that formed the so called “heavy field artillery”. It was composed by field howitzers, which expressed to the highest degree the increased and decisive rôle of the artillery on the battlefield. Firing at curved trajectories and at long ranges, they were able to destroy shelters and to hit troops keeping under cover or entrenched, targets that were almost unreachable for light field guns firing to flat trajectories. For Bulgaria, that in a war against Turkey had to face the Odrin strongpoint, heavy field artillery was essential. Negotiations for the purchase of quick-firing howitzers lasted long, and came to an end only in 1911, but already in 1908 the Instructions for the employment of the heavy field artillery in combat were published, followed by the Field service regulations for quick-firing howitzers in 1910.


The war against Turkey (1912-13) and, even though to a lesser degree, the Interallied War concurred  remarkably to the development of the Bulgarian artillery, which had to face with new and unexpected problems, and to acknowledge its own limitations and  inadequacies. The first remarks on the experiences gained during the war were published already at the end of 1913, with the Additional instructions for the employment of the artillery fire in future combats. This brief text was focused on the importance of entrenching the artillery positions, saving ammunitions and concentrating the fire on a single target.

A global rethinking of the tactical role of the artillery required more time. Only on the eve of the entry into the Great War, the Bulgarian Army published a set of basic papers, which lay at the bottom of the employment of the Bulgarian artillery during the war, staying in force even after its end. In 1915 the Artillery Inspection published a new Direction for the employment of the field artillery in combat and a new Direction for firing in field artillery, a text containing the amendments and the additions required by the adoption of the ex Turkish Krupp field guns, while the Engineers Inspection the Instructions for the attack of fortified positions and the fortification of field positions, that reflected the experience of the siege of Odrin, but also the first lessons of the Great War. In particular Bulgaria had to face two problems that every European Army had to solve during the war : the coordination between infantry and artillery and the trench warfare.