Plans of modernisation

 

 

The introduction of the first QF gun in 1897 - the French built canon de 75mm Ml. 1897 - meant a true revolution in gun design and involved a mass re-equipping of almost every army in the world. It was a formidable weapon that made every other field gun in the world obsolete: every army had to replaced its artillery park or be entirely outgunned. This re-equipment took place between 1898 and 1914 and in many countries had not been completed when World War I broke out.

The superiority of the 75mm was due to the combination of the recoil system, the trail spade, a quick-acting breech, fixed ammunition, the independent line of sight, abatage, and the use of an automatic fuze-setter. Most of these mechanisms were separately utilized prior to 1897 on various guns, but the French Army put all them together on a field gun, added a shield to protect the gunners against enemy fire and obtained a weapon that could be brought into action behind six horses and that had a rate of fire approaching twenty aimed rounds a minute.

At that time the Bulgarian artillery had only a large number of antiquated 75mm and 87mm Krupp guns of various models. They were screw-breech black-powder cannons, with no recoil mechanism and shields. Their short range, lack of shields, and slow rate of fire endangered their crews, while the black powder revealed their position. The lack of recoil mechanism caused difficulties in aiming and providing concentrated artillery barrages on enemy targets. This simply meant that the Bulgarian Artillery needed more modern weapons.

 

In Bulgaria the quick-firing artillery was introduced in 1904, thanks to the efforts of War Minister major general Mihail Savov. But afterwards the Artillery Committee, in spite of the low amount of the military budget, considered the hypothesis of an updating of the not QF artillery park. This problem was tackled by the Artillery Inspectors Major-Generals Nikola Ryaskov and Pantaley Tzenov in some reports to the War Ministers Lieutenat-Generals Danail Nikolaev  and Nikifor Nikiforov.

General Rjaskov emphasized that the countries near Bulgaria were not only commanding QF artillery, but also trying to update their not QF guns with devices directed to speed up and improve the fire. Therefore he proposed that a spring-loaded trail spade and a quadrant should be furnished to each not QF gun and every not QF battery should be equipped with battery telescope. It thought that this result would be achieved at the cost of 400,000 levas.

 

General Tzenov asserted that the whole Bulgarian not QF artillery park (324 guns) was absolutely unreliable for these reasons :

-     one QF battery was capable of destroying 29 not QF batteries;

-     in order to secure the fire control in every tactical condition, the recoil should be minimised through elastic or spring-loaded trail spade : the adaptation of the fixed trail spade required transforming the tube and the gun-carriage into a QF system, mounting at the same time a cradle and shields;

-     the adaptation of the chamber and tube is required in order to use a brass cartridge (single piece ammunition) instead of propelling charge and shell (the old two piece ammunition) and that required the delivery of brass cartridges and the remodelling of the limbers and caissons of the gun system.

General Tzenov added that the modernization of the whole not QF artillery would cost 14,000 levas per gun, that meant for 324 guns a total amount of 4,536,000 levas, not counting the cost of the transport of the guns to the factories that had to modify them, the cost of the cartridges and the cost of the adaptation of the limbers and the caissons. Moreover the transformation the weight of the gun should raise to 1300 kg.

In order to cut down the expenses, he considered the hypothesis to change the not QF guns in guns à tir accéléré, adding spring-loaded trail spade and adapting them to use brass cartridges. This would cost 5,000 levas per gun, that meant a total amount of 1,620,000 levas, not counting the cost of the assembly of the parts in Sofia arsenal, the cost of the cartridges and the cost of the adaptation of the limbers and the caissons.

Finally he considered also the hypothesis of supplying modern optical instruments in order to improve the fire control, with an additional cost of at least 436,000 levas.

After this detailed analysis, general Tzenov suggested to use for the best the not QF guns without making any change and to increase the QF artillery, adding three or four batteries to every regiment. He thought that in this way within three or four years Bulgarian Army would be able to modernize its artillery without rising the military budget

 

Actually in 1912, at the outbreak of the Balkan war, every artillery regiment existing in peace formed another regiment armed with not QF guns (2 divisions with 3 six-guns batteries each). During the war some artillery divisions were rearmed with QF guns captured to the Turks. After the Interallied War gradually one division of every not QF artillery regiment received modern Krupp guns and in September 1915 each artillery brigade had two QF regiments and only one not QF artillery division.