Plans of reorganization

 

 

In 1914 the American Field Artillery Journal published a brief, but clear and detailed essay written by the Bulgarian lt-col. Kiril Nikolov. It contained a proposal of reorganization of the Bulgarian Artillery based upon the experiences of the recent Balkan Wars.

 

Field Artillery — The results of the Balkan wars had clearly shown that, owing to moral and physical causes, a strong artillery, able to prepare the infantry’s operations, was necessary. The artillery had to clear away the infantry’s obstacles, to fire on and silence the men of the enemy’s out-works and positions and of the enemy’s artillery, to prepare the attack of the infantry by neutralizing the enemy, to destroy or silence his machine guns, to follow a retreating enemy with its fire or check his advance when he attacked. These goals could be obtained only when the necessary amount of artillery was in the field and when it could obtain a marked superiority over the enemy, both in quality and quantity. Since the advance against the modern quick-firing artillery appeared very difficult, the infantry could hope to engage with the bayonet its enemy only if it felt itself well protected by its own artillery.

Consequently lt-col. Nikolov asserted that an Infantry Division should have at least as many quick-firing batteries as infantry battalions. Assuming that the Bulgarian Division would have three brigades, each of two regiments of three battalions, twelve field batteries would be needed. They should be grouped into a brigade of two regiments, each of two battalions, each of three batteries. In peace all batteries should be fully equipped with officers and guns and at least two batteries of each battalion should be entirely manned and horsed.

 

Field Howitzers — During the Interallied War the Bulgarian Army greatly suffered from the fire of Serbian field howitzers. They reduced the infantry to inactivity, disheartening, puzzling, exhausting and terrifying it. They displayed their power at great ranges, and when the fight was severe or long-continued they were the deciding factor.

Since the future wars, in plains or in mountains, would be probably decided by the fire of heavy guns, with long range, great rapidity of fire, and shell with great explosive effect, lt-col. Nikolov suggested to assign to every Infantry Division at least one field howitzer battalion with three batteries.

 

Mountain Artillery — At the beginning of the war, the Bulgarian mountain artillery was equipped only with guns, but the war experience had showed the need of a more powerful weapon of larger calibre for mountain warfare.

The Serbs, who had not mountain howitzers, used their field guns and howitzers in the mountains. They were quite successful, although a great deal of effort was required in the way of making special roads. The Greeks had mountain howitzers, that were superior to the Bulgarian quick-firing and non-quick-firing mountain guns, having a greater range and using shells almost as powerful as those of their field guns. They combined the advantages of the field gun and the howitzer in the mountains.

Consequently lt-col. Nikolov proposed that every Infantry Division have at least one mountain battalion of three batteries, and each army at least one battalion of mountain howitzers.

Besides he asserted that mountain guns and howitzers should be grouped, in peace too, in independent artillery battalions, as they would appear in the battlefield. Before the Balkan Wars the Bulgarian mountain batteries had a regimental organization, but the war experiences had shown that the existence of a mountain artillery regiment is not necessary in peacetime.

 

Horse Artillery — The war experience had shown that the Bulgarian Cavalry Division needed horse batteries. Its unsuccessful operations, especially after the battle of Lule Burgas, could be easily explained by the lack of the support of horse artillery.

Since Turks, Serbs, Greeks an Romanians had their own horse artillery, lt-col. Nikolov suggested that a regiment of three battalions, each of two or three batteries, should be formed as soon as possible also in the Bulgaria.

 

Heavy Field Artillery — War experience had shown that guns of larger calibre and greater range were required to overcome the strongly fortified positions, which characterized modern war.

Consequently lt-col. Nikolov asserted that the Bulgarian Army should have 100mm and 120mm guns and 150mm howitzers, organized in two or four-gun batteries. In particular each army should have at least one battalion, of three batteries.

 

Army Artillery — In modern war an army could perform its complex duties only with an artillery reserve. Without it, during the battle the divisional batteries had to shift from one position to another.

Lt-col. Nikolov thought that the army artillery should be formed from the divisional artillery on mobilization, by raising a battalion of three batteries from each artillery brigade of the Inspection (three divisions). The three battalions so raised would be formed into a regiment of nine batteries, as army artillery. To them it should also be added the mountain howitzer batteries and the various kinds of heavy field artillery, grouped in independent battalions.

 

Not-quick-firing guns — Lt-col. Nikolov thought that the not-quick-firing artillery should no longer appear in the battle line, but should be sent to fortresses of no special importance.

 

Proportion of Guns to Bayonets. The experience of the Balkan Wars had shown to fix the right proportion between guns and bayonets : every battalion (1,000 men) should have a at least one battery (four guns), not counting the various batteries attached to the armies. The army artillery would increase this proportion to about five guns per one thousand bayonets. To reach this ratio lt-col. Nikolov proposed to reduce the number of the battalions in a regiment to three.

 

Organization of the Artillery in peacetime — Lt-col. Nikolov stated that the whole artillery should be subordinate to the Artillery Inspection. The Inspection should be divided into three departments, for the field, mountain and fortress artillery. The first should be charged with the equipment and training of the field, howitzer and horse batteries; the second, of the mountain gun and howitzer batteries; the third, of the siege and fortress batteries. But, since in the field infantry and artillery should be strictly connected, he stressed that the artillery, in all tactical matters, should be under the orders of the divisional commanders, both in peace and in war.

The artillery inspectors appointed to the Inspections in peacetime should become the commanding officers of the army artilleries in wartime. They should not be merely administrative officers, but tactical commanders as well. They especially should unify the training of the various artillery units within their districts. The same should happen with the chiefs of divisional artillery, who should command, tactically as well as administratively, their units in time of peace and war.

Finally, since during the Balkan wars there were too many shiftings in the artillery command, lt-col. Nikolov recommended that the men training in peace for certain positions kept them also in wartime.

 

Training of the Artillery — Lt-col. Nikolov recommended that the infantry officers should be intimately acquainted with the special features and uses of the various kinds of artillery which they might command,  permanently or temporarily in peace or in war, and with which they would be closely associated in the battlefield.

Since the tactical direction and use of the artillery was entirely in the hands of the infantry commander, it was very important to avoid an arbitrary handling of the artillery by the infantry commanders, and especially :

-     the forcing of the artillery to place their guns at certain fixed points, regardless of their mission, when the batteries could have fired better and with less losses from positions farther to the rear;

-     the demanding of immediate fire from the guns before they could be prepared for fire;

-     the request for uninterrupted fire to strengthen the morale of the infantry, without thought of the waste of ammunition involved;

-     the order for the batteries to come out into the open, so that the infantry could see them and be encouraged, without thought of the relative advantages of the positions from the point of view of artillery fire.

This goal could be attained only with continued training and the close cooperation between infantry and artillery. Therefore lt-col. Nikolov stressed that in peacetime their training should not be limited to occasional manoeuvres together, but should be extended throughout the entire year.

 

 

The strength of the Bulgarian Artillery according with the plan of lt-col. Nikolov

 

Artillery assigned to

Total

a division

an army

every army

the whole Army

bts.

pieces

bts.

pieces

bts.

pieces

bts.

pieces

field artillery

guns

12

48

9

36

45

180

135

540

howitzers

3

12

=

=

9

36

27

108

mountain artillery

guns

3

12

=

=

9

36

27

108

howitzers

=

=

3

12

3

12

9

36

horse artillery

=

=

=

=

=

=

6 / 9

24 / 36

heavy artillery

=

=

9 / 12

36 / 48

9 / 12

36 / 48

27 / 36

108 / 144

         Total

18

72

21 / 24

84 / 96

75 / 78

300 / 312

231 / 243

924 / 972