The Transvaal guns affair



In 1896 the Bulgarian Artillery Committee presided by the Artillery Inspector, col. Boncho Balabanov, after some experiences carried in most important artillery firms, had concluded that at that time there was not a gun that could fulfil all the demands of the modern warfare. Therefore it decided to introduce some minor changes in the existing field and mountain guns adopted by the army, waiting for further improvements of the technique before to adopted a new model of gun.

So from 1897 to 1904 no new orders of artillery materiel was approved, even if the Army had not even enough 87mm Krupp guns to equip all the field batteries assigned to the Infantry Divisions (306 instead of the required 324), and was forced to employ also a little number of 75mm guns, although they were unanimously regarded as too less powerful. Nevertheless the news that two of the Bulgaria neighbours, Turkey and Romania, were rearming their artillery with modern quick-firing guns worried the high command, urging it to look for a stopgap to meet every possible emergency.

During its visit of the Schneider factory in 1903, the Bulgarian Commission charged to test the guns produced there had the chance to examine a batch of 12 six-guns batteries of 75mm quick-firing field guns M. 1895-98 ordered by the Boer state of Traansval, but not delivered due to the end of the war against Great Britain. Since no other modern guns ready for use could be found elsewhere, Bulgaria entered into negotiations to obtain them.


On 9 January 1904 the Artillery Committee was asked to examine the affair, but, in spite of the urgency, it set some particular conditions to buy the guns. Even if they were quite modern when they had been introduced and had proved well during the war, they were outdated in 1904, after the introduction of true quick-firing guns, and needed to be modernized to be able to meet successfully the new guns adopted by the Balkan countries.

The Committee decided to purchase the guns only if they could be delivered within thee months with at least 200 rounds per gun. In addition it demanded to made some improvements :

a)     to made a new cradle with hydropneumatic or spring recuperators;

b)     to modify the sight introducing a goniometer;

c)     to replace the stopping of the wheels by means of an elastic trail spade with a solid spade placed in the trail-end and wheel brakes like those employed in the guns tested in 1903 in France.

A final clause contemplated that these guns would be replaced by others, if Schneider guns were chosen to rearm the Bulgarian artillery. The conditions envisaged by the Commission were so heavy that the French firm did not accept the request and, since moreover there was not enough ammunition to supply the guns, the plan was abandoned.