Artillery delivered by Austria-Hungary during WW1



Austria-Hungary was the second supplier of Bulgarian Army in World War I. The ties between the two Armies were very bound, probably because the Bulgarian Chief of Staff and many Bulgarian officiers had studied in Vienna. Only a few days after entering the war in October 1915, the Bulgarian High Command sent an urgent request to the Austro-Hungarian General Staff for immediate delivery of 50,000 Mannlicher rifles and 50 million rounds for them, 300,000 greatcoats, 500,000 pair of boots, 250,000 rucksacks, 250,000 cartridge belts, 500,000 aluminium canteens, 100,000 woolen blankets, 1,600,000 meters of cotton cloth, and much more. During the war the co-operation between the two Army was unfailing and Austria-Hungary supplied a lot of Schwarzlose machine guns and a great number of weapons and equipments.


As for artillery, the Bulgarian Army received by Austria-Hungary some batteries of 150 mm heavy howitzer and 75 mm mountain gun, both made by Skoda. The last was probably the best mountain gun introduced during World War I and was intensively used also during World War II by various Army. Even if it was designed “kanone it was a true howitzer able to fire in curve trajectory, that was very useful in mountain warfare.

For Skoda it was essential to take other consumers into account in order to maintain gun production after the end of the war. This referred particularly to Austro-Hungary’s allies, and the 75mm mountain gun was to prove an unrivalled product. In 1916 a delivery of 31 batteries (124 guns) to Bulgaria could be seen as the beginning of long-term deliveries, especially because it was the first time that Bulgarian Army ordered artillery from Skoda, instead of Schneider or Krupp, as previously did.

But such a great zeal of Skoda works in manufacturing guns for export, caused perplexity and apprehension in the Danube Monarchy. In the light of the deteriorating raw material situation, the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry was astonished that Skoda could meet its delivery obligations to the Austro-Hungarian Army for heavy artillery only with great difficulty, but used raw materials and productions capacities for manufacturing mountain guns for export, especially because such deliveries also included ammunition. But in that case economic factors prevailed against military ones.


More serious tensions grew up with Germany in spring 1916. The Prussian war Minister, Lt.Gen. Adolf Wild von Hohenborn, accused Austria-Hungary of using the raw materials supplied by Germany to manufacture guns sold to the allies, whilst the Danube Monarchy was trying to compensate for its own artillery deficits by guns and material deliveries from Germany. He judged that the deliveries to Bulgarian and Turkish Army were reprehensible, because he assumed that German subsidies were used to pay for them.

In his reply the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry, General of Artillery Alexander von Krobatin, stated that the last reproach was quite unjustified, since not only the deliveries by Skoda had not yet been paid, but Bulgaria was also supported financially by Austria-Hungary. He added “that it must be in the interests of the overall situation of the Central Powers to remedy as much as possible the military weakness of the other allies, i.e. Bulgaria and Turkey”.

The Prussian War Minister was not satisfied by this reply and suggested to effect deliveries to the allies after joint consultation to avoid misunderstandings in the future. The project of jointly negotiable deliveries was not rejected outright, but reserved for later comments. In the light of the fact that Austrian deliveries abroad did not even make up 5% of the total wartime production of guns, the Prussian War Minister reproaches seems excessive.


Apart from Skoda mountain guns, Bulgaria mainly received captured Serbian guns. After the defeat of Serbia a large quantity of guns fell into Austrian hands. Many of them were found in the depots at Kragujevac and Kraljevo. The recaptured Austro-Hungarian material lost in the 1914 battles was immediately put in service, while the majority of the Serbian artillery of French origin, although modern, was not introduced in the Austrian Army. Some of them were exhibited as trophies in public places in Vienna and in other cities of the Monarchy, but in 1916 they were handed over to the allies, above all Bulgaria.