Captured guns

 

 

During the World War 1 the Bulgarian Army captured a lot of weapons and hundreds of guns and quickly assigned them to its artillery units. Already during the Interallied War the Bulgarian Army had used many guns captured from the Turks, 49 field and 63 fortress guns according with official history of the war. In 1913-14 they were assigned to artillery regiments in order to achieve the established strength. lt.col. Napier, the British Military Attaché at Sofia before World War I (August 1914 – September 1915), affirmed that, when he visited gen. Gesov in Plovdiv, he saw “a number of good Krupp guns recently captured from the Turks”. Gen. Gesov told him that “thanks to the latter he was able to fit the Division out complete with Q.F. guns” (Experiences of a Military Attache in the Balkans, p.47).

 

Since in 1915-16 Germany could deliver only a little number of guns, so the Bulgarian Army had to utilize the guns captured in Serbia in 1915 and in Romania in 1916-17. This was easy, since both Serbians and Romanians had the same field guns that Bulgarians used (Schneider and Krupp). But soon frictions arose in sharing the war booty among the different Armies involved in the combat.

After the defeat of the Serbian Army, when a considerable amount of artillery material fell into the victors’ hands, the Germans quickly established a booty commission, which began to confiscate war and raw materials and transport them away. It was only later that a distribution key was elaborated for the booty, providing for 30% of the material each for Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria and about 10% for Turkey.

During the offensive against Romania in 1916, German High Command held the view that every unit should keep the booty it had made. But the Austro-Hungarian Supreme Command insisted on sharing the war material, above all artillery, according to a distribution key based on the numerical ratios of the troops involved. In addition recaptured weapons should be returned to their original owners. However during the whole war the Germans proved to be by no means willing to dispense with important booty material in favour of their allies, even if they were still far inferior in the field of artillery.

In any case the majority of the artillery material captured by Germans and Austrians in Serbia and Romania was later delivered to the Bulgarian Army, since neither Germany nor Austria-Hungary introduced those guns in their Army. The first was able to manufacture enough artillery pieces with its own industry, while the second judged that the number of the captured guns did not justify a special ammunition production. During the war Germany ceded also a certain amount of guns captured in Russia. Some of them were used as coast artillery or as improvised antiaircraft guns.

 

Bulgaria too was very rapid in organizing the requisition of war materials in the occupied territory. On 25 November 1915 the 2nd main firearms depot in Shumen built up the 5th intermediate depot, which was assigned to the 1st Army and placed at Leskovatz. Its task was to collect weapons and ammunition left by the enemy and to dispatch them to Sofia. Till the end of 1915 43 wagons of war trophies were sent to the capital, where they were selected and, if possible, repaired in order to be used by the Bulgarian artillery.

The 2nd Army had the 2nd firearms unit that was built up by the 1st main firearms depot Sofia on 29 May 1916 and was administratively subordinated to the 5th intermediate depot. It is very probable that also the 3rd Army had a similar unit, since during the campaign against Romania the Bulgarian Army captured a lot of weapons and ammunition.

The enemy weapons were a source of maintenance so mattering for the Bulgarian Army that on 30 March 1916, on a proposal of the Artillery Technical Committee, the Council of Ministers emitted a decree in order to intensify the activity of searching the war materials hidden by the enemy. The State promised to pay a compensation to the citizens of the recently annexed territories, who showed where they were stored. The amount of the compensations for the materials rose to 10% of their value.

 

It is not easy to know the exact number of the captured guns used by the Bulgarians during the World War, but it was very height. For instance at the end of the war, the 3rd Heavy Artillery Regiment was armed with a total of 12 howitzers and 24 guns: among them there were 8 Turkish howitzers and 8 Romanian, 6 Turkish and 2 Greek guns. The origin of 4 of the remaining guns is not clear. The Turkish guns were war trophies of the Balkan War, while the Romanian and Greek guns had been captured in 1916. Only 4 heavy howitzers and 4 long guns had been delivered by the German Army.

 

In his final report about the activity of the Direction of the artillery of the Field Army, gen. Stefan Slavchev stated that during the war the Bulgarian Army captured approximately 550 enemy quick-firing guns and a great number of not quick-firing guns. To his report, he added a handwritten list of the guns captured to the Serbian, Romanian, Greek, French, British, Russian and Austro-Hungarian Armies that included overall 592 quick-firing and 330 not quick-firing guns. This list is certainly incomplete (for instance it not listed not even a 80mm De Bange field guns although Serbs had about one hundred of these guns along the Bulgarian border and during the war the Bulgarian artillery raised at least six batteries with De Bange field guns), but is an excellent starting point. In addition to the guns captured directly, the Bulgarian Army obtained some enemy guns captured by its alleys, Germany and Austria-Hungary.

 

 

 

Serbian guns

Romanian guns

Greek guns

Turkish guns

French guns

British guns

Italian guns

Russian guns