The birth of the coast artillery (1879 – 1912)
naval artillery was born on 1 August 1879, when at
In 1888 the Bulgarian Danube Flotilla raised its first artillery units with 5 – 6cm guns (probably the Broadwell mountain guns) and 5 – 10.66mm ten-barrels Nobel machine guns, both given by the Russian Army in 1879. They were regarded as riverain coast artillery, but if necessary they could be mounted on the deck of the ships.
In May 1897 the Société anonyme des Chantiers et
In 1899 the French head of the Bulgarian Fleet, captain 2nd rank Paul Pinchon suggested to buy another 2 cruisers of the same model of Nadezhda, 12 torpedo boats, and 2 heavy coast batteries to protect the harbour of Varna and Burgas. His request was not accepted.
On 23 February 1904, however, the Bulgarian
government signed a contract with the French firm Schneider-Canet for another 2 – 100mm guns with 1000 rounds, 3 torpedo boats and 3
floating torpedo batteries, which should be delivered in 1905. The cost of
the whole order was 1,900,505 leva. The torpedo boats, christened Drazki, Smeli and Harbi, were built at
On 14 January 1906 another contract was signed with
the firm Schneider-Canet, this time for 3 torpedo boats and a coast battery
with 2 – 240mm L/45 coast guns. The torpedo boats, christened Shumni, Letyashti and Strogi, were
of the coast guns was attended by the new head of the Bulgarian Fleet,
captain Mihail Popov, who had not the expertise to
deal with such a tricky affair. The guns arrived in May 1909 at
With the beginning of the works for the installation of the guns a lot of mistakes and carelessness, that greatly reduced their fighting efficiency, were noticed :
The firing position was unsatisfactory, since it was
placed deeply on the inside of the
b) The concrete nest had been badly planned, since the two guns were too close, and their crews might be annihilated by a single enemy shell fallen between the two guns. In addition the concrete wall built on the right and left side of the platform further reduced the field of fire.
c) The guns had been built and delivered without the equipment required for a correct fire, since they had not the graduated arcs for traversing fire, the rangefinder to calculate the distance of the enemy ships, and the firing tables, that as a rule were provided by the building firm.
The carriage and the armour of the guns allowed a
maximum elevation of only 11°, and so the maximum range could not exceed
e) Nobody had taken care to seek and collect the technical and tactical data of the likely enemy fleets (calibre and range of the guns, speed and silhouette of the ships, and so on)
In May 1909
captain Milko Zhelezov was
appointed head of the battery to direct the assembly of the gun. He had
attended a fortress and coast artillery class at the Russian Officers’
The role of
captain Zhelezov was decisive. He planned and, with
the help of some workshops, manufactured the graduated arcs, elaborated the
information for the employ of the guns in combat (conduct of fire, firing
tables), and organized the training of the personnel and the commanders of
the guns. In June 1912, during a mission at Sank Petersburg, he ordered the
optical devices for the rangefinders that were manufactured by the
At first the coast artillery battery was administratively dependant from the Fleet, but from 1 January 1910 it was detached from the Fleet and subordinated to the Artillery Inspection. At the beginning of 1912 it was again attached to the Fleet and subordinated to the commander of the fixed defence. On 12 February 1910 it was published the Status for the conduct of the coast battery in peace, compiled by cp. Zhelezov, who wrote also instructions, descriptions and directions for its employ.
In 1910 the establishment of the coast artillery battery included the battery commander – captain, 2 young officers – 1 captain and a 1 re-enlisted lieutenant, 1 warrant officer, 2 sergeants, 4 corporals, 6 lance corporals and 33 privates.