The coast artillery during World War I



At the outbreak of the World War the situation of the Bulgarian coast artillery was not in better conditions than in 1912. After the end of the Balkan Wars Bulgaria could not obtain new coast guns, so in order to defend the Black Sea and the Aegean coastlines there were only about thirty guns, most of them coming from fortress artillery. Consequently, in August 1915, the guns of the torpedo gunboat Nadezhda were removed again from the ship, and assigned to the coast artillery.

According with the budget for 1915 the establishment of the coast artillery defences included 4 officers : the head of the coast artillery defence and commander of the 240mm battery – major, the commander of the 100mm battery – captain, and 2 young officers – 1 lieutenant and 1 second lieutenant; 8 re-enlisted non-commissioned officers : 3 warrant officers, 1 medical corporal; 10 corporals and 80 privates.

On 18 January 1914 lt.col. Konstantin Kirkov, who had been the head of the artillery of the Varna fortified point during the Balkan Wars, was appointed head of the Fleet. The first minefield was laid down in August of the same year, with 142 mines remained after the war against Turkey. On 17 September 1915 German K.Kpt. Wilhelm Busse arrived at Varna, charged by the Commander of the German Mediterranean Squadron and of the Turkish Fleet, Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, to arrange the defence of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea and the radiotelegraph connection with Istanbul. Colonel Kirkov asked him to send German submarines and a seaplane to defend the Bay of Varna, and to supply the Bulgarian fleet with 36 Whitehead torpedoes and 800 mines, 2 wire telegraphs and field telephones for the Semaphore Observation posts. Thanks to his effort on 5 October the first two German submarines – UB 7 and UB 8 – reached Varna, and were based at Evksinograd, under the command of Kpt.Lt. Rudolph Firle.

On 14 October 1915 the two fortified positions of Varna and Burgas were reactivated, under the command of col. Atanas Yankov and maj. gen. Georgi Abadzhiev respectively. In 1916 they were replaced by col. Dimitar Kantardzhiev and maj. gen. Matey Andreev.

At the time of the entry of Bulgaria into the war, the Bay of Varna was defended by only 10 guns, placed under the command of cpt. Milko Zhelezov, and divided between two sectors:

         Northern Sector

1st Bty : 2 – 240mm L/45 coast guns at Sv. Nikola, under the command of lt. Vasil Fikov;

2nd Bty : 2 – 100mm L/50 coast guns at Dolna Traka, under the command of cpt. Luka Glavchev, to defend the northern approach of the  minefield;

         Southern Sector

3rd Bty : 2 – 100mm L/50 naval guns of Nadezhda at Sv. Troitza, under the command of cpt. Ivan Variklechkov;

4th Bty : 2 – 65mm L/50 naval guns of Nadezhda at Galata, to defend the southern approach of the minefield;

5th Bty : 1 – 57mm and 1 – 76mm gun at Karantinata.

They were supported by two 90cm searchlights, placed at Galata and Trakata, like during the previous war. At the beginning of October the coast artillery were reinforced by 10 fortress guns, mainly assigned to the defence against enemy landings :

1 – 47mm L/30 battery with 2 naval guns in concrete bedding at the lighthouse at Evksinograd;

3rd 87mm not QF battery of 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment with 6 guns (arrived on 1 October),

3rd 57mm turret guns section of 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment with 2 guns (arrived on 2 October),

1 – 6 in mortars section of 3rd Heavy Artillery Regiment with 2 mortars (arrived on 7 October).


At Burgas there were only some fortress artillery batteries, coming from Sofia and Shumen:

2nd 150mm L/30 fortress battery of 1st and 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiments (4 guns),

1st section of 3rd 75mm not QF guns of 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment (2 guns),

3rd not QF division of 16th Field Artillery Regiment (18 – 87mm guns).

They were supported by the German 710th fortress artillery battery, armed with 2 – 152mm L/45 Russian guns on wheeled carriage, placed at Yana Tagar.


On 14 October 1915 the Russian Fleet bombarded Varna with a squadron composed by the dreadnought Imperatritza Maria, the battleships Ioann Zlatoust, Evstafi and Panteleimon, the cruisers Kagul and Pamiat Merkuria, 14 destroyers and 4 auxiliary ships. During the raid the Russian squadron kept itself out of the range of the Bulgarian coast batteries that therefore did not fire to not reveal their positions to the enemy.

On 7 December 1915 two Russian destroyer of the Bystriy class entered the Bay of Varna and open fire against Cape Traka, where the 100mm battery of cpt. Luka Glavchev was placed. Two Bulgarian torpedoes, Drazki and Smeli, engaged them, firing at a distance of 6-7 km, even if their maximum range was only 5 km. The 100mm coast guns fired four warning salvos, but the enemy did not return their fire. The two destroyers withdrew only after a warning salvo fired by the 240mm battery.

After this attack, the commander of the fortified points asked the Staff of the Field Army to strengthen the defence of the Black Sea coastline, in order to repel an enemy landing that seemed every day more probable. He demanded two infantry brigades, for Varna and Burgas, more artillery and some submarines. At the same time General Field Marshal August von Mackensen, the Supreme Commander of the Austro-German forces in Serbia, demanded to dispatch a German heavy artillery brigade. The Bulgarian General Staff replied that “the task of the artillery of the fortified point was not to contend with the destroyers and the powerful artillery of the enemy fleet, but mainly to repel the landings”.


The repeated raids of the Russian Fleet forced a strengthening of the coast artillery. However obtaining coast guns was not easy, since these powerful and sophisticated guns were complex and expensive, and their manufacture would require a lot of time, and Germany could not take any coast guns from the defence of its own coastline. The only solutions left was to turn to Russian war trophies, and only at the beginning of 1916 six heavy guns taken from the Russian fortress of Kovno were delivered to Bulgaria.

On 26 February 1916 Varna received the first battery, armed with two 152mm Canet L/45 guns (German Fußartillerie-Batterie 629), that was placed at Trakata, in place of the Bulgarian 100mm L/50 battery that moved to Galata. On 2 March another coast battery with two 254mm L/45 Obuchov guns (German Fußartillerie-Batterie 680) arrived, and, even this time, it was necessary to build a temporary railroad to carry them to the emplacement. They were placed north of Trakata, but, since the cement for their nest was not enough, the construction of the emplacements lasted until 5 February 1917. Finally on 18 May 1916 another battery with two 152mm Canet L/45 guns (German Fußartillerie-Batterie 710) arrived at Burgas, and was placed at Paparos. The performance of all these guns was greatly reduced since their barrels were worn out, to 75% for the 152mm and even to 90% for the 254mm guns. 

Approximately at the same time, another battery armed with 2 – 210mm L/35 Krupp guns, with barrels 90% worn out and almost useless was placed at Cape Atya, to protect the southern side of the Bay of Burgas.

On 10 May Varna received also a battery with 3 – 228mm L/7.7 mortars seized in Serbia that was placed under the command of Lt. Rusinov. The emplacement chosen for them was north of Galata, near the lighthouse, but it was so difficult to assembly and mount them, that cpt. Zhelezov had to come three times as adviser. Nevertheless one of the mortars exploded during the trail shooting, since the battering powder was not appropriate for the projectile employed. So the battery remained with only two mortars that were anyway outworn at the utmost and almost unserviceable.

Finally on 25 May the German UB 8 was handed to the Bulgarian Fleet, becoming Podvodnik N. 8, under the commander of Lt. Nikola Todorov. It was armed with two 450mm torpedo tubes with 4 torpedoes, a 37mm gun, and a Maxim machine gun. Already in summer 1914 the Bulgarian War Minister had ordered in Germany two 250 tons submarines, and three men had been sent for training with the German Navy. In 1915, after the successful defence of the Bay of Varna from the two coastal submarines located there, six units of the same class (UB I) were ordered, but Germany was not able to satisfy the request. Hence Bulgaria asked to buy at least the two submarines based at Evksinograd, but only UB 8 actually was purchased, since UB 7 sank on 26 September 1916, before it was delivered to the Bulgarian Navy.


The General Staff of the Bulgarian Army, fearing that a landing force could attack the Varna and Burgas strong points by land, decided to reinforce them also with heavy and field guns. From October 1915 to August 1916 Varna received in all 37 guns, and Burgas 30 guns. Burgas got also two searchlights, taken from 3rd searchlights unit.




mixed battery from Sofiyski heavy art. rgt.

3 x 120mm L/25

4 x 87mm


3rd 120mm L/28 battery from Vidinski heavy art. rgt.

4 x 120mm L/28


1st not QF field battery from Sofiyski heavy art. rgt.

6 x 87mm


German 187th medium and 209th light Minenwerfer Abteilung



German 629th fortress artillery battery

2 x 152mm L/45


7th position not QF division (3 batteries)

18 x 87mm



section of 1st 120mm L/25 battery from Sofiyski heavy art. rgt.

2 x 120mm L/25


2nd, 3rd 150mm howitzer batteries from Shumenski heavy art. rgt.

8 x 150mm L/12


section of 4th not QF field battery from Sofiyski heavy art. rgt.

2 x 87mm


3rd not QF field battery from Vidinski heavy art. rgt.

6 x 87mm


2nd not QF field battery from Vidinski heavy art. rgt.

6 x 87mm




The coast defence of the Bay

of Varna during the attack of the

Russian Fleet, 14 October 1915