The coast artillery during World War I

 

 

On August 1916 Romania entered the war, and on 1 September, with the beginning of the military operations in Dobrudja, the situation in the Balck Sea changed radically. From the beginning of the fightings the Russian Fleet intensified its raids against the Bulgarian coast. On 6 September 1916 with the Operational order N. 18 the arrangement of the defence against landings was modified, in order to protect the coast up to Balchik and Kavarna. The Varna fortified point was denominated “fortified area” and was extended north, being subordinated to the command of the 3rd Army. The old head of the Varna fortified point, col. Dimitar Kantardzhiev, was appointed head of the fortified area, while maj. gen. Georgi Abadzhiev replaced maj. gen. Matey Andreev at the head of the Burgas fortified point.

On 7 September Balchik and Kavarna were shelled by two Russian destroyers, Bystriy e Gromkiy, sinking a towable barge and damaging four mahonas at Kavarna. The head of the Bulgarian Fleet, col. Kirkov ordered to place at Balchik 2 – 87mm field guns of the Shumenski heavy artillery regiment under command of cpt. Petrov. On 9 September the attack was repeated against Balchik, where at that time there were no Bulgarian coastal artillery to return the fire, but the destroyers were repelled by seaplanes. The same day col. Kirkov asked that the coast artillery was reinforced with long range fortress guns of great calibre. On 16 September he received a two-guns 150mm German battery, soon followed by another two batteries of the same kind. Unfortunately Gen. Field Marsh. Mackensen soon took these batteries back, since it was impossible to find an agreement about who should have the operational command of them.

Therefore col. Kirkov had to do with what he had got, and on 23 September the 2 – 100mm L/50 coast guns were removed from their emplacement at Sv. Troitsa, and were sent by sea to Balchik, where they were placed in the cape east of the Balchik, in order to defend both the harbour and the bay. In place of them a 150mm two-guns armoured cupola captured in Dobrudja by the 3rd Army was mounted south of Galata, under the command of cpt. Rusinov, who untill then had commanded the 228mm battery.

 

On 22 October the Romanian town of Constantza was seized by the Bulgarian troops. The defence of the coast and of the harbour were assigned to the Bulgarian Fleet, but, since it had not enough forces to do it, the German Navy raised the Marine-Abteilung Konstanza, composed by 1st sailor company (1. seemännische Kp.) and 2nd artillery company (2. Artillerie-Kp.) detached from Turkey. It was reinforced by a Saxon Lansturm Infantry battalion, sent by the Army. At first it had only 2 three-guns 105mm batteries, but in January they were followed by another 4 – 150mm guns. With them and with other guns arrived later, four coast artillery batteries were formed, named “Anhalt”, “Sachsen”, “Rheinland” and “Tuzla”. In 1918, after the peace with Romania, all the batteries were dismantled and the guns were transported to other fronts.

On 13 December a Russian squadron composed by the protected cruiser Pamyat’ Merkuriya and the destroyers  Bystriy e Gromkiy, shelled the harbour and the town of Balchik, coming into the range of the Bulgarian 100mm coast battery. In spite of the great superiority of the Russian firepower (12 – 152mm L/45, 6 – 102mm L/60, 12 – 75mm and some minor guns against only 2 – 100mm L/50 guns), the Bulgarian battery commander, cpt. Georgi Radkov, engaged the enemy for an hour and half, firing 186 shots and hitting the ships with three shells.  Also one of the Bulgarian guns was hit, and a soldier was slightly wounded. The harbour facilities and the town itself were seriously damaged, and many peoples were killed or wounded. After this fighting, cpt. Radkov was promoted commander of the 240mm L/45 battery.

To prevent further raids of the Russian fleet, and expecially to repell landings, that were regarded as possible, even after the liberation of the Dobrudja and the occupation of most of the Romanian coast, new minefield were laid down. Just after the 13 December raid, 24 mines were laid on the approaches to the Balchik harbour. By late January, 91 mines were laid south of Kaliakra, and further 115 around Balchik, Kavarna and Kaliakra. Finally 11 mines were laid into the Danube, 2 km east of Tulcea. In addition the coast defence of Balchik were strengthened with 1 – 120mm L/25 and 2 – 87mm two-guns batteries taken from Sofiyski and Shumenski heavy artillery regiments. Another 2 – 76mm naval guns, probably taken from the disarmed ships of the Danube Flottilla, were sent from Ruse.

 

The coast defence of the Black Sea were increased also in 1917, even if, after the February Revolution, the Russian pressure along the Black Sea coast had greatly reduced. On 17 March 1917 the 1st 150mm L/30 battery of the Shumenski heavy artillery regiment with two guns was placed a Gyaur Sutzhik, in the Bay of Burgas, while on 27 March a 120mm L/28 fortress battery of the Sofiyski heavy artillery regiment was placed south of Galata, in the Bay of Varna. The two 120mm guns were nicknamed “Petar” and “Pavel”.

At the same time two 150mm L/40 Krupp guns, nicknamed “Adam” and “Eve”, were placed at Sarafovo, to strengthen the defence of the the Bay of Burgas. They came from the Macedonian Front, where they had been assigned to the defence of the area of Bitola. Finally 4 – 105mm L/28 Schneider heavy field guns were placed at Cape Sv. Nikola, near Chernomoretz, again in the Bay of Burgas.

 

After the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, signed on 15 December 1917 and become effective on 3 March 1918, Russia left the war. Therefore in 1918 the coast defence of the Black coast did not see any new increase. At the end of 1917 the Bulgarian coast artillery was composed by two coast artillery regiments, with 11 batteries and 22 guns at Varna, 7 batteries and 14 guns at Balchik and Kavarna, and 5 batteries with 12 guns at Burgas. In addition there were a German coast battery at Burgas and a lot of fortress and old field guns assigned to defence against landings.

On 29 September 1918, signing the Salonika armistice, Bulgaria left the war. The Burgas fortified point had been disbanded already on 23 August, while the Varna fortified area was disbanded on 6 November. The Peace Treaty signed at Neuilly left only 12 guns to the Bulgarian coast artillery, 8 at Varna and 4 at Burgas.

The naval artillery had no increase during the war. The torpedo gunboat Nadezhda stood without armament, while one of the torpedo boats, Shumniy, on 11 September 1911 struck a mine in the Batova Bay and sunk. Besides 10 – 47 mm embarked on the five remaining torpedo boats, there was only a 37mm gun of the Bulgarian submarine Podvodnik N. 18.