The Romanian Fortifications

 

 

In 1913, at the end of Interallied War, Romania had an extensive, elaborate and costly system of defensive works, primarily directed against invasion from the north-east. At that time there were two great systems of fortifications :

1. the forts around Bukarest, which converted the capital to a great entrenched camp;

2. the works constructed on the line of the River Sereth.

In addition, in the south there was a bridge-head at Cernavoda guarding the railway bridge over the Danube.

In 1914-16 some guns and howitzers were used to arm the newly acquired fortress of Silistria and the so-called Tutrakan bridge-head, to build the siege artillery batteries and to reinforce divisional artillery with 53mm QF guns.

 

The fortified line of the Sereth, covered a front of about 72 km along the Sereth river between the entrenched camps of Galati along the Danube, in the southeast, and Focsani along the Milkov river, in the north-west. It was composed of three strongpoints : Focsani, Nomoloasa and Galati, all forming bridgeheads in northern direction. These strongpoints were composed of two or three groups of small works, armed with 37mm, 53mm guns and 120mm guns, howitzers and mortars in Gruson armoured cupolas. Since the 37mm guns were found not to be sufficiently powerful, they were used at Focsani, but were not adopted for other works.

Although the works of the three strongpoints differed considerably in detail, the main principles were the same. There were a front line of batteries of light QF guns in movable cupolas, supported by a second, and in some cases a third line, consisting of guns, howitzers, and mortars of greater calibres, in disappearing turrets. The diversity of the models of the artillery pieces was a disadvantage, and matters were further complicated by the fact that Gruson and Krupp ammunitions of the same calibre were not interchangeable.

The fortifications were commenced in 1888 on the basis of a plan prepared by German major Maximilian Schumann, and were completed in 1893. The final cost of the defensive system was 26,422,640 lei.

In 1889-1892 to arm the works the Romanian Government ordered to the German firm Grusonwerg of Buckau-Magdeburg 46 - 120mm QF howitzer M. 1888, 18 120mm mortars M. 1887, 64 53mm guns in disappearing turrets, 182 53mm guns in mobile armoured turrets (Fahrpanzer), 15 charts for the Fahrpanzer, 4000 cast iron fragmentation shells and 2000 cast iron shrapnel for 120mm howitzers, 15,000 cast iron shells and 30,000 case shots for 53mm guns. Later were ordered 18 - 120mm mortars, 42 53mm guns in disappearing turrets, 32 53mm and 214 37mm guns in mobile armoured turrets to Grusonwerk, and 15 120mm guns M. 1885 to Krupp.

All the artillery pieces were placed in Gruson armoured emplacements, the heavy guns and the howitzers in armoured cupolas, the mortars were put in armoured casemates.

At first the works was manned by 2nd battalion of the Siege Regiment, that on 10 May 1892 was expanded, becoming 1st Siege regiment. On 1 April 1913 it was disbanded, and replaced by three independent battalions. On 29 April 1895 the fortifications of the Sereth line were assigned to the Focsani Nomoloasa Galati Fortified Region Command, whose head was a general of division, in August 1916 Div.Gen. Petre Nasturel, with headquarters at Galati. In 1915 many of the guns were moved from the forts in order to arm the Siege artillery Regiment, while part of the equipment of the three fortress battalions was sent as reinforcements to Cernavoda, Tutrakan and Silistria.

On 15 August 1916, when Romania entered the World War, the Fortified Region was armed with only 7 120mm guns, 7 120mm howitzers, 24 120mm mortars and 211 37mm guns.

 

The fortifications of Galati were on the left bank of the Danube, at some distance from the river. The total extent of the front was 15 km. There were 10 groups of works arranged in 3 lines with frontal and flank defence. The groups were designed both by a number (1 to 10) and and the name of the place, respectively Siret, Sendreni, Malina, Barbosi, Smardan, Covureni, Filesci, Trajan, Raves and Brates. In addition there were two special works numbered 11 and 12. There were a total of 51 batteries.

The armament of the first and second lines was composed of 53mm guns, the guns of the first line were on travelling carriages mounted in concrete emplacements in groups of three, those of the second line were mounted in small disappearing turrets, six being grouped together to form a battery. The armament of third line was not uniform : the groups Nr. 1-5 had an armoured battery for two 120mm howitzers, the groups Nr. 6-10 two armoured batteries one for two 120mm howitzers, and the other for two 120mm mortars. The batteries Nr. 11 and 12 were armed like the last group, and were placed between groups Nr. 9 and 10. The intervals between the batteries did not exceede 1000 m, the distance between the lines varied from 200 m and 300 m.

The armament was composed by 6 - 120mm mortars in spherical mountings, 24 - 120mm howitzers, 60 - 53mm guns in disappearing cupolas and 90 - 53mm guns in movable armoured turrets. The works were manned at first by 6th battery of the 2nd battalion of the Siege regiment with barracks near group Nr. 3, later by a battalion of the 1st Siege regiment and from 1913 by 1st Fortress Artillery Battalion.

 

The Nomoloasa works were upon the left bank of the Sereth. The bridge-head covered several bridges, and barrred the Jassy-Galati road and railway. The works, arranged in two lines, consist of 8 groups situated about 9.5 km from the town of Nomoloasa with a total extent of front of 12.5 km. The groups were designed both by a number (1 to 8) and a name, respectively Calieni, Serbanesti, Tecusi, Calmatnin, Mikai-Braoul, Tudor Vladimerescu, Galati and Conachi. Every group was arranged in two separate lines, the first composed by three concrete works, each with three emplacements for 53mm Fahrpanzer, the second by two armoured cupolas for one 120mm howitzer each. The intervals between the batteries varied from 1000 m and 1400 m, the distance between the two lines from 200 m and 300 m.

The total armament was 72 - 53mm guns and 16 - 120mm howitzers. The works were manned at first by 8th battery of the 2nd battalion of the Siege regiment, with barracks near group Nr. 3, later by a battalion of the 1st Siege regiment and from 1913 by 2nd Fortress Artillery Battalion.

 

The entrenched camp of Focsani was on the right bank of the River Putna, a tributary of the Sereth, and barred the road and railway Roman-Buzeu-Bucharest. The general trace of the works was a semi-circle, with a total extent of about 26 km, and was distant about 6.5 to 9.5 km from Focsani. The works were arranged in 3 separate lines giving frontal and flank defence, and numbered 71 batteries, distributed in 15 groups and 1 independent howizers group, the first line having 41 batteries, the second and the third line 15 batteries each. The groups were designed both by a number (1 to 15) and the name of the place, respectively Odobesti, Vrancea, Panciu, Baia, Marasesti, Resbviene, Furceni, Petresce, Vinatori, Putna, Jorasti, Siefan Cel Mare, Mindresti, Braila, and Milcov.

As a rule the works of the first line were composed by three batteries with five concrete emplacements armed with 37mm QF guns on travelling carriages. Nevertheless there were some differences in the number of the pieces assigned to the batteries, that varying between 10 and 16 guns. The second line was composed by six armoured batteries armed with 53mm QF guns in disappearing turrets, and for the groups Nr. 10 15, also by an armoured housing for one 120mm gun and two 120mm mortars. The batteries of the third line existed only for the groups Nr. 1 9, and were armed with one 120mm Krupp gun in disappearing turret and two 120mm howitzers. The independent group to the north-west of Focsani, named group 0, covered a crossing over the River Putna, and contained 4 Gruson 120mm howitzers.

The interval between the batteries varied depending on the ground, but never excedeed 1100 m, also the distance between the lines was variable, but it did not exceed 400 m between the first and the second line, and 200/300 m between the second and the third line. There were also some little detached works, armed with 37mm on travelling carriages.

The total armament was 4 - 120mm howitzers, 15 pairs of 120mm mortars in spherical mountings, 15 - 120mm Krupp guns, as well as 90 - 53mm guns in disappearing cupolas and 214 - 37mm guns in travelling shield mountings. The entrenched camp was manned at first by 5th and 7th batteries of the 2nd battalion of the Siege regiment with barracks near groups Nr. 3 and Nr. 8 respectively, later by a battalion of the 1st Siege regiment, and from 1913 by 1st Fortress Artillery Battalion.