Serbian fortress guns

 

 

 

 

The Serbian Army was not really interested in increasing the numbers of its siege artillery, since their neighbours had not serious fortification in the future theatre of war: the only fortresses the Ottoman Empire had were peripheral areas, like Albania (Skadar), Epirus (Janina) or Thrace (Edirne). As for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the only forts it had in Bosnia-Herzegovina could be destroyed even by 120mm or 150mm guns. Therefore Serbia had simply no need of a powerful heavy artillery.

When in 1907 the commander of the artillery proposed to buy 17 12 cm long guns, 20 15 cm long guns, 36 15 cm howitzers, 12 15 cm mortars and 12 24 cm mortars, the proposal was rejected since field howitzers were regarded as more useful.

At the beginning of the Balkan Wars, besides a little number of 120mm Schneider guns purchased in 1897, had only 65 obsolete guns: most of them were old muzzleloader rifled or even smoothbore guns, almost unusable in 1912. They were shared among the existing fortress, were they armed some position batteries.

 

The principal defensive works were :

-     the old forts along the Sava (Sabac) and Danube river (Belgrad, Semedria, Kladovo) of little or no use in a modern war;

-     the fortress of Nish : an old citadel with seven bastioned forts, two groups of old Turkish fortification near Vinik and Goriza with four forts (Mithad Pasha, 3 km north-east of the city; a fort near Mramor, 7 km west; Andi Pasha, 4 km south-west, and a fort 4 km west of the road to Pirot), and three modern forts (Kamara, Markovo-Kale and Detljak); its task was to bar and protect the valley of the Morava river, supported by Aleksinatz, 30 km nord-west, Deligrad, 12 km northwards, and by several strongpoints on the slopes in front of Topolnica and on the height north of the Nisava river;

-     the fort of Krusevatz, baring the valley of the Morava river, 15 kn north of its outlet;

-     the fortress of Pirot, with five forts, some redoubts and some batteries, all of very weak profile, built in 1885, during the war against Bulgaria;

-     the entrenched position of Zajechar, with three groups of defensive works : northern group with three forts (Kravarnik, 3 km far from the town; Koilovo and Vlashko Bardo) between Cherna and Timok rivers; eastern group with three forts (Bachishte, Pladnishte, Zabel), between Timok and Mitniza rivers; southern group, with three forts (lunette Nr. 3, redoubt Nr. 4 and lunette Nr. 5, 1 km far from the town) and an old detach work (redoubt Nr. 2) between Timok and Cherna rivers;

-     the field fortifications of Vranja, with twenty earthworks of various strength.

 

The modern forts were earth lunettes, with two long fronts meeting in a very oblique angle, two short flanks and a close defensible bastioned gorge. They were height up to 4.5 m, were sourronded by ditches, 4-8 m wide and 4 m deep, and strengthened by many traverses and by casemates, often provided with concrete rooms. Each fort could garrison from 1 to 1 companies with 12 guns. In September 1908 the works placed on the eastern frontier were repaired and reinforced by engineer reservists, but the plan to convert Nish into a modern entrenched position was not carried out, due to financial problems. The mountain pass were defended by karaulas, i.e. fortified frontier posts.

They were armed with a mix of old guns and mortars, some of them dating back to Russian-Turkish War (1877-78) and Serbian-Bulgarian War (1885). There were also some La Hitte muzzle-loader guns (dating back to 1850s), nearly obsolete, but Serbian credit difficulties prevented the acquisition of modern fortress guns for the frontier fortifications. In 1891 the Serbian government accepted the Russian offer of 30 old breech-loading bronze siege guns and 6 howitzers, even if they at that time they could be regarded as outdated.

At the beginning of the World War some fortress guns were used in the defence of Belgrad, but many guns were captured in Nish and Vranja. They were of little utility in a modern war and it is very unlikely that they were used by Bulgarian Army.

 

In 1907 the Serbian fortress artillery was reorganized in 27 batteries, that were grouped in three fortress artillery units: 14 batteries in Nish, 6 in Pirot and 7 in Zajechar, but, since the oldest guns were stored in depots and decommissioned as useless, the force of fortress artillery units was reduced as follows :

Nish had 9 batteries with :

2 four guns batteries armed with 9pdr (106.7mm) steel guns M. 1867 (Bulgarian, captured in 1885);

3 four guns and 1 three guns batteries armed with slow firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 guns;

1 four guns battery armed with 15 cm Serbian guns;

1 two guns battery armed with 12 cm steel Krupp guns (Turkish, captured in 1878);

1 three guns battery with 15 cm Krupp guns on coastal carriage.

Pirot had two batteries :

1 two guns battery armed with 12 cm steel Krupp guns (Turkish, captured in 1878);

1 four guns battery armed with 15 cm Serbian guns;

Zajechar had only 1 battery with four 15 cm Serbian guns.

 

In addition the fortress artillery had another 80 artillery pieces:

12 8 cm (78.5mm) Krupp steel guns C/64 (Turkish, captured in 1878);

13 9 cm (91.5mm) Krupp steel guns C/61 (6 bought in 1871, the rest captured in 1878 at Nish);

19 12 cm (121.4mm) muzzleloader bronze guns M. 58/63 system La Hitte;

36 12 cm (121mm) muzzleloader bronze mortars M. 58/63 system La Hitte.

 

The guns system La Hitte were removed from the Army list with the Decree of 11 April 1909.

 

 

Serbian fortifications in 1912