Serbian guns

 

 

In 1912, at the beginning of the Balkan wars, Serbian Army had:

-      168 quick firing 75mm Schneider-Creusot M. 1907 field guns,

-      60 quick firing 75mm Schneider-Creusot M. 1907 and M. 1907A field guns,

-      36 quick firing 70mm Schneider-Creusot M. 1907 mountain guns,

-      32 quick firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1910 field howitzers,

-      8 quick firing 150mm Schneider-Canet M. 1910 QF howitzers,

-      180 slow firing 80mm De Bange M. 1885 field guns,

-      30 slow firing 80mm De Bange M. 1885 mountain guns,

-      22 slow firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 howitzers,

-      6 slow firing 150mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 mortars,

-      17 slow firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 long guns,

-      65 old guns in the siege artillery park.

 

According with KUTSCHBACH, Die Serben im Balkankrieg 1912-1913 und im Kriege gegen die Bulgaren, pp. 95-96, during the Balkan War the Serbian Army captured from the Turks:

-      39 855 magazine rifles and carbines,

-      8 machine guns with 33 barrels,

-      126 field guns (Krupp 75mm QF),

-      6 mountain guns (Krupp 75mm QF),

-      30 field howitzers (Krupp 120mm),

-      47 403 cases with infantry ammunitions,

-      16 977 shrapnel and 4852 shells for field guns,

-      919 shrapnel and 1811 shells for field howitzers,

-      216 ordinary shells.

 

According with the same book, p. 127, during the Interallied War the 1st and 2nd Serbian Army captured from the Bulgars:

-      5 000 magazine rifles and carbines,

-      7 machine guns,

-      11 QF field guns (Schneider 75mm),

-      30 not QF field guns (Krupp 75mm)

-      7 mountain guns (Schneider 75mm),

-      2 QF turret guns (Gruson 57mm)

-      30 ammunition wagons.

As for the artillery, these numbers are different from those published in 1914 in several newspapers and taken from a report of the Bulgarian Inspector of Artillery, maj. gen. Panteley Tzenov. His report stated that the Serbs captured only 20 QF and 12 not QF field guns. Since the Gruson guns were not listed, it is possible that the fortress guns lost at Belogradchik (2 Gruson and 30 Krupp guns according Kutschbach) were not taken into account.

 

According with James Lyon, who could consult Serbian archival sources, in August 1914 Serbian Army had only 617 artillery pieces, among them 381 modern quick-firing weapons. Due to the unsettled situation along the Bulgarian and Albanian borders, Serbia was forced to assign some of its scarce artillery in Macedonia, as well as to the eastern border cities of Zajechar, Pirot and Nish. According the Austrian official history of the War, at the outbreak of the War Serbian Field Army had 542 guns.

LYON, “A Peasant Mob…”, pp. 491-492, gives this detailed list of Serbian artillery pieces at the beginning of World War 1 (the sum is slightly different from the totals he had given previously in his article, probably because captured and heavy guns are not taken into account) :

-      272 quick firing 75mm Schneider-Creusot M. 1907 and M. 1907A field guns,

-      29 quick firing 70mm Schneider-Creusot M. 1907 mountain guns,

-      8 quick firing 75mm Schneider-Danglis mountain guns,

-      32 quick firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1910 field howitzers,

-      8 quick firing 150mm Schneider-Canet M. 1910 QF howitzers,

-      216 slow firing 80mm De Bange M. 1885 field guns,

-      18 slow firing 80mm De Bange M. 1885 mountain guns,

-      22 slow firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 howitzers,

-      6 slow firing 150mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 mortars,

-      2 slow firing 120mm long guns captured from the Turks,

-      16 slow firing 120mm Schneider-Canet M. 1897 long guns.

 

At the beginning of the war some captured Turkish field guns were assembled in a three batteries division with 12-75mm Krupp guns, called “Krupp field division” and attached to the Morava I Division. Another artillery division armed with 12 ex Turkish Krupp guns was later attached to the Morava II Division. By November one of them was withdrawn to the rear due to a lack of ammunition and replaced by 3 four guns batteries armed with Austrian 8cm (actually 76.5mm) field M. 5 guns. In addition two more batteries were raised: one with 4 – 10cm (actually 104mm) Austrian field howitzers M. 99, and one with 3 – 75mm Turkish mountain guns.

By August 1914, very little of the artillery ammunition used during the Balkan Wars had been replaced, and Serbia lacked adequate ammunition reserves. The military arsenal at Kragujevac could turn out only 250 to 260 75mm field artillery shells per day, and was able to manufacture only 200 fuses per day. However Serbian arsenal was unable to produce sufficient gunpowder for more than 80 to 100 shells per day. Therefore the majority of the artillery shells was obtained from France and Russia. The first replacement shipments of artillery shells for Balkan War losses begin to arrive only in July 1914.

 

During 1914 Serbian Army suffered heavy losses both in men and in weapons, but it also captured a lot of materiel, that were used in order to replace the losses. In the battle of the Jadar Serbians captured 46 guns, 30 machine-guns, 140 ammunition wagons and during the third Austro-Hungarian invasion they captured 133 guns, 71 machine-guns, 29 gun carriages, 386 ammunition wagons.

 

The Entente contributed very little to the strengthening of the Serbian Army. In January 1915 France delivered to Serbian army 3 batteries of four 75mm Schneider-Canet M. 1901 mountain guns with 500 rounds each, while Russia sent only a dozen of 76.2mm quick-firing field and mountain guns.

To defend Belgrade from the attacks of the Austrian monitors the Entente powers sent also:

3 – 138.6mm French naval guns, under the command of Lt. Picot;

8 – 4.7inch English guns, under the command of Lt-Commander Kerr;

2 – 152mm Russian fortress guns;

2 – 75mm Russian guns on platform.

On 9 October, after the beginning of Mackensen offensive, the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, gen. Joseph Joffre, accepted to send to Serbia 15 – 75mm field artillery batteries, one every two or three months. But the advance of the Armies of the Central Powers was so fast, that the plan should be abandoned.

 

In September 1915 when Mackensen crossed the Danube and Bulgaria entered into war, Serbian Army lined up:

-     against 3rd Austrian Army and 11th German Army : 362 guns,

-     against 1st Bulgarian Army : 248 guns,

-     against 2nd Bulgarian Army : 44 guns,

-     along Albanian border : 24 guns.

Among these 678 guns there were a few captured Austrian guns and in addition to them there were some fortress and siege guns.

 

In September-December 1914 Serbian Army was completely defeated and lost almost all its equipment. On 31th December the rest of Serbian Army, concentrated in Albania between Durazzo and San Giovanni di Medua, had only 81 guns and 179 machine guns, but only 49 guns were transferred to Corfu by Italian and French Navy (the remaining 32 guns were delivered to the Montenegrin Army, that was faced the Austro-Hungarian offensive):

24 – 75mm field guns,

2 – 75mm mountain guns,

5 – 70mm mountain guns,

14 – 80mm field guns;

4 – 80mm mountain guns.

 

During the retreat Serbian GHQ, in Pech, decided to abandon most of its artillery, knowing that Albanians mountains are impassable for towed guns. It was decided to bring only mountain (pack) guns, one battery per division, to maintain any kind of artillery support. So, the town of Pech became a “graveyard of Serbian Artillery”. All heavy guns was left (and most of field guns; a number of batteries disobeyed the general order and take their guns with them, at least one or two) majority of them ruined beyond repair: carriages spiked out, breaches and instruments removed and buried at various secret places, some smaller parts also disassembled and thrown around. It is probable that some of old heavies were left even before, stored in Nish depot (because of lack of ammunition and men) or elsewhere.

 

The total amount of guns captured by Bulgaria and its allies in 1915 is not clear, since the sources are not in agreement:

-      according with Austrian Official History of the War (Oesterreich-Ungarns letzer Krieg III, p. 236) Austria and Germany captured 397 guns, 48 machine guns, 12 mine launchers and 208 ammunition wagons, while Bulgarians captured about 200 guns;

-      according with German Official History of the War (Der Weltkrieg IX, p. 276) Mackensen Army Group and Bulgarian 2nd Army as a whole captured 502 guns till November and about 100 guns in December;

-      according with Mackensen Memories (Briefe und Aufzeichnungen, p. 242) they captured about 500 guns till November: about 1/3 of them was captured by Bulgarians;

-      according Manuel Lon (Bulgaria en la Guerra Europea, p. 60) Bulgarian army alone captured 371 guns and 136 ammunition wagons - among them there were 48 fortress and heavy guns (mostly old) taken in Nish.

 

The captured Serbian guns were immediately employed by the Bulgarian Army. Already on 26 October 1915 the 1st battery of 1st not QF artillery division was rearmed with Serbian QF guns, becoming the 10th field battery of 14th artillery regiment. The Bulgarian Army took over also some Austrian guns captured by Serbs in 1914. For instance, according with Ivan Rusev on 17 October 1915 the 2nd Brigade of the 7th Rilska Division found 4 Austrian guns with 8 ammunition wagons abandoned by the withdrawing Serbs (Приносъ къмъ историята на II. армия…, p. 310). However they were not employed in combat owing to the different calibre and the lack of ammunition, but were exchanged with Serbian Schneider guns, that for the same reason were not utilizable by the Austrians.

 

During 1916 August-December battles, Serbian artillery was strongly supported with French heavy batteries, but lost 11 guns (some captured by Bulgarians), most of them during defensive fighting in August.

Unfortunately I don't know how many guns captured from Serbians were used by Bulgarian Army during the war. But according with CORDIER, Victoire eclair en Orient, p. 58, the 5th battery of 2nd Field Artillery Regiment had four 120mm Schneider-Canet howitzers.

The guns and howitzers used by Serbian Army during World War I were generally very similar to those adopted by Bulgarian Army. Obviously the artillery of a more recent pattern had some little improvements, but no really significant alteration was introduced between 1907 and 1912.

 

 

 

Serbian guns captured at Mitrovitza

Serbian guns captured at Nish