The Bucharest Fortress





The fortifications of Bucharest consisted of 18 detached forts with 18 intermediate support batteries. The fortifications were placed 12-13 km form the residential areas of the town and (including the support batteries) 2 km from each other, that being the effective range of the rapid firing 57 mm guns; the forts themselves were placed approximately 4 km to each other. The total perimeter was around 72 km. The ring of fortification was build in order to maintain Bucharest outside the range of enemy long range artillery, to secure a circular, all directions defence and to forbid the enemy access to the city.


The earlist studies regarding the defence of Bucharest dated back to 1866, and were focused on the building of temporary defences around the town. Upon an initiative of king Carol I, in 1882 a commission leaded by general Gheorghe Manu submitted a report on Romania’s defences to the War Ministry, emphasizing that the fortification of the capital should be regarded as a priority. At first a group of German officers from the Prussian General Staff was consulted, but later the king turned to the Belgian general de Brialmont, who at that time was regarded as the greatest authority in the field of fortifications. In June 1883 he submitted a scheme for the defences of Bucharest, and, after its approval, in mid 1884 a special Fortifications Department was raised under the Ministry of War. The Engineers Regiment, headed by colonel Anton Brindei, was choosen to carry out the works.

The construction of the forts began in October 1884, and was officially finished in 1895, but supplementary works were carried out inside and outside the fortifications until 1900. In December 1885 – January 1886 a series of tests with various types of armoured cupolas were conducted in the Cotroceny proving ground, near Bucharest, in the presence of military rapresentatives of many European powers. These tests caused a gret stir on the military press, and greatly contributed to the development of armoured weapons and heavy artillery. Nevertheless they were not conclusive for the Romanian specialists. More decisive were the tests carried on in 1886 in Germany and France with mine shells filled with high explosive, like melinite.

Therefore the original scheme prepared by general Brialmont was adapted and improved in order to make the forts able to stand against so powerful shells. The improvements, introduced by Brialmont himself and by Romanian specialists, were the substitution of the open emplacements initially planned for some batteries with armoured cupolas, the diminution of the number of the artillery pieces, the increase of the thickness of the domes, the replacement of the old forts in bricks with plain concrete ones. In addition for economy reasons, many annex buildings (administrative, warehouses) were supressed, and the the rooms intended for the garrison were cut down from 18 to 10.

In 1888 the Parliament, after a heated debate, decided to reduce the expenses for the fortifications of Bucharest : general Berindei, the head of the Defence Commission, charged to carry on the works, obtained that the fortifications begun should continue as planned, but he had to accept that the remaining forts would be replaced with smaller ones, without redoubts.

In order facilitate movements and transport of ammunitions and war materiél between forts and intermediate batteries in 1885-1890 a circular railway was built within 100 m behind the forts line, with connection with the Bucharest-Ploesti-Pitesti (near fort Chitila), Bucharest-Pitesti (near fort Pantelimon) and Bucharest-Giurgiu railways (near fort Jilava), the Arsenal and the Dudesti Army Gunpowder Works. To facilitate the access of troops and vehicles to the fortifications a stragegic 8 m wide highroad was built 10 m beyond the railway. It was connected with the capital by means of several macadam roads. To assure the communications a telegraph or telephone line connected all the forts. The final cost of the defensive system (including the infrastructure: roads, railways, telegraph and telephone lines) was 111,542,772 lei - the equivalent of three yearly budgets of the War Ministry.


The forts were situated as follows :

-     on the left bank of the Dambovita river: 1 Chitila, 2 Mogosoaia, 3 Otopeni, 4 Tunari, 5 Stefanesti, 6 Afumati, 7 Pantelimon, 8 Cernica and 9 Catelu.

-     on the right bank of the Dambovita river: 10 Leordeni, 11 Popesti, 12 Berceni, 13 Jilava, 14 Broscarie, 15 Magurele, 16 Bragadiru, 17 Domnesti and 18 Chiajna.

The works were of six different types, and their armament varies accordingly :

-     type 1 - Chitila, Otopeni;

-     type 2 - Mogosoaia, Jilava;

-     type 3 - Cernica, Leordeni, Catelu, Popesti, Berceni, Broscarie, Chiajna, Magurele, Bragadiru, Pantelimon, Domnesti, Tunari;

-     type 4 or wet type - Stefanesti;

-     Unic type - Afumati.

The batteries also were of several types:

-     type 1 - 1/2, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7, 7/8;

-     type 2 - 13/14, 14/15;

-     type 3 - 2/3, 8/9, 9/10, 15/16, 16/17, 17/18, 18/1;

-     type 4 - 3/4;

-     hybrid type - 10/11, 11/12, 12/13.


The works were constructed to resist high explosives, and armour has been largely used. The majority have dry ditches. Their armament consisted of 150mm guns, 210mm howitzers and 57mm QF guns. The initial plans forecast that part of the artillery batteries would be placed in uncovered platforms inside the fortifications, but, after the test carried in 1885-1886 in Europe, all were mounted in armoured cupolas, the most of the 150mm guns in pairs, the remainder singly. As a rule, the forts had 3 - 150mm guns, 3/4 howitzers, and 4/6 quick-firing guns. The intermediate batteries had 1 – 150mm gun, 2 – 210mm howitzers and 2/3 quick-firing guns.

The first 10 armoured cupolas for 210mm howitzers were ordered in 1888 to the German firm Grusonwerk of Buckau-Magdeburg, along with an oscillating cupola for 2 – 150mm guns, ordered to the French firm St. Chamond. At the same time a contract with Krupp was signed for the weapons to arm them. In June 1890 the Defence Commission decided to purchase of two types of rotative cupolas along with disappearing turrets ans embrasure carriage for close combat and for covering intervals, ditches and entrances. On 29 July 1891 the Ministry of War signed contracts with the three different French firms Schneider (14 cupolas for two 150mm guns, 126 turrets and 398 armoured carriages for 57mm guns), St.Chamond (17 cupolas for one and 10 cupolas for two 150mm guns) and Chatillon & Commentry (26 cupolas for 210mm howitzers and 10 cupolas for two 150mm guns).

In 1891 to arm the works 26 – 210mm howitzers and 80 – 150mm guns were ordered to German firm Krupp of Essen, while 126 – 57mm, followed by 145 more in 1896, to the French firm Hotchkiss of St. Denis. The cupolas and the guns were mounted in 1893-1895, but orders of war materials were placed even after that time. For the mobile artillery of the intervals, emplacements were arranged on platforms for 60 – 105mm L/35 Krupp heavy guns, and in the depots of the II Army Corps a lot of old 78.5 Krupp guns M. 1868 were stored, and could be moved to the fortification line if necessary.

The initial plan of general Brialmont estimated that the Bucharest Fortress needed a garrison of 33,000 men. This task was assigned to II Army Corps, that was quartered in the area of the capital. At first the works was manned by 1st battalion of the Siege Regiment, that on 1 April 1893 was expanded, becoming  2nd Fortress regiment (renamed 1st Fortress regiment in 1913, after the dissolution of the 1st Siege regiment on 1 April 1913) with headquarters at fort Chitila. In 1905 a specialized engineer unit with hedquartes in Buchares was raised, the Fortress Engineer battalion, later renamed Fortress Pioneer battalion, followed in 1908 by an Aerostation company. The fortifications were commanded by the Governor of Bucharest Fortress Command, established on 29 April 1895, who was assimilated to an army corps commander. In August 1916 this position was held by Div.Gen. Mihail Boteanu.


According with a Romanian document titled Raport Asupra Lucrarilor de Fortificatie a Cetatei Bucuresci (Report on the Fortification Work of the Bucharest Stronghold) dating from 1900 the total armament of the forts was :

-     210mm howitzers (Gruson M. 1888, Montluçon M. 1891) : in place 36, missing 32 (two each in forts 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17 and batteries 8/9, 11/12, 14/15, 17/18);

-     150mm guns (St.Chamond M. 1891 and M. 1890, Montluçon M. 1891, Schneider M. 1891 A and B, in single or twin mounts) : in place 88, missing 4 (two each in forts 3, 4, 6, 15);

-     57mm in Schneider disappearing turrets M. 1891 : in place 127, missing 5 (all the guns in forts 3, 6);

-     57mm flanking guns : in place 114, missing 250 (all the guns in 8 – 16 and two to four guns in batteries ½, 11/12, 14/15, 18/1).

Total: in place 365, missing 291.

A further handwritten note dated 12 May 1916 confirmed that no further weapon purchases took place from the moment the list was drawn up to the disarming of the forts. So besides being totally outdated by the advances in the field of artillery (in 1896 the advent of astralite and later cordite as propellants more than doubled the range, and the introduction of melinite as a high explosive tripled the power of the shells) the Bukarest stronghold was lacking around 45% of its weapons.

In August 1914, at the outbreak of the World War, the Belgian fortifications of Antwerp, Liège and Namur, built according the same principles of the Bucharest fortress, fallen in the hands of the German Army, being unable to withstand the powerful effect of the new H.E. shells. On 10 November a report of the governator of the fortress, Div.Gen. Constantin Herjeu emphasized the critical situation of the Bucharest fortifications, that lacked not only modern combat matériel, like ballons, aircrafts, searchlights or a wireless telegraphhy station, but also part of its artillery. As a result the decision was taken to disarm the fortified areas of Bucharest and the line of Sereth.

In 1915 guns and howitzers were mounted on wheeled carriages made at the Army Arsenal and the Romanian Railway Works, and used to arm the newly raised heavy artillery regiments. Part of the equipment of the 1st Fortress Regiment was sent to strengthen the defences of Cernavoda and Tutrakan. On 15 August 1916, when Romania entered the World War, the Bucharest Fortress was armed with only 32 – 210mm howitzers, 31 – 150mm guns and 111 – 57mm guns.




Otopeni fort, the oldest and the largest of the stronghold.