Romanian Fortifications in Dobrudja





Tutrakan (Turtucaia in Romanian) was intensively fortified in 1913-1916 with the aid of Belgian military engineers. Although linked to Oltenita, directly across the Danube, by a submerged telephone cable and an array of small boats, this “bridgehead” had no bridge. These defences, as yet unfinished in 1916, consisted of three concentric lines of defence, anchored on the Danube, with a radius of 8 km and a circumference of 35. The most advanced position, some 1000 m deep, consisted primarily of small outposts of pickets designed for surveillance and to force an enemy to reveal his intentions. About 4 km back, on the heights overlooking the city, was the primary line of defence. It incorporated 15 forts about 2 km apart. These were mostly of earthen construction with only limited concrete. The forts were linked by a system of shallow trenches and protected with barbed wire obstacles. A primitive secondary line stood 4 km behind the primary line of resistance. It consisted of a single row of neglected trenches, partly collapsed, with some barbed wire but without artillery or machine guns. Its value was extremely limited.


For command purposes, the entire defensive system was divided into three sectors: I (west), II (south), and III (east), each with its own local commander. Most of the artillery the garrison possessed was in the primary line. Guns of light calibre predominated. Many of those of heavier calibre were not mobile and were incapable of firing toward the flank or rear. Some were not yet operational and/or lacked shells of the correct calibre. Prominently represented at Tutrakan were ancient cannon taken from dismantled forts around Bukarest and the abandoned Focsani line on the ramparts of Moldavia.

The Danube was mined within a 7 km radius from the town. On the islands of Karnetschin, Tsokludsha and Kalimok there were heavy machine guns and light QF guns in armoured cupolas.


On August 1916 Tutrakan fortified position was manned by the 17th Infantry Division, with 19 battalions, 66 machine guns, and 29 batteries:

-     6 field artillery batteries with 23 - 75mm guns and 120mm howitzers with 17,088 shells;

-     23 fortress artillery batteries with 82 guns, howitzers and mortars (calibre from 75mm to 210mm) with 38,084 shells;

-     28 armoured turrets (some in a mobile armour carriages) armed with 53mm QF guns, and 14 armed with 37mm QF guns, giving 55 - 53mm and 37mm light guns with 110,000 shell.

During the siege, on 4 and 5 September, the fortress received 4 batteries with 28 - 75mm and 105mm guns.


In order to defend the fortress from the attack of Austro-Hungarian Danube flotilla, along the Danube shore the “Turtucaia Position” was built, utilising naval guns from the decommissioned cruiser Elisabeth as well as her torpedo tubes. This strongpoint was armed with:

-      4 -150mm L/35 Krupp guns old pattern;

-      4 - 120mm St. Chamond L/45 guns;

-      4 - 75mm St. Chamond L/50 guns;

-      4 - 356mm torpedo tubes.

After the fall of Tutrakan, the Romanians were forced to abandon the “Turtucaia Position” under pressure from advancing and encircling forces of the Central Powers. The main guns were removed to Galatz, where they briefly shelled German batteries before being lost during the retreat on December 1916.


Silistria, like the other Bulgarian fortress along the Danube - Vidin, Ruse, Shumen - was surrounded by a bastioned line with an old citadel and small forts at the point where these lines abuted on the Danube. It had little military value. In 1913 Romanians begun to reinforce and modernize it, but in August 1916 the defeces were not completed.

On august 1916 Silistria fortified position was manned by the 9th Infantry Division, with 16 battalions, 66 machine guns, and 17 batteries:

-      12 field artillery batteries;

-      3 fortress artillery batteries;

-      17 armoured turrets (some in a mobile armour carriages) armed with 53mm QF guns.

Excepting the field artillery, there were 76 light and heavy guns in Silistria fortress.


The Cernavoda bridge-head was constructed on the right bank of the Danube to the south and east of Cernavoda. It was built in the year 1900, and contained an armament of 53mm QF guns, 120mm Krupp guns and 87mm Krupp field guns. The bridgehead had three sectors:

- Sector Movilele : 6 fortified batteries and a small fort;

- Sector Bogdaproste (Cismelele) : 2 fortified batteries and a small fort;

- Sector Dermenegiu : 6 fortified batteries and a small fort.

The batteries were usually armed with a 53mm turret and 2 machine guns. The forts had one 120mm cupola, four 53mm cupolas and 4 machine guns.

The works were arranged in three lines, and were divided into two groups by the railway line. The first line was 14.5 km in extent and distant 56 km from the railway bridge, and consisted of a line of infantry entrenched positions and redoubts. The second line had 6 batteries, 3 to each group, while the third line consisted of field artillery redoubts constructed to take 18 guns. The bridge-head was manned by a detachment of Fortress Artillery. In August 1914 it had a garrison of two infantry battalions with 27 machine guns, 11 fortress batteries and a dozen of armoured turrets.




gen. Kiselov and Boris Tarnovski at Tutrakan