Bulgaria in World War I - The End of Neutrality - The Bulgarian Army - Organization and State of The Army

Organization and State of The Army

The demobilization of the Bulgarian Army following the formal end of the Second Balkan War took place under difficult conditions created by the Ottoman military threat hanging over Southern Bulgaria and the Romanian occupation of Northern Bulgaria. Many of the divisions had to be brought down to their usual peace strength and redeployed to cover the Ottoman border. It was only after the signing of the Treaty of Constantinople that the army was ably to complete the process of its demobilization and assume its peace time organization. The old nine regular infantry divisions were returned to their garrison areas; the 10th Aegean Division, that had been formed in the First Balkan War, was settled in the newly acquired territories in the Rhodope mountains and Western Thrace; the 11th Infantry Division was reduced to minimal size and reformed into a cadre division, used for the training of new recruits. On 8 December the demobilization was completed and the peace time army now comprised 66,887 men, out of whom 36,976 were in the interior of Bulgaria and 27,813 in the new territories.

In peace time the Bulgarian Land Forces consisted of three armies, ten infantry divisions, forty infantry regiments, nineteen artillery regiments, eleven cavalry regiments, five battalions of engineers, one railway battalion, one telegraph battalion and one technical battalion. These forces retained the territorial organization established prior the First Balkan War. According to it the country was divided in three Army inspectorates, ten Division districts and forty Regiment districts. During wartime the staff of each of these administrative units formed the headquarters and staff of a separate army, division and regiment. All male Bulgarian subjects were eligible to serve in the army when they reached the age of 20. Upon reaching the said age a person was conscripted for a period of two years in the infantry and three years in other branches of the Active(Standing) Army. Following this period the person was enrolled for another 18 years in the infantry or 16 years in the other branches of the Active Army's Reserve. This Reserve was the heart of the army as it encompassed the bulk of the available manpower and reached a size of 374,613 men by the end of 1914. Finally the men between 40 and 48 years served in the National Militia(Narodno Opalchenie) which was divided in two Bans. Initially the First Ban was composed of men 41 to 44 years old and the Second Ban was composed of men 45 to 48 old. Around 1914, due to the experience of the Balkan Wars, however the men between 45 and 46 years old, that belonged to the Second Ban, were formed into separate Etappe Troops. By early 1915 the Bulgarian Army could altogether rely on some 577,625 trained men aged 20 to 48. A special inquiry also determined that another 231,572 men were eligible for military service but had not received their training. Many of those were called up and received training in 1915.

The principal firearm used by the Bulgarian infantry since the end of the 19th century was the Mannlicher magazine rifle, notably the M95 model but also the 1888 and 1890 models. Other rifles in use by the army include the Mosin–Nagant 1891 model, the Berdan II and a number of Mauser rifles captured from the Ottomans during the First Balkan War. Officers were armed with a variety of pistols and revolvers including the Parabellum 1908 and Smith & Wesson. Since 1908 the infantry was also armed with the heavy Maxim machine gun.

The Bulgarian cavalry was armed with sabers for close combat and with the Mannlicher M.1890 carbine. The Balkan Wars had revealed that horse-breeding in Bulgaria was not developed enough to satisfy the wartime requirements of the army and in order to compensate for the deficiency of strong cavalry and artillery horses by October 1915 the authorities imported about 300 animals.

Available infantry weaponry in September 1915
Weapon system Quantity Ammunition stock Ammunition per single weapon
Mannlicher rifles 251,713 150,810,600 600
Mannlicher carbines 9,513 1,781,800 187
Mosin–Nagant rifles 46,056 42,750,000 928
Berdan rifles 54,912 27,757,340 500
Mauser rifles 12,918 11,188,000 860
Martini-Mauser rifles 3,614 900,000 250
Captured Serbian rifles 995 86,000 86
Krnka rifles 12,800 1,224,000 95
Parabellum 1908 pistols 3,957 273,000 69
Smith & Wesson revolvers 1,112 105,320 94
Maxim machine guns 248 10,667,763 43,000
Sabres 19,000 - -

The artillery consisted of various field, mountain and fortress guns, most of it produced by the two world leading manufacturers Schneider and Krupp. During the Second Balkan War the Bulgarian Army had lost a seizable quantity of its artillery but by 1915 the country managed to recover its loses and even increase the number of available guns so that by October 1915 the artillery park consisted of 1,211 pieces, of which 418 were not quick-firing guns. The ammunition for the artillery was however in short supply and the lack of any large home based manufacturing capability left the army with only about 500 shells per gun, enough to satisfy the artillery's needs for about two months.

Bulgaria possessed a small naval force of torpedo gunboats and patrol boats that were restricted to operating only in the coastal areas of the Black Sea and along the river Danube. Following the Second Balkan War the country acquired an outlet on the Aegean Sea and in January 1915 the "Aegean" Section of the Bulgarian Navy was created by a royal decree. Initially only 78 soldiers were assigned to the small force and were given a task to observe and defend the coastline by laying naval mines. These activities were centered on the ports of Porto Lagos and Dedeagach but the true development of the facilities there was hampered by financial difficulties.

The Bulgarian air force had gained some experience during the First Balkan War but its development was halted followng the defeat in the Second Balkan War. The airplane and balloon sections were reduced to two companies and made part of a technical battalion that was attached to the Army's engineers. The airplane section, which included 5 functional aircraft and 124 men(including 8 pilots), was stationed on an airfield outside of Sofia. Despite the difficult conditions the command took measures to improve the material and personnel situation of the air troops by building a special repair workshop and opening a specialized school for the training of pilot, observers and technicians. Bulgaria's hostile neighbors practically isolated it from the big airplane manufacturers and prevented it from receiving new aircraft. Under these circumstances an alternative had to be provided by few Bulgarian air enthusiast who attempted to build a fully functional Bulgarian airplane. In the summer of 1915 Assen Jordanoff was the first to succeed in this task by designing and building the first Bulgarian-made airplane, which was latter named Diplane Yordanov-1. Still in September 1915 the airplane section had only two German made Albatros B.I, two French made Blériot IX-2 and one Blériot IX-bis. They were however joined by three German Fokker-Е80Е-III and their German crew whose task was to defend Sofia from any attacks. It was only after Bulgaria entered the war that the air force was able to receive new aircraft.

1915 also saw the birth of the anti-aircraft component of the Bulgarian armed forces. The first such specialized formation was a mixed battery of six guns(2 quick-firing 75 mm Krupp guns and 4 not quick-firing 87 mm Krupp guns) and seven machine guns(five Madsen and two Hotchkiss), which was deployed around Sofia.

Read more about this topic:  Bulgaria In World War I, The End of Neutrality, The Bulgarian Army

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