The Bulgarian Army in World War One – uniforms, strength, organization.
Bulgaria gained freedom from Turk control on 13 July 1878. By July 1914 the Kingdom of Bulgaria, ruled by Tsar Ferdinand I., made of around 5,500,000 Bulgarian people along with a Turkish group, including 48,265 sq . miles involving existing Bulgaria in addition Eastern Thrace (today Greece).
Ferdinand was C-in-C of the Bulgarian Army, employing the pro-German Major-General Nikola Zhekov as field leader. By 14 January 1904 the military, with approximately 390,000 soldiers, was organized in the 85,000-strong 1st Line Active Army for men aged Twenty one To Twenty-three; 250,000-strong 2nd Line Reserve Army for men aged Twenty-four To Forty; and also 54,000-strong 3rd Line and 4th Line National Militia for men aged Forty-one To Forty-four and Forty-five To Forty-six correspondingly.
Bulgaria was split into 3 Army Areas:
- 1st (Sofia) – Western Bulgaria;
- 2nd (Plovdiv) – Southern Bulgaria;
- 3rd (Ruse) – Northern Bulgaria;
- 4th (Üskub)- later in Bulgarian-occupied Serbian Macedonia.
15 divisions had been formed: 2 cavalry and Thirteen infantry (1-13) – the 13th transforming into a mountain division in November 1916.
They were organized in 4 armies:
- 1st Army (Lt. Gen. Kliment Boyadshiev; 1916 Lt. Gen. Dimitri Geshov; 1918 Lt. Gen. Stefan Nerezov) in Central Macedonia under Army Group Mackensen;
- 2nd Army (Lt. Gen. Georgi Todorow; 1917 Maj. Gen. Ivan Lukov) in South-Eastern Macedonia;
- 3rd Army (1916 Gen. Stefan Toshev, then Lt.Gen. Nerzezov; 1917 Maj. Gen., later Lt. Gen. Sava Sabov, then Lt. Gen., later General Todorov) in Northern Bulgaria around the Rumanian frontier, incorporating with German and Turk units in September 1916 to create the Danube Army in Rumanian Dobrudja;
- 4th Army (1918 Lt.Gen. Savov, then General Toshev) in Greek Western Thrace.
6 divisions also were included within the German 11th Army in South-West Serbia.
The 24,000-strong infantry divisions – something like a corps within various military – made of 2 inf brigades, each one having 4,583-strong inf regiments made up of 2 1,057-strong battalions each (a battalion made up of 4 263-strong inf companies), an 80-strong machine gun company plus a 180-strong non-combatant labour company; a cavalry battalion (2 squadrons); a single 1,959-strong field artillery regiment (3 three-battery battalions, a single howitzer battery); mounted and dismounted military police companies; an engineer battalion (2 companies); a medical company; along with a supply company.
The cavalry divisions had 2 cavalry brigades, each one having 2 657-strong cavalry regiments with 4 squadrons (a 141-strong squadron including non-combatant labour, machine gun and 3 cavalry platoons); a single horse artillery regiment (with 3 three-battery battalions); signals, medical plus supply companies.
The 1st-3rd Armies each had a heavy artillery, fortress and mountain artillery battalion (3 batteries) as headquarter units.
There have been Forty first-line (1-40) as well as Thirty-five second line (41-75) inf regiments – Forty-eight within the Twelve infantry divisions, Twenty-four on occupation tasks in Macedonia, Morava Area (Eastern Serbia) and Drama Area (Greek Western Thrace).
36 3rd Line National Militia battalions (each one having 4 companies 150-250 strong) additionally carried out occupation tasks, while Thirty-six 4th line militia battalions (each one having 4 companies 100-120 strong) were stationed on protect tasks in Bulgaria.
Army Headquarters possessed a Royal Life Guard Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons); 21 148-strong frontier-guard companies reassigned coming from area inf regiments; a 534-strong railway battalion (4 companies); a 537-strong bridging battalion (5 companies); a 410-strong signals battalion (3 companies); plus a mixed engineer and signals battalion.
The Army Air Corps manning 2 squadrons (I-II), organized into a wing in July 1916.
The tiny Bulgarian Navy, established at Varna ruled by Maj. Gen. Konstantin Kirkov, approximately 500 men manning the Nadiendja torpedo-gunboat, six Creusot torpedo-boats and a few launches within the Black Sea and Danube Flotillas, didn’t have influence on world war one.
Bulgaria’s status as ‘the Prussia of the Balkans’ had suffered from her defeat in the Second Balkan War (1913), and it demanded direct German command over 1 / 2 her units to keep up fighting spirit in Macedonia and Dobrudja in regards to what was an unpopular conflict.
By June 1918 the majority of German units had been removed from the front line to the Western Front, nevertheless, resulting in a breakdown in moral within the war-weary Bulgarians and eventually to the armistice of 30 September 1918.
BULGARIA (October 14, 1915 – September 30, 1918)
- Soldiers available on mobilization = 300,000
- Army strength during the war = 400,000
- KIA Military = 95,000
- Wounded Military = 155,000
- Civilian losses = unknown, but low