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Bulgaria - Navy - Early History

The Bulgarian Navy was established in 1879 in the town of Rousse with the assistance of Russia. In 1897 starts the building of Black Sea Navy, with a main base in the town of Varna. The first Bulgarian Navy officers were prepared at the military schools in Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary and France. During the Balkan War, 1912-1913, and the World War I, the Navy participated actively in combat activities. At that time, the submarine forces and the maritime aviation were established.

Sinowi Petrowich Rozhdestvensky was born in 1848, and entered the Russian Navy in 1865. Having made a special study of marine artillery, he passed in 1873 with distinction out of the Michael Artillery Academy, and four years later did brilliant service in the Russo.Turkish War as commander of a small vessel, the Vesta. Ordered by his Chief to attack the Turkish Fleet he did so, although his ship only carried two guns, with a reckless bravery which gained him immense popularity throughout Russia, as well as Imperial commendation. He was decorated by Alexander II, and, undertook a period of service in Bulgaria, where he organised the Bulgarian "Navy" in 1885. Later, in 1904 Admiral Rozhdestvensky commanded the Russian Baltic squadron as it made way to Far Eastern waters, and defeat by Admiral Togo at the battle of Tsushima.

By 1896 the Bulgarian navy consisted of the paddle-wheel yacht Alexander I, built of steel, 800 tons displacement, 183.7 feet long, 32.7 feet beam, 4.8 feet draught, 700 I.H.P., and a speed of 11 knots; the yacht Krum, of 650 tons displacement; the steamers Asjen, of 100 tons, and Simeon Velikii, 600 tons displacement; the steam launches Boris, Ljuben Karawelof, Raina Rakovski, Stefan Karadjo, and Voevoda, of from 2 to 5 tons, and the Hadzi Demeted, of 15 tons; two spar torpedo launches; and two sailing transports, of 400 tons displacement.

King FerdinandWhile King Ferdinand may don his soldier's uniform with some pride for in the event of war he could command 400,000 or 500,000 men there was more than a touch of farce in the aspect of his Majesty as admiral, for the Bulgarian "navy" consisted in 1908 of one torpedo gun-boat and a few small steamers. But some said the ambitious monarch will no doubt soon be building Dreadnoughts, in view of his "known aims in the direction of sea power".

One the Bulgarian Czar Ferdinand's favorite costumes was the Bulgarian national costume, which he elaborated into a creation of fine linen and silks, with many a touch in bright colors and delicate trimmings. The other is that of an admiral of the Bulgarian Navy, in which he was wont to receive British visitors of distinction, as being peculiarly suitable to the honor of a great Naval Power. Needless to say, it was said that Ferdinand became atrociously seasick if ever he trusted himself out of sight of land.

The Bulgarian Navy was so insignificant that it could not prove a serious factor against the warships of the Allies in the Great War. From the latest official data the navy of Bulgaria consisted of one torpedo-gunboat, the Nadiejda, a vessel of 715 tons, built in 1808. She was sometimes used as a royal yacht, and had a speed of 17 knots. She was armed with two 4-inch, two 6-pounders and two 3-pounder guns, and has two torpedo-tubes above water. There were six torpedo-boats, built in 1907, which had a speed of 26 knots and were armed with two 3-pounders and have three 18-inch torpedo-tubes. They were each of 98 tons displacement. There were two old spar launches and seven other old launches. There was a vessel of 250 tons known as the Kroum, a paddle-wheel steamer with a speed of 8 knots, which was used also as a royal yacht. Three additional vessels, the Kamtchia, 125 tons; Kaliavra. 86 tons, and the cutter Striela, 25 tons, made up the rest of the Bulgarian Navy. The four latter vessels were not named in the official data as having any armament.

The geographical position of Bulgaria made her particularly vulnerable to attack from the sea. Moreover, the water communications to her coasts, both in the Aegean and the Black Sea, were at the time of the Great War controlled by the fleets of the Allies. However formidable she may prove from a military point of view, her naval force was practically negligible, and would be quite unable to prevent a landing on her shores if such should be considered necessary. It seemed probable, however, that for the purpose of sending assistance to Serbia, the railway to Belgrade from Salonika would be more convenient, provided the Greeks were agreeable to such a step.

The only harbor of importance which Bulgaria possessed in Macedonis wss Dedeagatch. This place, where the Bulgarians landed in the opening stages of the first Balkan War, was connected by rail both with Salonika and Constantinople through Adrianople. It would therefore, in certain eventualities, become necessary to occupy it, and it was unlikely that there would be any great difficulty in doing so.

It was, however, in the Black Sea that the Bulgarian coast presented many points on which a descent might be made with advantage. Neither Varna nor Burgas had fortifications of a modern or formidable character, and little trouble should be found in disposing of the few torpedo craft. Russia had asserted their mastery in the Black Sea in such a way that this should present no difficulty, and they also organized sufficient tonnage for the transport of an expeditionary force. To place such a force on shore, or perhaps even to make a feint of doing so, should have the effect of detaining a large portion of the Bulgarian Army which might otherwise be placed on the frontier of Serbia.

The treaty of peace between the allied and associated powers and Bulgaria was signed at Neuilly-sur-Seine, Nov. 27, 1919. Among the most important of the general clauses are the following: Limiting the Bulgarian military forces to 20,000 and abolishing universal compulsory military service; limiting the Bulgarian Navy to four torpedo boats and six motor boats, all without torpedoes; forbidding the employment of any military or naval air forces or the keeping of any dirigibles.

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